Various Artists – Mutazione (Italian Electronic & New Wave Underground 1980-1988): New Wave, Industrial, Darkwave, Minimal, Synth-pop, Experimental. Compiled by Alessio Natalizia. (2013, Strut Records, UK)
Bella Italia gone brutta. At the end of the 1970s young Italian amateur futurists got sick of untouchable sophisto singer-songwriters (and their acoustic guitars), prog virtuosos & Italian canzona in general. Often they would choose alien language (= English) to distance themselves from Italian pop & rock music. As a result electronic buzz of minimal synths coupled with minimal knowledge of English, recorded in the bedrooms and makeshift studios around the country (still in political turmoil), worked out quite well.
Here is Synth-pop/Minimal Synth segment of this excellent VA collection. Sequenced in chronological order. What did you think? I miss sensation of linear time flow. A simple slow moving timeline. It doesn’t matter that it used to lead nowhere anyhow. Speed kills! And postmodernist postindustrial concept of life (and time) is ruining me. Is this post about nostalgia canaglia?
CD 1 (1980 -85) sinister or eerie
CD 2 (1982 – 85) slightly relaxed, but not really
Recommendation: Listen to these songs in the dark, with your headphones on (earbuds in).
And buy double CD or double LP if you can afford it.
I’ve resurrected Don’t Look Back series to dedicate one blog-post (Alpe Dunav Jadran: Pula) to my dear Pula. Pula is cultural centre of Istria (Terra Magica). It has been bastion of punk-rock and alternative art since ancient times.
Pula has been part of my working (if not living) environment for twelve years too. That is going to change soon, for better or for worse. Either way – I am ready. Kick out the jams! (I’ll jam econo.)
*subject to change*
HARD ROCK (Atomic Introduction)
Atomsko sklonište [1976-1980, Part I: Atomic Trilogy]
Why not begin with the „mainstream“ – with fantastic hard-rock band Atomsko sklonište, one of the best rock bands in ex YU. Fatalistic group, preoccupied with the Third World War (thematically: “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath merged with “Paranoid Chant” by Minutemen) & Doom (although closer to Deep Purple than to Black Sabbath in sound) of everyday existence expressed through bleak words of disillusioned hippy poet Boško Obradović (an early member of the band or collaborator) & experienced through cruel fate of their singer Sergio Blažić, Atomsko sklonište were (welcomed) anomaly in itself.
When Atomsko sklonište were preparing material for their debut album „Ne cvikaj generacijo (1978), members of Top, the youngest rock band in town (high-school cover band with few originals in their live repertoire) stopped playing and went their separate ways. Ambitious bass player Darko Vučinić left Pula to study in Zagreb and immediately formed Loš zvuk [1977-79] whose rhythm section hailed from Pula and other half of band from Zagreb. Meanwhile, one of the Top members, drummer Milenko Piuko, accidentally found himself in a new band together with his younger brother Marino, one of the first punk rockers in Pula. Marino pushed this new band in the direction of punk rock and Problemi [1978-80] were born in the spring of 1978.
What to do but cry when you spin supposedly garage rockin’ New Wave seven inch record and singer is louder than electric guitar… times were tough for modern rock sound in ’79, all around the world.
Lilihip (ex Atomsko Sklonište), a rock group with uncommon bass/keyboards/drums format for the time and place, had their debut album “Obavezan smjer” out in 1980. Arinka & Tingl-Tangl, unhinged pop band that looked like unabashed hippies, issued two singles in late 1970s, followed by long play album “Na stanici za bus” (1981) on Diskoton (Sarajevo).
Punk rock wave in Pula officially started with Paraf concert in legendary rock club “Uljanik” that happened on 10.10.1978. Problemi were opening for the occasion. That was their first concert. The next generation of city’s punk rock bands were probably present in public: Visoki napon, Nafta (proto KUD Idijoti) and kids Gola jaja.
vocals – Marino Piuko / drums – Milenko Piuko (1978-79), Vlado Mladin / guitar – Valter Dobrilović (1978), Boris Kaligarić (1978-80), Rikardo Novak / rhythm guitar – Žarko Petrović / bas – Maurizio Di Capua
Rehearsal Recordings ’79
Demo 1980-1 winter, JM “Trooly” Studio ZG
As they often played in Ljubljana, Problemi were fully accepted and appreciated by local punks so Igor Vidmar included the band on legendary Slovenian-Croatian punk rock compilation “Novi punk val 1978-80” (1981) .
Demo 1980-2 summer
Slightly overproduced (for an essentially punk rock band) second studio demo revealed some New Wave arrangements which don’t bother me.
Visoki napon were springboard for garage-punk Romeo Đomlija whose trajectory in rock would continue with Besposličari, via Torpedo and finally in the late 1980s it would culminate with The Spoons. They indeed had above average vocalist but song-writing was lumpy as showcased on Demo 1980 recorded in their rehearsal space. However, song “Narkoman” remains legacy of Visoki napon. Good singers in punk are hard to find and same goes for good drummers. No, it is harder to find a good drummer, and an excellent one is always of priceless value for any band.
Gola jaja were junior high school kids enamoured with punk who over the years developed into a respectable punk rock band with distinctive melodic sensibility. Demo 1982 (Holiday in Dignano) and Demo 1984 (Boškarica) are recommended. Demo 1984 would be one of my favourite recordings from Pula punk heritage. Both demos have been recently released on vinyl by Ne! Records. The third demo (sang in English) was recorded in the late 1980s, after longer hiatus.
The first line-up: guitar, lead vocals – Saša Milovanović aka Sale Veruda / guitar – Marino Piuko (ex Problemi, 1981) / bass, vocals – Davor Zgrabljić – Bucolini / drums – Egidio Rocco
City’s eternal punk band that evolved from Sale Veruda’s earlier punk band Nafta [1979-1981]. KUD Idijoti were the most famous punk band from Pula in this part of Europe and almost a synonym for Pula punk rock. They were the only punk group that managed to survive whole decade as an active band. Their role was crucial and cult status deserved but there were other exciting bands in Pula that should be mentioned more often. Sale Veruda has been active in Saša 21 since 2004.
Demo 1982 (Radio Pula)
Demo 1985 (recorded at MKC Studio Koper)
vocals: Branko Črnac – Tusta / guitar: Sale Veruda / bass: Fritz (ex Besposličari) / drums: Diego Bosusco – Ptycza
KUD Idijoti classic line-up solidified at the end of 1985 after arrival of new singer, long haired hard-rocker Branko Črnac -Tusta. Fritz joined as bass player.
KUD Idijoti gained momentum and with support of Produkcija Slovenija/DID Koper released three seven inch EPs in a row during 1987-88. Compilation LP of these EPs titled “Bolivia R’n’R”, destined for European and worldwide punk market, was issued by Incognito Records two years later.
In 1989/90 they finally managed to secure a record contract with “major” label “Helidon” for a long-waited debut LP “Mi smo ovdje samo zbog para” (1990).
Besposličari [1982 – 1985]
guitar: Romeo Đomlija / vocals: Johnny Montezaro (Robert Matić) / bass: Nenad Marjanović – Fritz / drums: Vili Parlov
Upon returning from army (JNA), and pretty disappointed with prevalence of synth-pop in current music production, Romeo decided to form a group that would be rock oriented and close in style to his favorite band Ramones. And he did. Demo 1984 was recorded with Miro Milanović in September 1984. The second recording session happened at Radio Pula studio at the end of ’85. Impressed by Partibrejkers (Beograd) concert in Koper Romeo realized that Besposličari had come to their end. It was right time for a change. Band split up, bass player Fritz became member of KUD Idijoti and Romeo moved on toward the wanted sound in his head… old school garage-punk or psychedelically enhanced rhythm & blues that will be fully realized through The Spoons. Worshipers of Electric Church were slowly gathering around town…
bass, vocals: Alen Sforzzina / guitar, vocals: Zoran Banović / guitar, vocals: Dean Bagar / drums, percussion: Valter Glavaš / vocals: Elvis Radin
77 were short-lived punk band comprised of high school kids from bands Pušteni s lanca and Frka. 77 had latent art tendencies which were later better realized in post-punk manner at least by one band member, who continued playing music as synth player in Boykot Für and then as bass player in Castel. In two years 77 managed to record two studio and couple of live tracks & participated at the legendary Pula festival: Mladi pulski rock ’83.
