“Somewhere in the discussion of vinyl media, there’s a roomy reverence for the physical space that records occupy. I’ve seen overstuffed bookcases in city apartments spilling over into tape-bandaged shipping boxes wedged between sofas and end tables. Or half a suburban garage devoted to a record collection and its associated memorabilia. Numerous or few, these albums are our personal effects, and decisions must be made about the actual space we wish to accord them in our lives.”
“As a boy growing up in a conductor’s household, I found the space granted to these objects to be significant. Whole walls of my father’s study were lined with vinyl records, stacked vertically, crammed densely, and held in place by the opposing cinder blocks of makeshift shelving.
In officious contrast to their pedestrian setting, each disc was distinguished by a serial number on the upper left-hand corner of its jacket, and all were kept (more or less) in numerical order. Information about each recording was kept on a Rolodex, close-at-hand; these were reference materials, kept to aid in the study of musical scores.
In the second half of the 1970s, the hilly West Coast burg of San Francisco was noted for some bands, and a few of them specialized in the creation of punk rock. Amongst the more illustrious names are The Avengers, Crime, The Dead Kennedys, and Flipper, but one of the less championed troops in the city’s early punk narrative was Negative Trend. Their terrific self-titled 1978 7-inch has just been repressed by the folks at Superior Viaduct, and it’s an essential purchase for anyone striving to build a comprehensive punk library.
By this point, the late-‘70s punk uprising has been examined from a multitude of angles, with the majority of the approaches offering at least some measure of substantive insight. Since the whole explosion proved to be such a complex beast, indeed so multifaceted that individual perspectives can frequently seem downright contradictory, the value found in such a large number of diverse viewpoints should really come as no surprise.
One particularly interesting outlook concerns how punk’s North American surge was inevitably doomed to initial failure due to the lack of an appropriate distribution network to service its burgeoning creativity as it was emerging. It’s a tempting idea, but it tends to sidestep the reality of what actually did occur after The Dictators’ Go Girl Crazy! (my pick as the starting point of the unhyphenated punk era) first hit the racks in early ’75.
Specifically, the impulse spread like wildfire, or better yet like a disease. In England, the situation grew into an epidemic that sent shockwaves through the country’s entire culture, but in the USA, the very land that gave the form its messy back-alley birth, the transmission remained either underground or largely disdained but the public at large.
The shockwaves of the ’77 punk explosion were so widespread and commercially underwhelming that it’s no great surprise a bevy of exceptional names ended up slipping through the cracks. One such band was Métal Urbain, Paris France’s influential and still potent kings of drum-box punk.
Before orthodoxy inevitably set in, the punk scene was far less rigid regarding what constituted the form. It was in this period that groups like Devo, Pere Ubu, Suicide, and The Fall were generally considered to be bands hanging out on the less rudimentary end of the punk spectrum. Once convention (and expectations) began taking hold in earnest, the legitimate post-punk movement did start shaping, but the retrospective tendency toward re-categorizing many of punk’s more refreshingly unusual acts as something other than enticingly unique selections in a diverse sonic smorgasbord is an impulse I just can’t cozy up with.
It’s in this early stage of wide-open possibility that Métal Urbain was born. Noted as not only the first band to use a drum-machine in the scheme of punk but also for being responsible for the inaugural release on the legendary Rough Trade label (RT 001), they are notable for so much more than just achieving a stylistic footnote and for providing the answer to a stumper in a music-nut trivia contest. For Métal Urbain shined, if only for a short while, as a beacon of punk rock’s expansive promise and if not vastly influential the group certainly proved crucial in shaping certain corners of the subsequent u-ground rock racket. They were for example the template from which Big Black managed to stir such a divisive storm.
“My first experience with music was via the record player.”
“My dad would put on anything from Vangelis to 2nd Chapter of Acts to Yes, and I learned to tread lightly when I danced so the record wouldn’t skip. It was a fun way to feel connected with the music in the moment, like it was happening in that room for the very first time, and I was part of it. I could make it stop and start with the lift of a needle.
It was all very physical, which I like, because music is this ethereal thing that affects us underneath the skin in all sorts of ways that we can’t explain, but with vinyl you can actually see it moving. You can see it in the grooves.
So yes, you’ve heard it before—last February we launched our most ambitious undertaking yet, TVD500—a recurring competition where we and our esteemed partners, Infrasonic Mastering, Furnace MFG, and Dorado Music Packaging mastered, pressed, designed, printed, packaged, and delivered 500 copies of a winning 7″ single—on us.
The winner of our competition, chosen by our celebrity panel of judges, was Sillyboy, the Athenian (as in Greek) tour de force whose full LP Nature of Things has quickly become a favorite.
His winning single, “Supply Chain” is TVD Records’ very first release and Sillyboy’s first foray into US markets. Well, those 7″ singles of “Supply Chain” are presently in hand—and we’ve got a bunch to giveaway.
The Rolling Stones’ Sucking in the Seventies: not only is it the most nakedly honest album title ever, it also proves that truth in advertising actually exists!
But before we give the Rolling Stones any consumer honesty awards, it should be borne in mind that Sucking in the Seventies is a colossal act of hubris. Not on did the Stones happily release a piece of swill, they actually announced right in the title that it was a piece of swill, that’s how confident they were that the great undiscerning herd would go out and plunk down their hard-earned shekels for it anyway.
And by God, the Stones were right. Sucking in the Seventies reached #15 on the U.S. album charts, which should discourage all those do-gooders who believe that a clear warning will deter people from buying products that are deleterious to their health. Just as I continue to smoke despite all those obviously bogus warnings on the cigarette packs saying that smoking causes cancer, gads of Stones’ fans went out and bought a product that blatantly declared that it sucked.
The Stones didn’t completely suck in the seventies; in fact the decade marked their high-water mark, what with those back-to-back gems Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile of Main Street (1972), the latter of which may well be the greatest rock album ever made. But after that it all went to shit, with 1973’s disappointing Goat’s Head Soup, 1974’s lackluster It’s Only Rock’n’Roll, 1976’s execrable Black and Blue, and 1978’s respectable but seriously overrated Some Girls—their supposed return to greatness that wasn’t, except to those people so desperate to believe the Rolling Stones were still the World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band they happily swallowed the inedible “Miss You” and didn’t even belch.
We’re off for Thanksgiving and will return on Monday, 12/2.
Why not catch up on some of the interviews you might have missed, or our LP reviews, live reviews, or if it’s a podcast you’re craving we have 2—from Manchester, UK or from the winding hills of Lauren Canyon.
And if you are up to date, fire up TVD’s Record Store Locator App and visit your local mom and pop retailer! Odds are you’ll find one of us right next to you.