Tag: 1984

Black Flag – My War

ARTIST: Black Flag




SINGLES : Yeah…no.


LINEUP: Henry Rollins, Greg Ginn, Bill Stevenson. Ginn played bass as “Dale Nixon”

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After finally being rid of the Unicorn Record legal shitshow, Ginn and Black Flag unleash a polarizing and brilliant record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is the tale of two sides. Side one features the punk rock Black Flag as many fans then knew. With six slabs of punk, including the classic “My War” and other classic favorites that had been demoed in 1982 when they were a quintet. There were some wrinkles thrown in there, with tempo changes, guitar solos that were more jazz than punk, and introspective lyrics. Then the punk rock fans flipped the record over.

Instead of the typical six to eight songs on punk rock records, there were only three. All of them over six minutes long. And they were SLOGS. This was punk rock meeting Black Sabbath and developing a style which was quite influential on grunge and what was to become emo, but to many in the hardcore fan base, it was anathema.

“Nothing Left Inside” was the standout of the second side, and it was especially powerful live. The only misfire in my ears was the final track, which was the only one of the slow songs not co-written by Henry Rollins.

Listening to it now, you understand what they were trying to do, and in context of Black Flag, Henry Rollins, and alternative and punk rock, it doesn’t sound horribly out of place. But then, well, that was a different thing.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bill Stevenson had to work hard to slow his drumming down on the songs for the second side. Also, Chuck Dukowski left or was fired, leaving Ginn to play the bass.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the 1982 demos are available that cover songs that were going to be on this record and the next few studio albums.

GRADE A-:  It’s probably still polarizing, and that second side is something I need to be in an exact mood for, but I get what they were getting at. Even then, punk rock was stifling, and Ginn and the band impelled it forward.   

Depeche Mode – Some Great Reward

ARTIST: Depeche Mode 220px-Depeche_Mode_-_Some_Great_Reward

TITLE: Some Great Reward



SINGLES: People Are People (#13 US, #44 Dance, #4 UK), Master and Servant (#87 US, #49 Dance, #9 UK), Blasphemous Rumours (#16 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sometbody was the B-Side to Blasphemous Rumours and charted in a few countries.

LINEUP: David Gahan, Martin Gore, Alan Wilder, Andrew Fletcher

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A darker and moodier, yet inconsistent album that had an out-of-left-field US hit as well as a cringy song that seemed out of place.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out with the energy of “Something to Do”, the classic Depeche Mode sound of “Lie to Me”, and the hit “People are People”, Some Great Rewards sounds like its going to be the consistent album Depeche Mode had in them all along.


In the middle of the album, the band gets slower and moodier, yet the cuts are rather uninteresting and more of a slog than anything. Then you get to “Master and Servant”, which is seemingly for teenage boys to wonder about than a true exploration of a sub-culture. However, the band pulls out of it for “Blasphemous Rumours”, which shows that they can be dark, moody, slow, and interesting.

Ending it on a powerful song such as that boded well for Depeche Mode, and while they’d not have another US pop hit for a while, their cult status was cemented by that one track.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Alan Wilder wrote on track on the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the usual live cuts, B-sides and remixes.

GRADE B: It could have been a lot better.

The Icicle Works – The Icicle Works

ARTIST: The Icicle Works The_Icicle_Works_Debut_Album_Cover

TITLE: The Icicle Works



SINGLES: Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream) (#37 US, #18 Mainstream, #53 UK, #2 UK Indie), Love Is a Wonderful Colour (#15 UK),


LINEUP: Ian McNabb, Chris Layhe, Chris Sharrock

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album from the arty-and-jangly UK band that delivered hits on both sides of the Atlantic.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Here in the States, the first few ringing lines of “Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)” (yes, Arista retitled it) evokes memories of MTV and how it was possible for something so obscure and so…British could hit the Top 40.

The album, which also included their bigger UK hit “Love Is a Wonderful Colour”, has some of those jangly elements, but also a richer, fuller sound with more production elements filling out the sound. The Icicle Works was more of an arty band upon revelation, instead of a jangle pop band.

While Ian McNabb’s songs can sometimes be ponderous, brooding, and overly serious, the entire record has a whole is somewhat satisfying, as the promise of their early singles comes to fruition at times. 220px-The_Icicle_Works_Debut_Album_Cover-_USA_Version

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Yes, Arista changed the name of the band (to just Icicle Works), altered the single’s title (swapping the parens around), and edited out a portion of their US hit. For the album, they swapped out a song, and changed the cover. And it’s not streaming, probably because of Arista.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with rarities and remixes

 GRADE B: They may have had a better chance in the US had the company followed up with a second single, or at least some support. Anyway, this is better than I thought, though a bit too pretentious at times.

