Author: Hope Silverman

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #2 of 2023

There were a lot of words spilled about David Crosby after his recent passing. So many that even though I’m a fan, I decided not to write anything about him as the worldwide remembrance pile was already overflowing. But here we are, weeks later and I’m officially caving in. I confess that I didn’t fully appreciate ornery, angel-voiced Croz until a decade into the 21st century. At that point, for reasons I cannot recollect, I became maniacally obsessed with his discography, in all its iterations, especially the solo stuff. I then did what crazy music nerds do and embarked on some relentless collecting, buying dozens of live bootleg cds from one of those predictably weird online blokes who sold rare, unreleased stuff. My favored illegal entrepreneur would also include bizarre, overly-friendly notes on post-its inside the CDS I ordered. The CDS themselves were nerdily-titled things that only demented hardcore nuts would be remotely interested in, shit with titles like “Rarities Volume 1” and “Live at Rockefeller’s ’87” (all wondrous though, I’m tellin’ you). He’d also throw in stuff I hadn’t asked for, which is how I ended up with a lot of odd Neil Young compilations that sounded as if they were recorded from the inside of a knapsack. I remain grateful to weird-bootleg cd-bloke (whoever he was/wherever he is), my musical drug supplier for feeding my then insatiable need. The songs and sounds of Croz emanating from these goofy CDs singlehandedly roped me in and calmed my soul at a time when I was feeling pretty damn crazy ( and they still do, when I’m in need). Croz = Genius.

And with that, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new tracks we’ve heard over recent days. Again, as it is so early in the year, and releases are only just getting rolling, the playlist is pretty short. That is no reflection on the selection i.e. these songs are all lethally beautiful-handsome and would’ve made the cut any time of year. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.

Also want to shout out Permanent Damage, the latest album by Joesef (two songs of which are featured in the playlist). It is melodic, lush, and endlessly lovely, and has already won January as far as albums go (for me at least). You can check that out here.

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #1 of 2023

I think we can all agree, Peanuts is life. And with that, welcome to the first WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST of 2023⚡️! As it’s only the second week of January, there isn’t a ton of new stuff happening, so it is exceptionally short (4 songs!). It is “why even make a playlist? ” short. But it seemed disrespectful to the songs to hold them back. Plus among them lives a supremely magnificent cover of “Pure Imagination” (from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) by Storefront Church and Circuit des Yeux that I’ve grown rapidly, disturbingly obsessed with over the past 24 hours. I’ve played it at least 50 times and it’s definitely starting to screw with my brain chemistry. I’m suffering from that “looking straight ahead but not being able see anything because your eyeballs are turned inside out and are instead looking at the weird daydreamy visions in your brain that have been stirred up by the song”…which is probably a sign that I should give it a rest. But you don’t have to. You can hear that stunner and more beautiful January friends on Soundcloud or Spotify below. And may all of us have a muthaf*ckin’ Lucy year 😉

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Yearly New Wonders: Best Songs ‘n’ Albums of 2022!

I’m keeping things simple this year. No mile-long list of the best tunes or long-winded explanations as to why they sound so good and shone above all others in 2022. Because even though I love a passionate list, like most of you, at this point, I am officially suffering from “online end-of-year list fatigue”, the figurative flu that all music, film, and book nerds become afflicted with every December. That said, I do have a treat I hope will fire you up enough to check out these last couple of lists! In addition to a way more succinct PuR’s Best/Favorite/Most Sublime Songs of 2022 playlist (a consumable 30 tracks!), I am privileged to share PuR pal and contributor Ed Zed’s list of his Favorite Albums of 2022!

It used to concern me that my year-end list of the best songs bore zero resemblance to those posted by Pitchfork, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the big places. I’d think I wasn’t doing what I was “supposed to” and that I should be more concerned with the work of the big names and more drawn to the big hits (even on this piddly little blog) for my list to be “credible”. But screw all that. It’s way more fun to follow your arrow and get dirty and head down the road less traveled when it comes to finding new music. I’m an introvert who avoids the bright lights and TikToks and just prefers stepping off the main road, heading into the woods, and picking up rocks I’ve chosen myself ( like how I did that?)…all of which is my way of saying, these lists are highly idiosyncratic and born from pure love (promise). And I respect you as a fellow weirdo connoisseur and know you don’t want to hear about the same old shiz everyone else is talking about.

