Author: Hope Silverman

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).

Listen on Soundcloud

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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.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #26 of 2022

I’m not sure what Pinterest is for but I kinda like it. It seems very quaint compared to the manic “look at me!” vibe that Instagram, TikTok, and others tend to showcase. Pinterest, with its collections of photos of basically everything in existence, is more of a porch swing sittin’, cold drink swiggin’, old lady scrapbookin’ kind of experience. Its pace is “old dog on a hot day” slow. A few months ago we wrote a big piece breaking down the entire Genesis discography (see here). I had wanted to include this wonderfully homoerotic pic I found on Pinterest of Genesis’s Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford wearing matching jackets, blue eyes, and beards and looking every inch like the late ’70s bear-boyfriends they were not in real life. Alas, I found it impossible to justify including in an essay meant to talk solely about Genesis albums and their contents. I mean, there was no godly reason to include it other than the fact I myself found it to be amusingly suggestive and weirdly hot. Hell, I still do, thus I am including it with today’s WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST because I can’t stand to see it go to waste any longer.

And with that, may I now offer you the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the absolute finest songs that have crossed our path over recent days. There is a lustrous, epic, and oddly ’90s feeling about this week’s bunch, and dammit, are they good. Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. Turn it on again…

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist #25 of 2022

I don’t have any weird anecdotes to offer with this week’s edition of the WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST. All I have is a bouquet of the most wistful, wondrous, dirty ‘n’ beautiful new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. I’m not being lazy I swear, I’m working on a new discographic breakdown and assembling it requires the full engagement of every one my small brain cells (p.s. it’s coming in late September!). In the meantime, please enjoy these fabulous tunes as well as this bonus pic of David B looking supa-hot as he floats serenely in Bangkok in 1983 (I care about you). You can listen to the playlist on Soundcloud or Spotify below. Let’s sway…

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How I Met John…

“Small Hours” by John Martyn is one of my favorite songs of all time. And hey, I love that Martyn guy too. But the road to finding him and maintaining my long-term fandom has been a weird and challenging one. I would like to invite you on over to the wondrous Bandcamp to read “Stealing, Feeling, Rolling, and Reeling: John Martyn’s “Small Hours” where I recount the tale of theft, noise, and heartbreak that led me to the ethereal majesty of John’s music. Roaches, mixtapes and rollerskates await you (that’ll make sense once you read it).

Check it out at the link below:

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #24 of 2022

“What does it sound like?” The year was 1997 and I wanted to know if the latest Björk album, Homogenic was any good. My inquiry was directed at a friend who was a big fan. To this day, his reply still makes me laugh: “Oh you know, it’s the usual, like pots and pans falling down the stairs with Björk singing over the top of it”. Perfect.

When it comes to Björk, I have only ever been a casual fan. I’ve seen live shows (both The Sugarcubes and solo) and own all of her solo studio albums (including Homogenic!). And I remember being particularly enamored with her soundtrack album from 2000, Selmasongs, and listening to it non-stop for months. Still, while there have been songs and albums I’ve genuinely loved along the way, I’ve never been a fanatic.

But man oh man, do I LOVE her new podcast. It is called Björk: Sonic Symbolism. Each episode is dedicated to a particular album in her discography (find it here). It is earnest, fascinating, and funny (she cuts down the male-dominated society of the Smurfs!). And if you are an introverted weirdo like me, you will find it shockingly relatable. Yes, there are all sorts of poignant Björk-ian anecdotes—like how during her daily 40-minute walk to school as a child, she used to sing to herself to keep calm as she trudged through extreme and scary Icelandic weather conditions. And she describes how the cover of the album Post was meant to represent an innocent girl being overwhelmed by the colors, lights, and intensity of the city (which inspired me to really look at the cover properly for the first time, crazy but true). But honestly, the most amazing thing about the podcast is how often she references her introversion and the challenge of operating as an introvert in a world that favors and overrates extroverts (sidebar: she also mentions being a Scorpio, so shout out to all my fellow Scorps). As of this writing, there are only three episodes posted so she has at least another six to go and yeah, I think you should go spend some time with Björk because life is hard, and hearing a fellow weirdo talk about making art and “being different” so effusively will absolutely make you feel better.

It is now time for the WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path this week. They are all oh so wonderful. Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. And hey, there’s another little treat following the playlists so keep scrolling!

