Concrete Situation II

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Sounds Title: 
Concrete Situation II

Digging in the Detroitus pt. 2

P.I.G.Z. “Stooges” (Belgium, 1978)
Steroids “Out of Control” (New Zealand, 1980)
Baiters “Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara” (Sweden, 1980)
Eppu Normaali “Poliisi Pamputtaa” (Finland, 1978)
The Clergy “Blow This Town” (UK, 1984)
Vulpess “Me Gusta Ser Una Zorra” (Spain, 1983)
Stigma “Fall Everyday” (Italy, 1985)
Dead Image “Change for a Change” (New Zealand, 1984)
Leather Nun “No Rule” (Sweden, 1979)
Brontophobia “Hey” (Sweden, 1979)
The Users “Kicks in Style” (UK, 1978)
The Dogs “X-Ray Me, Baby” (USA, 1973[?])
Jerks “Hold My Hand” (UK, 1977)
Widows “Hard to Be Down” (Finland, 1980)
Lipstick Killers “Dying Boy’s Crawl” (Australia, 1984 [recorded USA 1981])
Straw Dogs “Restless Youth” (Norway, 1980)
Deathwish “Ramblin’ Rose” (Australia, 1976/1977)
Slobobans Undergång “Maktgalen” (Sweden, 1979)
Arson “Pretty Girls” (Canada, 1979[?])
The Stoodes “Psychotic” (Sweden, 1980)

Here's the second installment of Concrete Situation and the second part of Digging in the Detroitus, featuring bands from outside the United States (with one exception).

If the world’s largest nuclear a-bomb exploded half-way between Ann Arbor and Detroit and we charted the dispersion of radioactivity, how long would it take for the waves to hit Belgium or Sweden or New Zealand? The spread would not come in concentric circles, as the vagaries of wind and other unseen forces would render the flows uneven. But eventually the radioactive detritus from the bomb would land everywhere. The bomb was the Stooges. The detritus was Detroitus.

Supposedly, P.I.G.Z. stands for Punk Is Grote Zever, meaning Punk Is Big Nonsense. If that’s true, boys, how do you explain this song? It’s perhaps the most direct and stripped-down declaration of influence—or is it a declaration of war?—ever recorded, and also the dum-dum-est. Among the earliest punk bands from Belgium, P.I.G.Z. hailed from Kortrijk, an utterly forgettable town near the French border where they speak Dutch. Reading historical statistics on flax production in the region, it’s not clear to me why various militaries expended so much effort fighting over and then destroying this place in the first two world wars. Anyway, P.I.G.Z. played the March ’78 punk contest in Brussels, alongside almost two dozen other even more obscure bands. Apparently, based on the promoters’ balance sheet, it was a “catastrophe.” But the label that put out the LP based on the two-day concert, JW’s Records, also released the astonishingly rare three-song P.I.G.Z. 12. Godzijdank. My suspicion is that, beyond the likelihood that the label was laundering francs (note the German pressing on one Payola Rec.), no one in Belgium really knew what to do with this record, which went out of its way to insult Belgium as intensely as it expressed admiration for Ig et al. Chalk it up to accident, or, more likely, the region’s cheap speed and cheaper beer. Somehow the live version of this track, on the “First Belgian Punk Contest” album, is even more Igged Out and beautifully out of tune.

New Zealand got hit hard. The Dum Dum Boys and then the Henchmen from Auckland exemplified the transformation of the Detroit sound into thug-punk and back again. The Henchmen more or less invented thug-goth, with some Western vibes sprinkled on top, as they became Reptiles at Dawn upon relocating to Sydney. The Steroids hailed from Wellington, the large city toward the north of the islands. They put out a few singles and were mainly verging toward a colder post-punk sound. By the ‘90s one member was in a chart-topping pop band. But The Steroids left behind this one basic, claustrophobic but propulsive, socially negative track “Out of Control.” Sorry about the surface noise; my suspicion is that one did not originally buy most punk records in New Zealand—they were acquired at knife point.

