"Hope" b/w "Damned Flame" 7" (Death Vault 003)
It’s almost unthinkable today. A band from 1972, from Brussels, playing stripped-down, rough-and-tumble, sorta socially conscious if they were actually conscious at all, ultra-fast, Stoogëd, Kilmistery-avant-la-lettre hardcore punk.
That’s not the unthinkable part.
The unthinkable part is that the band would remain a mystery until such a late date: 2015. I first heard about Blast—goddamn, is that the right name or what?—in 2008 or so. It was the height of the obscuro music blog era. Everything that could be discovered was being discovered. Literally. And yet this ahead-of-its-time mindfuck called Blast came to the attention of the aficionadeoisie via the old route, the fanzine. We got one paragraph, as I recall. It was courtesy of the Panjandrum of Ahead-Of-Its-Time, Johan Kugelberg, in an overview article (in Ugly Things #26) detailing the many-headed hydra of ahead-of-its-time—protopunk. Still, in his Blast paragraph, blasted information was scanty. That’s part of JK’s charm.
Within a couple years, the single appeared on a blog, but no one really seemed to know the story. A few more years went by and it showed up on YouTube (from multiple uploaders, but one in particular is named “Levande Begravd,” like this is all a joke Kugelberg played on us vinylly covetous, anally retentive, salivating simpletons from whom good money is easily parted). In the comments on Discogs, one wag questioned whether the record was real—it just seemed too good to be true. The cognoscentoids knew it was real because our bro in Bordeaux had stumbled across an original in a local shop. He bought it simply because it was so ugly. What better recommendation could there be? In 2015, Blast is now a one-off reissue done by a Québecois label. It's mah-velous.
To add to the mystery, two of the band members—doyens of punk mysterioso?—had Italian-sounding names. Maybe Italy’s later punk scene lacked in comparison to other European countries’ because its gonzini had emigrated to Brussels. Anyway, the real reason Blast demands you get your undies in a bunch is the drumming, by one Mick Jacobs. It’s almost a d-beat at points. Even Jan Jutila—head buried in the kick, one-way ticket to Stoke purchased by Sweden’s mental-health authorities—would agree. Monsieur Jacobs later did time, or was a victim of time, in ur-europunkers Plastic Bertrand. If you had been eight or so years too early for the trend, you too would want to cash in later on—or whatever it was those geniuses Elton Motello and ze boys were trying to do (get laid, mostly, I think).
Blast recorded the two tracks, “Damned Flame” and “Hope,” in August 1972. The Stooges put “I Got A Right” to tape in June 1972. It took another five years for that song to see the light of day (and nineteen for “Outtake #2,” the most glorious version, to hit the bins). Blast’s blasts came out on vinyl within a year or so. Few noticed. No more than 500 copies of the disc, but probably way fewer, were pressed, according to the liner notes in Death Vault's reissue. Said notes, written by the bassist/singer, observe: “Our public had different reactions. First of all, they were surprised. For some people, we weren’t hip enough, for others, what we did was genius.” You don’t say.
The whole thing is a bit shambolic yet propulsive, if that makes sense, kinda like Pink Fairies. It’s all in the drumming. You can’t help but think of my man Steve Moore, as if Michel wandered into the wrong recording studio. Knock knock. “Excusez moi, je suis looking for le loony bin…” Among other paragons of protopunk virtue, Blast is less mechanical than fellow Low Countriesmen The Sound of Imker, and one wishes Antonio (aka, Antoni) were more aggressive in the vocals department, like the priapic madman in Rotomagus. But then the contrast of the wild drums and guitars with the hirsute, introspective malcontent, rejected by girls as much as by society, maaan, would be lost. While we’re making anachronistic comparisons, lodging our wishes in the cosmos’ complaint box, and speaking of mysteries, this record sets the template for what we now call mysterious guy hardcore. The underenunciated vocals reciting allegorical lyrics—why, after several sentences piquing the readers’ interest in the liner notes, are they not printed?—and the diffuse, almost black metal guitar sound combined with outta control solos: most of the components are there.
For fans of Discharge and Motörhead who smoke pot, meaning (insha'allah) everyone who reads this website.