We live on a mountain…

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Bonus beats!

PuR pal Ed Zed of the band Strange Flesh (formerly known as The Casual Sexists) wrote us a thunderous review of the equally thunderous new album by Anzahlung, What You Think Is All You’ve Got. Sock it to us hero Ed…

“ANZAHLUNG!” What a delightfully stentorian way to bark what translates into plummy old English as “deposit”. And by jingo, dearest reader, Anzahlung are about to firmly deposit their dazzling brand of warped electronic anti-pop into your unexpecting earholes this very day.
The duo, an offshoot of the almighty Cravats comprised of chief yelper The Shend and multipronged muso Joe 91, is a project originally manifested during the dark days of 2020’s lockdown, now back with a glorious second album, which just might be their best.
(Before we go any further if any of you are unfamiliar with The Cravats, have a go on my earlier PuR pieces about them here and here, and by god, I envy you getting to hear this band for the first time).

What You Think Is All You’ve Got—a title that really resonates with me, albeit uneasily—kicks off with the sonically Suicide-esque “Pet”, which explores the equally uneasy concept of ownership of another living entity. 

From here, Anzahlung really goes into overdrive, fusing clangingly deconstructed techno and bass music stylings with The Shend’s scything social commentary, delivered in playfully mocking singsong tones on “Boneless Man”, before giving way to sky-clawing, borderline showtune acrobatics for the parping “Too Famous”.

“Can Be Happy”, “Ghost” and “Have You Any Ha Ha Ha” provide a cordially punishing industrial interlude before we arrive at one of the brightest jewels in Anzahlung’s crown: a smoldering synthpop ballad which speaks so delicately of the horror and absurdity of war, I confess that I haven’t made it dry-eyed through one single exposure to this exquisite song. 
Conjuring the blind fear of a WWII pilot on a mission that makes little sense, “Junkers” is a poignant, harrowing and beautiful epistle to one forced into the maelstrom, and I’m not going to lie, it’s probably my favorite track on the album.

As well as poignant synthpop ballads, however, I also have a passion for deeply unwell club music, and the cuckoo “Fan Out” spews the perfect amount of unholy muck onto the dancefloor before “Can’t Take It With You” injects a dose of staccato electro-glam into the proceedings.
Next, the wonderful “Cliff”, pulsing with anthropomorphic angst, ferries us into the uncomfortable waters of the album’s title track, and one of its very best. 

“What You Think is All You’ve Got” begins with the always great combination of drums, vocals, and a few unidentifiable dissonant noises before waging its fractured assault on the jivin’ arena, all paranoia and horror movie bass frequencies, before it culminates in a final strangled yawp.
Rounding out the affair is the apocalyptic funk freakout of “You Won’t Come Back” and bonkers “Don’t Open The Door”, which simultaneously recalls The Cravats’ absurdist album closer “All U Bish Dumpers” fused with Sun Ra’s “Strange Strings”.

Anzahlung’s barnstorming new opus proves that while many elder statespeople of punk are content to retread old boards, the best ones are far happier continuing to pogo on those boards until they splinter to matchwood, precipitating a daredevil plunge into new and exotic netherworlds below. And as a lifelong devotee of the stuff, to me, that’s what punk was always supposed to do, innit?

Anzahlung’s ‘What You Think Is All You’ve Got’ is available at Bandcamp (here), both digitally and as a very limited vinyl LP, which you should purchase as a Christmas present for absolutely everyone you know, before Santa and his wicked elves distribute them to far less deserving parties.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #23 of 2022

This is weird but I want to “advertise ” the piece posted just before this latest edition of WEEKLY NEW WONDERS I’m about to serve up, aka our round-up of the best new songs from recent days which are seriously exquisite but hold that thought!

A few months ago, PuR reader-friend Tim asked if he could write a piece for the blog about how influential a particular book had been in his burgeoning musical nerdom as a child. When he told me it was The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, I couldn’t f*cking believe it for this book had been a foundational piece in my childhood as well. 

