Art rock. Treći Protomartyr as u trizu. In the old city. In abandoned shells. On a desolated edge. Amid the death of all things. Not under the scornful eye or the corporation’s hand. Only in darkness does the flower take hold. It blooms at night. It blooms at night. It blooms at night. Jednoć sam studirao prirodne znanosti.
Instrumental rock. Slušanje “Anthem For No State” posvetiti domovini. Država skrbi za zaščito, dvig in izkoriščanje gozdov. Država skrbi za fizično vzgojo ljudstva, posebno mladine, v svrho dviganja narodnega zdravja, narodne, delovne in obrambne sposobnosti. Ravna cedalje bolj popustljivo, dopušča se vsa svoboda. Oblast je pri nas ljudska. Oblast je pri nas ljudska. Oblast je pri nas ljudska. *locked groove*
Izađem na ulicu i kažem
Gle, opet jesen!
Sjene su duže baš ko lani i lani i lani
Ali za mene sad to sve više nije važno
O ne, za mene sad to sve više nije važno.
Gdje nestade YU arhivist P. D. Basstapex? Bilo bi lijepo da složi “Don’t Look Back” blogpost na temu Beograd. Izgubio sam polet.
Jesen u koži, dolazi mi jesen
Jesen u krznu, dolazi mi jesen
Mislim na voće i mislim na nju
Mislim na žuto, na hranu i buđ
Vidi da nije možda stigla jesen
Traži i naći ćeš u sebi truo hrast
Gore u nama je bujica reči
Dole u nama je jesenji strah.
Vol V: Rock and Pop Music in Sarajevo in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Sarajevo was multicultural capitol city of SR Bosnia and Herzegovina and legendary host of Winter Olympics 1984. It was well known for upbeat humor, ćevapi u somunu (regional fast food (Socialist variety) which beats (at least it used to) hamburger or hot dog any day), TV series “Top lista nadrealista” & for sure many other things I am not familiar with. Citizens of Sarajevo are direct and friendly folks who like to chat over (super sweet) Turkish coffee and cakes that are so full of sugar your teeth hurt.
Firmly settled in folk, hard rock/heavy metal (Bijelo dugme, Teška industrija, Vatreni poljubac, translocated Divlje jagode) & pop-rock district, Sarajevo was not a typical contender for a YU punk-rock city at all. Let’s see…
Opera Lu – “Televizori” SP (1980) – would be the very first new-wave/punk-rock related single from Bosnia. Pretty irrelevant. A-side “Televizori” sounds like power trio hard rock song more than an usual approximation of ’77 UK punk rock. B-side is a reggae tinged blues rock number.
Bonton Baya were the first group of the Sarajevo New Wave generation that got contract with local Diskoton record label. Their only album “Elpi” LP (1983) reminds me of pop-rock or power pop pulled through various new wave filters. Bonton Baya for sure could play their instruments well and I like the sound of the recording but genre hopping across the album is often sign of questionable taste and in this particular case problematic (for example songs “Kraj radne nedjelje” and “Sarajevo Texas Nashville Tennessee“). In addition to that vocal can be quite distracting and lyrics occasionally terrible (including specific sense of humor or rather the absence of it). Well, words give an extra dimension to a pop/rock song but sometimes it’s better to keep them at the functional minimum. I can easily like “Nipon elektronik” for its unexpected strangeness (I was a little taken aback by this fancy video too) and new wave synth sounds.
The closest group to punk spirit to be found in Sarajevo were collective or an art movement known as New Primitives (facetiously opposed to New Romantics). The creative seeds go back to late ‘70s / early ‘80s friendships from the same part of town and Sarajevo’s II. Gymnasium (ha!). Out of the New Primitives proto rock group “Pseudobluz band Zabranjeno pušenje” and associated new-wave/punk “scenesters” emerged band Zabranjeno pušenje as well as rock entertainer Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors and Bombaj štampa. In essence Zabranjeno pušenje were more a new wave garage rock than basic punk-rock band, but awesome one at that, with nice hooks and kitchen sink lyrics Bosnian style. The first demo tape which collects material from their earliest days (1982-83) is upbeat mixture of new wave, punk rock and pub rock. It brings Ian Dury’s new wave album “New Boots and Panties!!” to my mind. The songs from this demo tape ended in new versions on debut album “Das ist Walter” LP (1984) and second double album “Dok čekaš sabah sa šejtanom” (1985). Zabranjeno pušenje became more typical YU pop rock band by the end of the decade.