At the very beginning The Swindle shared rehearsal space with ’77 so Zoran Banović (ex 77) sang in their initial line-up. His style was allegedly too dark or character too moody for other guys so the group continued without him. However, one of the earlier rehearsal recordings in mid 1980s reveals shaky post-punk or dark wave phase of the band, akin to Paraf II or Električni orgazam. The Swindle played a lot of concerts all over ex Yugoslavia thanks to KUD Idijoti who recommended them to the organizers. In other words, The Swindle were preoccupied with playing live more than with studio sessions. Their first proper recording in the studio happened in Koper, with Boris Furlan as late as 1989. Three recorded songs ended on the seven inch EP “Do kraja” belatedly released by German punk label Incognito Records (they previously put out compilation “Bolivia R’N’R” (LP) by KUD Idijoti). The songs for the debut album The Swindle recorded at the Guru studio in Novi Sad in November ‘90 and February ‘91, just before the war broke out. “Fraud” was finally released later in the same year by Pula’s small cassette label “Bonaca”. The Swindle were simply punk rock / pop rock hybrid or pop punk.
Pasmaters [1984 – 1987] mk I
Pioneering hardcore punk group Pasmaters were obviously under influence of American/Italian HC in their earliest phase. They managed to record super fast and chaotic Demo 1986 (Odmazda) before mandatory army service. Pasmaters regrouped in mid-1990s. They are still active.
Or post-punk amateurism rooted in glam and art-rock of late 1970s and updated with New Wave or or New Psychedelia or Cold Wave / Synth Pop along the way.
Fellow citizens and future electro-punks Aldo Ivančić and Dario Seraval had already begun University studies in Ljubljana and moved out of Pula. Fascinated by Cabaret Voltaire and emerging electronic music, they formed Borghesia in Ljubljana in 1982 and left indelible mark on fans of EBM in ex-YU and beyond.
Gustaph y njegovi dobri duhovi [1980-1986]
guitar, vocals: Livio Morosin / guitar: Igor Arih (1980-81) / Bas: Vlado Maružin / guitar, vocals: Edi Maružin / drums: Čedomir Mošnja / synth, vocals, percussion: Josip Ivančić Pino
Dobri duhovi extended:
Tentative JNA replacements: Elio Šćulac (sax instead of guitar), Milan Lučić, Nenad Zec (drums), Davor Kliman, Rusmin Obić
Late line-up members: Željko Marić (keys) and Sanda Letonja
Gustaph y njegovi dobri duhovi were very active and serious art-rock band from Vodnjan (a small town 10 km from Pula, where we usually buy olive oil in autumn). They played a lot out of town and participated at YURM 1981/82 and Zagreb Biennale ’83. GYNDD were acclaimed by critics, peer bands and public. They shared concert stages with Pingvinovo potpalublje as well, whose members were impressed. GYNDD self-released three cassettes in succession and topped the series with the very first LP from New Wave / post-punk section of Pula Rock City: „V“.
1 – “La fiesta i ostale dogodovštine” (1981)
2 – “Časovnici, ptice, mrtvaci i ostali svjetovni napjevi Y. H. Yohumbe” (1983)
3 – “Twenty Greatest Hits (i pommes frites)” (1984)
All three cassettes were recorded in the rehearsal space on 4-track TEAC by Miro Milanović.
“V” LP (1986)
The album was recorded in Top Ten studio in Ljubljana in February and March ’85. It was (over)produced by Milan Mladenović (EKV). The sound of drums/percussion in some songs is way too artificial for my liking, it bounces off my eardrums and spoils the fun. [Similar fate struck Ogledala and material recorded for their first album in Top Ten in 1984]. Too bad. Of course I keep “V” in my collection. I can live with various imperfections. Usput, tražim GYNDD kazete u digitaliziranom formatu (skromni, ali pouzdani 320 kbps mp3). Molim lijepo, kontaktirajte me…
In 1987, a bit tired of everything, GYNDD made a reset and decidedly started to play more commercial or more palatable Pop Rock music as Pino Papillon Band. However, they were not cheap. Few songs that I got are direct and lovable.
And finally, Gustaph y njegovi dobri duhovi resurfaced as well known Gustafi in the early 1990s
Stabilizacija [1980 – 1984]
guitar, vocals: Boris Čače / guitar, vocals: Valter Šćulac / sax, vocals: Elio Šćulac / bass: Danilo Dragosavac / percussion: Davor Dragosavac / electric organ: Igor Radola (1980-82) / drums: Valter Prencis, Denis Mikulić, Nikica Duraković
Fellow band from Vodnjan founded earlier than GYNDD, in the spring 1980. They played outside Pula on occasions and participated at YURM 82/83 in Zagreb. Studio demo material recorded at Radio Koper didn’t capture properly their live energy but it did open the door for YURM festival. Stabilizacija creatively peaked in 1983 with sax as lead instrument and tight rhythm section, including percussion player. Band’s last official concert happened in 1984.
I am intrigued. Tko ima Demo 1982?
Wilsonov grafički projekt [1981-1984]
drums, vocals: Miro Kusačić (ex Pušteni s lanca) / bass, vocals: Siniša Vujnović (ex Pušteni s lanca) / guitar: Rusmin Obić – Rus (ex Florijan) / vocals, guitar: Goran Čurić- Čotka (ex Florijan, AWOL in 1983) / keyboards: Leo Štekar (1983-84) / vocals: Marijan Detela – Jimmy (1983)
Two groups of younger people on Pula scene merged in one band in late ‘81, and WGS were born as a successful art project. After one year of incessant practicing WGS were invited to play in YURM 1982/83 in Zagreb too. Concerts in Rijeka, Ljubljana, and Koper followed after their YURM appearance. Demo material recorded in 1983 with sound engineer Miro Milanović but without main vocalist (Čotka or his tentative replacement Jimmy), later named Demo 1984, is essential listening. WGP were primarily Anglo influenced, ranging from late ‘60s psychedelic pop rock groups (classics) to post-punk.
Boykot Für [1983-84]
drums: Leo Štekar (WGP) / synth: Alen Sforzzina (ex 77) / guitar: Miro Kusačić (WGP)
w / random appearance of Šumski pjevači Gortanove uvale: Sandro Peročević, Branko Radić and Edi Premate
A couple of restless members from WGP and 77 (plus other in-and-out participants) rearranged roles to get new impetus: Miro Kusačić became guitarist, Leo Štekar drummer and Alen Sforzzina synth player. Boykot Für were wild, visceral, and not that serious, with (American) influences disclosed. No Wave Pula! Demo 1984 captured their instantaneous winning combination very well. For me personally, it is equally great even if it is short on recorded material and probably not completely realized.
Wilsonov grafički projekt / Boykot Für were like two sides of (Anglo-American post-punk) coin.
Both demos are well recorded in makeshift studio under the guidance of ever-present amateur recording engineer Miro Milanović. Bravo Vodnjan i Pula! That’s how my ears/mind like it and enjoy it. The 8-track tape is enough (4-track too) if you know how to set up microphones in a practice space with decent acoustics. Econopunks ruled!
In mid 1980s started more effective cultural exchange between Koper (Slovenia) and Pula. DID Koper (Produkcija Slovenija) managed by Boris Furlan issued Sexa (Zagreb), various releases by KUD Idijoti, Trobecove krušne peći (Zagreb) among other Slovenian and Serbian artists…
One of the first products of this cooperation was various artists cassette “Istarski Rock ’86” (re-arranged and shortened here below for ART ROCK section). Recorded in the fall of ’85 or during 1986 in Koper.
bass: Alen Sforzzina (ex 77, Boykot Für) / guitar: Davor Bošnjaković / guitar, synth: Edi Benčić / vocals: Zlatko Podbičanin
Castel were probably the only band in Pula that replaced drummer with rhythm machine (at least in the studio) which brought them closer to Art Pop or Dark Wave. A dozen tracks were recorded but unfortunately only 2 were used for this compilation. Delicate melancholia, exactly to my liking. I’d like to hear more songs from Castel.
Ja ne mogu da proniknem. Ja ne mogu jer hoću. Ja ne mogu da viknem, da se proderem u mrak. Gdje me vodi ova svjetlost, a okrenuti se ne znam. Kad bih mogao da se vratim ispričao bih ti sve…
Šumski pjevači Gortanove uvale [198x-1988]
bass, vocals: Sandro Peročević / violin, vocals – Selina Peročević / trumpet, vocals – Branko Radić / synth, vocals – Edi Premate / drums: Edi Zović / guitar, vocals – Goran Čurić – Čotke (ex WGS)
Young art-rock group whose members had very little in common regarding their formative taste in pop and rock music. Although the band name might be pretentious their postmodernist approach in making music was wholesome and organic. Influences are not easily discernible in case of ŠPGU which gives them extra points for originality. On these tracks ŠPGU brim with youthful optimism (or even joy) so much it is contagious. Presumably master tapes of Koper studio sessions have been lost. Take me to the woods of Gortanova uvala ’86, please!
