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Soundtrax: Old Fashioned Punk-Rock

Soundtrax: Old Fashioned Punk-Rock by OurStage on Grooveshark

There’s nothing like a little old fashioned punk-rock to really get the blood flowing, am I right? It inspires raw emotion, feelings of pure chaos and undeniable passion. It harkens to the days when CBGB’s was an iconic rock club and not a high-end retailer. When the Chelsea Hotel housed artists of all kinds from Bob Dylan to Charles Bukowski, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and of course Sid Vicious.

I’ll tell you one thing. The Buzzcocks got it right when they sang “And although this may sound strange, my future and my past are presently disarranged” (a song coincidentally is on this playlist). Because right now, we’re taking you back to the ’70s, with a little dose of the ’80s, and present day for good measure. Rock on.

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WU LYF And Marketing A Band The Hip(ster) Way

Aspiring indie musicians, take note. If there was ever a sign that the Internet was integral to pushing your band, to promoting yourself and your music online, look no further then WU LYF to see a shining example of how it can be done. You see, WU LYF isn’t just a band, they’re a “brand”. And they’ve marketed their brand very, very well. How did they do it? “And how good can they really be,” you might ask, “since I have never heard of them?” It’s that unknown quantity, that mystery, that is integral to their success so far.

WU LYF, or World Unite! Lucifer Youth Foundation, are a British indie/experimental rock group who describe themselves as a “heavy pop” band with a quasi-radical/anarchistic aesthetic. That’s about as much as we can gather from our detective work. But, it’s that mystery, that mistique that is what brings the band their most attention. They’ve been around since at least 2010, letting songs trickle out every couple of months. With a historical aversion to shows and the rock press, the band notably “didn’t really do” live performances up until this year as they tour around the UK in support of their debut record Go Tell Fire To The Mountain which came out in mid-June to pretty positive reviews.

So what’s so special about a bunch of young hipsters that know their way around photoshop, have destructive youthful idealism and an anti-social attitude? All of that, actually, and they’re marketed well. Their manager, previously known only as “war god” was eventually revealed to be Warren Bramley, founder and manager of ad agency four23. The agency is known for unique, artistically-inclined campaigns for high profile clients like Oakley, Reebok and Virgin, as well as projects involving “[creating] visual identites”. Creepy. But they must be good at their job. Despite only maintaining a web presence and offering only one piece of merch—a £50 copy of their demo recordings—the group had already racked up write ups in major publications like The Guardian and NME. In fact, the most notable thing about the group, up until their record came out, was the fact that they get so much press coverage. It’s all very ironic, reflexive and meta and people have gobbled it up.

Band marketing has had a long, rich history in rock and roll. Though the purist rock fan will always cry foul over the manufactured and the ingenuine, image has always been a major factor in one’s appeal, “real” or not. In fact, the way many famous acts in rock and roll have gotten their starts as less than organic creations. Rock group Supertramp was originally assembled by the acquaintance/patron of a Dutch millionaire benefactor and The Monkees were assembled for the TV program of the same name in the 1960s. But a better example of a group with such a meticulously constructed image comes from the punk era late ’70s.

The Sex Pistols are regarded today as one of the most important punk bands in the history of rock music. However, the band didn’t truly get their start as a group until they came under the wing of local business owner Malcolm McLaren. The proprietor of local clothing shop SEX, McLaren had some experience in the punk scene already, having previously met the New York Dolls. So the group, soon after meeting McLaren, added another member to their ranks: Johnny Lydon. The man who would soon front the band and be rechristened Johnny Rotten was picked not because of his musical ability. Lydon first came to the attention of McLaren when he was spotted walking in Manchester sporting green hair and wearing a Pink Floyd shirt—a shirt which had the words “I Hate” added to the top and featured a face on the from which had the eyes crossed out. Another future member added to the band, John Simon Richie aka Sid Vicious, was also recruited due to his look and punk presence. McLaren himself later stated that had he met Vicious before Johnny Rotten, it would be Vicious fronting the band.

So let’s look at the similarities. The Sex Pistols were a London, UK-based rock group, which began as an underground sensation with a heavy following in the art/avant-garde community, and were groomed by a close business associate into becoming a group that everyone talked about and proved to be one of the most enduring acts of their era thanks in large part to their image and approach to being a band. WU LYF is a Manchester-based rock group made up of an enigmatic set of members which started out as an underground (as underground as a blog following can be these days) with a heavy following in the art/avant-grade community, which have been groomed by a close business associate, and have thus far generated a lot of buzz. Am I saying that WU LYF is the next Sex Pistols? Absolutely not. But they have as good a shot as any other act out these days.

