Category Archives: postpunk

Repeater – best take on gothic postpunk I’ve heard in a long time

Last night I was listening to a Pandora station based on ’80s postpunk band The Chameleons, when suddenly a song jumped out at me: “A Second Home,” by Repeater. I thought, wow, postpunk is my thing. How could I miss an awesome band like this?

I looked them up and found that they are in fact a current band from Long Beach, California, and everything I played by them I absolutely loved. They sound like a combination of Chameleons, Joy Division, Comsat Angels, maybe a bit of early U2. The singer has a bit of a rough voice which is very expressive. Themes tend to be rather dark, even goth. Right in that postpunk sweet spot that I cannot resist.

I have already purchased mp3 downloads from their 2008 album Iron Flowers and their 2011 album We Walk from Safety (which would’ve been a very good candidate for my best of 2011 list if I had found it in time). I have also found some impressive videos for their songs.

This one gives me the willies:

I think they’re doing what Interpol tried to do, but the songcraft seems much stronger. Interpol got old after a while, as I began to sense that they had a vibe and not much else. I think Repeater will be on repeat in my stereo for a long time to come.

Visit their website and check them out on Facebook.


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Filed under neo-postpunk, one to watch, postpunk, video

Urgh! A Music War – Suppose they gave a music war and everybody came?

Getting older sure does sneak up on a person (I won’t cop to “old” just yet, just “older”). It’s a shock to consider that people born in 1994 are now old enough to vote. To me, the modern world began in the ’80s. That’s when we started getting computers, when I graduated from high school (1983), and when we got New Wave. There are a lot of adults out there who never even heard of many of my favorite artists, including ones I tend to assume everyone knows about, just because they were popular when I was in my teens and 20s.

That’s why the recent availability of Urgh! A Music War (1981) is so important. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a documentary that gives a snapshot of the music scenes in America and England at the time. The performances are absolutely electrifying. Some of the performers are well-known, others less so, some I never heard of till I saw Urgh. I think it would be a great introduction to New Wave and Postpunk music.

Some of the better known performers include The Police (no surprise there, the documentary was produced by Miles and Ian Copeland, brothers of Police drummer Stewart Copeland), Oingo Boingo, Devo, Gary Numan, Dead Kennedys, Magazine, Gang of Four, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cramps, XTC… I’m not going to list them all, but it’s basically a who’s who of the 1980s. There were also some killer performances by acts like 999, Toyah Wilcox, John Cooper Clarke, Au Pairs, X, Skafish and more (They might be well-known to people that are hipper than I am, as plenty of folks are).

I finally got a chance to watch the whole thing last weekend, thanks to a friend who wanted to introduce all his friends to the documentary that shaped his musical taste. I had seen it in bits and pieces before, but never got to just sit down and watch it through. It only became available on DVD recently. Before that, people were paying over $40 for used VHS tapes and scouring the Internet for bad DVD-R copies.

If you’re a music lover, this ought to be in your DVD collection. It will soon be in mine. Meanwhile, here’s a taste.

My friend saw this when he was a teenager and immediately went out and bought everything in Gary Numan’s discography. Growing up in rural Texas, if I had seen this when it was new I don’t know what I would’ve done. It certainly would have had a huge impact – seeing it in my 40s impressed the hell out of me.


Filed under music, new wave, postpunk, review, video

Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ – has it really been 20 years?

I remember the first time I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” like it was yesterday. I was driving on a little country road with my brother, listening to a rock ‘n’ roll station out of San Antonio and this strange song blasted out of my speakers. I was stunned. I didn’t know whether I loved it or hated it. I couldn’t even say exactly what kind of music it was, couldn’t make out all the words. I just knew it was powerful. And it was the first time in ages I had heard anything like real rebellion in a rock song.

It arrived just in time. I had little or no interest in what the top 40 pop stations were playing and had spent the last 5 years or so getting sick and tired of what passed for heavy metal.

Growing up in rural radio hell, metal and hard rock were about as “alternative” as I could get. I heard new wave in the early ’80s and liked it, but punk rock completely passed me by. There were no stations that played it. I asked a classmate in high school once what punk rock was and he thought Kiss might be a punk band — way off. None of us had a clue.

Hard rock and metal seemed rebellious to me at the time, because the songs flouted the norms of the day and because you had to get in the orbit of San Antonio or Corpus Christi to hear it, or hang out with stoner friends. If the preachers didn’t like AC/DC or Van Halen they had to be cool.