And so friends, I now present to you TWO (!) eccentric, heartfelt lists which I hope you still have a little room for in your best-music-playlists-to-listen-to-over-the-next-weekmaybe schedule. Both were handmade for nerdy, romantic weirdos (you) by nerdy, romantic weirdos (us). We get you. Thank you for looking at Picking Up Rocks this year. I promise some seriously mad essays and beautiful music in 2023 so, please follow us if that interests you. And THANK YOU to all of you wonderful nuts who have spent time on PuR this year. You f*cking ROCK and I f*cking mean that ;)! Big love to you all!

PuR’s 30 Best Beautiful Bastard Songs of 2022 Playlist!

Melody remains my own personal Jesus and is the foundation of how the yearly PuR Best Songs list is “computed”. And with that, please enjoy these weird, endlessly wonderful songs made by gorgeously inspired humans. Hope they make you swoon.

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Ed Zed’s 10 Best Brilliantly Bitchin’ Albums of 2023!

Note from Ed: There are two in the top slot, as the depth, beauty, and unmitigated splendor of Lucrecia Dalt’s ¡Ay! and Carla dal Forno’s Come Around were truly impossible to choose between. The other eight are in no real order, because they’re all equally spectacular to me:

1.Lucrecia Dalt – ¡Ay! (listen here)
2.(but technically tied for first) –Carla dal Forno – Come Around (listen here)
3.700 Bliss – Nothing To Declare (listen here)
4.Kakuhan – Metal Zone (listen here)
5.Lea Bertucci & Ben Vida – Murmurations (listen here)
6.Anzahlung – What You Think Is All You’ve Got (listen here)
7.L4b – L4b (listen here)
8.StinkyJim – Spacial Awareness (listen here)
9.Jennifer Vanilla – Castle In The Sky (listen here)
10.Cosey Fanni Tutti – Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary
Tapes (listen here)

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #31 of 2022

The first Fleetwood Mac record I ever bought was the 45 of “Say You Love Me”. It was 1976 and I was still in grade school and could only afford albums when I’d had some kind of financial windfall i.e. birthday money. And so my main focus was on singles. Since my tiny weekly allowance of $3 (!) could only score me maybe two new singles at most ($1.07 each with tax), I was very precise about the ones I chose to buy. In other words, if I was gonna fork over any of my sparse savings on a song, I had to really, really LOVE it. “Say You Love Me” was one of the songs I deemed worthy enough to make the monetary sacrifice for.

The fact is, my first favorite Mac songs were not by Lindsey or Stevie. They were by Christine McVie. “You Make Loving Fun”. “Don’t Stop”. Her songs were the ones I latched onto as a kid. They were the reason “Rumours” was glued to my turntable through my endlessly nightmarish seventh-grade days. They were why I plastered a Mac poster on the wall of my tragically royal blue shag-carpeted bedroom. It was Christine McVie that set the foundation for over 45 years of Mac fandom for me.

I know I’m not alone in this experience.

While we celebrate all the brilliant songs Christine composed over the course of her career, it should be noted that the Mac songs she wrote and sang on were not the only ones on which she truly shone. Her piano lines in Stevie’s seminal and spectacular “Sara”, literally make the song; Her playing is gorgeous beyond reason. It is one of the band’s three greatest songs ever, and Christine’s contribution was the stardust that made it transcendent. And she did that on a multitude of Mac tracks.

And so a big heartfelt thank you to magical, beautiful genius Christine McVie. Love you Songbird.

Okay, I feel kind of emotional now but we’ve gotta soldier on. I now offer you the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. It’s pocket-size and positively made for rainswept, repeat listening. Atmospheric-melodic-heavenly stuff awaits you. Hear ’em all below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #30 of 2022

Part of my routine for finding new music involves doing a weekly scroll through Bandcamp. And while I like getting recommendations from their writers and contributors, I generally prefer to explore the wilds on my own. The amount of stuff uploaded there daily is pretty overwhelming and even if you are only looking through the offerings of a specific genre, it can be hard to know where to start. As for me, I use the most basic human algorithm there is to determine what I’m gonna press play on; the album cover. More often than not, that’s the determining factor over whether I give something a spin.

