‘Saturday Night Pogo’ (11/02/78)

pogo

“This is not a wine for drinking,” says a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, halfway through a supposed review of Australian vintages. “Rather, it is a wine best suited to hand-to-hand combat…” Something similar might be said of almost every punk or New Wave anthology, be it the British Streets, The Akron Compilation, Live at CBGB’s, or even that extraordinary aural documentary of the birth of the English punk scene, The Roxy London WC 2. They’re not really for listening. Rather, they are graveyards for groups that lacked the spirit and the material to outlast a first burst of individual or trendy enthusiasm, demo tapes in search of a label, or historical artifacts of interest to collectors or the curious. On the turntable, every highlight is likely to be wiped out by three minutes of false cretinism, under which (to paraphrase the old saw about Hollywood) you often find the real cretinism.

Still, the failure of imagination on Saturday Night Pogo verges on the staggering. Unlike Pere Ubu from Cleveland or Devo from Akron (whose new LP on Warner Bros. is one of the most exciting debuts in years), the Winos, the Berlin Brats, Vom, the Dils, Backstage Pass, the Dogs, Chainsaw, the Low Numbers and most of the rest seem unable or unwilling to make connections to anything real or surprising in the milieu, pop or social, of which they’re presumably a part. There’s little commitment, and no chance taking, in the fourteen cuts here. There’s little humor that isn’t forced. Worst of all, there are no hooks. That’s not because Saturday Night Pogo represents antipop music, but because it represents failed pop music. It’s the sound of confusion. Confronted with a whole new set of poses, these punk rockers ask the great question of the imitation New Wave: What are we supposed to do? Not the rock & roll question, which is: What do we want to do?pogobackInfluences are varied: mid-Sixties California punk in the vein of the Seeds and the Syndicate of Sound; Anglicisms in the manner of the atrocious Sparks; lots of Ramones-style wham-bam-thank-you m’am. The Young Republicans even come through with a doo-wop parody. Vom, however, can speak for the album. Headed by rock critic R. Meltzer, whose “Your mother sucks nigger dick” rap between sets at the last Sex Pistols concert provided one of the low points in the history of punk, Vom apparently thinks the ultimate in New Wave freedom consists of a song called “I’m in Love with Your Mom,” powered along by cries of “Twat, twat, twat.” This from the man who cowrote Blue Oyster Cult’s “Stairway to the Stars”?

The one exception to the general hopelessness of this LP are the Motels, whose “Counting” is spare, underdramatized post-girl-group rock: a moody, spacey number that would have been just right for Marianne Faithful thirteen years ago. Like Blondie, Devo, Television or even the overrated Talking Heads, the Motels fit no obvious New Wave category—save that of standing out in the crowd. Any crowd.


Rolling Stone, November 2, 1978


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