Gori uši Winnetou [1986 – ]
Part synth-pop cabaret part circus rock orchestrated by Franci Blašković (ex Arinka & Tingl-Tangl) – legendary bass player and singer. Freak style Bacchus on veranda. You can hear Franci speaking (and singing) in tongues (with his wife Arinka providing back vocals) on these tracks while terrazza professionals play for the (pensioner) tourists! Spirited cut-up collage of pilfered radio smash hits which go better with wine and beer than with coffee. Salute!
Exiled rock music with full sound of distorted electric guitars is back. Or how across Yugoslavia the late ‘80s became the late ‘60s for a while. Pula was one of the hot spots. “Nuggets” cult. Detroit rock city reverence. Motörhead. Influence of Partibrejkers (Beograd) was important locally (regionally) too.
H.T.B. (from Pazin)
bass, vocals – Bruno Subiotto / drums – Ivica Kovačević (ex Visoki napon) / guitar – Boris Demark & Damir Matijašić
It seems that the first sounds of garage-rock re-emergence actually came from inland Istria. H.T.B. were garage punks from Pazin, one of the first bands that re-vitalized sixties rock. Their rhythm section later became part of Pula garage- rock scene focal point: The Spoons. H.T.B. were included on VA cassette “Istarski Rock ’86”.
Torpedo [1986 – 1987]
A link in the R’n’R chain between Besposličari & The Spoons. Developmental stage. Harbinger of the things to come.
Sinovi were not part of the ’60 revival but they co-existed at the same time. This demo is excellent. Almost sneering mid-tempo punk with melodic rock touches and post-punk vestiges. Kind of dark and sinister too.
Gubitnici [1987 – 1988]
Ephemeral garage-punk band with good demo. Related to Torpedo?
Gubitnici (together w/ FMD, The Washingtones, Sinovi, Messerschmitt, and The Spoons) appeared on VA cassette “Pula – London – Teheran” aka “Quest’è Pola, no Fiume” on Beyoop Tapes, a small cassette label from Zagreb [1987-90].
The Spoons [1987 – 2000]
guitar, organ, vocals – Romeo Đomlija (ex Visoki napon, Besposličari, Torpedo) / vocals, harmonica – Brunetto Subiotto (1988-1992) (ex H.T.B.) / drums – Ivica Kovačević (ex Visoki napon, H.T.B.) / bas – Dorianno Lizzul (ex Visoki napon)
Excellent psychedelic garage-rock, late ’60s style. Essential listening for this chapter of Pula rock history.
Garage punk-rock leaning on rhythm and blues, late ’60s style.
Soon after founding, Messerschmitt joined The Spoons during their recording session in Žminj in September 1988 and recorded a dozen songs, which Slušaj najglasnije! (Željko Franjić) published as a cassette “Lussy”. In addition to selling very well, it was used as a ticket for YURM ‘89, which was organized in the form of a rock caravan that passed through Ljubljana, Zagreb, Beograd and Skopje. In the end Messerschmitt were selected among three finalists. Positive feedback immediately paid off and resulted with life on the road (concerts every weekend) which led Messerschmitt to their first LP. The independent record label Blind Dog Records (Željko Jerbić) from Zagreb released the debut album “Foxxin’” in 1990, recorded by Davorin Heraković at Radio Pula.
In the city that spawned Atomsko sklonište there must have been some following – heavy metal progeny. For the most part of the 1980s punk rock & heavy metal subcultures butted heads or rather ignored each other but there were cross overs as well.
Sometimes I am in league with Satan too so here they are.
Devastation [1986 – 1990, 2007 – ]
“A thrash metal band formed as TSM (Their Satanic Majesty) in 1986. That same year around October 1986, they have changed their name to Devastation. In local circles, they also went by Devastator. They disbanded by early 1990. Core of the band, brothers Alex and Chris Bijažić continued on to form Hatröss, though that act split up by 1997. Devastation reformed as of 2007.”
1 – Rock’n’Pula feljton (autor Damir Burić) objavljivan u Glasu Istre bio je dragocjen za pripremu ovog posta (za popunjavanje brojnih faktografskih praznina). Hvala na povijesnim lekcijama šjor Burich! Čitaj i uživaj: tu.
2 – Excellent blog about the rock scene from Pula and Istria by Alex from Devastation who was there: Pula Rock City. Hvala!
3 – Hats off to Miro Milanović (recording engineer). Great job done as a hobby.
4 – Litfiba played in “Uljanik” in early summer of 1984.
5 – Carcass played in Pula in 1992 (during the war). My friends Mukki and Sacci went but I stayed home. I didn’t like death metal that much. I’ve always appreciated Carcass’s gruesome art concept. But their music (early grind core phase in particular) wasn’t suited for my teenage brain at the time. I might give Carcass’s symphonies another try one of these days…
Proliće u Puli, jabuke u cvitu. Brod u portu tuli, pošla je Patrizia… Croce e delicia!
Addio Pola! Cosulich Patrizia, A a via Castropola.
I nju je zasika črni parangal: grobari i breki levivaju pete – hodi funeral. U nedilju zjutra zakla ju je rum. Štrolige su rekle… Bumbalero – bum! Tutti in coro. Un po dialegria!
Grenzen und Graben, tišajte bijes! Daske za lijes, maske za ples! Grenzen und Graben, tišajte bijes! Daske za lijes, maske za ples!
Addio Pola! Cosulich Patrizia, A a via Castropola.
(tekst Danijel Načinović, glazba Franci Blašković)
Winter 1990–91 in Zagreb was super exciting for young people and promising in many ways but full of omens too. Fearful whispers about imminent war spread around the ex-country like viruses. The usual reply or passing thought was, “No, no way it would happen here.” It did. Where were you in ’90? And what to do (about it) in ’20.
Fugazi, Live in Galerija SC, Zagreb, Hrvatska, Jugoslavija, 22.10.1990.
“Good evening, everybody! Damn good to be here, in Zagreb.”
Shut the Door
Fugazi were the first DC (punk rock) band that played in (the Socialist Republic of) Croatia. In the late 1980s, records by Fugazi (and already mentioned Nomeansno) were held in high regard, and they circulated around town between all the punk rock subcultures. As it often goes, love of Fugazi led to interest in Dischord records and label’s artists other than Minor Threat or hard-core bands in general.
Dischord cofounder Jeff Nelson (ex Minor Threat) liked 9353 (almost forgotten band outside DC) so much that he reissued their albums with additional material on CD on his own small label Adult Swim. I got familiar with 9353 later, but they were my first preview of Washington, DC’s dark side, alongside the book of photos “Banned in DC”. I still have it. Dischord House had its share of punk rock weirdos (Beefeater!) for sure, but this book was full of photos of completely unknown bands (hardly heard in the age before the internet) that sported a messy goth/glam image. So here is a blog post dedicated to the unsung side of Washington, DC, from the early and mid-’80s. Kudos for the ever-present logistical support by Don Zientara and Inner Ear Studio, too.
[Nobody ever mentions the new wave “failure” of the Urban Verbs. Generally, the late 1970s stuff was rare and homebound, mostly documented on Skip Groff’s label, Limp Records.]
Banned in DC 1983-85: Dark Corners of Washington D.C.
I moved into the city in September 1984. I went to the payphone across the street and the payphone had “Nazi punks rule! Oi Oi Oi!!!” It made me very happy to be in punk rock Washington. (Mark Andersen, Positive Force activist)
Bad Brains had sailed to NYC in 1981, and they let the kids grow up with their hard-core punk. Moving fast and furiously, by the summer of 1983, most of the first and second wave of Dischord bands had broken up. At the time, Dischord was a very small (shoestring) hardcore punk label that could not even completely cover its inner circle of friends. The Faith played its last show in the summer of ’83, and Minor Threat broke up soon after. From that point until the summer of ’85 (Revolution Summer), it was very quiet and even slightly depressed around Dischord, especially during the gap year (1984). Scream, Marginal Man (ex-Artificial Peace), and Government Issue soldiered on, either staying with the label or moving on to stay afloat. The young men that formed the great Gray Matter slowed down the music’s speed, introduced melody, and shared stages around town with those bands. Tesco Vee, an old friend of the label and a punk-rock senior, moved into the city and formed the Meatmen’s DC lineup, revealing his secret fetishes (hard rock/heavy metal and ABBA) to budding punk crowds.
There were only a few records put out by Dischord in that period: the last recorded material by the Faith and Minor Threat, Scream’s debut LP, and Marginal Man’s 12-inch, followed by Beefeater, Rites of Spring, and another Scream LP in the second half of ’85.