The Meat Puppets – Meat Puppets II

ARTIST: The Meat Puppets 

TITLE: Meat Puppets II




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lost, Plateau, Oh Me, Lake of Fire

LINEUP: Curt Kirkwood, Cris Kirkwood, Derrick Bostrom

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An punk record? A psychedelic record? A country-rock record? All of them, for sure. It’s unique.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, you can quibble about Curt Kirkwood’s vocals (not really in any key known to mankind), and the stylistic diversions, and the uprooting of the punk norm (for those SST Records purists), but dang this is a fun record that’s, well, always keeping you guessing.

The opening track, “Split Myself in Two” is really punk rock with other overtones, but then as you move along to tracks like “Lost”, “Plateau”, and “Lake of Fire”, you’re in totally uncharted waters for an SST act. Acoustic guitars, country rhythms, jammy instrumentals, psychedelic overtones, mystical lyrics, and Lord knows what else. It’s like the Grateful Dead crossed with the Minutemen, or something.

If you can get past the vocals (I mean it, they’re surprisingly off-key, but earnest), and forget this was a punk band (was) on a punk rock label, then you’re in for an adventurous treat.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They played with Black Flag and Nig Heist on a tour, and the punkers in the audience didn’t get it. Long hair? Jams? Wow. Oh, and three of the tracks were on Nirvana’s unplugged record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes and other tracks.

GRADE A+: Sod the vocals, and listen to “Plateau” on repeat, forever.

The Replacements – Let It Be

ARTIST: The Replacements 220px-The_Replacements_-_Let_It_Be_cover (1)

TITLE: Let It Be



SINGLES: I Will Dare


LINEUP: Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars. Peter Buck guests on I Will Dare.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Replacements pull it together. Their silliness has some grit, and Paul Westerberg has really found his voice and range in his writing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, there’s the Kiss cover (done reverently), and songs called “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got a Boner”. Yet this time, the Replacements don’t descend into madness – they keep it together and those songs actually make salient points.

Again, Paul Westerberg has written a couple more absolute all-timers in “I Will Dare” and “Unsatisfied”. The rage in “We’re Coming Out” that shifts into a lesser volume and tempo is impressive. His diatribe against MTV is spot on, and the quieter moments also work as well, even if they marginalize Bob Stinson and his roughneck guitar.

It’s raucous, loud, fun, irreverent, hooky, serious, and profound. It’s the Replacements at their best.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” was actually about Tommy Stinson getting his tonsils taken out, and morphs into a diatribe against doctors.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes and demos

GRADE A+: It sounds a bit sloppy, maybe, and at a glance the tracks seem less than silly. But, they give it their all here.

Modern English – Ricochet Days

ARTIST: Modern English 220px-RicochetDays

TITLE: Ricochet Days


CHART ACTION: #93 US, #5 UK Indie

SINGLES: Chapter 12 (#15 UK Indie), Hands Across the Sea (#91 US)


LINEUP: Robbie Grey, Gary McDowell, Michael Conroy, Richard Brown, Stephen Walker

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After “THE HIT”, they surprisingly don’t try to really replicate it, instead to sticking what they’ve done otherwise.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You make a big hit record, they (the industry) expect everything else to be the same or similar to the hit. Modern English didn’t do that.

Sure, they added a bit more sheen and polish, and maybe in “Hands Across the Sea” a hook or three, but stuck to their atmospheric post-punk for the most part. That’s kind of refreshing in of itself.

It’s a decent enough record, with some of their old fashioned gothy moody post punk. It won’t make you jump out of your chair, but it’ll do.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this, they moved from 4AD, got glossier, broke up, got back together, broke up, reunited again, and kind of soldiered on.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, different mixes and B-sides, of course

 GRADE B-: Better than their debut but doesn’t have a standout track.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome

ARTIST: Frankie Goes to Hollywood 220px-Welcome_To_The_Pleasuredome

TITLE: Welcome to the Pleasuredome



SINGLES: Relax (#10 US, #1 UK), Two Tribes (#43 US, #1 UK), The Power of Love (#1 UK), Welcome to the Pleasuredome (#48 US, #2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Born to Run, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, and Ferry Cross the Mercy

LINEUP: Holly Johnson, Paul Rutherford, Brian Nash, Mark O’Toole, Peter Gill. Trevor Horn, the producer, brought in a lot of session players and may have played a lot of the record himself.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hyped to the billionth degree record is a UK sensation but kind of fizzled here in the US despite MTV and the single Relax being played every 10 seconds it seems.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Notoriety and hype are the two words that come to mind with Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The BBC banned “Relax” and they and MTV banned the first cut of the “Relax” video, which of course made the public want it even more.  220px-Welcome_to_the_Pleasuredome_2

“Relax” and “Two Tribes” were big #1 hits already, remixed quite a bit, and when included on the album along with several covers, some were disappointed. The US market was skeptical, as usual, and the overtly gay overtones of the band’s look and lyrics went over the head of many listeners (because sometimes we’re not too swift on the uptick, ya know). But there’s no real sub-text to a song like “Krisco Kisses”. It just is.

