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1977 And All That

July 29, 2019

The Year That Punk Broke – Cherry Red 3CD set

I was delighted to receive this box set for two reasons: my band is included  (Trash, in the prestigious CD3/Track 14 slot) and I got it for free. Had I paid for it, I might feel different. Here’s why.

It is a brilliant selection of hits, misses and no-hopers – a staggering 87 tracks and a comprehensive mini-book which gives you trenchant details of every one. Compilers David Wells and John Reed are to be congratulated on a job well and truly done. Remastering by Simon Murphy has delivered consistent volume, always a potential problem with multi-source compilations.

So the problem is not the presentation: it is the content. Too many songs here sound like too many other songs. Too many lyrics involve being free, myself,  bored and not caring: ironic from a movement that put great store in individuality. Musically there is a dearth of good drummers and a surplus of crappy studio sounds that transcend helpful simplicity and get in the way of the songs.

What works ? Well chosen cover versions such as The Count Bishops assault on The Kinks’ I Need You and the Rezillos zippy I Wanna Be Your Man. Confident producers help, such as Nick Lowe leaving Whole Wide World (Wreckless Eric) so unadorned and letting old-waver Larry Wallis get rowdy on Police Car. Humour helps, which means John Cooper-Clarke’s Innocents is a shoe-in as is the Albertos Kill!, a spoof which ironically sounds the most punkish thing here. Being older and having acquired some musical chops also helps, take a bow The Only Ones and the Heartbreakers.The one single that I had never heard before but I am now going to rush out and attempt to buy is I Can’t Come by the Snivelling Shits, a three chord thrash that degenerates into a list of people who can’t come – truly The Intro And The Outro for the blank generation.

In my youth I championed pub-rock over prog-rock, so 1977 felt like vindication to me. Now it feels like putting an old carpet over your allotment for a couple of years to kill off the weeds. You might get rid of the unwanted growth, but you spend two years looking at a carpet.

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