Central (punk) rock album from SA: Zabranjeno pušenje “Das ist Walter” LP (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović was loyal to rock mythology of the late 1960s and early 1970s and with His Meteors issued two entertaining albums: the conceptual debut “Mitovi i legende o kralju Elvisu” LP (1984) and “Da bog da crk’o RnR” LP (1985).
Sarajevo’s candidate for an arty new wave band would be Kongres. They appeared on the scene together with the New Primitives. At the beginning they brushed with politicized post-punk experimentalism but changed stance under sudden sway of optimism. In other words they opted for few New Romantic or New Pop tricks which showed on their only art rock / new wave album titled in Slovenian language “Zarjavele Trobente” LP (1984). A special guest appearance by Zoran Predin from Lačni Franz (Maribor, Slovenia) didn’t help much. Allegedly, at the time of preparation for sophomore album Kongres singer lost optimistic look on life, which could have brought back some rock filth in the mix… but it was too late. Kongres was kaput.
Eventually in 1984, year of Sarajevo Winter Olympics, Zabranjeno pušenje (Jugoton, ZG), Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors (ZKP RTVL, LJ) & Kongres (Diskoton, SA) got wanted record contracts and one by one recorded their debut albums.
But there was also another new band in town graced with sound name SCH. Looking back, it was more like an art project of Senad Hadžimusić (Teno), with revolving line-up comprised of friendly collaborators, than a stable rock unit. Through SCH vehicle restless guitarist and vocalist Teno projected his amplified bad vibes and distorted nightmare trips. He acquired status of a local scene (court) jester bringing bad news with every opportunity. There were many faces of SCH and it clearly shows in their neurotic output documented one way (demo cassette) or another (video tape).
Surprisingly, SCH got studio recorded material for a potential album as early as ’84 (as their comrades from New Primitives movement) but there wasn’t a record label in Yugoslavia willing to have business with them.
SCH: The Beautiful and Damned – live at YURM ’85 (Zagreb)
Strangely enough, they were included on Diskoton cassette sampler “Nove snage” (1984). (w / Bombaj štampa, Kongres, Mali princ etc.) Years later SCH participated at Novi rock ’87 festival in Ljubljana and perhaps as a result they manged to secure a tape issue for legendary small label FV založba that had been successfully gathering ex-YU misfits and malcontents.
SCH: Brutti, sporchi e cattivi – live at Novi rock ’87 (Ljubljana)
“SCH” tape (1988) is comprised of selected demo songs recorded in 1985-87. It can be regarded as updated third version of demo tape (after two samizdat demo cassettes in row) picked by FV založba for the official SCH release. Teno’s predominant mood was noise / industrial at that moment so all the fuzzed punk rock numbers were left out. In 1989 they went in studio and finally recorded material for debut vinyl album that was later in the year self-released. Prophetically titled “During Wartime” LP (1989), it has become cult.
“Unlike Slovenia and Croatia, where the critical public, humanistic intelligence, independent media and institutions through their hard categorical apparatus, often from the point of Marxism, defended subculture and everything else that exposed false slogans and misery of the system, SCH has always faced a silent wall in Bosnia. The battle between subculture and the ruling ideology, whose consequence would be the making, the survival and the development of positive (political – cultural) values, came down to illusions and suicidal attempts of SCH… On the other hand stands the fact that it never mattered what SCH would do next. It is only important that they do something (and survive). Their significance has gone beyond the meaning and quality of their music. They move beyond limits where everything is allowed (even the potential failures and mistakes). They are their own measure. There is no one else. Their death will put an end to an epoch and the far-sighted graphite will be proven “Teno – Tito”. It was written some time ago on a fence in a neighborhood where they used to rehearse.”