I get how Where The Wild Things Are, Harry Potter or The Baby-sitters Club books were seminal for millions of normal kids, inspiring their love of reading, dreaming and all that. But for me, no book was as glamorous or spoke to me as profoundly as The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock. It was home to a full-page picture of sweaty Jimmy Page coming offstage that I was both fascinated with and completely disgusted by. It featured hundreds of entries about bands I had never heard of like “Fairport Convention” (who?) and “Slade”(again, who?), and depicted album covers I’d never seen. Plus there were all sorts of sordid anecdotes about musicians OD-ing and jumping in front of trains. As a child who kept a scrapbook of obituaries for “fun”, I found these grim factoids to be especially intoxicating (I was a real Wednesday Addams). I used to sit for hours in my walk-in closet reading and re-reading this book, making lists of bands I wanted to seek out at the record store while gawping at, and occasionally being scared by the weird pictures (true).

And so after you listen to these brilliant new songs, please read Tim’s fabulous piece below. Or hell, why not multi-task and listen to the WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST while you read Tim’s piece and immerse yourself in a full-on musical haze. Rock on…

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify

The Greatest Book Ever Written…

There was once a book, a magical, mystical book. It was called The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock. It had a life-altering effect on two children growing up on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, kickstarting their musical passion and turning them into nerds forever. The curious kids were PuR friend Tim Procter and myself. Tim wanted to write a piece paying tribute to this mad book that has been so foundational for both of us, a truly absurd coincidence that still blows my freakin’ mind. Come now and meet the greatest book ever written. Take it away Tim…

We’ve done our best

-from the introduction of The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock

I have a theory. That at some crucial point in every music nerd’s life, something came along that nudged them from loving music into needing to devote significant chunks of their brains to it, and not just the sounds but all the contextual gubbins that enrich and enhance the noises coming out of the speakers; you know this or you wouldn’t be on this site. And I don’t mean establishing some canon or Weight of Rock History; just knowing some stuff can make the sound of the most obscure West Coast ‘80s soft rocker or grubby one-album Mancunian indie band that much more real to you, if your brain is wired that way and the right object fell into your lap at the right time. Chances are if you’re a music obsessive of the ‘70s or ‘80s, this key thing was a book. Some codex that opened up the world of discographies, biographies, release dates, and suitably amazing facts. There are some big hitters alright—The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees. The lush Album Cover Albums that Hipgnosis put out must have fused music and art obsessions in many impressionable minds. And here’s mine, dear readers—introducing 1977’s The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock. Not just The Encyclopedia of Rock. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, if you please.

Page one of ye olde encyclopedia, starring The King.

Because of my own reverence for the book, I’d assumed it was regarded as something of a classic in music nerd circles, but it appears not. The Pink Floyd Archives with its comprehensive survey of all print things Floydian, skims over it—“Includes an entry on Pink Floyd.” They’re on the cover! The Dark Side of the Moon prism is on the inner cover! The authors even claim that the absolute slog of Ummagumma is “of interest”!! The book is readily available on second-hand sites and rarely cited, unlike a lot of other reference works of the time.

It was written by two NME journalists, Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden; parts of it appeared in NME and the first edition was published by Harmony Books in 1976 but the widely available version, in the UK at least, was published in July 1977 by Salamander Books. Ah, Salamander Books, purveyors of many “encyclopedias” of coffee table size and glossy production value that would never see an actual coffee table but would see the floor of a teenage boy’s bedroom – combat aircraft, trains, tanks, Salamander had encyclopedias for them all.

Publishers Salamander Books were all over the boy-dreamer market.

The IEoR (as I’ll now call it as endlessly typing The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock is a faff) wasn’t the first rock encyclopedia; Lilian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopedia came out in ’69, and the 3-volume Encyclopedia of Rock by Phil Hardy and Dave Laing just beat it out in 1976 (now that one was an attempt at a canonical Weight of Rock History – I kind of hope it was sold in sets door to door along with Britannica…). But I would contend that The IEoR was the first one to be affordable and accessible to the teenage market.

In the summer of 1980, I was about 10, nearing 11. Music already had deep hooks in me. Only Doctor Who approached the sacredness of Top of the Pops and Radio 1’s Sunday Top 40 countdown. Blondie, Abba, Madness, Kate Bush; my parents’ battered copy of The Beatles 1962-1966 (aka The Red Album, as every schoolkid knows). Adam & The Ants, Ultravox, and Kim Wilde were about to happen. Dragged round to a friend of my dad’s house one afternoon, I volunteered to tidy up their son’s records. He’d recently left home and left an unruly heap of vinyl and mostly inner sleeves spilling out of the cabinet under their music centre, and his dad was complaining about not being able to find his favourite brass band record. I saw a chance to get away from having to help plan cricket matches. Amidst the battered bargain Jethro Tull and ELP compilations I found a book. “An encyclopedia, like we have at school? Booooori… wait, it’s about music? Wow, Abba are in it. Are Madness in it? No, well, that’s useless then. Wait, it’s got, like a gazillion pages on The Beatles and a cool picture of them coming out of an airliner!” “I’m borrowing this, is that alright?” I never got an answer, cricket team selection was in full swing. I put it in my bag.

