Postpunk for the post postpunk world - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #95

Sing out all the old platitudes! They’re all true once again, good things come to those who wait, that ain’t no way to treat a lady, cross only when the green man shows, don’t take the brown acid, it’s all true true Barney McGrue because postpunk is back motherfuckers! Dust off yer old Wire albums and give them ten or fifty spins, and then drop into Holograms because they pull all the same moves. Stockholm must be a real shit place to live; daylight is at a premium half the year, but in the winter you get six hours of daylight a day, the leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds is suicide, and if that weren’t Orwellian enough for ya, the members of Holograms all got together after working in a factory. Now, we’ve always been a praiser of people who take old stylee things and put ‘em together with righteousness and verve, and Holograms do just that on their album. They’re drinking from the postpunk cup on this one. Y’see, punk was born as the bastard son of Kiss and Iggy’s vocals; in the white hot fire of Funhouse, in Cleveland where the ‘Lectric Eels and Rocket From the Tombs were doing their thing, out of the frustration with Regan and Thatcher when the silent majority had woken up and seized back their country in the 80s, right wing was key and the whole thing was fucking depressing. Of course came along Wire, who showed you how the whole thing was done. Like residents moving into a decaying edifice that was once a resplendent house, Wire looked at rock and roll like minimalists, walking around that now stinking, sweaty house so many people loved and asking “do we really need this wall, can we knock it through?” “do we really need this solo? Do we need a second verse?” Wire’s Pink Flag debut is still pride of place on my tiny list of perfect albums, along with Raw Power and Population II, because in bearing something down to its raw unskinned flesh, in whittling the album to a fine edge, they have created perfection, but also because of its mechanical ruthless efficiency. It’s brutal because it isn’t rock music, at all. There’s no hint of the screaming histrionics of rock and roll, Kiss doesn’t come into it and neither does Iggy’s insanity. Punk stated that its goal was to destroy music. That was their whole aim, and they nearly succeeded because they spawned postpunk, and they cut music away to its barest example. Postpunk could be more important than ever in today’s world.

Postpunk is exactly what Holograms drop, pure and simple, but with more than just a slice of punk’s chaos. There is passion here totally devoid on Wire’s debut record. It’s also not as bare, there are electronic elements, distortion, feedback, they’re playing actual instruments, not an orchestra of robotnik auteurs doing what they’re told. Nah this has quite a bit of passion, pumping away behind the guitars, and it has none of that ruthless emptiness that characterised a whole lot of the best postpunk. It’s still got the essential important stuff, it is not rock. There isn’t a drop of Stooge DNA in this throwback mutha and I’m kinda digging it. Vincent Black Shadow, Murder, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are all well and orgasmically good, and they make reference to all that Rocket From the Tombs Stoogified Electric Eels proto-punk that fed off Kiss and Zeppalike bands, y’ can totally hear it on Raw Power, and Rocket From the Tombs are even more metallic; postpunk disowned all those far-off family members and that’s the most important thing, that the guitar never even enters the same nation as the ‘metallic’ sound; it’s totally different, even though it gets heavy there’s never even a mention of distortion, it’s the traditional punk buzzsaw guitars gnawing away at the rest of the instruments. Likewise the vocals, they’re definitely top drawer top hole signed in triplicate official exception genuine article real McCoy punk but from a totally different school to the Garn of Sir Lord Balt fame (I think we can all agree, the greatest vocalist of all time). These are much more graduating the Colin Newman school with honours, even down to the accent twang. You could associate this with Chairs Missing, the second Wire album that I’ve just remembered I own, which has synths like this did, and filled in all the emptiness left by Pink Flag, but let’s not speak of it, because it’s not a perfect album.

The liner notes for Pink Flag were one of my favourite things about it. Vocals – Colin (black hair), Drums – Robert Gotobed (6’3”), Guitar – B.C. Gilbert (blue eyes), bass – Lewis (9st 6lb); this perplexingly specific yet puzzlingly arbitrary information was accompanied by photos of each member of the band, Colin Newman is photographed against a background as black as his hair, his haircut indistinguishable; Robert Gotobed is sitting with arms outstretched, making his height impossible to discern; Bruce Gilbert is wearing sunglasses and only Graham Lewis’ face is photographed, his weight unguessable. That was Wire, to me, you don’t need to know about these guys the liner notes seemed to say, for those obsessed it had provided pointless information and then showed the musicians in a light that rendered that information even more pointless, for me, those Wire liner notes still epitomised the notion that the artist is saying a million things in his music, he’s saying them through music because nobody can say them or write them or paint them, so stop second guessing and reading interviews and just listen to the fucking music. So it is with this band. I can’t confirm liner note mindfuckery but I can confirm that these guys get it, just like so many under the radar groups these days, the guys who get it, who have heard, registered and understood the missives comin’ outta the great magnet and the great old vinyl shop down the side street and are gonna take all that on board righteously without feeling the need to pay it lip service. More of these bands please, if you can at all manage it.

Written under duress by Steven.

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