I am an old-school-album-art lover and my childhood dream was to draw (literally) album covers for a living. And so, I’m kinda partial to actual art. When I see a childhood photograph of the artist opening Xmas presents or wearing a Halloween costume being used as a cover or to represent an album or song, I feel angry. I recoil at the overt attempt to illicit cheap “awwws”. I shudder at the self-absorption. I rage at the laziness. Fuck those album covers. Give me something weirdly beautiful (this). Give me something cheap and disgusting (this). Give me anything but a 5-year-old on vacation in neon-framed sunglasses or wearing a batman outfit. 

Music is not always just about the music; the way it’s presented is part of the experience. I admit my feelings are rooted in the fact that I grew up listening to vinyl albums so that cliched ritual of putting a record on and then analyzing the cover as it played was a foundational experience for me. That experience was even better if the album came with a poster or stickers. These “gifts” never ceased to thrill me. Sliding out a cool poster ( which I ALWAYS hung up) or stickers (which I ALWAYS slapped on my school notebooks and then regretted because they were then “gone forever”) was genuinely exciting to me. It got to a point where I felt cheated if there wasn’t a “present” inside an album ( “what, there’s no poster? Fuck you fill in artist name here“). 

So for me, the outside of an album has always set the table for the music inside. When I see a drawing, painting, sculpture, or cool photo on a Bandcamp page, I’ll usually give the song or album it represents a listen.

Back in 2018, during one of my Bandcamp hikes, I stumbled upon a weirdly magnetic album cover featuring the torso of a reclining Barbie doll with a brain in place of her head. The image was so striking compared to what surrounded it that I instantly wanted to hear the album it represented. The record was called Surgery and it was by Cherophobiac (aka Alexandra Sullivan). 

I couldn’t believe my luck. Surgery was amazing. Sonically, it sat somewhere between the balladic tracks on Radiohead’s exceptional opus Moon Shaped Pool and Laura Nyro at her saddest. Four years have passed since its initial release and its dark, melodic piano-based balladry still sounds freakin’ amazing.

This past week saw the release of an extended video for two songs from Surgery; the title track and “Prayer Hands”. It was created by Olivia Rotante and emanates a gloriously sinister seventies vibe, where the decor is brown, the wives are Stepford-ian and the food is toxically terrifying in its banality. It’s like looking through a blood-stained copy of a Family CircleRedbook, or McCall’s magazine from 1973.  

You can check out the video right here. Come feel the creepy contradiction!

And now please join me in welcoming the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the BEST new songs that have crossed our path in recent weeks. It features two holy-jeezus-are-these-good covers of songs originally done by Paula Cole and The Long Winters as well as lustrous offerings by some sweetly familiar names. Yup, it was just one of those homecoming-type weeks. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. 

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #29 of 2022

Don’t be scared. I’m not about to preach to you. That’s just a ballpoint drawing I did for my Mom recently, featuring what’s probably the millionth sheep I’ve drawn in my life. This is not the first time I’ve drawn J.C. About five years ago I did a pic of him (Him) by request for a friend that featured the actual crucifixion scene. As I don’t know anything about the nuances of the bible, it was a weird depiction. His torso had an enormous tattoo of a tree for one thing. Anyway, I emailed a pic of that one to my Mom and she went nuts. So much so that she had a bunch of photocopies made and started selling them for $10 a pop at her table at the southern flea market where she sells her flipped wares each week. She didn’t tell me she was doing this until after she’d been hawking them for a few weeks. I was disturbed by this. Not because I wanted a cut of the meager profits (FYI: she did pop me a $20 bill once) but because people actually wanted such a cartoony, pseudo-religious, amateurish thing in their homes for maybe prayer purposes. And so here I am gifting-trusting my Mom with her own J.C. to manipulate at her will. Only God (or J.C.) knows what she’s gonna do with it though I wouldn’t mind another $20. Thanks in advance Mom.

Hey, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the best new songs that have been launched into the world this week. They are lustrous, smokey, and embraceable in every way and you can hear ’em below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

P.S. I wrote some stuff in honor of Eurythmics induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame this week over at Cover Me. If you love Annie and Dave, and wanna hear some crazy beautiful covers of “Here Comes The Rain Again”, I invite you to check it out here!