The most important recording from SA: SCH – “During Wartime” LP (1989)
Of course there was so called “school of Sarajevo pop-rock” around but I am not well versed in that. Crvena jabuka (ex Meteors, Kongres, Bonton Baya) were saccharine and very popular with girls. Another unbelievable pop phenomenon was boy band Plavi orkestar specifically tailored for regional taste and YU mass market of mid 1980s.
Bolero were strange pop rock band active in the second half of the 1980s. They recorded two arty and heartfelt pop-rock albums: “Na kraju slavlja” (1986) & “O Jesenjinu” (1988).
Late ‘80s Bombarder would be speed metal continuation of city’s hard rock tradition.
Don’t Look Back vol. V: Sarajevo (1-2-ex-YU!!)
VA New Primitives Sarajevo (1982 – 85)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Penzioneri na more idu zimi (demo) (1983)
Kongres – Djevojka na snijegu (early version) (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Sanjao sam noćas da te imam (demo) (1983)
Kongres – Zabava (early version) (1984)
SCH – Prazan hod (1984)
Bombaj štampa – Jogging (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Put u središte rudnika (demo) (1983)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Magi’s Farm (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Anarhija All Over Baščaršija (1984)
intermezzo: Tema iz filma “Valter brani Sarajevo” (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Neću da budem Švabo u dotiranom filmu (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Supermen (1984)
Kongres – Sumrak (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Mala glupača (1984)
Kongres – Optimist (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Rekla ti je mama (1985)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Lutka sa naslovne strane (1985)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Sva su raja (1985)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Kažu mi da novog frajera imaš (1985)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Krivo usmeren (1985)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Čejeni odlaze… (1984)
SCH Sarajevo (1983 – 1990)
Djevojke su gole (1983)
Pankerica (pazi se!) (1984)
Oh, što je to tako (1984)
Znamo sve (1985)
Back to the USSR (1985)
We Are Fault (1986)
Happy Family (1986)
Ne dozvoli da zaboravim* (1989) (remix ’98)
Master* (1989) (remix ’98)
Partija naša* (1989) (remix ’98)
Naša pjesma (1990)
Romanija (sve zbog schizofrenije) (1984)
* remix ’98 versions will be replaced with original ’89 mix when I get good vinyl rips.
Soul. Plastic Soul? Fest mi se sviđa, mada, tko još danas treba “drum programming”. Bang on the drums, Matt Tong! The Drums! Krv. Puls. Sveti ritualni instrument. Nema dalje od Northern (the heavy beat and fast tempo) Soul, brate. Izvrstan glas. Para potrbušje moći.
Vol IV: Rock and Pop Music in Ljubljana in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Well, the story of YU punk-rock officially starts in Slovenia. Punk rock (and strange local branch of RIO) flourished in this Alpine region and encompassed the whole country due to small size of the northernmost and in some ways most progressive former Socialist Republic. The first independent music labels were situated only in Slovenia in the beginning. ‘Novi rock’ festival in Ljubljana had similar function as YURM in Zagreb, giving chance to local talents. In addition to that Novi rock organizers were inviting interesting foreign bands from independent / underground sector and presenting them to Yugoslavian rock public. Igor Vidmar from Radio Študent had the key role in promotion of new rock music (comparable to John Peel’s radio DJ efforts in UK albeit with very modest broadcast range) in Ljubljana/Slovenia.
Ljubljana (Laibach) is a lovely small town, compared to Zagreb or Beograd. However, it was equally gray and dull as the rest, just a different shade of boredom. To an accidental passerby and stranger, like I was, it always seemed sleepy and tranquil.