Over the years though, rock ‘n’ roll got more and more mainstream and just didn’t satisfy. All the songs about partying and chicks started to come across as bland and boring, awful ballads began to predominate. At some point it became clear that the main point of rock ‘n’ roll had become, not melody, not attitude, but commerce.

I was always jealous of my mom’s generation. Even when it wasn’t obvious, the music back then had a rebellious streak. Songs protested the Vietnam War and mainstream culture, promoted free love and hinted at drug use and pushed musical boundaries. I used to love digging my uncle’s old albums.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a whole class of exciting music being created, from the ’80s through the ’90s. Punk, hardcore, British and American postpunk, industrial. There were bands that pushed the envelope — The Pixies, Mission of Burma, The Meat Puppets, The Minutemen, Butthole Surfers. The thing is, it was all underground. I never heard any of it until years later.

Nirvana took all that stuff that had been bubbling under the surface and created something that was at once familiar and full of hooks — and subversive as hell. Their music was powerful stuff and somehow it managed to crack the mainstream. It changed the way I listened to music, and it changed the music business. Suddenly bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains ruled the airwaves. It made the ’90s into an exciting time for music.

Nothing good lasts forever, alas. Singer Kurt Cobain fought his demons and lost, killing himself in April 1994. And gradually the grunge music revolution ended. Music became less and less exciting and the bands less creative. It was about commerce once again. It’s a shame Kurt wasn’t able to keep it together. His heroin addiction got the best of him and I don’t think he ever came to terms with his popularity. Trying to do something different and underground and having it suddenly turn huge time and again. Wanting to be a rebel and at the same time be a rock star. That plus the heroin — mostly the heroin — did him in.

It’s a damn shame, but I think if he hadn’t been so tormented, he wouldn’t have made the music he did.

We’ve been waiting a long time for another revolutionary figure of his caliber to turn up in music. There is a lot of awesome music out there, but is any band or musician likely to turn everything on its head the way Nirvana did? Is it even possible with the music industry’s current state? Not sure. I’m definitely open to the possibility. In the meantime I reckon I’ll keep digging around in the underground. That’s what gave us Nirvana in the first place, and where the most interesting art and culture has always been.


Filed under indie, indie rock, music, postpunk, Uncategorized

May: good movie, GREAT soundtrack by multi-talented musician/artist Jammes Luckett

As much as I enjoy a good horror movie, I don’t watch many of them, because frankly most of them suck. That makes it really special when I find one that doesn’t.

A few years ago my brother turned me onto a quirky, low budget horror movie called May starring Angela Bettis, which came out in 2002. I got two shocks: 1) the movie was very good, and 2) the soundtrack was amazing.

May, the movie
The movie, in case you haven’t seen it, is about a strange, strange young woman named May who has such a hard time connecting with people that she ends up killing a bunch of them. And she does something creative and horrible with them at the end. It’s awful, but it’s also full of black humor. You sympathize with May and her struggle to fit in. She’s just SO weird, you can’t help but be amused — her best friend is a doll encased in glass that she believes is talking to her.

And it’s amusing to see the people she tries to make friends with try to show how weird and individualistic they are, when in truth they are trendy and shallow and have no idea what a TRULY weird character May is. I kept thinking, “You poser, you have no idea what you’re messing with.” You can easily find out what she does in the end with a few searches, but don’t spoil things for yourself. Watch the movie. If you can’t find a place to rent it you can buy it pretty cheap on Amazon.

May, the soundtrack
In addition to an entertaining story and good acting from Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto and others, May has something else unusual — a very impressive indie rock soundtrack. When I watched it I kept thinking, “I want to hear the entire song. I must have this.” When I first I checked into it, the soundtrack wasn’t available. I found out the songwriter and performer was a woman named Jammes Luckett, aka Jaye Barnes Luckett. I also found out I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of people online talking about that soundtrack and begging.

I kind of forgot about it over the years, but for some reason I thought of it recently and got an impulse to look for it again. And found it! I got it in the mail a few weeks ago and it spent a very long time in my CD player. Not only does the CD contain songs from May, it has numerous other works Luckett produced for films — some released, some not.

The styles range from postpunk-influenced indie rock that Siouxsie Sue would be proud of, to classical instrumental music.

I did a little more digging and found some background on Luckett. She has also performed as Poperratic and Alien Tempo Experiment 13, and she does graphic design and other visual work. She’s working on her website at the moment, so who knows how awesome it might be later, but it already contains quite a few videos showcasing her musical and graphic work. Music ranges from indie rock, to classical to urban.