Many groups espouse this kind of self-promotion these days; keep your online fan base satisfied but guessing with your output, maintain an intentionally mysterious and unknowable image and let the press promote you themselves with think pieces on what your group “really means” in terms of the big picture. Now, does this hype correspond to record sales? Well, not exactly. The band’s debut cracked the Top 100 in their first week’s sales – in the UK, mind you – and that’s been about it. They’re just starting out in their careers.

In terms of making a name for yourself, the old approach of tirelessly working and putting yourself out across as many types of social media still reaps the biggest rewards. But at least to generate buzz among a certain audience, WU LYF is doing a pretty good job of it.

Living With Lineup Changes

With Shia LeBouf, explosions, robots and more explosions, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is guaranteed to be a huge summer blockbuster. But even though we’re pumped for the latest installment in the Transformers franchise—and believe us, we are—we’re almost more intrigued by the soundtrack, which features the first single from Paramore since Josh and Zac Farro left the group in December.

For those who have forgotten (or never cared in the first place), the Farro brothers quit Paramore amid a swirl of controversy at the end of 2010, calling the band a sham, and frontwoman Hayley Williams “a manufactured product of a major label.” (You can read their full statement on Josh’s blog.) It might seem tough to recover from the kind of bad publicity the Farros saddled the band with, but their new single “Monster” sounds just as raw and Paramore-esque as any of their material when the brothers were still members, and Williams just told BBC Radio 1 that they plan to release a new album in early 2012.

Of course, Paramore are far from the first band to make a triumphant return after a rocky lineup change. Remember a little album called Back in Black? AC/DC made what is to this day the second highest-selling album of all time, and they did it after the untimely death of frontman Bon Scott. Can you even imagine a world without “Hells Bells” or “You Shook Me All Night Long”? Scott may have appeared on six AC/DC releases before Back in Black, but his replacement Brian Johnson helped create what is arguably the most iconic record from the Australian rockers. And they’re not the only classic band that’s had to survive personnel messes— Guns and Roses have had an almost constantly rotating lineup since 1985, and Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd have had more than 20 different lineups since 1964. Courtney Love is no stranger to change; since 1989 she’s remained the only consistent staple of Hole while drummers and bassists have come and gone. Even longtime lead guitarist Eric Erlandson, who was with the group for their first 10 years, declined to be a part of their 2009 reunion and actually tried to keep Love from using the Hole name.

Sometimes bands can do more than just survive a lineup change, using a bit of new blood to actually improve. Take Sid Vicious—the infamous bassist’s name is synonymous with the Sex Pistols despite the fact that he wasn’t even one of the original members of the band. Of course, there are times when a change in the lineup can bring… well, let’s just say “mixed results.” Frontman Michael Hutchence of the Australian rock group INXS died in 1997, and in 2005 his band embarked on a search for a new lead singer on the TV show Rock Star: INXS. But despite the program’s popularity both of the albums recorded with new singer J.D. Fortune earned reviews that were mediocre at best, and many INXS fans thought the show dishonored Hutchence’s memory. (Two Australian radio hosts called the program “broadband urination on Michael Hutchence’s grave.” Ouch.)

And then there are the occasions when a member’s loss is just too great for the group to overcome. Led Zepellin decided to disband in 1980 following the death of legendary drummer John Bonham, despite a surge of  rumors that the rockers were replacing him. In a statement, the group said, “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” Nirvana made the same decision after Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994. While former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl has proven to be an outstanding vocalist for the Foo Fighters, replacing a singer who has been hailed as the voice of a generation would have been a tall order.

But it seems like more and more often, bands will lose a member or two and decide to forge ahead. Florida-based punks Against Me! are selling out shows along their current summer tour, even though their lineup looks nothing like the one that started putting out cassette demos in ’97. Several longtime members of Taking Back Sunday have parted ways with the band over the years, yet their self-titled album—out June 28—is one of the most highly anticipated rock releases of the year. In fact, bands like U2, Radiohead or Green Day that have had a consistent lineup through their career are the exception rather than the rule these days. But judging from the work some of these bands have done after weathering massive lineup changes, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Punk On The Rocks: Glen Matlock & The Philistines “Born Running”

While Sid Vicious may have been the most famous bass player for the Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock was undoubtedly the most talented. Glen is credited by his bandmates as having written most of the music for the bands songs, and is listed as a co-writer on ten out of the twelve songs on Nevermind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, including three of the Pistols biggest hits, “Anarchy In The U.K.,” “God Save The Queen” and “Pretty Vacant.” After leaving the Pistols in early 1977, Matlock continued his musical career, forming new wave band The Rich Kids and playing bass for Iggy Pop, The Damned and, most recently, The Faces.

