It took me a while to really get Cardiacs, but when I did I found myself listening to half a song from someone else before thinking ‘I’d rather be listening to Cardiacs’ – it actually became quite a problem. It’s weird, eccentric, unique, very British and they definitely stray into the realm of ‘progressive-punk’, but I stand by it. Cardiacs did their own thing for a long time. There’s some footage of them rehearsing ‘Jibber and Twitch’ and ‘As Cold as can be in an English Sea’ on YouTube and I swear it’s the best thing on the internet.
2. Operation Ivy
When 15 year old me heard that record I started a band (Ye Wiles) almost instantly. They were only a few years older than me when they recorded it and I thought it was the coolest thing that I could do something like that. 20 years later it has the same effect. I miss buying albums before the internet, looking for bands in the ‘thanks list’ on the sleeves of records I liked and hunting them down. Between my friends and I we must have had the complete Lookout back catalogue.
When my best mate played me ‘Real Life’ I thought it, punk, had all been done 25 years ago. It blew me away – I think Devoto had had enough of the Buzzcocks vibe after one EP in ’77. I was wrong, of course, we’ve had loads of great music, but the fact people were getting better at their instruments and moving on and, that it was OK to do so, gave me a lot of confidence to try new things myself. Although Magazine is quite dramatic – it didn’t produce in me the allergic reaction that Prog and Emo does, one that makes me reach for the off switch. Where’s the energy? Where’s the urgency?
4. Bad Brains
Oh yeah, energy and urgency. ‘Do I like this album I just bought?’ ‘No, ok – I’ll just play Rock for Light... again’. I was totally on board from day one of hearing Bad Brains, they are a band, that are so much more than the sum of their parts and more than, in my opinion, some dodgier later records. There’s not much to be said that hasn’t been said before, except perhaps that yes it was the superior 1982 version of ‘Rock for Light’...
Yes, Wire! ‘Pink Flag’ is a classic. There’s so much variation on that record, yet it all seems to marry up perfectly. I kind of thought it was ‘our thing’ with my mates in my home town, maybe too ‘art-y’ or whatever for some, but when I got through the Minor Threat record for the first time I never expected to hear ‘12XU’. I don’t know why I was so surprised now, but I was amazed at how varied the scene was, yet everyone was on the lookout for one another – everything is connected! I saw them recently, and they blew me away, they’ve got a recent track called ‘Harpooned’ which is easily as good as, or better than, their stuff from the early days. It makes me want to keep going too.
I once jumped in the van with Five Knuckle (a truly great band) when Ye Wiles were touring with them and ‘The Deadly Rhythm’ was playing on the stereo. I must have now bought ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’ four or five times, as I have a habit of losing things, and it’s one of those albums I get a craving to listen to from start to finish. I just loved the production of it, it was so far ahead of the curve.
I never really got massively into a lot of their peers in a way I know a lot of people do, but Minutemen to my mind were the best of that bunch. Never a hardcore band, or even close, but no-one questioned their punk credentials when they played alongside Black Flag or whoever. There’s such a creative do-it-yourself drive behind it all – ‘Double Nickels on the Dime’ in my opinion will never be surpassed!
8. The Jesus Lizard
I think Goat is a truly great record. To my mind, one of the finest bands ever. I never really considered technical ability to come close to creativity when it comes down to it, but these guys make me want to play better and harder every time I hear them. I think they’re labelled noise-rock or whatever, but their live shows were as punk as anything. If I could go back in time to two shows it’d be Operation Ivy and these guys.
Growing up in Tunbridge Wells, Joeyfat were the first real band I both saw live and knew personally. I think in a way the rock scene (especially then) was its own influence, a self perpetuating community – it’s quite difficult to ignore such an inclusive scene. If you put a little effort in, you got a lot more out. That aside, Joeyfat were and are a ground-breaking band, cutting their own rhythmic path. ‘The Unwilling Astronaut’ is never out of rotation for me. I still recognize how lucky I was to have these guys, and the Tunbridge Wells Forum, right on my doorstep.
I guess I was really surprised when I first saw a picture of the Pixies, I wasn’t expecting them to look like they did – a kind of normal group of misfits, no dressing up or posing or anything. I remember hearing ‘Tame’ when I was quite young and I didn’t understand it, it was too heavy or loud or whatever, but now it’s one of my all time favourite songs. Ned from Dissociates played me the video of them playing Brixton in ’91 recently and the credits roll to that tune with everyone jumping around in the chorus. It just made grin, it’s so cool. I like how they always separate aggression from heavy music, there’s no bravado, menace sure, but I don’t have to adopt an attitude to listen to it. ‘Surfer Rosa’ is, today at least, my favourite record of all time.