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Weekly New Wonders #28 of 2022

I’m gonna quickly do what I’m required to by law and talk about Taylor Swift. Yes, I bought the new album Midnights (3am edition) because like a huge part of the pop population, I’m a sheep who (over) cares. I hardly qualify as an obsessive fan (when I crave having my thoughts verbalized by a pop genius, it’s Annie Lennox’s Bare or Songs Of Mass Destruction for me always). But I dig TS enough to have all her albums and generally think she’s pretty kickass. And I confess to a sick, long-term fascination with the Kaylor “conspiracy” ( google if you are unsure what that is, and sorry in advance).

I wouldn’t go so far as to call Midnights a five-star “masterpiece” like the review in The Guardian declared, nor do I think it’s as good as 2020’s Folklore…but it’s still pretty damn good. If you are a crotchety old melody-hound like me, then these six tracks (out of the album’s 20) might be up yer alley: “Maroon”, “Anti-Hero”, “Question…?”, “Labyrinth”, “Bigger Than the Whole Sky”, “Would’ve, Should’ve, Could’ve”. They’re all pretty awesome.

And now I offer you, the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the best new songs not invented by Taylor Swift that have been thrust into the world this week (or so). I want to shout out the lead track, “The Owl Of the Night” by the brilliant sister duo Fire In Her Eyes because it is just so freakin’ gorgeous. That beauty is not on Spotify as of this writing but it is on Soundcloud so you can check it out that way below ( and I’ll plug it into the Spotify list as soon as it’s available there).

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Alligator Lizards in the Air: Discovering America

“A Horse With No Name”. “Ventura Highway”. “Sister Golden Hair”. “Tin Man”. Soft rock trio America were a freakin’ hit machine in the ’70s. For at least a decade, you couldn’t swing a cat at a radio wave without hitting an America song. And when I was a kid, I hated them. They didn’t rock. They didn’t shred. I didn’t think they were hot. To my ears, they made music for big sisters, babysitters, and older cousins. I thought they sucked.

But early in the 21st century, something shifted. I became inexplicably fixated on the song “Tin Man” and decided to do some exploring in America-land, I mean maybe there were some similarly transcendent old gems hidden within their catalog of albums all of whose titles began with the freakin’ letter H (Homecoming, Hat Trick, Holiday, Hearts, History, Hideaway, Harbor, History). 

Well, turns out there were a lot of gems. Some of the deep cuts were, well, downright majestic. And just like that, my elitist pride got sent directly to the time-out room to have a good think about its previous attitude and behavior. Sure, it took a couple of decades, but I finally did discover America.

I now invite you to Cover Me, the home and haven of all things cover version, to read my mea culpa regarding the sound of America. It’s a tribute to the band’s best-selling greatest hits album History and features some wonderfully weird covers of songs from that LP by an assortment of flakes, school kids, and a soul man. There are a couple that are so off-the-wall and creepy that I’ve come to prefer them to the originals and the fact is, there can never be enough unintentionally weird cover versions of ’70s soft rock songs. 

Come indulge in the History here!

The heat was hot and the ground was dry…

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #27 of 2022

Ron Darling, Gary Cohen, and Keith Hernandez are the supreme broadcast team of the NY Mets.

If you are not a baseball fan or more specifically a NY Mets fan, you probably won’t know who those three guys up there are. They are the Mets broadcast team of Ron Darling, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez and are as good as baseball announcers get. Along with great analysis and brutal honesty, they offer something else…or rather Gary Cohen does. He is a music nerd who will occasionally drop in references to his blessed musical nerdiness when he is calling the games. As I am both a music nerd and lifelong Mets fan, I find this to be absolutely f*cking awesome.

Whenever Gary mentions a band or song during a broadcast, I write it down. I started doing it casually about a year ago, but this season I went all in; every time he said something, I logged it on a singular running list (reminder, nerd here). Anyway, I would like to now share the highlights of the finest, most embraceable, and often impressive, musical references Gary Cohen offered during the Mets 2022 season:

Welcome to NY Mets Announcer Gary Cohen’s Top In-Game Musical References: 2022 Edition otherwise known as THERE’S A MUSIC NERD IN THE BOOTH. Here they are in chronological order:

1May 18: Gary quotes from Public Image Ltd’s “Rise“, and sings its key line “Anger is an energy”. He then turns to Keith (non-music nerd) and says “Keith you don’t remember Public Image Ltd” (because of course he doesn’t).

