No gimmick here, no persona, no concept: just the will to communicate. With early-’70s trash as a first cause and ’77-’80 U.K. punkpop (X-ray Spex, Revillos, Girls at Our Best) as the end of history, singers Kim Warnick (bass) and Lulu Gargiulo (guitar) and writer Kurt Bloch (lead guitar) make old sounds and gestures seem like the only language they’ll ever need to say everything there is to say. The flattened vocals produce an overwhelming sense of realism, the rave-ups and hidden rhythm-jumps the kind of drama real life seeks and usually doesn’t find—especially, these days, on records. I love this band.
2. Hank Williams, “Ramblin’ Man,” from Hey Good Lookin’—December 1950–July 1951 (Polydor reissue, 1951)
Chilling. Chill-out. Why he froze to death.
3. Bernard Lewis, The Assassins—A Radical Sect in Islam (Oxford reissue, 1967)
The emergence of punk was so epistemologically disruptive it brought forth ancestors few of its adherents could have suspected. Among them was Hasan-i Sabbah, who in 11th-century Iran founded a murderous, gnostic Shi’a (or “Shi’ite,” or “Chi-Lite”) cult that survives today in the Hezbollah group, Shi’as who take hostages in Lebanon. Hasan was supposedly as well the author of the nihilist maxim punk grasped almost as soon as it learned to read: “Nothing is true; everything is permitted.” The high point of Lewis’s scholarly, unfailingly lurid story comes in 1164, when, after the death of Hasan-i Sabbah, a second Hasan announced the millennium and “the end of the law,” putting Hasan-i Sabbah’s purported slogan into practice: “‘they spoke of the world as being uncreated and Time as unlimited'”; because in the “‘world to come there is no action and all is reckoning,'” it was declared that on earth ‘”all is action and there is no reckoning.'” That sentiment survived in the Sex Pistols.4. Cruzados, “Bed of Lies,” (Arista)
The tune comes off the radio with the force of a bad dream you don’t want to wake from. “I’m drinking my way back into your heart,” Tito Larriva snarls at himself; guitarist Marshall Rohner knows how to hold a note just past the crucial split-second that has you begging for it.
5. Sonic Youth, Sister (SST)
Corrosive.6. Peter Laughner, “Cinderella Backstreet” (Forced Exposure, P.O. Box 1611, Waltham, MA 02254, 1975)
An incandescent little piece from a man who founded Cleveland’s Rocket from the Tombs and Pere Ubu, and died in ’77; a bit like Bob Dylan’s “I’m Not There” in theme, closer to Mick Jagger’s “Cocksucker Blues” in feeling.
7. Darden Smith, “Bus Stop Bench” and “Stick and Stones,” from Native Soil (Redi Mix)
Smith is a folkie, and he has a folkie’s smugness, but sometimes it fails him.
8. Adam Parfrey, “The Book of Charlie” (Exit #3, P.O. Box 1405, NYC 11011)
As a graphics magazine, Exit is a sort of pagan-fascist version of RAW. Halfway through its celebration of Charles Manson is a collage that combines Mansonoid graffiti with the famous photo of Hitler and his advisors studying war maps, except that the heads of the advisors have been replaced by those of the Beatles—“vulgar simpletons,” says the artist, but nevertheless unwitting “messengers of the Gods,” “harbingers of Helter-Skelter.” Take a look.
9. Ted McKeever, Eddy Current (Mad Dog Graphics, O. Box 931686, Hollywood, CA 90093)
In this unfolding comic-book series, a goodhearted schizophrenic escapes from his asylum in order to save the world (he’s got to be back in 12 hours, so there’ll be one book for each hour). Problems: the world he wants to save tilts like the rooms in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, punks mug him, and a nun who thinks he’s Jesus Christ kidnaps him. Also—he hasn’t the vaguest idea of what he has to save the world from, though it’ll turn out to be a mind-control plot by a version of the PMRC.10. Rosanne Cash, King’s Record Shop (Columbia)
Cash is looking for a subject. “Rosie Strike Back” takes off from Graham Parker’s “Nobody Hurts You” for its sound, and it sounds good, until you can no longer deny it’s didactic enough to serve as a public service announcement for battered women’s shelters; that takes about a minute. But “The Real Me,” a ballad, may stand up: it’s slow, warm, open, naked, and “I want to crawl inside you, baby/But I don’t want you near.”
Village Voice, August? 1987