— punk rock / new wave —
Who were the culprits and catalysts then? Slovenian bastards – Pankrti!
a step back:
Satirical blues-rock of bearded granddads Buldožer (1975-84) that bulldozed and paved the way for critical thought in mid 1970s YU rock (if they didn’t update the sound farther than Zappa) should be mentioned as pre punk introduction note.
Prog punks ’79
Anyhow, Pankrti are proud parents (they were already students close to 25 years of age) of the first independently released punk single “Lepi in prazni” in 1978. It’s nothing to write home about today but way back it was important harbinger of the new. Heavier and typically mid pace recordings that followed sound like the first generation of punk music in general, steeped in garage rock and glam. It’s hard not to like Pankrti. They were consistent on record all the way except for the last album. These days my favorite would be 2 x 7 inch “Namesto tebe” (1981). Pankrti softened already at the time of their sophomore studio album called “Državni ljubimci” (1982). On the next one called “Rdeči album” (1984) the song arrangements became even more complex with ornamental overdubs added and as a result album is upbeat but a bit bloated too. “Pesme spravi” LP (1985) (produced by Angelic Upstarts guitarist) brought back grittier guitar sound and leaner songwriting. Mature effort “Sexpok” LP (1987) is a disappointing closer. Adio Lublana!
Other Slovenian punk primers like Lublanski psi, Berlinski zid, 92 and Buldogi straddled the thin line between old school punk-rock and original new wave.
Berlinski zid (punk-rock group w / keyboards that was developing post-punk approach in songwriting), 92 (punk-rock band with psychedelic organ reminiscent of the Stranglers; keyboards role was toned down later and new-wave elements crept in) and Buldogi (charming ska-punk kids) were included on legendary VA “Novi punk val 78-80” LP (1981) together with Pankrti and few Croatian punk bands.
Sinister punk-rockers Lublanskipsi (I like a lot their songwriting style but don’t know much about them in general) and again primary school punks Buldogi, along the second wave of wild teenage punks from other towns (Kuzle, Industbag, Šund), ended up on the subsequent various artists punk album “Lepo je…” (1982). It was released under coordination of ever-present Igor Vidmar.
At some point in 1981 happened infamous “Nazi punk affair” staged by the System and things got heated for a moment. So, when the creative energy could have really dissipated new generation of bands took over the “scene”…
— post punk —
Here comes the wave of furious post-punk bands: Otroci socializma, Laibach, O!Kult, Borghesia, d’Pravda, Via ofenziva and Čao pičke & very soon after them wild hordes of hard-core punks.
Almost all of them were refined provocateurs whether they chose to operate like an alien cultural organization (Laibach), a sharp-witted individual observer (Otroci socializma & Via ofenziva), a personal rights association (Borghesia) or a group of anarchic idealists (O!Kult).
Otroci socializma were an excellent post-punk band formed after split up of early punk band Berlinski zid. Brane Bitenc, young poet and punk, gave the band distinct individuality that easily separated them from the rest. When I better think about it he had some traits in common with M. E. Smith – stage presence, stature and diction. His sensibilities were different though. At the end (or during the second phase) Otroci socializma started to mess with plastic funk and marred their sharp minimal rock sound with bloody electronic drums in the studio (a bad zeitgeist decision in retrospect, like lazy Jet Black did in the Stranglers). I don’t mind fretless bass, it’s fine with me. Otroci socializma had two indie tapes out in circulation: “self-titled” (1982) and “Kri” (1986). Their members (drummer & bassist) were also guest musicians with Laibach in the studio. Otroci socializma allegedly recorded set of songs for never realized album on ZKP RTVL label – the finished master tapes mysteriously disappeared in transit between record companies.
Similarly focused post-punk band (~ Gang of Four/PiL influenced) with something to say in between lines (and quite directly!) were Via ofenziva,led by another young man with tendency toward poetic expression among punks – Esad Babačić. They didn’t last long but what has been left after them is pretty cool.