I got the soundtrack at La La Land Records, a label that specializes in soundtracks. It’s a 1,000-copy limited edition, but it only costs $5.98. Worth every penny. I would order one before they run out.

Here’s my favorite song from the May soundtrack, performed under the pseudonym Alien Tempo Experiment 13:

And here is Luckett’s website, where you can check out her music and visual art.


Filed under darkwave, indie, indie rock, music, neo-postpunk, postpunk, video

Music genres – handles or pigeonholes? (probably both)

It’s a common complaint from musicians: “I don’t do goth/post-rock/folk/trip hop/indie/prog (or whatever). You can’t pigeonhole me!”

Same thing with fans. I’ve read a ton of forum threads complaining about genre names. “What the hell does post-rock mean? Aren’t bands still playing rock? Why isn’t it called post-rap? Post-rock isn’t a real genre.” And various other quibbles from people who hate seeing their favorite musicians get pigeonholed, or resent seeing musicians they don’t like surf their way into undeserved recognition atop some made up fad.

I totally get it. I’m the king of “you can’t pigeonhole me.” I’m 100 percent eclectic in musical taste. Politically, neither fish nor fowl.

I do think there’s a nasty tendency in some circles (*cough* Pitchfork) to use labels in order to dismiss a band or collection of bands. Like, “Oh yeah, we figured out what these guys are. Just another example of X. If anyone still cares about X, this is part of that whole X knockoff crowd. That scene is so quaint isn’t it? Moving right along…”

Just look at this list of genres:

Drumfunk, Sqweee, Glitch-hop, Witch House and Turbo-folk are just a few of many genre names that make me scratch my head. Are these really real? Is somebody pulling our legs?

Who comes up with this stuff anyway? It used to be DJs and music journalists, but now I guess it’s mostly bloggers with a lot more hits than I get. Somehow the names catch on, silly or not. Shoegaze is one I use a lot that sounds pretty ridiculous (whatever you want to call it, I like it). It was originally a put-down for bands playing noise-drenched stuff who tended to stand on the stage and look down at their shoes, but now it’s so common that bands will claim the term.

Classifying music into groups will always be a messy business. There are some musicians (usually my favorites) who defy classification. There are musicians who get lumped into a group who sound nothing like their supposed peers.

Television’s Marquee Moon (1977) came from one of the original CBGBs bands, often touted as one of the first punk bands or even “proto-punk.” Yet to me its style has a lot in common with Magazine’s Real Life (1978), which came out just a year later and is considered one of the first postpunk albums. Can you really go from proto- to post- in just one year?

World music is a really messy genre. It can sound like anything, and isn’t everything part of the world? And speaking of the world, now everything has gone global. You have millions of musicians, talented and otherwise, making tunes on laptops and releasing them on the Internet. Anyone can be influenced by anyone. It was hard enough to classify things in the blues-R&B-rock continuum, especially when jazz and classical kept rearing their ugly heads. Now throw in influences from every country in the world and classifying anything becomes virtually impossible.

Yet we have to try. Why? Because if we don’t, we can’t find music we like, and we can’t talk about it.

I understand the principle of “it’s all music.” But don’t you think the average Chuck Berry fan would be a bit put off if you played a Godspeed You Black Emperor album said, “Here’s some of that music stuff you claim to like”? And suppose he had an open mind and even kind of liked it, but just never heard GYBE before and asked, “what is this?” Sorry, but I’m going to have to say post-rock, because he might then find and enjoy Sigur Ros. Post-rock is a clear case of “you gotta call it something.” Would you consider a Chuck Berry song rock? Definitely. Would you consider a Godspeed You Black Emperor song rock? Not too sure… Thus, post-rock.

I agree that genre names often suck, but they can be useful, even some “hairline distinctions.” For example, dark ambient. It bleeds into regular ambient (another term people argue over), as well as industrial (ditto). But there are certain groups that people who say they like dark ambient tend to like.  I like to give and get recommendations. How am I supposed to do that if I can’t pick a genre name? If I just ask for “music” recommendations, I could get anything from Beethoven to the Ramones. I like both of those, but they’re not going to help me find Coil, Lustmord or Voice of Eye.

A genre name might be a stupid word, but once it catches on and people start hanging ideas on it, what can you do? You’re pretty much stuck with it.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what will happen if people are still listening to this stuff hundreds of years from now? Are we going to get names like tenth wave Electro-acoustic-neo-post-psych-prog? Hell, that name probably exists already.