2May 31: Gary mentions that he saw The Clash at the Palladium and then states that Joe Strummer “was a visionary”. He also found time to mention the Mudd Club, Danceteria, and The Ramones along the way.

3June 5: Gary quotes a line from Olivia Newton-John’s “Please Mr.Please” in response to a Keith anecdote and says “don’t play B-17”.

4July 2: Gary calls Martha & the Vandellas “one of the most underrated groups of the sixties” (true), mentions Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound” and later drops the fact that Mary Hopkin’s evergreen 1971 classic “Those Were The Days” was produced by Paul McCartney.

5July 4: Gary celebrates the band X on independence day by quoting the eponymous song and tipping his hat to the legends: “Hey baby, it’s the 4th of July“, in the immortal words of John Doe and Exene Cervenka”

6July 8: Gary quotes the Mountain’s 1970 sludge-rock classic “Missississippi Queen” and says “Mississippi queen, you know what I mean”. He then mentions band leader Leslie West. It didn’t stop there. Both the song and West got namechecks on 8/4 and again on 8/17 ( by Gary AND Ron). The booth is weirdly obsessed with Mountain, West, and “Mississippi Queen”.

7July 11: Gary mentioned the time when a New York Times article allegedly referred to Meatloaf as “Mr.Loaf“.

8August 3: In reference to Mets slugger Pete Alonso hitting his 88th RBI, Gary quotes the trashy former #1 song from 1988 “Wild Wild West” by The Escape Club and offers up a bit of the chorus; “Heading for the nineties, Living in the wild, wild west”.

9August 5: Gary mentions The Monkees deep cut and cult classic “Gonna Buy Me a Dog“.

10August 15: In regards to the then pending anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, Gary offered this little nugget: “Elvis left this mortal coil…in the sitting position I believe”.

11August 30: Gary salutes The Temptations “Papa Was A Rolling Stone“‘ and sings “It was the third of September, that day I’ll always remember”

12September 7: Gary says he likes ska and most specifically, loves Madness , who of course, Keith has never ever heard of. He also mentions that he listens to Little Steven’s radio show, “Underground Garage“.

13September 11: Gary sings a line from Cake’s “Never There“: “You’re never there, You’re never ever, ever, ever, there”.

I still can’t believe he quoted freakin’ “Rise” during a freakin’ Met game, I mean what the holy hell?! Brilliant. Gary Cohen rules.

Okay, now to our regularly scheduled programming! It is time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path this week. There’s a gorgeous retro feel to this week’s bunch and they are all superfoxybeautiful. Listen below on Soundcloud OR Spotify!

P.S. And thanks for indulging me today non-baseball/strictly music nerds and PuR friends. You won’t have to read anything like this again until next October, swear 😉

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Thermonuclear Youth: A Guide to Punk’s Feral Kids

We know all about the Sex Pistols and Ramones. But what about the children? Step back in time with our hero Ed Zed of legendary kid punk band The Walking Abortions, as he recalls, recommends, and celebrates the finest noise-making, sneery, juvenile delinquent bastards in punk history and celebrates the brat that lives in all of us. Up yours, mine, and everybody’s…

Ah, punk…What a parent it was. A drunken, louche, overly permissive parent who nonetheless shepherded me through the turbulent landscape of my youth pretty damned well.

It helped me at age 12, for instance, to swap the nighttime vandalism born of my prepubescent angst for a slightly worthier pursuit: singing and drumming in a band called The Walking Abortions. Well, I did say a slightly worthier pursuit. But more on that later.

Most of punk’s surviving progenitors are now approaching pensionable age, some of whom—for better or for worse—are still flying the flag of the movement that first radiated its shockwaves four and a half decades ago. Nothing wrong with that of course. I mean, if one views punk as the people’s culture, then surely it shouldn’t discriminate against something as inexorable as human aging, right? Depends on who you ask, I suppose.