Messrs Logan and Woffinden make a pretty lofty claim for their book, as well they might—“the most complete one-volume rock encyclopedia there’s ever been.” They may be right. They actually asked record labels to stop releasing records for nine months (seriously!!) to allow the 1977 version to be definitive. Imagine the author of another Salamander cracker, Airliners: The Flagships of the Jet Age asking the same—“Dear Boeing, can you, like, stop making planes for nine months, so my book, can be, you know, definitive? Please?” They were definitely right to call it “Illustrated”. Forgive the 1970s printing and repro quality a bit, and it still looks lush. Hundreds of album covers were photographed specially for it, there’s press and publicity shots, Abbey Road blown up to nearly a double-page spread, a winsome Joni Mitchell is given half a page, there’s a mad tinted pic of Jerry Garcia in full-bearded flow, a gem of a pic of The Faces all boozed up looking like they’re having the best time on the ale, and a (deliberately I suspect) low-quality black and white shot of tragic British blues pioneer Graham Bond that makes him look truly deranged.

Meet the entry on Graham Bond. Terrifying kids since 1977™

Awesome, majestic Moody Blues spookfest “Nights in White Satin” had enjoyed yet another long chart run just before I got The IEoR. It really haunted me, that tune. So I looked up The Moody Blues in my newly-purloined volume: “…following [of] semi-Messianic proportions”? What? They’re like Jesus?! Oh, hang on, “became obsessed with their own importance,… ever more burdened with clichéd cosmic messages”? No thanks, I’m nearly 11 and The Police are at Number 1. (But thanks to the discography I knew that This Is The Moody Blues was a double comp that covered all their late ‘60s/early ‘70s stuff in one neat package. I found it recently for a couple of quid in a charity shop, tatty as hell, and what do you know, there’s a scratch across “Nights in White Satin”. That’s cosmic justice at work. But other haunting, beautiful tracks like “New Horizons” and “Melancholy Man” play just fine.) Playground consensus in 1980 (well, me and the two friends who would talk about music) was that Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” was shit. Weird, grating and the dressing up in the video was creepy, not fun like Madness or dashing like Adam Ant. I suspect I secretly liked it though, because I looked Mr. Gabriel up in The IEoR—wait, what? He was in Genesis?? Genesis who’ve just had that cool “Turn It On Again”, made even cooler by Top of the Pops putting swooshy effects on Phil Collins’ Hawaiian shirt??? Phil Collins took over from Gabriel on vocals??? And played drums on his albums??? Wooaah, OK. Maybe there’s something to this Gabriel bloke after all.

The actual, ailing LP that stayed alive long enough for Tim to rescue it in 2022.

Yes, The IEoR is dated in its writing style. But – and looking back, this is dead important – it’s a hell of a broad church of a book for one that professes to focus on rock. Yes, the entries for Led Zep and Floyd are immense and fawning (“Jimmy Page, axe king of heavy metal, gentleman land-owner…”), especially as in ’77 the latter were redundant. Logan and Woffinden like their British guitar rock. But as noted, Abba are in there. ELO. Hot Chocolate (honestly! And it’s a really positive entry). Their weaker points are not surprisingly, pop and disco—wherefore art thou Rose Royce, Thelma Houston, and other big mid-‘70s disco players? But LaBelle are in, with a truly bonkers picture to boot.

Here’s LaBelle absolutely owning their pages in The IEoR. Apologies to Jug Band for their unfortunate placement in this scenario.

