I completely forgot that this record came out very recently- I thought it was coming out in the Summer. I am a fool! Anyway.
The Men’s new record- New York City is their best work. Did I ever think I’d say something was better than their debut? Nope. Their debut owns a chunk of me that no other record ever could, but their new record is something else. It’s a Punk record that takes you back to NYC in the 70s. Aptly titled record, right?
Over the past few days this has been the record I’ve been listening to religiously. Every song feels like a time capsule of Punk. At times you feel like you’ve found an old Iggy Pop record that no one else has ever heard. Then you feel like you’ve listened to the New York Dolls for the first time. This is hugely prominent on the record opener Hard Livin’ which has Johnny Thunders style guitar and a real New York Dolls feel to it. Most of The Men’s records have been released via Sacred Bones but this one has been put out by the equally influential Fuzz Club. Both labels have backed so many exceptional bands and the cause of me rarely having any money!
New York City is the bands ninth record, and they’ve been going just over a decade or so. To me, they are one of the most important bands of my generation and they’ve just got this unique style that expands on every record. Sometimes when a band changes labels they can maybe lose who they were or badly flip their sound to fit the style of their new home- The Men don’t do this at all. If you listen to their records in chronological order, you will hear that this is the sound that was destined for record number nine- regardless of which label was to release it.
There are so many wild moments on this record and every song is just a delight to listen to. At the moment, Echo is the one I keep playing the most. I love the raw feel to it and how urgent it sounds. I love how the vocals are so gnarly and rough. There’s nothing delicate about this record- it’s unfiltered carnage and I can’t get enough of it! Every song flows perfectly into the next, and the production on this record is so tight- but they still maintain a strong DIY feel to it. The sound still feels brand new, and that’s one of the many reasons as to why I love this band. I love how they always go a step further and this record shows this in all its glory.
New York City is a record that you need to play in order for the first listen or so; but after that- go whichever way you want. Eye is the slickest song on the record- that’s the one that throws you off because musically it’s tamest on the record but vocally it’s probably the best. Honestly, the vocals on this are snarly as fuck and you can’t get enough of them. This record is the band at their best, and I’ve probably said that about their previous records but, with this one- there’s something truly magical about it. You feel like after being a fan of the band for so long, you’ve been on this journey with them and the journey has finally led to this record. The Punk record the band needed to make. The Punk record we all need. It’s a masterpiece and I could happily spend hours and hours listening to it. It’s a record that with every listen, you find something else to appreciate and fall in love with. Listening to this record, I feel like I’m listening to The Men for this first time but also reinforcing why I love them again and again. Every listen of this record is so precious.
I have no idea if the band will ever tour the UK with this record, but I hope with all my heart that they do because it just HAS to be heard live. And for purely selfish reasons, I’d like to finally be able to see a band I’ve loved for so long live! Every song on this record is full of this energy that you can’t get enough of. Songs like God Bless The USA, Anyway I Find You and Round The Corner are just so intense and honestly, this record will make you feel battered and bruised after hearing it. It’s a fistfight, it’s a riot and it’s so important. If you’ve never listened to The Men before, I’d normally tell you to play their debut, Leave Home first- but I think I’d now tell you to start with this one! It’s incredible, and I feel it just may be one of the best records we will hear this year.
I’m not someone who gets overly annoyed easily (but if you chew loudly or sniff constantly on public transport, I’ll probably want to smack you in the kisser.) However, after reading the apparent “essential” NYC records chosen by BBC 6Music, I got annoyed. In fact, it went beyond being annoyed. I am pissed off. A pissed off Punk who is absolutely infuriated by this list and I know that I am not alone in this.
If you want to share my rage, here is the list:
1. The Strokes – Is This It
2. Wu Tang Clan – Enter The 36 Chambers
3. Blondie – Parallel Lines
4. Talking Heads – 77
5. Nas – Illmatic
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
7. Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
8. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
9. Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
10. The Rapture – Echoes
11. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
12. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
I am a massive fan of Nas, Wu Tang, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes. The Strokes first record was my crutch for a long time, and I do agree with it being there- but not at the top. There is so much missing from this list- how can you even condense it down to 12 anyway? Maybe 20 wouldn’t even be enough.
So with my burning rage, I have to come up with my own list. I don’t want to claim that my list is correct or anything like that- it’s just an opinion. I could be wrong, or someone may feel like they agree with me. The severe lack of Punk in the list just makes me sad. I do agree, as I said with some of the records being there, but some are wrongfully missed.