Rebel, Rebel: Glen Matlock

Matlock’s rock/pop sensibilities are on full display on Born Running, his third record with his band The Philistines. If your looking for a rehashing of “Anarchy In The U.K.,” you’ll be best served sticking to the Pistols back catalog. If, however, you’re into straight ahead rock with catchy melodies and a great guitar sound, give Born Running a spin.

First, it should be noted that Matlock plays nearly every instrument that appears on the album. Born Running’s credits list him as “…Lead vocals, guitars, bass, bass, keyboards, percussion and B.V’s [background vocals].”

All of Born Running‘s twelve tracks are pure rock, but the influences vary. Standout “Something Tells Me” has an almost gospel feel, with layers of strong, harmonizing background vocals while the intro to “Rock Chick” sounds like it could have been lifted off of a vintage Scorpions track. Always a sucker for a sing-a-long, I couldn’t help but dig the bah-bah-bahs and oh-ohs of “Way To Go.”

On the lyrics front, Born Running may leave a little something to be desired (Do we really need another song that rhymes “insane” with “brain”?), but hey, it’s only rock and roll, and I like it.

Born Running is out now on Montreal’s Stomp Records. You can buy Born Running on iTunes here.

Punk On The Rocks: Top Five Most Controversial Punks

As our American readers know, July 4th is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate American Independence than by celebrating  that most lauded of American freedoms — freedom of speech. In keeping with this spirit, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 most controversial punks. While not all of the following punks are American, they are all believers in expressing themselves, no matter what controversy ensues.

Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood – This design duo was largely responsible for the ’70s punk look, creating many of the outfits worn by the Sex Pistols, who McLaren managed. Their store Sex (later called “Seditionaries”) on London’s King’s Road came under fire from the public and the law for selling S&M inspired clothing and inflammatory designs featuring defamed images of the Queen as well as Nazi imagery. Westwood was prosecuted and convicted for selling the now infamous t-shirt depicting two cowboys with exposed penises at the store. McLaren raised eyebrows and ire when he took up management duties for the New York Dolls and dressed them in red leather outfits, performing in front of a hammer & sickle backdrop. After McLaren’s death of cancer earlier in the year, his family asked that he be remembered not with a moment of silence, but a “moment of mayhem.”

Wendy O. Williams – As lead singer of the Plasmatics, Wendy O. Williams known for her stage presence, her Mohawk, and her propensity to wear as little clothing as the law allowed (sometimes less). Her performance resulted in two arrests for simulating sex onstage and even caused one venue to be raided by the local vice squad. In addition to sex, Wendy and the rest of the band were also into violence —smashing televisions, amplifiers and automobiles live on stage. Sadly, Williams died of a self inflicted gunshot wound in 1998.

Fat Mike – While his Rock Against Bush records may have ruffled some red state feathers, Fat Mike’s real claim to controversy fame is what will go down in history as the “Cokie the Clown” incident. In support of NOFX’s Cokie the Clown EP, Fat Mike played a solo show at Emo’s in Austin, TX during SXSW 2010. In character as the titular clown, Fat Mike played some acoustic songs, told incredibly disturbing stories about his past, and handed out shots of Patron to the audience. The show closed with Fat Mike showing a video of himself urinating into the bottle of Patron he had served earlier. Emo’s reacted by banning Fat Mike from the venue and the video of the performance went viral. Fat Wreck Chords later posted another video revealing that no urine was actually served to anyone.

Jello Biafra – The original Dead Kennedys frontman is a provocateur extraordinaire. His controversy rap sheet includes controversial songs “Too Drunk To Fuck” and “California Uber Alles,” PMRC-instigated obscenity charges stemming from inclusion of copies of the H.R. Giger poster Penis Landscape in the 1985 Dead Kennedys album Frankenchrist and 1979 San Francisco mayoral campaign. It’s not just the Tipper Gore crowd who finds Jello polarizing—Biafra is a controversial figure on the punk scene as well. In 2000, he was found liable for fraud and malice as a result of his former Dead Kennedy bandmates suing him for nonpayment of royalties and in 1994, he was attacked and beaten while visiting the all-ages, non profit music club 924 Gilman.