For me, no matter how far I may stray in time and taste from the raucous path it originally sent me down, I know that a kernel of punk will remain at my core ‘til I pop my clogs. There’s no denying, however, that punk is often at its most potent when sparking those white-hot fires of youth, something that seems in no danger of ceasing as long as there are pissed-off squirts in the world.

As one such former squirt, I’ve always loved punk rock made by kids—for its rawness, its naïveté, and its honesty, unfettered by the rigors of this sham called adult life.

And that, my pogoing kin, is what brings us here today: We are diving into the glorious world of the child punks. The bands and their wicked ‘n’ wild anthems featured below are in no particular order (which seems fitting), but I’m starting with Eater, as they were the first of the punk tykes I ever encountered. So without further ado…

Eater – ‘Thinkin’ of the USA’ (The Label, 1977)

Despite not always being taken seriously by certain members of the so-called punk elite, cheeky 15-year-olds Eater were a bonafide part of the first wave of UK punk, and bloody great to boot.

They were a huge influence on my own brat punk outfit, particularly their second single ‘Thinkin’ of the USA’, which really spoke to us in its yearning for excitement beyond the monochrome world of London’s fringe towns.

Coincidentally, my nascent troupe formed a friendship with Eater’s vocalist Andy Blade after we found out he worked in our local offy (that’s a liquor store to you, America). 

At age 16 I very briefly played drums for a reformed version of Eater, and Andy went on to manage one of my later bands, but that’s another story. Right now, get on down to this ’77 corker by the original teen degenerates:

Teddy and the Frat Girls – ‘Club Nite’ (Fartfaced Decadence, 1980)

This is without a doubt one of my favorite songs of all time. An exquisite, raving howl of unparalleled teenage delirium, ‘Club Nite’ pushes the needle straight through the red until it pops off, and the gauge glass shatters completely.

The lead caterwauler for this unholy platoon was the fabulously named Cookie Mold, 16 at the time the Frat Girls’ lone E.P. was recorded. 

Amidst a burgeoning drug habit and a strong desire to flee her native West Palm Beach, she and guitarist Spam Ax did just that, relocating to San Francisco where they proceeded to sell the reissue rights to the Frat Girls’ record to one Jello Biafra without ever consulting their other bandmates.

Regardless of the dubious morality of such a move, this wider pressing on Alternative Tentacles did allow far more of the world to be exposed to the horrific aural splendor of Teddy and the Frat Girls, and in my humble opinion that is exactly what the world needed. And very much still does.

The Prats – ‘Disco Pope’ (Rough Trade, 1980)

I first heard The Prats on the legendary Earcom 1 compilation, and couldn’t believe how such an amateurish-sounding band could deliver a song as catchy as ‘Inverness’.

Even though me and my mates initially made fun of their ramshackle racket, that soon changed when we heard the ‘1990s Pop E.P.’ which contains what I consider to be their greatest track, ‘Disco Pope’. 

‘Pope’ is something of a Prats mission statement, voicing their disillusionment with the confines of punk itself and a yearning for fresh new territory.

For these lads to be thinking in that way at such a young age was incredibly inspiring to me as a wee snot a decade hence, and I like to think that they helped me to eventually look beyond ‘the punk bang crash’ and ‘Sham and The Clash’ myself (not that I would ever totally leave those things behind of course 🙂

On a side note, when former Walking Abortions guitarist Sam Phetamin and I were in our 20s, we phoned the contact number on the back of ‘1990s Pop E.P.’ one inebriated night, and – unbelievably – got through to former Prat, Jeff Maguire, and had a long and lovely chat with him. Tragically, Jeff succumbed to cancer in 2020, but the legacy of his fabulous band of forward-looking punks lives on. 

Check this wonderful latter-day ‘Disco Pope’ video One Little Independent made to accompany the release of The Prats compilation ‘Prats Way Up High’ from 2020:

Fatal Microbes – ‘Beautiful Pictures’ (Small Wonder, 1979)

One of those records that belongs on the ‘can’t quite believe this even exists’ list, given the deeply unstable life of its main protagonist at the time.

14-year-old Honey Bane was uncharitably deemed a ‘juvenile delinquent’ by many, but then such sweeping classifications so often conveniently sidestep the complex issues of many a young life.

