MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2015
WEEK 25: POST PUNK
Strangely, music culture has never really made up its mind about the ‘art’ word which more often than not is used as an insult and regarded as privileged, bohemian, inauthentic and the antithesis of rock’n’roll. Punk itself was often perceived as a revolt against such pretensions despite the obviously arty backgrounds of McClaren, Westwood and punk’s original movers and shakers. How ironic then that it would be a similarly driven handful of provincial misfits who would form the post punk vanguard!
Naturally, John Lydon was the first to start swimming against the scummy, stinking tide punk had become. A couple of years earlier amidst the chaos of the Pistols, the singer had answered questions about his groups supposed destruction of rock’n’roll with a dismissive ‘Who cares about the music?’ But Public Image Ltd were all about a music that was exploratory, brutal and mesmerising. That such an iconic figure was prepared to cast off the spectres of Johnny Rotten, the Pistols, Mclaren, sad Sid and his old audience was significant enough, but to go on and pull the limbs from rock’n’roll’s bloated corpse was even more momentous.
Galvanised into action by the aberration of Thatcher, fascist violence, mass unemployment, a near police state and a widescale looting of 20th century art, literature, philosophy and movements, groups began to explore new sonic possibilities through electronics, dub, funk, disco, musique concrete and the avant-garde. Unattainable dreams suddenly became attainable reality for anyone with a good idea. The manifesto of individuality kicked in and there were none more individual than Vic Godard, Siouxsie, Mark E Smith, Mark Stewart, Ian Curtis, David Byrne, Green Gartside, Ari Up, Jerry Dammers, Ian McCulloch, Kevin Rowland, even Bono.
In its early years post punk evolved at a dizzying rate, one long rush of endless surprise and inexhaustible creativity. If punk was nihilistic and destructive, post punk was positive and constructive, a reason to get excited again with a mesh of activity and discussion that made the world more interesting and life more meaningful. Post punk was a discourse about music and out of that discourse a whole range of new forms emerged. What united them all was a set of open ended imperatives, innovation, deliberate oddness and a timely rejection of all things precedented.
It was inevitable that after spending so much time digging around in the dark there would be a swing back to the light of glamour. By 1981, post punk had shifted to a strategy of entryism, of embracing the major record companies rather than building an independent alternative. Sonic mannerisms that had once seemed charmingly quirky or inspiringly amateur suddenly sounded too earnest, too worthy.
Pop futurism and ‘The Big Music’ of The Bunnymen, U2 and Simple Minds abandoned the core quest for the authentic to revive the dream of self-reinvention. Another casualty was post punk's modernist confidence that it was possible to break with the past. By contrast the new pop strategy was properly postmodern, pillaging everything from Stax and Motown to psychedelia and glam. It was all up for grabs!
01 PUBLIC IMAGE LTD ‘Public Image’ (A Side October 1978)
02 SUBWAY SECT ‘Ambition’ (A Side October 1978)
03 GANG OF FOUR ‘Damaged Goods’ (Damaged Goods EP October 1978)
04 THE FALL ‘Crap Rap 2’ (Live At The Witch Trials LP January 1979)
05 THE POP GROUP ‘She Is Beyond Good And Evil’ (A Side March 1979)
06 GLAXO BABIES ‘Who Killed Bruce Lee?’ (This Is Your Life EP March 1979)
07 THE SLITS ‘Newtown’ (Cut LP September 1979)
08 JOY DIVISION ‘Atmosphere’ (A Side March 1980)
09 A CERTAIN RATIO ‘Shack Up’ (A Side July 1980)
10 DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS ‘Burn It Down’ (Searching For The Young Soul Rebels LP July 1980)
11 THE SPECIALS ‘International Jet Set’ (More Specials LP September 1980)
12 TALKING HEADS ‘Houses In Motion’ (Remain In Light LP October 1980)
13 U2 ‘I Will Follow’ (Boy LP November 1980)
14 ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN ‘No Dark Things’ (Heaven Up Here LP May 1981)
15 PIGBAG ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’ (A Side May 1981)
16 SCRITTI POLITTI ‘The Sweetest Girl’ (A Side August 1981)
17 SIMPLE MINDS ‘Glittering Prize’ (New Gold Dream LP September 1982)
18 SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES ‘Slowdive’ (A Side October 1982)
19 NEW ORDER ‘Your Silent Face’ (Power, Corruption And Lies LP May 1983)
20 23 SKIDOO ‘Coup’ (A Side November 1983)