The production is incredible as the band and its songs were perfect palettes for Trevor Horn and the Art of Noise production crew. But as for the songs, some are overly long (the title track takes up the entire first side of the LP for all intents and purposes), and the band seems lost in the production, with the songs secondary to the sounds thrown out there. (The cover of “War” is a great example of this).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was a fake band that toured the US in 1998 that was quickly put out of action by swift action since one of the band members lived in Florida and saw an ad for the faux band.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with several remixes. The original CD was a sliced up version of the double album.

 GRADE B-: There’s a happy medium between the hype and the backlash, and 35 years after the fact you can separate the good, the bad, and the way too long.

Young Fresh Fellows – The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest

ARTIST: Young Fresh Fellows            The_Young_Fresh_Fellows_-_The_Fabulous_Sounds_of_the_Pacific_Northwest

TITLE: The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest





LINEUP: Scott McCaughey, Chuck Carrol, Tad Hutchison

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut record for winkingly ironic band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Young Fresh Fellows made a career in the 80’s from making punk and power pop inspired rock with goofy lyrics and observations for college kids during that era. This record was a blueprint for their style.

Song titles like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Pest Control”, “Power Mowers Theme”, and “Teenage Dogs in Trouble” rather much tell you what you need to know about the songs subjects. Musically, Scott McCaughey shows his versatility with playing guitar, bass, and being the conceptual mastermind.

Some of the songs’ jokes are pretty obvious, unlike in later records where it’s a little more subtle. It’s a decent debut for a decent 80’s ha-ha band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The concept for the record was based on a 1960’s Pacific Northwest travel record put out by Pacific Northwest Bell, and they use some of the record as transitions.


 GRADE B-: I chuckled.

Fleshtones – Hexbreaker!

ARTIST: Fleshtones                   220px-Hexbreaker!

TITLE:  Hexbreaker!




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Right Side of a Good Thing

LINEUP: Peter Zaremba, Keith STreng, Bill Milhizer, Jan Marek Pakulski, Gordon Spaeth

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Party album by party band seems flat as it goes along.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When does a party get boring? When the same thing happens over and over again.

The 60’s loving party band with a great energy and spirit and fun live shows didn’t translate well to vinyl, even with the exuberance of the band. Sax, organ, driving rhythms, and garage guitar give the band their basic sound. Peter Zaremba tries his best to keep the party going, but the issue is the relative same-ness of the material.

“Right Side of a Good Thing” is one that you’ve heard. Maybe the title cut. Anyway, same thing really. Chanted backing vocals, fun atmosphere, but it gets flat a bit and old.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their first EP and LP aren’t streaming, which may be an issue with IRS Records old rights, and neither is their compilation of the IRS years.


GRADE: B-: Individual cuts are great for mixes. But the album as a whole gets a bit wearing.

The Pogues – Red Roses for Me

ARTIST: The Pogues                                        220px-Red_roses_for_me

TITLE:  Red Roses for Me



SINGLES: Dark Streets of London, Boys form the Country Heil

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Streams of Whiskey

LINEUP: Shane MacGowan, Jem Finer, Spider Stacy, James Feamly, Cait O’Riordan, Andrew Ranken

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Punks make traditional Irish music. It works.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Punk rock can be played with a tin whistle, accordion, and banjo. Five traditional Irish songs, jigs, and reels, a song from the great author Brendan Behan, and originals by Shane MacGowan that combine punk attitude with Irish music make up this record. It definitely opens your eyes and ears on what can be considered ‘punk’.

The album is lively, raucous, and spirited. Many songs are drinking songs, or related to drinking, because, Irish, you know. Most punters know “Dark Streets of London”, but every track can be thrown into the mix as a good time track. Well, not every track as “The Auld Triangle” is a great sad Irish track.

It’s great to hear a band with a fresh sound (even though it’s rooted in an old style) put themselves out there with enthusiasm and fervor. Irish music purists may find flaws, but heck, it’s fun record with or without a pint.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: MacGowan, Stacy and Finer were in a band called The Millwall Chainsaws before they evolved into the Pogues.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides of their singles, including one of their best known songs, a cover of “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. 

GRADE: A: It’s dubbed “Celtic Punk”, which is a great description. A fine debut.