Via ofenziva shared split cassette release with Čaopičke, issued on independently oriented and very important Galerija ŠKUC izdaja cassette label (as was the first tape by Otroci socializma). Čao pičke were short-lived drums & bass band with 15 years old punk girl Alenka Marsenič Marsa on vocals. Their brevity and minimalism were mirrored in one minute long no-wave song sketches. After the break up Marsa continued with brilliant Tožibabe, group that moved in hard-core circles. Bass player resurfaced in jazz-rock Lolita in the second half of the 1980s.
O!Kult (from nearby satellite town Medvode) were young leaders of New Left. Early period of their activity under Crass influence was documented on anarcho-punk cassette “Razredni boj je edino gibalo zgodovine” (1983). Few years later they managed to release debut mini LP through German indie label Dossier records. On this overlooked album, divided into 4 long tracks running slightly over half an hour, O!Kult enriched minimalist post-punk with touch of funk groove and repetitive industrial elements. After demise of the band frontman Brane Zorman continued to compose music for theater and art performances.
Borghesia were early on post-punk band with drum machine and subversive collective of multi-media artists simultaneously. At first glance, when portrayed as duo, Borghesia resembled DAF but they were not that similar musically. Borghesia were also notorious for exposing “forbidden” kinds of love, certainly existent but hardly visible during Communist era. Spiritus movens Aldo Ivančić was in addition fully involved with setting up the scene around FV Disco Club and FV Založba indie label. He recorded/produced “Zastave” LP together with Paraf. I am quite fond of Borghesia’s early recordings issued as cassettes (s/t collected early songs; “Clones” was composed of soundtracks for short video films) & debut vinyl album (mostly early material from the 1st tape) titled “Ljubav je hladnija od smrti” LP (1985). In the second half of decade they were making music that could be categorized as (lukewarm) computer generated EBM. I’ve always thought that the sound of not fully controllable analog synths & primitive DIY electronic kits ( submerged in white noise to some degree) depicts general unrest or physicality of rough sex much better than the one produced by earliest digital equipment available. Having said that, I keep “Ogolelo mesto” LP (1988) in collection – I dig dark electronic vibes a la mid 80’s Severed Heads. Borghesia’s passion and interesting ideas were present (boiling under surface) all the time but only partially realized/translated via home computers in the second half of the decade. EBM electronic movement is fine but I am going to stick with period when Borghesia mingled with postpunkers. To each his own…
Laibach (Trbovlje – Ljubljana – London – world) didn’t care at all about rock’n’roll disguised as punk-rock. Their fancy was tickled by Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk. Instead of having strapped electric guitars on, Laibach picked best fitting hunting clothes and old uniforms, shined leather boots, oiled trumpets and horns, dusted off snare drums, trimmed their hair to perfect cow-lick… and stepped down from the small town theater stage to challenge (mock) totalitarian or oppressive system/s of this sad world. Original singer of the band hanged himself. Few bigger scandals happened. The name was banned. The group went into exile… but Laibach prevailed in the end. Backed by bigger contract (Mute) for “Opus Dei” LP (1987), that included successful cover/hijack of Austrian white (cod!) reggae hit “Live is Life”, Laibach immersed themselves in the world of POP media manipulation and later digital electronic music / techno. Don’t know about you but I always return back to unnerving spot by kozelec for some post industrial thrill. All their early recordings are excellent up to 1986. Laibach electronic spin offs 300.000 V.K. and Keller should be mentioned as well. That 30 years later they would have a concert in North Korea of all places is really unbelievable.
Enigmatic and ephemeral d’Pravda were provocative art project as much as amateurish band in between RIO and Dada post-punk. As far as I am informed they recorded set of demo songs in the summer of 1982 and soon disappeared.