But post-punk and post-hardcore in the wider DC metropolitan area (encompassing very quiet Baltimore, MD; Arlington, VA; Annapolis, MD; and the suburbs in between) existed, even if it didn’t thrive, in that period. It was documented on the Fountain of Youth (FOY) label (akin to Homestead Records in aesthetic) run by Derick Hsu (ex-Exiled), and occasionally by the bands themselves on their tiny samizdat labels.
I never worked my label (Fountain of Youth) like a business. My purpose was to get the record out. I just wanted to do it. I never really thought, “What are we going to do with the record now that is out?” I just figured everything was going to work itself out. And it didn’t. (Derek Hsu)
To start, I’ll pick some interesting tracks from the various-artists compilation Bouncing Babies. Actually, I’ve simply omitted the hardcore punk-related tracks from 1981–82, even though a couple of them are pretty OK.
Black Market Baby – Suzie Dear
Mid-tempo punk-rock dudes, leather jackets and boots, etc. Almost written out of DC history for being in the no-man’s-land between Skip Goff’s label and Dischord. Belated debut album issued by FYO in 1983.
Braille Party – Terrorist
A multi-part hard-core song from a band I know nothing about.
Body Count – Bull in a China Shop
Just to remind you of No Trend’s Fuzzy Dice (More, 1988). And that ska punk was great initially.
Lucky Pierre – Looking Back
More sax (played by Jeff Nelson’s brother Brian, who would later join No Trend under the name Johnny Ontego), from this otherwise unknown band.
Underground Soldier – Sunday Slaughter
Doug Birdzell moved on to play in Beefeater, as a terrorist bassist using a slap technique.
Crippled Pilgrims – Black and White
A Paisley Underground pop-rock band on the East Coast, in DC. (Other janglers of a similar ilk were picked up by Homestead in the same period, circa ’84). Crippled Pilgrims’ music is lovely, reminiscent of the early dB’s. FYO issued their excellent mini-LP, which was followed the next year by an album. The very dense LP added some dissonance to the mix, if not more melodies. These records are out of print (lost masters) but have been saved from complete obscurity by Reaction Recordings’ CD release: Down Here: Collected Recordings 1983 – 1985.
9353 – Ten Witches
An even-better alternate mix of an already-great song.
Reptile House – Talons and Claws
The very best early song by Reptile House that I’ve heard, sound-wise.
Government Issue – Dead Dog
Metal-punk take on slow, heavy-riffing doom.
Glee Club – Disguise
Government Issue guys in disguise play Throbbing Gristle records in the basement. The fun just never ends…
Death Camp 2000 – Unknown
Don Fleming’s (Velvet Monkeys) side band that specialized in making noise. Their only recording.
1/2 JAPANESE (Uniontown, MD)
I am traditional in many ways, so let’s begin with the band of elders. Compared to DC’s 16-year-old hardcore kids, Half Japanese were “punk dinosaurs,” whose involvement in music stretches back to the mid-1970s bedroom activities of the brothers Fair. Strangely, Half Japanese wanted to feel like they were in their early teens most of the time, and they approximated it with unprecedented style. Many of the early recordings were issued in Europe, so Half Japanese might be the best-known name here. But not too popular. One can tag them as no wave, new wave, post-punk, or punk rock, but they are simply all of these at once and beyond categorization. Half Japanese’s 3xLP debut annoys me, although it comes across as charming when I am not feeling too moody. For my own spastic pleasure, I would edit it to a single LP. I have problems with the “songs” they recorded when they regressed to the age of 8 years old or so. Loud is a treble racket that I like just fine. But the series of full-length albums recorded in 1983–85, Our Solar System, Sing No Evil, and Charmed Life (belatedly issued in 1988), are truly fantastic works of art in a world of their own. The Fair brothers daydream about pretty-girl athletes and have nightmares full of monsters and zombies from B movies.
Our Solar System LP 1984
Dance When I Say Dance
Too Much Adrenaline
Fire To Burn
Knocked Down On the Dance Floor
You’re Gonna Miss Me
Sing No Evil LP 1985
Sing No Evil
Rub Every Muscle
Too Bad About Elizabeth
House Of Voodoo
Velvet Monkeys were another band of slightly older guys, led by Don Fleming. The studio material from said period is stylistically closer to a smooth new-wave sound even more than it is to murky DIY post-punk. The Velvet Monkeys in concert rocked pretty hard, though, with a full guitar sound hearkening back to Detroit. Spooky stuff and all, the Velvet Monkeys were also soul mates of Half Japanese, or so it seems when looking back and making assumptions. In the second half of the 1980s, Don Fleming moved to NYC and formed an indie superstar lineup of the Velvet Monkeys along with his main new band, B.A.L.L., which included Mr. Kramer of Shimmy Disc on bass.
Future LP 1983
What Can I Do?
You’re Not There
All The Same
“Colors” SP 1985
Colors Part I
Colors Part II
“Spooky” SP 1985
Trance Band Process
NUCLEAR CRAYONS [1981-85]
Fronted by scary-looking Lara Lynch, Nuclear Crayons were DC’s earliest art punks and total misfits to emerge in the midst of the hardcore crowd. The epitome of local no-wave frustration, Nuclear Crayons’ diffuse songs were just barely held in place by inspired bass lines. (A parallel would be Tim Wright in DNA.) Following the example of Dischord, the band founded its own label, Outside Records, which issued Nuclear Crayons’ material and also managed to pull together an excellent V/A record, “Mixed Nuts Don’t Crack”, which documented hardcore and post-punk outcasts in the fall of ’82. Some of the negative energy accumulated by Nuclear Crayons was transferred into the sinister electronics of Lynch and guitarist Darin Drake’s next project, The Earth Hell Band.
The only Nuclear Crayons show I played sober was at Gay Pride Day and that’s because the beer was on the other side of P Street Beach and I was still on my crutches and I couldn’t make it all the way down there. (Bernie Wandel)
Bad Pieces Seen Delivering The Foretold Conclusion Spin All When After Consummate Pieces Open LP 1984
Anarchy Posers / Take Away the Faith
What’s Wrong With Us?
THE EARTH HELL BAND Witches On Holiday LP 1986
Seen It Too
CHALK CIRCLE [1981-83]
All-girl art-punk band influenced by Rough Trade feminist punk and post-punk. Just like Nuclear Crayons, Chalk Circle tried to make a place for themselves in public among the hectic hardcore bands and zigzagging underage punks. In the final stage of Chalk Circle, just before splitting-up, Sharon Cheslow joined Colin Sears’ band Bloody Mannequin Orchestra, comprised of punks that gathered around WGNS studio / label.
As the DC hardcore scene became more macho and less about a tight-knit group of friends, we found greater support with an older group of people. We always thought of punk as having no rules, but when hardcore became more popular there developed a code to which Chalk Circle didn’t adhere. Nonetheless, Anne and I loved hardcore and went to all the shows. We went to all the Minor Threat, S.O.A., GI, and Youth Brigade shows and loved to dance. (Sharon Cheslow)
Their attempts (demos, Inner Ear sessions, live tracks) were recently collected on “Reflection” LP (2011) on Mississippi Records / Post Present Medium (USA). Support this one-off release!
NO TREND [1982-88] (Ashton, MD)
Post-hardcore, post-punk, antagonistic band battling against everything, while also giving heartfelt tips for teens. Their sound-as-weapon was initially built on PiL and Flipper templates by guitarist Frank Price, and often directed at annoying hardcore brats by the wicked leader of the No Trend Troupe, Jeff Mentges, aka cowboy Cliff Ontego. Voluptuous sex vampire Lydia Lunch moved in their circles, too. Through various core and expanded lineups, No Trend changed a lot during their five years of existence. But the fiery energy and bile stayed with them until the end, no matter how unhinged or “pop” they became. It’s a mystery why No Trend never ended up on Alternative Tentacles. If it weren’t for the “Tritonian Nash-Vegas Polyester Complex” album, issued on Touch & Go in 1987, they would probably be even less known than they are today. Watch out for the Drag City delight: “Too Many Humans/Teen Love”, a box set anthology of recorded material from 1983–84. Highly recommended! Fingers crossed for No Trend Box Part II: 1985–86.
When Death Won’t Solve Your Problem LP 1985 (compilation album)
One Last Dream
Two Seconds Till Non Existence
MISSION FOR CHRIST
Post-hardcore band that existed on the margins of the margins. Their sole single, on No Trend’s tiny vanity label, shows a UK post-punk influence, but the other tracks not chosen for the record reveal hardcore roots. Mission For Christ were friends with No Trend, so I assume they were pals within a sea of adversaries. Spread the Gospel, love thy enemy!