Also, it isn’t in any order- I don’t like order, it makes me nervous.
It was either this or Leave Home. I think Leave Home is my favourite Ramones record, but their debut deserves to be there because of the huge impact it had. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was about 14/156. The age where everything and anything can influence you. I remember hearing it and feeling like I had been born in the wrong era. Every song gave me this incredible feeling, and every song just made me idolise them. I think it is obvious that I worship Joey Ramone. Oh man, Beat On The Brat is one of my favourite Ramones songs. I love the lyrics and I love the humour in their songs but there is a real sensitivity in Joey’s voice that is so unique and beautiful. It’’ just such an iconic record. It was made to influence and to be played loud.
The most important NYC record of all time. ALL.TIME. Why the hell wasn’t it included?! It’s pretty insulting to Lou’s legacy that this record isn’t on there. It’s not only a great NYC record; it’s probably my favourite record of all time. As a gay person, this record gave me this sense of freedom that I hadn’t found in any other record when I first heard it. I didn’t come out until years after hearing this record, but it gave me this feeling of being alright with who I was. Besides, me being gay doesn’t define me. Never has, never will Transformer is just the coolest record ever made. I hate the word cool, we know that but fucking hell Lou Reed was THE coolest person to have ever lived and he just smacks it in our faces with this record. Sally Can’t Dance and Coney Island Baby are obviously worth mentioning. Pretty sure my list could just be Lou and Ramones records. Vicious and Andy’s Chest…man alive! “You hit me with a flower.” That’s GOT to move you in some way. I love the lyrics to Vicious, and I think this whole record shows Lou in a different way, you know? He just expressed himself in a way nobody else had dared to. I still don’t think anything can touch this record.
New York Dolls-New York Dolls.
The clue is in the bloody name really. Absolutely criminal and horrendous that this record isn’t on the list. My mum got me into the Dolls at a very young age. I don’t even think I was a teenager. I remember finding her copy of the record, and being in awe of the Dolls in drag. How beautiful they were! I was drawn of course, to Johnny Thunders (the greatest guitarist of all time.) Subway Train is such a beautiful song. Jet Boy has this incredible snarl to it. The whole record oozes attitude that is so unique to the Dolls. The lyrics to Trash and Personality Crisis are just great. This record is New York through and through. It’s got the charm and grit. It’s got the attitude and bite. It’s a record that I always find myself going to time and time again, and discovering more things to love about it. It’s just timeless.
Richard Hell + The Voidoids-Blank Generation.
Alright so Richard isn’t from New York- but this record was recorded at Electric Lady Studios so, it’s a NYC record. And he moved there pretty early on, so it’s fine. It’s acceptable.
I am a Richard Hell obsessive. I paid £30 once for a Richard Hell t-shirt from a shop on Brick Lane. Yeah it was too much money, but it’s Richard Hell.
Blank Generation would easily be in my list of best Punk records. It’s got this raw attitude to it, and I just love Richard’s voice. As a singer and as a writer, I just love him. His autobiography is one of the best of its kind I’ve read. He has most certainly lived a colourful life. Sure he’s done questionable things, the little bugger. But, he’s made some incredible music along the way.
Suicide are probably the best duo of all time. Frankie Teardrop is the best 10 minute song of all time. Dream Baby Dream is a masterpiece. The whole record is a work of art. If any record can capture the roughness of New York in the 70s, it’s this record. It is such a grand record and well ahead of its time. It still is. Nothing and no one has ever come close to this. For me, I think Suicide are massively underrated but they have influenced so many bands that I adore. It still hurts and it still sucks that Alan Vega is no longer here. I remember when he passed; I had the same reaction most had for Bowie. Suicide were never afraid to push their sound and to make music that was entirely different. It is a beautiful noise that brings such pleasure and joy to the ears. It is a gritty record from start to finish, and they keep that grittiness throughout every record they have ever made.
I think this was recorded in London, but Johnny Thunders was a New Yorker, The Heartbreakers were a supergroup. I did want to pick a solo Johnny record, but I remembered how much I am obsessed with L.A.M.F (it stands for Like A Mother Fucker.) and how One Track Mind is such a great song. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if Johnny was still here. Like I said earlier on, for me he’s the greatest guitarist of all time. His style was just impeccable and one of a kind. No one else could play like him. His style was way ahead of its time. He was ahead of his time. He had this way of just magnetising you with every note. The record has been reissued so many times, but regardless of what version you have- it’s a genius record. It is proper Rock N Roll and has Punk foundations. Of all the records I own, I think this might be my most played. It’s one of those records I just really enjoy listening to over and over again.
Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time, that’s obvious. There are so many Hip Hop records I could have chosen. I know that The Big Picture by Big L is one of the best. I bought it when it came out, and to this day it is still one of my favourite records. Like Nas, Big L was and still is above the rest. Illmatic portrays New York in a way that most don’t want to hear. Nas is not, and has never been afraid to show the harsher side of life. From losing friends to growing up in the projects in Queens- he really takes you there. He’s a poet, a storyteller. Halftime is one of the songs on Illmatic that really show this. He makes you see the world and his world the way he does with Illmatic. Is it his best record? For sure. It’s one of the best Hip Hop records of all time. Nas has constantly brought out remarkable records that have, and still do influence so many. It’s one of those records that you can’t imagine not ever happening. It is such an important record- irrespective of what kind of music you’re into; it is such a phenomenal record. What he did with this debut record most want from their whole career.
A Tribe Called Quest-People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
Tribe have always made consistently great records that are so experimental and diverse. They fused together all styles of music. There are so many records by them I could have chosen, but it felt right to go with their debut. It came out in a time where you had groups like NWA with their aggressive songs. Sure their songs may have been, but it is important to remember that NWA were telling us about the things that were happening in Compton- it is just as important and to an extent maybe more so. But this about New York right now. What I love about the first Tribe record is that it frees your mind, it gives you something that you won’t find anywhere else. Q-Tip and Phife are two great rappers, and I don’t think they have ever got enough credit it. Tribe’s records each have distinctive sounds. Push It Along is nearly 8 minutes long, Bonita Applebum is genius, I Left My Wallet In El Segundo is timeless and Luck of Lucien is just amazing. The samples on this record used range from Grace Jones to The Beatles to Lou Reed. It’s a record that quite simply, you need to own.
Sonic Youth-Confusion Is Sex
I could have happily listed every single record by Sonic Youth. I’d have no idea where to start- so I went to the start. It’s such a heavy record; it’s a record that has influenced so many. It is powerful, it is loud and it has Jim Sclavunos on drums. What more do you need? (She’s In A) Bad Mood is such a brilliant way to start the record. Jim’s drumming is so brutal; they all just move you in a way that you wouldn’t expect. There is nothing calming about the sound on this record- they just rile you up in a way that is mind-blowing.
I think it is possible the record that shows us all just how amazing Kim Gordon is. I mean, we know that anyway but Confusion Is Sex has some awesome moments that just leave you inspired by Kim. Shaking Hell is my favourite on this record; it’s so aggressive and really brutal. The louder you play this, the better. The way she yells “Shake off your flesh!” is so hypnotising.
The Velvet Underground-Loaded
Maybe I should have gone with their first record. Maybe. But, Loaded is my favourite and I remember buying my copy of this in Brussels and feeling like I had won the lottery. My copy doesn’t play as well as it should but that’s because I am always playing it. I love listening to it and allowing Velvet Underground to take me some place really magical. Rock & Roll is such a fantastic song, and you can’t help but think you’re the person Lou has written about. Lonesome Cowboy Bill is out of this world- it’s not like anything else.
Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ is up there as being one of the greatest songs of all time. It’s one of Lou’s best, easily. I’ve written about this record so many times, and I’m sure I have never done it justice.
I cannot make this list without mentioning Television, and this record. Many have regarded it as one of the best records ever made, and they aren’t wrong. It is such a wonderfully created record. From the vocals to the production- it is so effortlessly great and really does have a slick sound that you know is from New York. Every song on Marquee Moon is so distinctive. You hear one note, and you immediately know that it is them. The intro to the title song is one of the most iconic ones of all time. It’s an intro that just stays with you. You immediately go back to the first time you heard it as soon as it comes on. It’s just a magnificent record that definitely does deserve its status as being one of the greatest records ever made.
The Strokes-Is This It
There are a number of records I could have picked. I could have gone with Foxy Brown, Mos Def, Interpol, Talking Heads, Big L- so many. Why did I stick with The Strokes when I could have picked someone else? Because this record holds a lot of importance to me. It’s got me through hell and back. It still does. I adore Julian. I love his words, his voice and just him. It’s a record I constantly go back to. I can play it and I immediately go back to my first time hearing it. I was 15 years old, being bullied at school. I’d play it every day. And every single day I would imagine I was hanging out with Julian in New York City eating pizza, going to record stores and going to shows. This record was my escape, and it still is. It captures New York and it captures what music means to me. So from a totally personal point of view, this record is New York. This record is important. Again, it is one that is still a massive influence to bands. They are all great musicians, and there will never be anything else quite like it- just like all the records I have mentioned.
