Public Image Ltd. – Death Disco

Public Image Ltd.

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The explosiveness of the original Sex Pistols couldn’t prepare the world for Public Image Ltd. Gone was Punk Rock – in its place, we were left with world-weary chants and eerie bass throbs. 1978’s debut record 1st Edition was just a warm up for what PIL would unleash on the world just a year later. John Lydon (formerly Rotten), Jah Wobble, and Keith Levene were the principal musicians on Metal Box, one of the formative records from the initial wave of post-punk music. A record that takes the template from 1st Edition, drops any leftover punk excess, and creates its own world. The 1st single was Death Disco, which appears on the record as Swan Lake (apparently due to a reference to Tchaikovsky in Keith Levene’s guitar riff). The bass explodes out of the speakers, right from the start – perhaps one of the most memorable bass riffs in history. White noise guitar squawks compliment John Lydon as he wails like a man possessed – and perhaps he was. The song is about his feeling of helplessness as he watched his Mother pass away from Cancer. From the man himself “When I had to deal with my mother’s death, which upset the fuck out of me, I did it partly through music. I had to watch her die slowly of cancer for a whole year. I wrote ‘Death Disco’ about that. I played it to her just before she died and she was very happy. That’s the Irish in her, nothing drearily sympathetic or weak. Like her you’ve got to really get to grips with your emotions and attack them, confront them head on. You won’t solve things any other way. It works for me, I can’t run away from things.” – Jack Barron: “I Cry Alone” (New Musical Express, 10 October 1987). It just makes these words resonate just a bit more: “Seen it in her eyes / Ending in a day / Silence was a way / Seeing in your eyes”

John Lydon – Psycho’s Path

john lydon

Part 44 of a series that will run throughout 2013 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

What does the term “punk” mean? The other day I was driving in my suburban neighborhood and noticed a group of teenagers hanging outside of Starbucks (Dr. Evil’s Headquarters). Does social and monetary status define how we define ourselves? It’s a difficult question to answer, really. I remember in the early 90’s when I was discovering the original punk scene I’d mock those kids who wore Rancid shirts (I probably hadn’t heard of Operation Ivy yet) and blabber on about the Sex Pistols and The Clash. An old friend recently sent me an article on The Onion from 2003 featuring a guy ranting on about how he was a true punk – cause he’d seen the 1996 Sex Pistols reunion show and how could kids in 2003 be old enough to remember that? Sigh. I was BORN in 1977.

Continue reading

LCD Soundsystem – Losing My Edge

LCD Sound

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Grunge wasn’t REALLY born in Seattle, WA now was it? No, no – it has its origins in the grittier city of Tacoma, WA with the garage rock band The Sonics. Punk wasn’t REALLY 1st bandied about by the Sex Pistols now was it? Nope – have you heard of The Modern Lovers (later covered by the Sex Pistols). How about that band that featured Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher? Sorry – made that part up. “Losing My Edge” by LCD Soundsystem is a song about hipsters, by a hipster, for hipsters, making fun of hipsters. If there is anything you’ve taken away from my writings I’d hope you understand – I’m in both camps constantly. As I’ve gotten older I’ve lost the self-important edge that goes with knowing all the complicated relationships and scenes from music over the years (though the knowledge has stayed in my brain). What does it all matter? Anyone can look up anything on the internet at anytime and be hip to the secrets of the indie elitist. This song features a repetitive and catchy dance beat as James Murphy spouts off about various scenes and bands from the last 50 years. He always comes back to the refrain “I was there – I was there” – which becomes funnier as the song progresses. The song was released as a 12″ single on July 8, 2002 on the DFA Record label (owned by James Murphy). The video features Murphy being slapped repeatedly as he mimes along (in an edited version). My beloved Sonics get a shout out at the end. Key lyrics:

I was there in 1968.
I was there at the first Can show in Cologne.
I’m losing my edge.

I was there in 1974 at the first Suicide practices in a loft in New York City.
I was working on the organ sounds with much patience.

I used to work in the record store.
I had everything before anyone.

I heard you have a compilation of every good song ever done by anybody.
Every great song by the Beach Boys. All the underground hits.

The Dead Boys – Sonic Reducer

tumblr_lh2y6rH7bG1qckm0wo1_500

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The landscape of the punk era from the late 70’s is populated by hundreds – if not thousands – of bands that have gone unheralded by even the hippest of the hipsters. Some of these bands are discovered 30 years later and immediately embraced – some of them stay in obscurity (and will probably stay there). There are quite a number of bands that are on the fringe though – you’ve maybe heard their name or would even recognize a tune or two. The Dead Boys fall into this third class. They formed from the ashes of Rocket from the Tomb (who would later reform) and were championed by Joey Ramone. Following in The Ramones footsteps, the band  gained a reputation for over the top live performances – many of them coming at the legendary CBGB’s. Debut album Young, Loud and Snotty sometimes gets overlooked when discussing great punk records but it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and The Clash. Single “Sonic Reducer” is one of the greatest singles released, in any genre of music. It opens with a classic rock type intro before a memorable bass line enters the mix. The full band joins the onslaught and lead singer Stiv Bators sings full of true punk angst. The chorus is explosive and will remain lodged in your mind long after the 3 minute song is over. Think it sounds familiar but can’t quite place it? The bass line was sampled and used as the main melody of the Beastie Boys song “Open Letter to New York City”  in 2004 – proving not only the infinite coolness of the Beastie Boys, but the timelessness of this song. Key lyrics:

I’ll be your bearer soon, love on some cotton doom
Things will be different then, the sun will rise from here
Then I’ll be ten feet tall, then you’ll be nothing at all
I got my time machine, got my electronic dream
Sonic reducer, ain’t no loser