Pennies From Hell SP 1984
Pennies From Hell
The rest of the ’83 Session:
He and She
Smash the Rich
Stay the Course
You can easily find the cool CD collection “The Complete Sessions” (2012) for very little money, on hardworking Ektro Records from socialist Finland. Fuck vinyl; CDs are reliable and cheap products!!
Basement hardcore band with bizarre psychedelic touches and growling echoes of future death metal. If the players hadn’t heard the Meat Puppets or Rudimentary Peni during United Mutation’s gestating phase, they must have been intrinsically deranged. Or they were just dropping a lot of acid in the practice space. Unlike other DC hardcore groups, United Mutation rarely played live. However, they managed to self-release two essential and singular seven-inch EPs. The first one, Fugitive Family, from ’83, was issued as a split release with Dischord.
Fugitive Family EP 1983
Fugitive Family / Plain Truth
I Know a Place
Lice And Flies…
Rainbow Person EP 1985
Take Your Pick
Here is brand new LP collection of United Mutation’s recording sessions from 1982-83 put out by Radio Rahim: Dark Self Image (2020).
Another group of drugged-up malcontents in a psychedelic, Day-Glo world of their own. They loved punk rock, the post-punk music coming from the UK, and the glam rock of their childhoods. They hated the macho side of hardcore, with all its adolescent-testosterone vapors in the air, as much as the ominous atmosphere of the Government-Army-Media triumvirate that was seated in and around Washington, DC. In Bruce Merkle Hellington’s words, The Stranglers & Punishment of Luxury were some sort of guiding sound to turn to as the starting points for 9353’s art adventure. They were also in awe of Killing Joke. These young freaks produced two smooth (but haunted!) records. And, judging from the extended CD versions of those albums, 9353 were almost as prolific as the Smiths or Hüsker Dü during a brief, two-year period. Every single song is worthy of your short attention span. I dare you! Great stuff, highly recommended!
What 9353 was? It was me and two clowns, Vance and Jason, and a drum box. We played 6 shows that way until Dan Joseph joined the band. I ended up doing all the flyers, all the managing. By the time Dan joined the band I was already burnt. Dan joined at the end of May ’83. (Bruce Merkle)
To Whom It May Consume LP 1984
With All Respect
Famous Last Words
We Are Absolutely Sure There Is No God LP 1985
Who Does What & Why
GRAND MAL (Würm Baby) [1983-85]
The simple sex beat and moderately dark overtones of Grand Mal’s plodding garage rock had real potential. But by the time of their only recording, the post-punk influence had partly faded away. Unfortunately, they didn’t become rhythmically more diverse. The goth side of the band, Linda LeSabre (drums) and Don Diego (bass), would move to LA and continue in style with Death Ride 69, while singer Joe Aronstamn and guitarist Marc Lambiotte would surface in the Holy Rollers , who joined Dischord in the late 1980s. Malcolm Riviera (from the Velvet Monkeys) also played guitar.
We went to Washington Cathedral with t-shirts that said “Jesus lied” on the back. We got into philosophical arguments discounting the existence of God. It was totally packed. (Joey Aronstamn)
Short lived and (mostly) instrumental post-punk trio led by multi-talented Dan Joseph (guitar, synthesizer and drum machine programming) who played drums in 9353 and Crippled Pilgrims at the same time. Troubled Gardens left behind “Troubled Gardens Cassette” (collection of 4-track bedroom recordings) & slick sounding mini LP “Eden Revisited”, which can recall late period 9353, On-U Sound and 4AD (Dif Juz). Dan Joseph is a free-lance composer, curator and writer based in New York City nowadays.
Madhouse was Monica Richards’s midperiod phase in a long line of artistic realizations with gothic inclinations. She traveled from her hardcore punk roots in Hate From Ignorance to the death rock of Madhouse to Strange Boutique’s art-rock sophistication and farther away still… Madhouse could be seen as an energetic American youth’s crude, raw take on Siouxsie and the Banshees’ post-punk done, so it comes out closer to death rock than to the British pop stylings that the band might have idolized. However, Monica’s channeling of Siouxsie is quite spooky. Strange Boutique was a continuation and refinement of Madhouse, with the late Fred “Freak” Smith (ex-Beefeater) as the guitarist par excellence.
We played Wilson Center and I really made a mistake ‘cause it was new generation of skinheads. We were playing and they were throwing lit cigarettes at me and saying things like, “Take off your shirt”. I’d written an anti-rape song and I said “This next song is about rape, which I’ve been through”. These stupid boys, who just discovered their penises, all said “Fuck you!” Man, I was so angry. That made me never want to play or go to a hardcore show again. (Monica Richards)
Madhouse mini LP 1985
REPTILE HOUSE (Baltimore, MD)
Art-punk band from Baltimore, a somehow nonexistent city that, in terms of punk microcosms, was always stuck in the shadow of Washington, DC. (Am I wrong?) Their debut seven-inch EP was released as a split between Dischord and the Druid Hill label. As captured on tape, the bass lines were still heavy post-punk, as was some of the guitar playing. But an upbeat vibe from the power-soul vocals of Daniel Higgs (then known as Daniel V. Strasser) and the swift drumming of London May (who would join Glenn Danzig in Samhain the following year) led them away from the shade of those gothic mansions in Baltimore’s historic quarter. This EP is an intro to DC’s Revolution Summer ’85. Years later, the mighty Lungfish and its modern, psychedelic rock slithered and crawled out of Reptile House’s remains, in a surreal feat of cosmic zoology.
Keel Haul Love
In their earliest phase, Pussy Galore were antagonistic garage-rock wannabes who brought sex back into teenage R’n’R (as resurrected by the Cramps, amongst others), while melding it with Euro metal-bashing. Not-so-distant echoes of the car crash in No Trend’s “Teen Love” are present in the grooves. Hello, Junkyard America! The white noise of Pussy Galore’s first seven-inch EP is a more-than-appropriate intro to their very primitive rock, with Jon Spencer’s European influences still audible (EN, MES & Brix, Nick Cave). Soon after, Pussy Galore left DC for NYC. Over the years, they became better and then worse, or just jaded. (Their slightly disappointing and bluesy swan song, Historia de la Musica Rock, even waved goodbye with a tune referencing “Revolution Summer.”) By the next decade, PG had finally split into three very cool fractions: Boss Hog, Royal Trux & The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
The Obsessed were legitimate metal torchbearers in the metropolitan DC area, giving off similar vibes to the premium local doom band Pentagram. Mastermind and legendary guitarist-vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich crossed paths with DC hardcore punks and, although he is first and foremost a metalhead, he loved to attend shows by bands such as Bad Brains and Void. At some point, even Vance Bockis (soon to be 9353’s glamorous bassist) sang for the Obsessed. In 1983, the Obsessed put out a crippled but nevertheless beautiful debut s/t EP on their own. It sounds weak (especially the rhythm tracks), but that murkiness gives it an extra gothic aura. A demo tape from ’84 and sessions for a long-playing album, planned for 1985, fared better. However, the boss of Metal Blade Records proclaimed the Obsessed to be obsolete and hardly marketable (compared to Slayer and the thrash metal brigades), and so the label declined to issue Purple Tape ’85. Disillusioned, Wino broke up the band and accepted a call from Saint Vitus, with whom he spent the second half of the decade as a born-too-late rocker. When he reactivated the Obsessed in 1990, his home state was full of heavy new bands. Maryland’s branch of Doom America bore fruit: Internal Void, Iron Man, Unorthodox, Wretched, etc.
We heard about a recording studio that was ridiculously cheap from our friends in Pentagram. Catch A Buzz Studio. We made an appointment for two days: one day to set up and get levels, the next day to record. The second day the engineer was gone and there was a note that said, “Got tickets to the Superbowl but my brother is gonna engineer”. Well, his brother didn’t know shit but we recorded anyways. I was told somewhere that the snare sound is like an empty pizza box, but we believed. We had a radical printer who was the Marines’ printer so he laid out a beautiful wraparound cover and we had our own label: Invictus (Victory). We believed. One day my new boss said, “Hey, they reviewed your record in the new Kerrang”. I was excited and jammed down to get it. It was reviewed by someone who is now my friend but it was a review that left me sad and disheartened…still I believed an carried on to fulfill my dreams. (Scott “Wino” Weinrich)
The Obsessed EP 7” 1983
Iron & Stone
Concrete Cancer (Promo Demo Tape) 1984
The Obsessed s/t LP aka Purple Tape (recorded in ’85, released in ’90 by Hellhound)
Live at the Bayou ’85
Ground Out / Feelingz
Iron and Stone
Indestroy / Kill Ugly Naked
Unrest EP 7” 1985
So You Want to Be a Rock’n’Roll Star
Scott & Zelda
Well, this post maybe isn’t ideal for month of June (in Northern Hemisphere) but come back after the summer, in October!
