A Note on Post-Punk

oorA few years ago a friend put together a low-key but ultimately successful post-punk compilation for a fanzine he was writing called Panic Button. The ‘zine’ was distributed the old-fashioned away: Handing copies out to passers-by who showed a modicum of interest or at least looked interesting; he also plugged it on his late-night university radio show. The magazine itself was a shoestring labour of love by someone who genuinely cared about his content and its subject matters. Between reviews of ‘classic’ albums and features on the modern revivalist scenes, Panic Button held the door ajar for everyone from Goths, hipsters to punks and the merely curious. The ‘zine’ and its CD counterpart reached a precious few, but was enough to earn the admiration of university peers and generate interest in the club nights he promoted. I think that’s all he wanted. As an enthusiast trying to make my name as a music journalist, I was deemed worthy of a contribution to this little foray. So I donned my anorak and began musing on my own introduction to the genre…

Inducted into post-punk’s monochromic landscape through an old mix tape (yes, tape!) fished out of my Dad’s wardrobe some time in 2005, I am still engrossed in the story of its origins, development and resurgence. Laying much of the groundwork for what would become Goth and alternative rock by broadening punk’s stylistic parameters – incorporating dub, funk, Krautrock, the avant-garde and often harsh atmospherics – post-punk remains as misunderstood as it was in its infancy, writhing out of the studio doors in the winter of the 1970s. It would become one of the more influential and far-reaching independent movements in the history of contemporary music. I struggle with the term ‘scene’ because of its connotations of unity, and while many of its key players shared networks, it was ultimately too great a phenomenon to be summed up neatly.

Coined by Sounds writer Jon Savage in ’77 describing bands that sounded like “harsh urban scrapings/controlled white noise/massively accented drumming”, the term would come to signify the racket made by Siouxsie & the Banshees, Joy Division, PIL and their ilk. John Peel was an early champion of the sound, and was responsible for many a band’s initial leg-up. He made stars of Killing Joke and Echo & the Bunnymen, while independent labels like Rough Trade, 4AD, Mute and Factory gave the fledging noisemakers their homes. Some came and sank without a trace; others stayed the course and remain active, and most produced at least one song of note.

[This compilation brings together many of the bands key to the development of the post-punk landscape, forgoing the better known and easily accessible names we all know and love.] When I was a magazine writer between 2009 and 2013 I wrote a great deal about the groups I was discovering, leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs for anyone caring enough to follow. Thanks to the encouragement of my unbelievably patient editor, my ‘Closet Classics’ column would become a dumping ground for the music I was so desperate for readers to hear.

1. Bauhaus – In the Flat Field
2. Gang of Four – I Found That Essence Rare
3. Public Image Limited – Careering
4. UK Decay – Testament
5. Wire – Ex Lion Tamer
6. Xmal Deutschland – Schwarze Welt
7. Magazine – Definitive Gaze
8. Crispy Ambulance – The Presence
9. Young Marble Giants – Brand New Life
10. The Sound – Winning
11. Modern Eon – Euthenics
12. The The – Giant
13. Modern English – Gathering Dust
14. The Psychedelic Furs – India
15. Talk Talk – Such a Shame
16. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Arabian Knights
17. Southern Death Cult – Moya
18. Theatre of Hate – Black Madonna
19. Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – Chance
20. And Also the Trees – Talk Without Words

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