Baiters were one of dozens of sterling Swedish first-wave punk bands. Like several, they were affiliated with the long-running MNW studio and label. This track has a bit more of a Detroit flavor than most, though it’s more like if the Ashetons were mods. A bit unthinkable, but it works. The title translates to something like “No One Can Be Safe,” about nuclear war, and about this influence.

One of the greatest first-wave Finnish punk bands is Eppu Normaali. The band’s first LP, “Aknepop” includes this thuggy Detroit-influenced track with a similar title as their world-beating “Poliisi Pamputtaa Taas.” It turns out that although that track came earlier, this one is the prequel, as it narrates a police beating (Poliisi Pamputtaa), and “Poliisi Pamputtaa Taas” narrates a reprise, as the police beat you again.

“On the Street” was a one-off compilation of mostly streetpunk bands from across the British Isles, on Sane Records. The record’s title was not likely meant to invoke the Stooges song “Down on the Street.” And a band with a name like The Clergy could not seem any less thuggy. And yet—this surprising obscurity effortlessly walks punk’s thin line between nerdy and menacing.

No clerical benediction would ever apply to Las Vulpess, one of Spain’s most incendiary early punk act, as they flaunted an aggressive fuck-all (literally) attitude in the face of a still highly conservative country in the early 1980s. These four young women recorded “Me Gusta Ser Una Zorra” in May 1983, and it remains one of the most amazing appropriations of perhaps the most classic proto-punk track The Stooges laid down. Their 45 would be enough to keep them in the punk annals forever, but they also appeared on television playing this song—and the video is incredible. Rarely has a punk track quite matched this amalgam of raw horny sexuality and blade-wielding menace. Gracias.

Almost no one outside Italy and a tiny handful of record-collecting lunatics overseas had heard Stigma much before the YouTube era, but the extremely rare 1985 record is notable for its A-side of three Roman-style hc punk tracks and its B-side, included here, of greasy, no-time-for-love Detroitus. This song, along with the band pics, ooze a simple message: This band fucks.

Dead Image typify the combustible thug-punk New Zealand sound, basically Birdman in a ruck with the Stooges. Recorded in 1984 but not released in a tiny pressing until later, courtesy of the appropriately named Raw Power Productions, “Change for a Change” is not a track to play for your boss, if you know what I mean. Somehow there seems to be a political message buried here but I’m mostly focused on the guitar sound, and on avoiding getting throttled in an alleyway when I head home to my missus. The guitarist’s nickname was Stooge and the singer’s was The Ig. I recently acquired this record, and the B-side label is for a Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love” single, rather than the whole lotta hate actually in the grooves.

There’s an entire dimension of brain-bombed, leather-clad, violence-prone, noisy punk descended from the Stooges and stumbling through Sweden mostly that can be traced to the influence of Leather Nun / Lädernunnan. “No Rule,” released on their first single on Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records, is the sleazy apex. Of course, if one cares about the grunge genealogy, then one might need to count Leather Nun. But why bother with all that? This is just top-flight premium punk for thugs. “No more silly rules / no more law and or-der.”

If Leather Nun represents the Ron Asheton-in-Göteborg interpretation of Detroitus, then the painfully obscure Brontophobia represents the modestly more cheerful James Williamson-in-suburban-Stockholm version. But a shared interest in blades, I mean blues, unites the two. Oh and riffs. I too wanna say hey when I get my cocaine.

“Formed in Cambridge, England, by a bunch of young Iggy & the Stooges fans.” So begins the biography of the much-heralded Users, perhaps the one class of ’76 band in England to best approximate the Ig-and-Asheton formula. This track comes from their second 45 (via the second press, a Porky Prime Cut). No discerning punk fan should go more than a couple weeks without spinning a Users record.