— hard-core punk —
Teenage hard-core punk is usually on the margins of this website story telling but there were couple of really interesting and pretty pissed off bands in Ljubljana. Early hard-core sampler worth hearing is “Kaj je alternativa?” tape (Stres D. A. / U.B.R. / Odpadki Civilizacije) from 1983. Even better overview of Slovenian aggressive punk is offered on independently released various artists record: “Hard Core Ljubljana 1985”. (U.B.R., III. kategorija, Epidemija, Odpadki civilizacije, Tožibabe)
Pioneering hard-core band U.B.R. also left behind a cult single EP record issued in Italy in 1984. All girls (post) hard-core band Tožibabe managed to put out one of a kind seven inch EP locally. Initial HC phase by melancholic Niet was released on cassette only.
In other words Ljubljana (& SR Slovenia in general) was big and well-connected punk kindergarten / youth center unlike the rest of the SFRJ (with the exception of Rijeka and perhaps Novi Sad).
— synth pop —
Ubiquitous Iztok Turk (ex Kuzle, ex Otroci socializma) among other things also formed synth-pop group called Videosex. Videosex soon overshadowed any of his previous bands being commercially quite successful. Their self-titled debut is solid all the way through thanks to bits and pieces of vintage minimal electronica. Pleasing (sometimes too pleasing) POP aspect was saved by the remarkable and seemingly innocent voice of 16 years old singer Anja Rupel. The second album “Lacrimae Christi” (1985) got quite strong side A. The best songs are reminiscent of mid period New Order.
Somewhere here I’d squeeze anomaly of Gast’r’bajtr’s (from Brežice, not Ljubljana!) Their debut LP “Ni življenja brez ljubezni” (1983), issued on then newly founded independent label Dokumentarna, offered slightly sterile sounding mix of new wave influenced funk rock with saxophone and drum machine. Gastrbajtrs were not melancholic depressives but high spirited guys and that they were preferring drum box to real drums is quite puzzling to me. They formed few spin offs: arty Demolition Group and Silver Barracudas before returning to more energetic Gastrbajtrs dance-rock format few years later. The second album “Pot v raj” (1988) brought them closer to Miladojka Youneed.
Otroci socializma II (“Kri” 1986) under the influence (Alkohol) were treading synth-pop waters (Mlačna voda) in the late night hours (Noč) too.
— RIO & jazz —
Another very important but less known group that influenced Slovenian early 1980s was RIO type of band with specific folk aspect called Begnagrad. They stirred the city’s RIO scene during their second phase of activity and over the time attracted fans of this genre of music from all over the world. Great and weird debut s/t album (1982) is very recommended!
Na lepem prijazni jazz-rock band, as presented on their only album, lacks a bit of forward pushing kinetic energy which was as crucial ingredient for the time of production as it is today.
SRP crowned years long career with a conceptual avant-garde album that resembles soundtrack for a theater play. Recalling RIO, Zappa (jazz-rock period) and drunken cabaret at once, I doubt that SRP sounded like that on stage in concert. Like d’Pravda they crossed paths with post-punk youth occasionally.
Quatebriga (ex Begnagrad) excluded dissonant folk elements from the mix and recorded two jazz-rock albums in mid 1980s. More straight forward “Revolution in the Zoo” LP (1985) is excellent.
Miladojka Youneed started off at the point where city’s jazz-rock predecessors like Na lepem prijazni stopped and added hard core energy. Cutting down singing a little they left space for bleating saxophones to talk. Early jazz-punk Miladojka Youneed was awesome. Check out their first release issued on cassette only! They were simultaneously free and tight, playing eccentric combination of jazz-funk and punk. Unfortunately, the sound of debut record “Ghastly Beyond Belief” (1987) is produced too aggressively. Perhaps they strove for inhuman machine-like sound wishing to be extra repulsive. Industrial sheen of digital (~ ghastly) recording can sound terribly shrill to my jaded ears on a bad day, especially when it comes to drums. Too bad. With the second album “Bloodylon” (1990) Miladojka Youneed moved too far inside the dance rock territory for my liking.