Like I said, there are so many records that could have been named. This is just my personal take. Maybe it is wrong, maybe it is right. It’s just a point of view, like the 6Music one is. But I just find it hard to accept that so many great and influential records were missed off.
A couple years back, a super group formed in New York City. Flowers Of Evil erupted and tore up eardrums, and limbs alike. Made up of Young Boys lead guy, David and also Brandon and Charlie from Crocodiles it’s pretty obvious that Flowers Of Evil are going to end up putting one of the best records of the year, right? Their first release was brilliantly loud and pleasantly dangerous. Where have they headed with City Of Fear?
City Of Fear is a real Hardcore Punk record. It can easily stand up against the greats, and wouldn’t look out of place next to a Black Flag record. It’s got this effortless raw and brutal sound that so many try to perfect, but it just sounds overdone. Flowers Of Evil make it look so easy and they make it sound exactly like it should. This record is a collection of songs that need to be played in a sweaty dive bar with everyone yelling the words back at the band as David screams them in your face. There is this glorious urgency in the songs that makes you wish you could do this. The alternative is okay- playing it as loud as you can without a care in the world.
It’s nice to allow yourself to be exposed to gentle sounds but sometimes you just need something obnoxiously loud to satisfy what certain parts of you need. If I could, I’d go on about my favourite song on City Of Fear but it’s pretty tough to pick one. Each song comes in just under 2 and a half minutes- the perfect amount of time to get a point across. The lyrics on every song are extremely poignant, especially with how society can be and certain world leaders being absolute shitheads. You need an escape. Every day music is my escape. We’re all getting away from something.
David’s snarl on these songs is brilliant. He has this demeanour that comes through wonderfully on these songs, and it probably makes him on of the most underrated singers/frontman of our generation. City Of Fear is an excellent portrayal of the world we currently live in, and the way in which Flowers Of Evil have exposed it make it much easier to digest.
I know I said I couldn’t pick one particular song, but I’m really into Sedation Vacation. I love how furiously quick it is, and will just make you want to rip shit up. MAN also has David’s infamous snarl on it that like pretty much the whole record, again, will make you just want to destroy stuff.
Play the record loud and throw stuff out of your bedroom window. Unleash that fury you’re carrying around. I love the rage and beautifully deafening sounds on City Of Fear. It sounds real nice right after playing their first record. These 14 songs deserve to rule the rest of your year. The colossal sound on this record is something that just makes you want to pick up a guitar and make a mass amount of noise. Sure 14 songs don’t feel enough, but just go back to the start and let yourself get utterly immersed in the record all over again.
There’s really no point in trying to compare Flowers Of Evil or this record to anything or anyone, it’s totally pointless. The songs truly speak for themselves and must be played as loud as possible. They’re worth losing your hearing over.
Last week I went to my favourite record shop (in London.) It’s about 15 minutes from my work, so when I go I plan my dinner break carefully around it but I’d rather buy records than food anyway. Blasting in the shop was a sound that seemed familiar but unlike anything I had heard before. It was raw, loud and beautifully obnoxious. Sometimes at 12:30pm you need to hear something that feels like a smack to the face. Become totally enamoured by it.
I went to the record shop to pick up my uncle’s present, but I ended up buying something for myself also. It happens, I guess. But if it makes Christmas shopping easier- then so be it. The band that was being blasted out in the shop was Kraut. I’d never heard their music before, but as I was listening to them I could reel off the bands in my head that resembled them in some way. Kraut were one of the first hardcore bands and are responsible, quite possibly, for a lot of bands I love and listen to.
An Adjustment To Society was the record that I picked up last week, and for a week solid I have been playing it over and over. I play it irrespective of my mood. I’ve found every single song to be a real masterpiece and each song is you guessed it, a punch to the gut. The songs are deafening and full of an enviable fury that you wish you could unleash. We live vicariously through the bands and songs we love. However, the songs on An Adjustment To Society are equally as important now as they were in 1982. From disdain and despair felt towards to those in power and the way society is, never has a band like Kraut been so vital. What they started I feel is still being lived out by others bands, but Kraut started it. They were the blueprint- and are not to be tampered with.