Amidst her myriad tribulations, Bane formed Fatal Microbes with three other young ‘uns in 1978, and though they were together for less than a year, they released during that time the now legendary ‘Violence Grows’ E.P. on the equally legendary Small Wonder / Xntrix labels.

The title track is a slow, ominous ode to the aggression and bystander apathy then (and still) so woefully prevalent on British streets, and while this stunning song is arguably their best known, it’s one of the E.P.’s b-sides that I love the most.

In ‘Beautiful Pictures’, a bracingly incisive satire of consumerist voyeurism, Bane sends up the vacuum of Pepsi-sheened pageantry to devastating effect.

She broke free from a detention center shortly after the Microbes split, teaming up with Crass to release the brilliant and harrowing ‘Girl on the Run’, but as space here is limited, dear reader, you’ll have to consult the interwebs for the remainder of her story.

Chandra – ‘Kate’ (GO GO Records, 1980)

Chandra Oppenheim’s ‘Transportation’ EP is a remarkable record in all sorts of ways, not least because it affords a view of tense early ’80s NYC through the eyes of a whip-smart 12-year-old.

Many of the songs on ‘Transportation’ are introspective, intellectual excursions that transcend the short years of their author, whilst others deal overtly – though no less eloquently – with more immediate ‘kid’ concerns, i.e. strangers, the perils of the subway, and in this case, the infuriatingly popular girl at school. 

‘Kate’ is hypnotically unsettling, baiting its ‘too nice’ subject as someone to whom ‘we offered help, but she didn’t accept’, before she is clinically dismissed: ‘we don’t want you, we can’t use you, you’re too good for us’. 

The track pits an uncomfortable battle between the crowd-pleasers and the cognoscenti, its sinister sing-song melody evoking a sneering playground taunt as young Chandra sticks the verbal boot in. 

Skinned Teen – ‘Punk Rockest’ (Soul Static Sound, 1993)

Widely regarded as the UK’s first true Riot Grrrl band – and certainly one of its most vital – Skinned Teen were an incandescent and hugely influential force of ’90s punk, with luminaries such as Kathleen Hanna and Beth Ditto citing them as an inspiration.

The excoriating ‘Punk Rockest’ from their first full-length E.P. ‘Karate Hairdresser’ is a short, sharp stab in the face of punk elitism, laying waste in just over one minute to the risible, rule-bearing ‘guardians’ of the culture. 

Asserting themselves as ‘more punk rock than you’ll ever be’ whilst ‘making it up as we go along’, Skinned Teen issue a stark reminder of why the freedom of DIY spirit is so essential to punk, and why misty-eyed, beer-bellied Clash disciples can really just shit off.

The ‘Karate Hairdresser’ E.P. is included here in full because the whole thing is so short. ‘Punk Rockest’ appears at 1:43:

The Silver – ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’ (Black Label Series, 1980)

One of two seriously dementoid entries in this list (Teddy and the Frat Girls win the crown however), and a prime example of the riotous abandon with which kids can stomp all over music when they don’t have dullard grownups at their shoulders telling them how it’s ‘supposed’ to be done.

To even call Finnish 14-year-olds The Silver’s squalling deconstruction of Bobby Freeman’s candy-coated classic punk would be to pigeonhole it too much. The reality is closer to an outsider noise recording that borders on absolute formlessness—it sounds as though the two band members are punching their guitars rather than strumming them—whilst elsewhere pots and pans are beaten to scrap metal in the name of percussion.

At one point the song stops entirely as the band dissolves into a fit of giggles, and oh god, the whole thing is just fucking bonkers and beautiful.

Period Pains – ‘Daddy I Want A Pony’ (Damaged Goods, 1997)

Period Pains, the woefully short-lived Reading four-piece who gave the world ‘Spice Girls (Who Do You Think You Are?)’ in 1997, also served up this bitingly sardonic skewering of rich kid greed that very same year.

‘Daddy I Want A Pony’s hilarious lyrics are spat with insouciant glee over buzzsaw guitars and tumbling drums, and armed with corking tunes like this it’s not hard to see why the Pains were briefly Britain’s late ’90s punk cool kids.

The Walking Abortions once invited them to play a gig with us at our local youth club, and though we’d never have admitted it at the time, we were a bit jealous ‘cuz they were better than us. Of course, we can admit this now because we’re all mature, well-balanced adults.