EDIT: The earliest recorded material (debut EP and cassettes from ’85) by important local anglophile band Unrest, led by Mark Robinson of Teenbeat records, wasn’t included initially because I don’t have it in my digital archives. But I decided to add Unrest anyway. I am finally being proactive! Looking fwd into the near future. I couldn’t leave out Troubled Gardens as well so they are in now. Infantile fun just never ends…
Last year Freaks R Us (The Pop Group themselves) re-issued “For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?” (1980/2016) which was far too long out of print. They didn’t stick to the song sequence of the original album: “One Out Of Many” track is out, “We Are All Prostitutes” single is now in. I won’t miss the former much – it would have worked better as B-side material even first time around (for example “Forces of Oppression” could have been A-side of never planned single). Freaks R Us really could have included both songs and added other time period related songs for the CD issue thou. CD format easily tolerates extra minutes of music. Anyway, in many cases I liked the record industry practice (or wish of the artists) in UK which kept strong (lead) single separate from the album, as had happened with fiery “She’s Beyond Good And Evil” single & “Y” LP the year before.
For the purpose of refreshed listening experience I’ve also re-imagined this album as 8-song mini LP (cut at 45 RPM!):
A2 Blind Faith
A3 How Much Longer
A4 There Are No Spectators
B1 Forces Of Oppression
B2 Feed The Hungry
B4 Rob A Bank
A We Are All Prostitutes
B Amnesty International Report
Boys (still teenagers!) from Bristol didn’t like to be pigeonholed. They did hate word “rock” and what it had represented in their minds. With fucking passion! Were they good at it? Brilliant! Kudos. “For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?” (1980) album is as good as “Y” (1979) and as relevant today as it was almost four decades ago.
Boys Next Door (the Birthday Party), the Reactionaries (Minutemen) & perhaps Šarlo akrobata and Trobecove krušne peći from around these parts, among many other bands and music fans all around the world were in total awe!
Remind yourself of The Pop Group greatness and support the recent re-issue from Freaks R Us. Every record shop in town should have The Pop Group in stock for the sake of mental health of the dwindling new generations interested in groundbreaking and mind-blowing music. “For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?” is a cultural treasure in pop (!?) music. The tags and genre classifications are arbitrary here anyhow.
The last album “Honeymoon On Mars” (2016) ended up a victim of the studio approach in pop song-craft with too many unnecessary layers of electronic sounds, overdubs and banal samples. A step back from unexpected and decent (but symptomatically slicked) return with “Citizen Zombie”. Symbolic opposition and defiant stance would work better in live context (in studio controlled environment) in my humble opinion. I definitely like a poke of straight forward electronic tracks (e.g. “Zipperface”) but the album as a whole may be experienced as continuation of Mark Stewart’s solo albums rather than The Pop Group album. Listening to “Honeymoon On Mars” is like waiting in vain for the vital electricity of simple guitar/bass/drums setup (with a touch of electronica) to surface and rip up overbearing and predictable digital everything of everyday existence. No sweat and other body fluids on the bed sheets in the end. I wish that the sound aesthetic of this particular recording were in total opposite to the intentionally repulsive and frightening cover art. Nice effort thou. What I want I could get in concert, I guess.
For how much longer do we tolerate mass murder?
Until the bitter end. It seems.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, man always does.” – Voltaire
Vol VII: Rock and Pop Music in Skopje in the 1980s
*subject to change*
This far away ex Socialist Republic was/is situated deeper in the Balkans where Byzantine ways of singing and chanting have persevered in liturgy. Skopje, the capitol city, was hit by powerful earthquake in 1963 and rebuilt in steel and concrete. So, despite relatively sunny climate and warmhearted folk, one could find just enough Socialist gray areas even down there. Well, I can only guess. Macedonia as a land is usually (and superficially) associated with red vine, mutton, blood red poppies & jazz-rock virtuoso Vlatko Stefanovski’s band Leb i sol whose rise to fame progressed in parallel with the new wave happenings. Although Makedonija very often brings in mind sunshine too, where those rock generations really children of sun (Deca sunca) or darkness? It might seem like the majority of them were children (youth) of God: post-punk (or dark-wave or Gothic) bands that operated like mystic sects branched from Macedonian Orthodox Church – bringing religious Sunday school out of the half-secret parochial classes to the Electric Church and rock stages across the country to amplify their beliefs.
The earliest Macedonian punk and new wave bands didn’t leave official recordings behind. They probably lived fast and died too early or transformed into something else. In general, Macedonian artistic spirit of mid 1980s struck a chord with dark wave.
Since I am not that much familiar with the history of rock and pop music from Skopje and SR Macedonia, beside obvious punk rock or post-punk names (Badmingtons, Bastion, Padot na Vizantija, Mizar etc.), here’s the segment from Wikipedia as a brief overview:
The late 1970s saw the emergence of punk rock. The first punk rock band was Fol jazik, formed in Skopje in 1978. During the 1980s other notable punk groups were Saraceni and Badmingtons, both led by Vladimir Petrovski Karter. Later he switched to a more mainstream sound and formed the group Aleksandar Makedonski.
The new wave scene featured artists such as the ska group Cilindar, Usta na usta and Tokmu taka. Tokmu taka’s vocalist Ljupčo Bubo Karov from Kavadarci later became popular as an actor of the comedy TV show K-15, while Usta na usta’s member Aleksandar Prokopiev became a prominent writer. Another influential band was Bon Ton Bend with Dario Pankovski, who released many hits of new wave music.
The synthpop trio Bastion which featured Kiril Džajkovski was one of the most important 1980s acts. Another notable 1980’s act was Haos in Laos (allegedly in a sort of New Romantic style). The pop-rock group Memorija formed in 1984 was one of the most prosperous from this period. The most productive in the country was the post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock scene which included the cult bands Mizar, Arhangel and Padot na Vizantija, the latter led by Goran Trajkoski. Later he formed the neo-folk group Anastasia which became internationally acclaimed with its soundtrack for the Milčo Mančevski’s Academy Award nominated film Before the Rain.
Notable heavy metal artists were the groups Karamela and Concorde, the latter being remembered for their more radio-friendly hit “Visoki štikli i crni čorapi” (“High Heels and Black Stockings”). Its guitarist Venko Serafimov later started a successful solo career.
Noќ nad Makedonija (1981-90)
The very beginning (1980-83) of the dark decade in rock in Macedonia mainly remained undocumented and the scarce demo recordings are unavailable.
Početok i kraj 1983-86
Badmingtones (ex Fol jazik, ex Saraceni) (1983-86) fronted by ever-present punker V.P. Karter played slightly melodic punk-rock throughout the mid decade and even managed to leave a demo tape behind. Now very rare, it consists of earlier recordings done in their own studio and three tracks recorded in professional studio of RTV Skopje in 1985. Their basic punk-rock sound was enriched with electric organ on studio material.
Bastion was yet another smooth ex-YU synth pop combo: drum machine, fretless bass, synths and baby doll singing in Serbian (then known as Serbo-Croatian – the official language in Yugoslavia). The trio was formed in 1983 by Ana Kostovska (vocalist), Kiril Džajkovski (keyboards) and Ljubomir Stojsavljević (bass guitar). The author of their lyrics was the internationally acclaimed film director Milčo Mančevski, at that time a correspondent of the magazine Džuboks. He was also the film director of their music video “Hot day in Mexico”. It’s a shame that at least one single track on their only record was not sung in Macedonian. I remain emotionally reserved to some degree but can understand appeal, there is some beauty in delicate fragility of Bastion’s almost minimal approach. Synth-pop fans that dig albums by Talas (BG), Videosex (LJ) or Denis & Denis (RI) should check it out. The original copies of “Bastion” (1984) issued by PGP RTB are fetching silly prices nowadays.
Energetic post punk (via Echo and the Bunnymen, U2 or Comsat Angels) of short-lived Padot na Vizantija (ex Afektiven naboj) was documented only on a couple of studio/live demo tracks scattered as appearances on three cassette releases (various artists compilations). They split up too soon and freed space for powerful gothic rock delivered by post-JNA Mizar or Mizar II. Surprisingly, Padot na Vizantija toured a bit in their short lifetime and even participated at YURM ’85 festival in Zagreb where they got excellent reviews. If they had managed to record and issue debut album in ’85 it would fit nicely in dark-wave post-punk albums series championed by this blog/site. Padot na Vizantija anthology has been issued by NE! Records this year.