Otroci socializma could be main protagonists of post-punk chapter in this pretty exciting period of Ljubljana’s rock and pop history. If they had an official album realized it would be for sure put on a pedestal here. Luckily post-punk and other “underground” or “alternative” happenings have been documented through already mentioned ŠKUC izdaja & FV založba small labels. Viva Ljubljana! The three most representative records for a short and intensive retrospective trip would be:
(1) Borghesia “Ljubav je hladnija od smrti” (85) , (2) Various Artists “84” (84) & (3) Laibach s/t (85)
Brand new studio recording from hard working and playfully extravagant Nordic collective. Sometimes they do miss but “Terminal” is for sure one more kosmische hit in frighteningly huge Circle discography. It is heavier affair compared to tranquil and soothing beauty of previous studio album “Pharaoh Overlord”. Lately I’ve been hearing subtle Lungfish echos in Circle music, although it is more probable that they’ve gained similarities and harmonized some frequencies following their own winding course. Heavy & uplifting stuff. Fascinating Finns!
Meanwhile, down on the ocean beach at SST premises…
Bye bye Ladbroke Grove & Rough Trade !!
In 1982 SST continued to broaden their Hermosa / Redondo Beach label beyond its original inner core circle (Black Flag – Minutemen – Saccharine Trust) sifting peculiar talent among punk-rockers, surfers and freaks in larger LA area and even outside California. Stains, Overkill and Meat Puppets (via Thermidor label) had already been recruited the year before in ’81. Dual guitar Black Flag (on obligatory hiatus due to lawsuit) recorded phenomenal Demo ’82 which would be the central event of the year. Würm regrouped because Dukowski wasn’t allowed to play bass under Black Flag anymore. About that time Saint Vitus, the Subhumans, Dicks and Hüsker Dü (via New Alliance label) joined the SST ranks. According to signor Carducci, Bad Brains had an open offer too.
So, let’s bring Blasting Concept back in slightly different way, following a linear timeline more precisely, beginning with late ’82 / early ’83 recording activities with legendary SST house engineer and producer Spot.
Various Artists: Blasting Concept ’83 Revisited
(1) Saint Vitus – The Psychopath (from “Saint Vitus” LP 1984) A
Saint Vitus – mammoth of a band (pulled out from La Brea tar pits!) – recorded seminal self-titled album in late ’82 with Spot. The tapes were sitting on SST shelves until early ’84 waiting for the cash inflow. The album sounds immense in its primordial slowness. Saint Vitus’ inclusion was indeed a tectonic move/ment for SST camp, not immediately recognized outside LA. It took many sloth years before humble Saint Vitus started to get reappraisal, mainly through fellow bands interested in heavy rock. Nowadays they are metal kings – highly appreciated grandfathers of (millennial) Doom or so called Stoner Rock.
(2) the Dicks – Pigs Run Wild (from “Kill from the Heart” LP 1983) B+
Heavy Texan punks Dicks didn’t shy away from blues-rock and soul while playing punk rock. Early songs from their first single and live split w / Big Boys are indeed classics but this debut LP brought something else to the table beside fearlessness. “Kill From the Heart” is (flawed) masterpiece that illustrates diversity of American punk-rock bands often superficially categorized same as juvenile and formulaic hard-core boybands. Although I appreciate communist slant and passionate rage of young singer Gary Floyd, sometimes I’d rather hear about “pigs” (cops), “nazis” or “klan” in a more focused way. Also, I don’t mind “Dicks Can’t Swim” funk jam but it does sound hamfisted a little. “Kill From the Heart” was recorded probably in late ’82. Political and social activist Gary Floyd would soon leave for San Francisco… the rest of the band decided to return to Austin after brief Frisco scene try-out. Dicks (mk I) split up.
Indicative cover version: Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix Experience.
(3) Husker Du – Deadly Skies (from “Metal Circus” mini-LP 1983) A
“Metal Circus” was finished very early in ’83. Typical hard-core songs from yesteryear were dropped from the repertoire and the world of rock music got an almost perfect mini-LP in rushed mid-tempo, but heavy enough. Buzz bomb from Minneapolis invokes Cold War dread on “Metal Circus”, even more personal than collective this time around. American individualism, you know. Using Minutemen spiel it could be dubbed “Buzz and Howl Under the Influence of Cold“.