Unit 3 with Venus – ‘Beer’ (Permanent Records, 1982) and ‘B.O.Y.S.’ (Posh Boy, 1982)

Venus wins the prize for the youngest band member featured in this whole piece, at a mere 8 years young when these dazzling tracks were hatched. Her mom, dad, and uncle formed the rest of Unit 3, with uber-cool Venus taking care of the vocals, and lordy, this lot were incredible.

Releasing only one E.P. and a few comp tracks before Venus grew somewhat weary of punk and decided to focus instead on school, Unit 3 burned bright in their briefness, and gave the world the spectacular synth-punk anthem ‘Beer’.

A forthright putdown of that time-honored substance we so-called grownups can’t seem to get enough of, ‘Beer’ tips the glass of adulthood squarely upside down and sloshes it down the toilet. 

Another of U3wV’s tracks ‘B.O.Y.S.’ is so freaking splendid that I had to make this one a double feature. Surfacing on Rodney Bingenheimer’s ‘Rodney on the ROQ Vol II’ compilation, ‘B.O.Y.S.’ catalogs the qualities a young lad should possess to call himself Venus’s friend, and the track is every bit as sweet as it is swaggering. 

Earth Dies Burning – ‘Another 6 Year Old’ (circa 1982, released 2013, Captured Tracks)

Something gnarly was brewing in San Fernando Valley in 1981, and it wasn’t just rising intonation. A posse of synth-punk whippersnappers calling themselves Earth Dies Burning with an average age of 14 blasted onto the CA scene that year, brandishing tiny Casio VL-Tone keyboards instead of time-honored guitars, and—at one point—coffee cans instead of a drum kit.

Although the band lasted about three years, criminally no one ever saw fit to release any of their divine recordings until 2013, when Captured Tracks flung ‘Songs from the Valley of the Bored Teenager’ into our jaded faces.

Every track on this comp is superb, but the itchy, nasty squall of ‘Another 6 Year Old’ is the jewel in EDB’s pubescent crown. The track was inspired by the preposterous news story of 6-year-old Nancy Jo Burch who hit a classmate with a stick, prompting the victim’s parents to demand that Nancy Jo be tried in court as an adult for the offense. Ah, Florida…….

The Walking Abortions – ‘Four White Walls’ (Incognito, 1996)

So…time for your humble scribe to take the stage, I s’pose. The aforementioned Walking Abortions— my own gaggle of barely teenage wastelanders—is probably the main reason I feel I have any right at all to pen this sprawling appraisal of some of punk’s bastard children.

That’s teen Ed in the leather telepathically telling us to f*ck right off.

In the short time we were together, the WAs’ revolving cast of misfits managed to get on national TV, play shows we probably had no business playing with the likes of Sham 69, The Damned, and Minty, and ‘work’ at the London retail HQ of popular ’90s trainers/sneakers, Acupuncture (i.e. smoke lots of cigarettes and steal things).

Somewhere along the line, a small German record label saw fit to release our first record, the ‘Handy Pany Tony Tandy E.P.’, which provides the best snapshot of our angry, angst-ridden din. And as track 3, ‘Four White Walls’, was the first ‘proper’ song we ever wrote, it seems like the one to feature here.

This downbeat ditty was partly inspired by my nan’s near-constant kvetching at having to live out the last of her days in the poky London flat she and I shared at the time, paired with the sadness and uncertainty I felt at her decline into what I now know was serious dementia.

The lyrics that 12-year-old scrote penned back in 1992 still kind of haunt me, as they came from a haunted place, but ‘Walls’ is also very dear to my heart in spite of that. Anyway, here it is, kids:

And in case anyone is curious about the kind of filth the UK’s Channel 4 saw fit to put on the telly back in 1994: 

Ed Zed (formerly Ed Ache in his Walking Abortions days) is a musician (sort of) from London, now residing in NYC. He is one half of a fractured pop duo with his wife Varrick, until recently known as The Casual Sexists. They’re now called Strange Flesh and have an EP coming out in November 2022, with an album to follow in early 2023.

Both incarnations of the band are bloody marvelous, and can be enjoyed both here and here.