The other, other Stoogified Dogs, from Iowa, were responsible for the Sistine Chapel of picture sleeves, giving two-dimensional representational form to the sentiment of wanna-being-your-dog. Sic transit gloria mundi. From Fuckin’ Iowa, you dig? This track is not, however, on that 45, which is overloaded with Ig moves and Ashetononium. It was recorded around the same time but not released until later, by our distinguished man in Rome Pierpaolo. It’s hard to believe anyone not from Detroit or Sydney could pull off something so exquisite.

One of the other of the tiny handful of English bands that figured out the formula was The Jerks. The A side of their single—Get Your Woofin’ Dog Off Me—explicitly invokes and even degenerates into Now I Wanna Be Your Dog, but it is somehow the B side that is even more on the Detroitus tip, with Who moves. It’s basic and has a heaping dose of class of ’77 snot somehow layered with a bit of English pop charm, but it’ll do.

Not many Finnish punk bands sang in English, though the influence of British punk was strong there. But Widows also stood out for the American inflection in their sound. The band predated punk but its first record wasn’t released until 1979. This is a live version of their 1980 LP track “Hard To Be Down.” The studio version was released originally on a 45. These guys liked leather and chains, as should be clear.

Lipstick Killers emerged in the Sydney Birdman penumbra, led by guitarist Mark Taylor, who was responsible for importing many of the punk records that first made their way to Australia. (He was also previously in the shortlived but notable Psycho-Surgeons.) By 1981, Lipstick Killers were already touring overseas, and this LP, later released in Australia and France (natch) contains a live set from Los Angeles. It’s veering more toward standard garage revival (Taylor would go on to become perhaps the planet’s premier collector of 60s U.S. garage singles), but this understated street-smart track retains the Detroit-via-Downunder Real O-Mind we crave.

“Headbanger” by Norway’s Strawdogs appeared on a live LP called “Kraftrock,” memorializing a two-day 1980 rock fest in Trondheim. Strawdogs are reputed to be the first metal band in a country that would go on to become rather famous for its metal, but although aspects of this track are reminiscent of both Motörhead and NWOBHM, to me the riff and rhythm are giving Detroitus. Regardless of genre, these were not the type of guys you’d want to bring home to mum.

Deathwish preceded The Chosen Few, perhaps my favorite Australian band (though that is an extremely tough call). And this garagey, basic, no-time-for-love version of the ‘5’s “Ramblin’ Rose” may actually be my favorite version of the song, better even than the original, in part because the singer skips the falsetto. Deathwish was mostly a cover band, and only one of their tracks ended up in the Few’s repertoire. But what they rehearsed will last forever.

Slobobans Undergång, like many early teenaged punk bands, had some difficulty deciding what style of music to play. This thuggy Detroit-laced track stands out in contrast the vit-pojke reggae alongside it on their first single from 1979. The record came out on Sista Bussen, mainly an independent progg (not prog) label, which also put out Liket Lever’s godlike single as well as the aforementioned Lädernunnan attack. Honestly, Slobobans Undergång’s cannot be placed in the same league as those two bands, but I like this track, “Maktgalen.”

One of the early Toronto punk bands, Arson melded the sound of New York, Detroit, and London. Their lone single is a classic, but this rough, horny, and pissed-off track “Pretty Girls” never appeared anywhere other than on the first volume of the “Smash the State” compilation series of Canadian rarities. The way that guitar lead comes in after the opening is enough to make me want to bang my head into the wall. And dig the wild drumfills, summoning the rotting corpse of Keith Moon. I’d, um, commit arson to hear more in this (bulging) vein.

The Stoodes (yes, that’s their name), from Stockholm, present the most wasted and violent version of Swedish Detroitus (other than Totenkopf, about whom more will be said later). They released an LP called “Metallic OK,” and their slogan was “Rock Against Music.” On this track, which appeared on the amazing “Let It Out” compilation LP, there is actually more vocal action than can be found in most of their tracks, but I wouldn’t exactly call it singing. This propulsive nearly hardcore punk track takes Detroitus to its berserk but logical conclusion. It’s just fighting and fucking all at once, rhythmic, savage, and not long for this world.