Only one song on An Adjustment To Society creeps up to the 3 and a half minute mark, the rest make their point in a little over 2 minutes. Their sound didn’t require the urge to go on and on. All it required was the urge to be heard, and for anyone who listened to fully take on board what these guys where saying. Their songs were a middle finger to everything around them; they made their own rules and that is worth admiring. Also, as if being one of the first hardcore bands wasn’t enough- Kraut were also the first independent band to be played on MTV. That’s right, MTV used to play music videos rather than shitty TV programmes about who got drunk and got pregnant. It used to be the home of music videos. Not really sure what the M stands for now to be honest.
Not all great music must hold a message but a fair but of it does. With Kraut, what they stood for included everyone- mainly those who were pissed off at their circumstance, and I think that is something that is so apt for most of us right now. Their music was made to be played loud and to share daily frustrations to. The frustrations can come from what you see happening around you to an underlying frustration you carry inside your head to do with yourself. None of these frustrations are petty or less significant than anybody else’s. I may be entirely late in finding out about Kraut and I’m not going to act like I am their biggest fan ever, but I know this much- I know what they stood for, I know how important they were and still are. I know the best education I received came from record shops and not textbooks.
Everyone has their own take on what makes a band great or what makes a band important to them. It can come the lyrics, the sound and all in-between. Kraut had something else. They had something about them that just made your ears prick up and listen. They didn’t tame anything in the mind or body. They fuelled the rage towards all that was happening around them, and that just makes An Adjustment To Society as essential now as it was in ’82.
Punk hasn’t and will not ever die. There will never ever be a style of Music that is as influential and as great as Punk. There will never ever be a band as great and as influential as the Ramones. You can keep your Beatles, and your Led Zeppelins. I’m aware it means something to others, but to me they meant nothing. Their songs and sounds didn’t speak to me. Ramones however, they did more than just speak to me. They were the backbone to a genre of Music that I simply can’t do without, and could never imagine not listening to.
Sure you get people who claim that Punk is just noise. But they probably listened to one song and that was it. Until recently I pretty much turned my nose up at the Sex Pistols. I thought I didn’t get it, but I sat and listened to them for a view hours and loved how obnoxious young Johnny Rotten sounded. In my heart of hearts though, it is New York that is the REAL home of Punk and I fail to see how anyone could question that.
At only 62 years old, Tommy Ramone, the last original member of the Ramones has died. He was probably the finest drummer my ears have ever been exposed to. He kept up the fast and furious pace of the signature Ramones sound. He made it look so effortless, he made you want to pick up some drumsticks and drum your itty bitty heart out.
I’ve got a copy of Leave Home on vinyl, and when I play it when I visit my family I find myself staring at the cover. Taking in their poses and how all they did was done with purpose. No doubt it was done with a lot of blood, sweat and arguments but nothing good comes easy. If you aren’t willing to struggle, then just give up. Ramones taught me to not give up. I’ve read Mickey Leigh’s book about his brother Joey (I Slept With Joey Ramone) many times to know that for me, Joey is my hero. Tommy added something to the Ramones that the others didn’t, and they knew it. He added a form of stability that kept them together. When he left the band in 78, he went on to produce a few more of their records so the real sound of the Ramones was always there. He was a brilliant drummer and producer.
If it wasn’t for the Ramones, most of the bands that I listen to and love wouldn’t have formed. They wouldn’t have wanted to make their own scene, their own noise. Ramones made it easier for me to feel alright in the skin I’m in. It’s perfectly fine to not think like others, it’s alright to have your own interests and to hang out by yourself. It’s normal to get angry at what you see happening in the world. It’s alright to just be how you are. The minute you change for someone, you stop being yourself.
62 is no age, and cancer is a bastard.
Although there are no more original members of the Ramones around, we will always have the music. That will never go, and all they stood for is around in your favourite band. When your favourite singer towers over the mic stand, that’s Joey Ramone coming through. When your favourite drummer goes nuts and just blows your mind with how fast they play, that’s their Tommy Ramone inside of them. When you see your favourite bassist yelling out “1-2-3-4” and the music kicks in, that’s their Dee Dee Ramone coming out. And when your favourite guitarist stands playing with a wealth of fury yet looking effortlessly cool, that’s their inner Johnny Ramone shining.
Ramones placed something in their fans that they will always carry round with them, and that’s why Punk won’t ever die. It just goes some place else.