Gradot e nem (1986-90)
Mizar II put out two critically acclaimed gothic rock (or deathrock) albums before the official end of Yugoslavia. The self-titled debut “Mizar” (1988) would be the most important record from Macedonia from the 1980s (if we put Leb i sol albums in separate category). I used to think that the sophomore effort “Свјат Dreams 1762 – 1991” (1991) was significantly inferior but now I realize that I was wrong – it has its own strong points. I can be fussy only about the clean production on both, as usually.
Mizar – Mizar (1988, Helidon) – the most important rock album from Macedonia
Aporea (aka Apokrifna realnost) self-released religiously (spiritually) themed vintage industrial tape “Na rekah vavilonskih” in 1988. The material was recorded after Padot na Vizantija had disbanded, sometime in the between the fall of ’85 and winter of ’88.
Lola V. Stain recorded two albums of ambiental music before crucial member Zlatko Origjanski joined Anastasia. The debut “Ikona” (1990) issued for an independent label from Zagreb (Blind Dog Records) is comprised of two long multi-part atmospheric instrumentals: “Makova polja” & “Rani jadi”. These two complex songs are structured from the interchangeable variations based on either bagpipes, traditional ethnic drum (tapan) or a jazzy psychedelic theme.
Anastasia started as collaboration of musicians from Padot na Vizantija, Aporea and Mizar who composed atmospheric music influenced by Macedonian folk and Byzantine church music. This lineage also represents specific artistic vision of Goran Trajkoski that had started with punk band Afektiven naboj. The first EP “Na rjekah vavilonskih” was released as 12’’ record in 1990. It was introduction of sorts for the film soundtrack “Before the Rain” that would become international hit few years later.
Arhangel was Macedonian alternative rock band formed in 1989 by Risto Vrtev (the first vocalist in original Mizar). Their debut album was recorded during last days of Yugoslavia and even pressed in Zagreb by Jugoton in 1991. However, as an active rock band, Arhangel have been more significant for post YU Macedonia.
As an exception to the “rule” and due to the scarcity of recorded Macedonian bands I’ll add Telo-nauka sovršena who were actually living far away from Skopje – they came from a small town Struga (as local punk band Afektiven naboj). I quite like material from their only official release – tape “Kadis” (1988, SKC Niš) but not so much some sound production choices. Like Mizar, Telo-nauka sovršena often sound better to me live than in studio. One can here ghosts of Joy Division [unknown pleasures] or early New Order buried in the hiss and flutter of an old cassette tape. Never heard earliest recorded material (pre “Kadis”), if it really exists in any format.
I am going to end retrospective tripping on ex YU music with this post and take a small imaginary vacation at some fancy resort on the lake of Ohrid. Seeping cold juice under a huge parasol listening to Bastion would make me good now on the verge of winter. I am kidding comrades! I need to spend some quiet time as a recluse contemplating and meditating in a remote Macedonian monastery (without holy scriptures of any kind, of course). OK, I am leaving you with Mizar, not in misery. Godspeed!
The First Two Revelations of Mizar (from a great Wikipedia entry)
Mizar (Macedonian: Мизар [miˈzar]) is a Macedonian rock band from Skopje. They achieved a status of a cult band, especially in Macedonia and across the Western Balkans.
The group is notable for its first self-titled album, as it was the first popular music in Western Balkans record in Macedonian language. The album was a major success and it is listed among the top ten rock albums ever released in Western Balkans.
Mizar was formed in 1981 in the then Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Because of the band’s avant-garde sound and image, its Christian leanings and support for Macedonian self-determination, they were viewed with certain degree of suspicion by the former authorities. Still, the group received great media attention including numerous appearances on the national television.
The band got its name after Mizar which is a guiding star for orientation of travelers in the deserts. The name was given by Panta Džambazoski.
Mizar’s musical style is post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock. Beside influences such as Joy Division for instance, Mizar also uses elements of Traditional Macedonian folklore and Byzantine music. Another main part of their music is Goran’s (both Tanevski and Trajkoski) vocals which are based on Christian church chants.
In their long history, Mizar has had 5 Revelations, all of them with different singers.
The First Revelation (Risto Vrtev)
Mizar were formed in 1981 in Skopje as an instrumental trio of Gorazd Čapovski on guitar, Valentin Žabjakin on bass and Panta Džambazoski on drums. In late 1981, Žabjakin left the band and was replaced with Ilija Stojanovski. Risto Vrtev joined on vocals soon after. In 1982, the group recorded a demo tape for Radio Skopje. They then sent this tape to Jugoslovenski Rock Moment (also known as YURM), who wrote a short but glowing review of the tape. During 1983, the band then had to break up shortly after due to the members’ mandatory army commitments.
The Second Revelation (Goran Tanevski)
In 1985, when the members of Mizar returned from the army, Čapovski attempted to form a band called Inola-X with Vrtev, but it didn’t work out. Mizar then reformed with Goran Tanevski in place of Vrtev and a new keyboardist, Slobodan Stojkov. They started to use elements of the traditional Macedonian folklore and Byzantine music blended with post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock. This phase of Mizar is known as Мизар – Второ Откровение (Mizar – The Second Revelation). Vrtev later founded Arhangel (Archangel) which was awarded as the best rock act in Macedonia during the 1990s. Arhangel inherited certain features of Mizar but with a more conventional rock approach which is why Arhangel was sometimes referred as the Rock Mizar. In 1986, the band filmed a music video for the song “Stoj”.
In 1986, the band played the “Druga godba” festival in Zagreb, but altercations within the band caused Džambazoski and Stojkov to leave the group. They were replaced by Vencislav Smakjoski and Goran Trajkovski respectively. This lineup played at Festival Omladina, with Vladimir Kaevski on keyboards, and contributed two live tracks to the festival’s compilation. These tracks are the first appearance of Mizar on record. Trajkovski would later be replaced by Sašo Krstevski, while Stojkov was replaced by Katerina Veljanovska.
In 1986 they recorded a few demos and were a support act for Laibach and Disciplina kičme on their Yugoslav tour. In 1987 they were awarded for their unique sound at the most significant rock music festival which was held in Subotica.
They released their first, self-titled album, in 1988 with the following line-up:
The producer was Goran Lisica-Fox. Beside their own songs, the album also included a cover version of the notable Macedonian folk song Zajdi, Zajdi under the title “Златно сонце” (Golden Sun). One of the best known songs from the album is “Девојка од Бронза” (Girl made of bronze).
By 1989, the lineup had stabilised to the following:
This lineup’s first appearance on record was the Demoskop 1 compilation in late 1990, where they contributed two tracks, “Veligden” and “Glas”. Between October and December 1990, the band recorded their second album, Svjat Dreams, releasing it on 7 September 1991, the day before Macedonia split from Yugoslavia. The title of the record is inspired by the song Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics. On this album they covered the traditional song 1762 and a song written by Vrtev, the first singer of Mizar titled “Дом” (Home).
Don’t Look Back vol. VII: Skopje (1-2-ex-YU!!)
Noќ nad Makedonija (1981-90)
Početok i kraj (1983-86)
Badmingtons – Site obični luđe 
Badmingtons – Doađa sabota 
Badmingtons – Moram li jas? 
Bastion – Deca sunca 
Bastion – Mesec u šolji 
Bastion – Molitva 
Padot na Vizantija – Početok i kraj 
Padot na Vizantija – Istata sostojba 
Aporea – Dzvezdo javljajušta solnce [medieval]
Gradot e nem (1986-90)
Aporea – Na rjekah vavilonskih [ancient]
Mizar – Gradot e nem (live) 
Mizar – Stoj 
Mizar – Devojka od bronza 
Mizar – Hoden že 
Aporea – Kondak Sv. Prohoru Pčinjskomu [undated]
Telo-nauka sovršena – Grešnici 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Niz vekovi so grevovi 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Plastična zemlja 
Arhangel – Arhangel ’80 – ’89 (live) 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Son (live) 
Lola V. Stain – Makova polja 1 
Lola V. Stain – Makova polja 2 
Lola V. Stain – Rani jadi 1 
Lola V. Stain – Rani jadi 3 
Mizar – Abja mem 
Mizar – Veligden 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Nebo 
Mizar – Običen čovek 
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)
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 or early months of ’83. 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”.
Vol III: Rock and Pop Music in Novi Sad in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Korekcije faktografije, dopune, HQ mp3 doprinos (bilo bi lijepo čuti Ove sezone vedri tonovi!) i slično… su dobrodošli.
Provodim dane u parku nekom, u drugi grad otplivam rekom tu spavam u potkrovlju slepom, rano uveče i posle još
“Došla su tako neka vremena” (La strada)
Novi Sad, the capital city of Vojvodina (at the time autonomous region in the north of Socialist Republic of Serbia) was a multi-cultural micro-center for new wave happenings. As with any other blog post about the ex-YU city “scenes”, this one starts with a domestic punk band too.
