Friday, July 20, 2007

Douglas Wolk

Douglas Wolk is a pop culture critic. He writes about comic books and he even has a new book of essays out about them called Reading Comics. He also did an ultra cool 33 1/3 book on James Brown Live at the Apollo. I met him at CMJ when I was in Nerdy Girl. We hit it off, and Douglas used to send his friends the COOLEST mix tapes. He really just knows music. And it was cool when in my new incarnation as comic book writer, he came back into my life again!

So I am delighted to share with you Douglas and his very multimedia essential punk!

Thanks, old buddy!

X-Ray Spex: I Am a Poseur (no embedded version available)
Poly Styrene was way, way ahead of her time--angry, funny, smart, really loud, and a better lyricist than almost anyone ever. X-Ray Spex basically self-destructed after one album, Germ Free Adolescents, but everything on it is great. Also see the intro to their first single (which I notice is perched at the top of your iMix, Cecil): Polly announcing "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think--OH BONDAGE! UP YOURS! ONE TWO THREE FOUR!"

The Raincoats: Fairytale in the Supermarket

Raincoats bassist Gina Birch's original video for their first single--I had no idea this even existed. In a way, it's too bad that YouTube's compression makes Vicky Aspinall's violin sound like squeaky crud. In another way, that's not so bad: the Raincoats were never as cranked-up as their scenemates, but the most punk thing about them is the way they lunge at you to catch your attention--"listen to me, damn it, LISTEN to me!"

Devo: Uncontrollable Urge

A live version that's way too quiet--crank it up, please--but it gets across the two big things about Devo that get lost by reducing them to, like, "Whip It": 1) The point of the band was that they felt totally, profoundly, agonizingly alienated from mainstream culture, and from the pre-packaged way they were supposed to experience reality and emotion. 2) They were freaking hilarious.

Wire: Another the Letter/The 15th

A live 1979 performance of two songs from the German TV show Rockpalast, by the band I probably listened to more than any other in my late teens. "Another the Letter" is the great one here, stripping the already-pretty-minimal studio recording down to a one-chord rocket-blast. I'm pretty fond of the way that the four of them, even on stage, look and sometimes sound like they're in totally different bands...

Flying Lizards: Money

Punk as prank, or rather as getting into the "normal" way of doing something and eating it whole, from the inside. You can also read that as "not even trying to do anything right," if you like. The self-titled Flying Lizards album (on which this appears), by the way, is fantastic and mostly nothing at all like "Money"; it can be found in used record stores everywhere, thanks to having been bought by people who thought the rest of it would be more like this.

The Clean: Tally Ho

The greatest band in the history of New Zealand. This was their first single; they still get together every five years or so for a tour, and miraculously keep getting better over time. Here's what they sound like now...

Delta 5: Mind Your Own Business (no embedded version available, and actually I think this is somebody's homemade clip)
One of the most perfect songs ever written: a loping loop of a groove, eight flawlessly indignant lines, a neatly affectless unison-then-not vocal, and two guitar breaks that are pure spattering havoc.

The Fall: Totally Wired (live)

The band that will outlast us all, live in New York in 1981, monomaniacal flame-jets in their eyes, on the verge of falling apart, even though they're mostly just hammering away at one note. I love Mark E. Smith's top-of-the-dome spasm of obscenity two minutes or so into this clip... trying to keep track of the Fall's enormous discography and still-ongoing career can be exhausting, but the 1979-1982 period is pretty impeccable.

Melt-Banana: Monkey Man

Oh, right, the other thing about punk rock? It's fast a lot of the time. This is somebody's ridiculous homemade video for the phenomenal Japanese hardcore band Melt-Banana's cover of Toots & the Maytals' "Monkey Man"; I'm sure there exist faster songs and recordings, but Melt-Banana give the impression that they're actually playing so fast they can't stop.

The Thermals: No Culture Icons

You can argue that all punk is about punk--I don't think so, but this is, for sure: the Thermals' first single, it's also their manifesto, a declaration of what they demand and what they're rejecting. Low-fi, low-tech, high-minded in a really good way--a testament to what punk rock is good for in the 21st century. And one of my favorite things about living in Portland is getting to see them play a lot.

many thanks, & I hope you'