Filed under commentary, dark ambient, indie, industrial, postpunk, postrock, progressive rock, psych, punk, shoegaze, trip hop, Uncategorized, world music

‘Crocodiles Radio’ in LastFM neo-post-punk, goth, noise, etc.

I’ve got no time. I shouldn’t even be posting this short link, but I had to pass this along…

Click on this LastFM station and just “groove” on it for a little while and see what you think.

I’ve been spellbound. It’s just a similar artists mish mash based on Crocodiles, the band that made the awesome cover of “Groove is in the Heart,” mentioned in a previous entry.

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Filed under indie rock, music, neo-postpunk, postpunk

Robyn Hitchcock: Thanks for twisting my brain into the correct shape!

I saw Robyn Hitchcock for the first time at South By Southwest 2004. Just him and his guitar. No band. At first I thought the frat boys in front of me were going to ruin it. They talked, clinked their beers together, yelled during the songs — you know, basic meathead behavior. But then in between songs, Robyn compared his guitar to a javelina, talked about how the world didn’t exist if you never went outside, talked about the German doppelganger myth: “If you see someone coming toward you who looks just like you, it means you’re about to die, or you just met an identical twin no one told you about — or both.” Really weird and funny. And the meatheads in front of me chuckled, shut the hell up and listened. He totally won them over. Very impressive.

It took a bit longer for me. I was already a big fan by 2004, but when I first heard Robyn’s music in the mid-’90s, I hated it. Several of his songs were included on the mixtapes that eventually turned me onto postpunk music. Before that I was pretty much a hard rock guy, though I was somewhat open to things like blues and classical and was starting to check out world music. But the radio sucked, and I could tell the music on those tapes had substance, so I kept listening.

Robyn’s were my least favorite at the time. First of all, I didn’t like his voice. Second, the lyrics were just too weird and disturbing. Because some of his songs were mixed in with stuff I did like right away — Chameleons, Shriekback, Peter Murphy, etc. — I heard them occasionally and tolerated them. “Leppo & the Jooves” and “Balloon Man” first started to grab my attention, and I would think okay, let’s give this guy a chance, and would pop in a tape my friend made of his favorite Hitchcock tunes–and I was lucky if I made it five or six songs in before I turned it off. I was like, blech, what’s wrong with this guy?

Then for some reason about two or three years later, something just clicked. I think it was “She Doesn’t Exist” that caught my attention. All of a sudden I realized he was absolutely brilliant. My friend’s Hitchcock mixtape seldom left my stereo. I played it over and over. From that point I couldn’t get enough of him. I had to get every CD of his I could find and thanks to SXSW I got to see him perform a couple of times.

If you’re not familiar with Robyn’s music, it can vary a lot in terms of energy and style, but all of it is influenced by the psychedelia of the ’60s. Syd Barrett is obviously a big influence. His early band The Soft Boys influenced REM (that band’s guitarist Peter Buck later joined up with Robyn in The Venus 3). In addition to being a wonderfully idosyncratic songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, bass, harmonica), Robyn is also a visual artist. Some of his psych art wound up as album covers. Explore his website a bit if you want to get an inkling of his many talents: The Museum of Robyn Hitchcock.

My favorite Hitchcock songs change depending on when you ask me, but my custom mix goes something like this:

“The Crawling”
“Leppo & the Jooves”
“Man with a Woman’s Shadow”
“Into the Arms of Love”
“Where are the Prawns?” (from Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight” – Matador Records release, an extra, I think)
“Chinese Water Python”
“Driving Aloud (Radio Storm)”
“Chinese Bones”
“Old Pervert” (an extra from Underwater Moonlight)
“Wang Dang Pig” (ditto)
“Only the Stones Remain”
“Railway Shoes”
“America” (from Gotta Let This Hen Out)
“When I Was Dead” (from Alive Not Dead live EP – I don’t like the one on Respect quite as much)
“Egyptian Cream” (from Gotta Let this Hen Out)
“Balloon Man”

“Ted Woody & Junior”

“Brenda’s Iron Sledge”

“Let There Be More Darkness”

Not sure if that fits on a standard CD-R…

If you want to dive in and buy some albums, I would start with one of these: I Often Dream of Trains, Birds in Perspex, Storefront Hitchcock,  Gotta Get this Hen Out, or Fegmania. I really can’t recommend against any Hitchcock album, but those are my favorites and I can’t imagine anyone who “gets” him not enjoying them.

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Filed under classic postpunk, indie, indie pop, indie rock, music, postpunk, psych, Uncategorized, video