It’s a lot more diverse than you’d expect from two white male NME writers in 1977. And yes, they embrace punk although they clearly prefer the term “New Wave”. The Pistols (who hadn’t released an album by their deadline), The Clash, Ramones, New York Dolls, Stranglers, Eddie & The Hot Rods all get good write-ups. There’s the odd occasion where they catch themselves putting someone in who they admire and find a really stretched rock connection to justify it, like their words on Dolly Parton’s New Harvest…First Gathering; “Dolly’s most rock-oriented effort yet was indicated as much by the denim clothes…” In the late 1970s, it wasn’t so acceptable for rock blokes to like Dolly Parton’s music. The book is also refreshingly free of ‘70s sexism (mostly – they point out Joni Mitchell was photographed nude for, For the Roses and “like everything Joni does, it was very tasteful.” Did I check my local library for a copy of For the Roses? Yes. They didn’t have it.). They champion some quite unexpected female artists: the aforementioned Dolly; arty, cerebral Dory Previn; and Laura Nyro who is likened to the poet Rimbaud. I had no idea who either were, I tried a Laura Nyro record and did not get it one iota at age 11… And while entries are mostly praising or at least neutral, when they do let their prejudices slip, it produces some hilarious hyperbole: “…as good an example as any with which to approach the theory of the vacuum effect in rock” (Queen), or “… [her] tiresome public persona was embarrassing even her die-hard fans (Patti Smith – ouch!)

Pages from the lushest of all Rock reference books ever.

In all honesty, though, the majority of music in The IEoR passed me by. It landed on me too early to make me a collector, and I didn’t have the pocket money, cool friends, or older siblings through which to access the old stuff they were waxing lyrical about. As the constant newness of early ‘80s pop bombarded me, reading about the old stuff faded. Then heavy metal got me and I scorned The IEoR. Not including Motorhead, I could just about forgive as they had one patchy underground album to their name in ’77, but omitting Judas Priest was heresy, blasphemy, and tons of other “ys”. Priest kick-started modern metal with 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny and 1977’s Sin After Sin. Both are awesome. The latter was on CBS. WHY are they not in, my proto-outraged metalhead self ranted. The IEoR became more shelf-bound and was left behind when I went to university…Logan and Woffinden were not metal fans. Kiss were dismissed as “recycled heavy metal grunge decked out in comic book trappings” when grunge was not a good thing to be. There you go, lexicon devils, the use of ‘grunge’ in 1977!

But The IEoR had lodged something in my brain. For a start, it taught me, however subconsciously, that music was a massively broad church with lots to be enjoyed all over the shop. It probably saved me from getting too tribal over genres I got obsessed with in my teens and early ‘20s, like metal or US underground noise rock. The interesting stuff I’d read about in IEoR had become embedded in my memory banks and would often surface when crate digging or charity shop trawling – a Sensational Alex Harvey Band album here, a Four Tops comp there. It taught me the joy of a good music reference book, and no other encyclopedia quite lived up to it. 1983’s International Encyclopedia of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal was a pale shadow, barely illustrated and often too dismissive.

The entry in this book for Metallica simply reads “Motorhead clones.” Um, yeah, okay.

Then there was The Rough Guide to Rock which was not only lacking on the illustration and discography front but whose 2003 edition was littered with sloppy mistakes. I mean, The Minutemen were fronted by Daniel Boone? Seriously?

Daniel Boone and D. Boon of punk-hardcore legends, Minutemen. Not the same person.

The internet and Wikipedia may now supply all the music reference material you can consume in a dozen lifetimes, but give me the enthusiasm of a pre-‘net music encyclopedia over Wikipedia any day. And on the net, although rabbit holes beckon, you still have to decide your start point, and what your first search term is. With an encyclopedia, there’s the genuinely random nature of letting it fall open and going “ooh, I’ll try that.” Valentinian Chance, I believe. It’s how the Grateful Dead found their name—in an encyclopedia.

A toast to the Greatest Book Ever Written…

The IEoR went through a couple more editions in the late ‘70s, expanded and with new hipper artists like The Police on the cover, but it sadly didn’t stick as a constantly updated institution like the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. A shame, but the vagaries of pre-digital publishing and the sheer effort involved surely meant it was unsustainable, and it could never be as definitive as its authors desired. To net-nerds it’ll be a curio, but a curio well worth seeking out, if only to understand how we pre-digital nerds hungrily consumed music facts. So Tony Jackson, I still have your copy of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock. I’d like to borrow it a little longer…

Editors postscript!: This crazy old book is easy to find on the cheap on your eBay’s, Amazon’s and such. It’s probably not going to change your life at this stage of humanity but it makes a sweet and, yes, lush addition to any music book library. IEoR forever!