Pekinška patka (1978 – 81) was at the same time the first Serbian (or as their singer likes to point out as an illustration – the very first punk band from Christian Orthodox cultural setting). A lot of punk-rock scholars and fans around the world hold their debut album (at least one year late in production) “Plitka poezija” LP (1980) in high regard. It’s an example of entertaining punk with catchy hooks and exactly because of that melodic aspect Pekinška patka can be regarded as an authentic case globally. By the way, their singer Čonkić (Čonta) was a high-school professor at the time! Weirdos.
In Novi Sad there were quite a lot punk bands (Gomila G*, Crkveni pacovi*, Rafal*, Armija Spasa*, Van kontrole*, Dva minuta mržnje, Vrisak generacije, Fluorel Tačkaš*… ) of all varieties stretching the old school punk-rock tag over street-punk/Oi and later throughout whole decade over various versions* of hard-core punk. Looking back (from safe distance) it seems that Novi Sad was also capital city of street-punk/Oi in ex-YU. Obvious pick of the litter would be Dva minuta mržnje (studio demo ’84).
Pekinška patka II (1980 – 81) is yet another example of fairly successful transformation into post-punk band (quite tight instrumentally). However, Čonta’s changed persona hovering above in darker circumstances can grate my oversensitive ears on few songs. It took me years (even decades) to get accustomed. One can have impression that the second album came too soon (with obvious post-punk influences and ideas brought in with new guitarist Bulatović barely toned down) or that Pekinška patka were losing the steam towards the end. That said, I prefer “Strah od monotonije” LP (1981) nowadays.
Original guitarist/sax player of Pekinška patka left the band before completion of their second album to join newly formed young ska-punk band Kontraritam (1980-82). Thanks to exceptional rhythm section Kontraritam could easily bring it on in concert. Lucky kids with happy feet.
New wave / power-pop bands of note in Novi Sad were Pop art* (officially undocumented) and Fotomodel (with a single put out by Jugodisk).
New wave circus rock troupe Laboratorija zvuka hailed from Novi Sad too. They were often novelty guests on ex-YU TV channels playing upbeat songs specifically arranged for children or, at the other side of spectrum, they were offering lascivious tunes for adult public. “Laboratory of Sound” caravan traveled across the country quite a lot. They even had conceptual performance abroad in London at some point in mid-decade.
New wave art project La strada (1979 – 81) led by Slobodan Tišma ended prematurely with formation of Luna. From this early phase they left behind two studio songs recorded in 1980.
Luna (1981 – 84) put out only one post-punk / dark-wave album and then (acrimoniously) split up before LP even appeared in the stores. Group of distinct individuals – great drummer Fece aka Firči (would become part of EKV (Belgrade) gang soon), excellent guitarist Bulatović aka Bale (ex Pekinška patka II), cohesive organ/synth player Mitrušić aka Mina & peculiar poet Tišma (ex La strada; here as stressed-out vocalist on the verge of mental breakdown) – barely managed to keep Luna together to document their intense existence. Film noir scenario! Perhaps presence of bass player would have pushed “Nestvarne stvari” LP to an even higher level… Well, I am being fussy here because this album really is awesome as it turned out. I might be emotionally more involved with Obojeni program and Boye but regarding the post-punk time frame “Nestvarne stvari” (Helidon, 1984) is picked as the centerpiece album from Novi Sad. Recorded in autumn of 1983 it would fit perfectly in early 4AD portfolio of bands (Bauhaus, Birthday Party, Mass, Modern English, Xmal Deutschland, Wolfgang Press) closing the post-punk years of said esteemed label with a record license from Helidon label.
Luna – Nestvarne stvari (1984) – definitive post-punk album from Novi Sad
Luna sank in Danube to be washed ashore (think of some secluded river inlet overgrown with sedge rather than right between sun bathers on Štrand in summer time) as La strada II (1984 – 8?) again. Tišma kept on cooperation with Luna synth player Mina and invited Kontraritam dudes for reformed version of La strada. They recorded eponymous album in 1986 (or was it really Live Aid summer ’85?). It was pressed in even less copies than “Nestvarne stvari” by Luna. La strada were moving away from new-wave / post-punk templates towards literate guitar pop-rock (and 1960s influences). In my opinion Tišma’s vocal performance on La strada suits him better than his attempts at singing on “Nestvarne stvari”. On “La strada” (M produkcija RNS, 1987) album Tišma seemed to be more relaxed although he was unsatisfied with the end results. His brooding voice evokes (Slavonic) melancholia of river plains pretty well. In the flat field people do get bored.
Grad (1981-82) was short-lived post-punk band (DAF, Joy Divison / New Order) interested in synths and cold electronic sounds coming out of Germany.
Boye (1981 – 199?) Enough!!! Enough of street-punk boot-boy bravado! Make space for girls to rock out freely or just dance and play modern pop songs. Or whatever they like to call their style. The Raincoats and Kleenex/Lilliput … might have left an impression on girls from Novi Sad. Boye recorded two excellent albums “Dosta! Dosta! Dosta!” (PGP RTB, 1988) and “’78” (Search & Enjoy, 1990) in succession that were preceded with plenty of tentative synth-pop/post-punk demo steps around Jugoton contract. Allegedly they had enough recorded material for an album even as early as 1984.
Obojeni program (1980 – ) are indeed rock institution from Novi Sad today. Who would say. They formed in the early 1980s, finally recorded debut LP as late as 1990 for newly established indie label “Search & Enjoy” from Zagreb and… remained present. People often find Branislav Babić Kebra’s piercing vocal a required taste but to me he sounds just perfect. Band’s fascination with M.E. Smith & the fall might be constant although not directly evident in their music. I am not sure if Obojeni program were ever captured on tape before unavoidable mid-1980s hiatus (JNA). Allegedly their early years were characterized by punk-funk sound. They continued live activities in 1985/86 with revolving membership and for a couple of years band existed as drum/bass/vocal trio. At the tail end of the decade Obojeni program would find balance with new guitarist and record long-waited first album together with Dušan Kojić – Koja (Disciplina kičme, Beograd) as producer. “Najvažnije je biti zdrav” LP (1990) is legendary around these parts.
Cult postpunk band Ove sezone vedri tonovi (1981 – 83) even appeared at YURM ’82 festival in Zagreb. Velvet Underground, This Heat and RIO bands are usually mentioned as possible influences or just OSVT’s affiliation. It seems that they disappeared without the recorded evidence of existence. Few OSVT members continued with free form avant-garde group Cirko della primavera** in the second half of the decade. Low budget avant cassette label Nikad Robom originated from this group of forward (or outward) looking folk. As a side note, Đorđe Delibašić – Đoka, member of the collective, recorded SexA’s noise-rock album in Novi Sad in 1990.
According to the book “Novosadska punk verzija”Armija kontrasta ltd* were short-lived post-punk band with rhythm-machine.
Neon vojnik* (ex Crkveni pacovi), Krik maske* and Skice* (ex Linija otpora) shared common love of Killing Joke at the different time frames and probably in a slightly different way. Judging by track “Grobar” solely Neon vojnik really had something to offer. After all, Killing Joke used to be popular with UK ’82 street punks and anarcho crowds as well. Do you remember Blitz (UK) boys and their excursion into post-punk waters on their second full length album?
Mitar Subotić aka Rex Ilusivii was an experimental electronic musician and producer.
Art-rock white-funk synth-pop romantics of Novi Sad were called Heroina. Frontman Petar Janjetov is esteemed artist / comics author today. At the time of recording their only album “Heroina” (1985) they had to replace departed drummer with a drum machine. It is somewhat reminiscent of Roxy Music, Boa (Zagreb) or Gang of 4 (during “Hard”). One can easily find couple of attractive songs (nice guitar playing) while in the heart-broken mood.
Ponoćni kauboj* were rock band (with brass section) from the second half of the decade. Perhaps they realized that in “punk-rock” the part that really matters belongs to “-rock”. The only one track I’ve heard by them reminded me of Električni orgazam (Belgrade) and their own R’n’R transformation.
Hip-hop punk rockers Atheist Rap surfaced out of the hard-core punk scene in 1989 and reigned over Novi Sad (and beyond) in oncoming decades. Street-punk/Oi and hard-core in general gained momentum around that time and you get first studio recorded material by Vrisak generacije (Oi punk), Ritam nereda (Oi punk), Mr. Joint (Oi punk/HC), Kapetan Leshi (hard-core), Generacija bez budućnosti (hard-core), KNO / Invalidi uma (hard-core)…
* scarce info about these bands gathered from “Novosadska punk verzija” book