The Sex Pistols – While we now look upon the Sex Pistols as one of the most influential bands of punk and rock in general, in 1977, they were looked upon less as rock royalty and more as “Public Enemy No. 1.” For most bands, harassing audiences, trashing record label offices and upstaging the Queen of England during her Silver Jubilee celebration would be enough. Not the Pistols. Their notorious appearance cursing up a storm on Thames Television’s Today show caused an uproar throughout the UK, landing the band on the front page of nearly every paper and caused many of their “Anarchy In The UK” tour dates to be canceled by the local authorities. The band was so controversial that the US government almost didn’t let them into the country for the catastrophe that was their one and only US tour.

Who did we miss? Let us know in the comments!

FINE TUNINGS: CATCHING UP WITH KELLY OGDEN OF THE DOLLYROTS

OSBlog02_FineTunings_TheDollyrotsBassist and singer Kelly Ogden, lead guitarist Luis Cabezas and drummer Chris Black comprise the Dollyrots, a punk band with “CDs that are very pop,” as Kelly explains. Although Kelly and Luis have played music together since their college days and were even friends in high school back in Tampa, Florida, the band went through some early growing pains and name changes before becoming the Dollyrots. The trio’s most recent CD, Because I’m Awesome, was released in 2006 and has the power of iconic rocker Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records label behind it.

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Kelly is a natural musician. “I took five lessons and then figured I’d learn tab and go from there,” she says, adding that joining a band and rehearsing constantly was the turning point that took her playing skills to the next level. “I found it way more satisfying and challenging to play as part of a group. And I’d really like to learn banjo sometime,” she reveals, “so I can play ‘Rainbow Connection.’ And maybe the fiddle. I love Irish music.”

Among her inspirations are mentor Joan Jett, along with Kathleen Hanna, Ronnie Spector, Madonna, Neil Young, The Ramones and folk artist Melanie Safka. “I really look up to people who know who they are and go for what they want in life,” Kelly says. “I’m most proud when I get an e-mail or MySpace message from someone that tells me the Dollyrots inspired them to start a band. That’s the best part about all of this.”

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Luis Cabezas – a self-taught guitarist who would have gone to medical school if he hadn’t gotten sidetracked by music – took piano lessons as a kid, but ultimately decided that ear-training was going to get him further on guitar much faster. “My teachers ended up being a mix of Kurt Cobain, Brian Setzer and Johny Ramone,” he says.

Drummer Chris Black joined The Dollyrots after he discovered that he enjoyed being on tour with Kelly and Luis (he was drumming for another band. ) Chris is a perfect fit in temperament and talent. And according to Kelly, Chris recently got engaged. (Congratulations!)

Although it has been three long years between albums, the Dollyrots next one promises to please their hard-core legion of fans. “Overall, it’s tongue in cheek,” Kelly says. “The songs are normal Dollyrots songs.” But they have taken on a couple of new partners this time around, songwriting with Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo) and Tina Parole.

Twenty-two songs have been recorded so far. After they complete two more, the band will pare the choices down to the 12 final tracks they ultimately like best. The plan is to release the long-awaited third Dollyrots album in the spring around SXSW.

Despite the long lag-time between releases and the break from non-stop touring, the Dollyrots are still crazy busy. On November 9th, they will tape an appearance on The Price is Right. Kelly is not allowed to reveal details yet, but was surprised to be recognized by Drew Carey, apparently a huge Dollyrots fan. “He’s been playing us on his radio show on Little Steven’s Underground,” she confides. If you’d like to be in the audience for the Dollyrots Price is Right appearance and happen to be in the LA area, the taping will be at 12:20 PM. The episode isn’t scheduled to air until January, but the Dollyrots are already planning to release a 7 inch digital single to coincide with the air date.

dollyrots3You can also catch Kelly’s side project, a full-on costumed tribute to the SexPistols called God Save the Sex Pistols. Kelly plays the ill-fated Nancy Spungeon. “There used to be another Nancy but she went the way of the real Nancy Spungeon,” Kelly jokes. Although Nancy Spungeon was a famous crazy girlfriend and never actually in the Sex Pistols, Kelly brings the iconic and tragic punk rock figure back to life temporarily. “I play bass so Sid can sing ‘My Way.’ After the song, Sid and I kill each other onstage,” she reveals. “But we come back to life.” If you are in the LA area, you can catch a perfectly-timed Halloween appearance of God Save the Sex Pistols at Cozy’s in Sherman Oaks, California on October 31st.

And if you just can’t wait until spring to hear new Dollyrots material, they have a gig on October 29th at the Roxy in Hollywood. Check it out.

 


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