(4) the Subhumans – America Commits Suicide (from “No Wishes, No Prayers” LP 1983) B
The Subhumans, politically active band from Canada, drove south from Vancouver bringing along spirited and moderately melodic take on old school punk-rock. It was not that dissimilar to the sound of their fellow citizens D.O.A., maybe a bit lighter. Their second full length album “No Wishes, No Prayers” was recorded in late ’82 or early ’83 with partially changed line-up capturing original group’s last gasps. There was only one “No Wishes, No Prayers” pressing because the Subhumans had already split up before SST managed to put it out.
Indicative cover version: Screwed Up by Menace.
(5) Minutemen – Little Man with the Gun in His Hand (from “Buzz or Howl…” EP 1983) A
“Buzz or Howl…” was recorded in two sessions: 01/83 and 05/83. Beloved caffeinated Californian leftist punks of the first order were enamored with politically charged UK art punk. More so than any other band related to SST. On the other hand, Minutemen were not ashamed of US arena rock that dominated their formative years too. Hard-rock moves to come (past one-off novelty trick “Project Mersh” EP) didn’t suit them. Their final album “3-Way Tie For Last” is actually an average 12″ EP stretched to a stodgy hodge-podge LP.
(6) Meat Puppets – We’re Here (from “Meat Puppets II” LP 1984) A
It took only year and a half from art/redneck hard-core punk cacophony of “Meat Puppets” (ruined by drunken/affected vocals) to this evergreen masterpiece. “Meat Puppets II” was recorded in (eternal) spring of 1983. Cock your ears and hold the breath! They are here.
“Surviving You, Always” is Saccharine Trust’s first LP, recorded in October ’83. Saccharine Trust didn’t care for UK stuff (music) one bit, it seems to me. These insular jazz cats were influenced by James Blood Ulmer, Beat poetry & Old Testament in equal measure. Saccharine Trust never made it, God knows why. Were they ignored (by American college radio and common punk rock fans of the day) due to “non-communicative” material lacking obvious POP hooks. Or were they just lazing around in drunken stupor too much? A hidden SST jewel. Lovely black sheep.
Indicating cover version: Peace Frog by the Doors.
Somewhere over the rainbow? No such place on the horizon. Zen Arcade Tour de Force is still exciting conceptual double album done as a tribute to the Who (who are real rock archetypes for fucked-up childhood / upbringing). Hüsker Dü recorded “Zen Arcade” very quickly in October ’83 as well, desperately trying to reach see-through zen state of mind with high intake of amphetamines. I totally flipped out during crossover punk-rock / speed-metal side-B while revisiting whole album for the purpose of this blog post. Mind bending!
Indicative cover version (a howling scorcher): Eight Miles High by the Byrds.
(9) Würm – 98 DA (from “Feast” LP 1985) C
Würm tapes were recorded sometime during 1983 with Ethan James and then they were bunkered. Sound of “Feast” gives off great live feel from roomy acoustics of old Radio Tokyo studio. The evil content might be a required taste. The second coming of Würm could be regarded as warming up for SWA since they broke up right after completion of this mongrel album. Würm was fronted by theatrical singer (Simon Smallwood) looming above band’s uncertain future like bad omen. The pattern continued later in SWA (Merrill Ward). Simon’s approach had more in common with lysergic madness though. “Feast” LP (1985) offers grotesque psychedelic hard-rock worth hearing in its entirety at least few times. Perhaps Dukowski had to vent his pent-up anger somehow.
(10) Black Flag – Nothing Left Inside (from “My War” LP 1984) B+
Recorded in December ’83 under (outstanding guitarist & SST boss) Greg Ginn’s tight reins. “My War” is exceptionally important and influential work-out recorded during Black Flag’s transient line-up still without official replacement for original bass player Dukowski. Album grade was a bit lowered just because Dukowski’s propulsive aggro playing is somewhat missed on “My War”.