1. Christian Death - This Is Not Blasphemy (Prophet/ Jungle)
"This track is taken from the single 'What's The Verdict/ Blasphemy' which does not appear on any album"
'If you get the feeling you're living in the last days and are drawn by the charms of darkness and the macabre, perhaps it's time for Christian Death' - Chris Levevski, Propaganda Magazine.
When I started the blog "Left and to the Back", I quickly realised that I didn't actually get any thrills whatsoever from either listening to music I found awful, or writing about its usually obvious failings. I get the feeling that some music writers genuinely do love lambasting the drab and the dire and leap towards every opportunity, but I'd rather not spend too much time thinking about why something is shit. There's far too much unrecognised greatness out there, and that's really where I usually want my energy to be focused towards (there are exceptions, though - bad novelty records are always fun to write about).
We last encountered Christian Death on Volume 5, and I spent a long time talking about why their music doesn't work for me. This track is, in my opinion, even worse than the last one - nearly five full minutes of bluesy histrionics, howling and chest-beating backed with doomy guitars. More than that, I really can't be bothered to say. Sorry.
Fortunately, I won't have the job of analysing the output of this band again, since this was their last appearance on the series.
2. The Young Gods - Pas Mal (Play It Again Sam)
"European Sonic Architects are building songs of love and desire with instant fusion of heavy guitars and chrome. Future? - Present!"
The contributions made by the Swiss to the European music scene are really rather slight, but The Young Gods managed to reach far beyond their home country's borders. Almost amazingly, when David Bowie was asked about which groups influenced his "Outside" LP in 1995, he named them immediately.
"Outside" is one of Bowie's finest LPs, often overlooked by non-fans due to its mid-nineties release date. "Pas Mal", sadly, offers little hints of the complexity of the ideas found on that album, though it does easily display a similar kind of eerie menace. Sharp, choppy and metallic, it makes its point and goes, leaving a very large mark on the way. The silence between this track and the next feels almost threatening.
3. Spacemen 3 - Revolution (Fire)
"Sweetly, simply put, Spacemen 3 are the only English band that I'd walk the sea to piss on" - Byron Coley, Forced Exposure.
"Revolution" is altogether less brief. Spacemen 3's music later became much more psychedelic, but this is harsh and heavy garage stuff, opening with the pared back guitar riff which dominates the entire track, then a long, ranting political diatribe. "Well, I'm through with people/ who can't get up their ass/ to help themselves/ change this government" they roar. "I suggest to you/ That it takes just five seconds.../ to realize/ that the time is right/ to start thinkin' about/ a litt-le.... REVOLUTION".
Needless to say, this sounded absolutely incendiary and amazing to me as a fifteen year old, whereas now I find myself thinking "What revolution should we have, Kember and Pierce, and how should we do it? What are we protesting about, the right for you to have fun, or for a fairer society, or is it about something specific like exiting the EU? Or all three? Specifics are very important before I start filling various milk bottles with petrol. And who will lead us after the revolution? Will it be you, Kember, or you, Pierce? I don't know if I'm interested in allowing you to negotiate trade deals or things like that, you see, because you were daft enough to sign to Fire Records, so that is a point of concern".
But really, "Revolution" is a very traditional rock and roll howl of rage whose vague targets feel typical of psychedelia and garage rock, and the riff that sandwiches the rant at either end of the track does feel like standing in front of a jeering crowd, or a roaring jet engine. A deep, deep shame about those horribly weedy drum sounds, though, which could have added more aggression and beef to the track if they'd been produced more effectively.
Do I sense a Suicide influence creeping through yet again, incidentally? Certainly though, the main riff itself could be attributed to The MC5's "Black to Comm".
4. Rapeman - Bud(d) (Blast First) (Included on vinyl versions of "Indie Top 20" only)
"Bud(d) is a sad song about two old men, one named Bud and one named Budd, hence the brackets. Budd was a filthy politician who blew his brains out at a press conference, an act that was at once poetic, noble and greedy. Bud was a pleasant, modest man whose life was as beautiful and sad as any man's. He left a touching physical legacy, a legacy that some people disregard or trample over in a search for transient flashiness.
Rapeman existed 10/13/87 - 1/25/89 we hope you liked what we did".
Quote from Steve Albini - March '89
To begin by stating the obvious, the group name Rapeman caused Albini endless grief, most notably in the UK where he was greeted with placards and picket lines at gig venues from angry feminists. The name itself was derived from Japanese comic books with graphic rape scenes in them, but many politically inclined people felt, despite Albini's right-on punk credentials, that it was an insensitive and inflammatory name for a band. (My wife would like me to talk more about this, as I'm sure would some other readers. Let's just say I don't approve of the band's name and leave it at that, because there's really nothing new to add to the argument).
Many years later, of course, the song "Rape Me" by Nirvana emerged and a similar debate swelled up all over again.
Pushing all that to one side, "Bud(d) "is a complete one chord-wonder of a track which steadily builds up doom and menace. Taking quotes from the politician's final speech and scattering them liberally throughout the record, it's always felt like a soundtrack to Budd Dwyer blowing his brains out in front of assembled journalists, the thudding monotony of his initial dreary and rambling speech giving way to something darker and more disturbed, dramatic and panicked.
Unlikely as it seems, this track climbed to number 2 in the UK indie chart. Albini would eventually go on to become a very heavily in-demand producer and performer in Shellac, whereas Sims went on to join The Jesus Lizard.
At nearly seven-and-a-half minutes long, for reasons of space this track was left off the CD version of "Indie Top 20" and only made it on to the LP and cassette.