“One of my more dangerous friends used to say Full Metal Jackoff was the ultimate surf tune – the music he wanted playing when that monster wave he was riding finally rose into a tsunami the size of a continent and effectively removed all evidence that humankind had ever existed. What it is actually, is a hardcore supernova — Jello Biafra and DOA together (for one short 1990 album), and no question, Full Metal Jackoff is its primary reason to exist. Because it uses its fourteen piledriving minutes to put it all together for us: the monstrous evil of Ronald Reagan’s America in all of its streamlined complexity, conspiracy and cynical malevolence.
Because it really would be a little obvious to fence off all the slums, hand machine guns to the poor and just let them kill each other off. No you need to be more subtle than that, you need a plan that involves illegal cash from Iran, cocaine from Colombia, the ‘freedom fighting’ Contras of Nicaragua and CIA guns … until at some point there’s a black van with no windows cruising the various mean streets of the great US of A, sealing the deal, maybe disappearing a few of your neighbours on the side. But nobody even hears their screams. Or if they do, they’re too terrified to do anything about it. Welcome to America at the end of the 1980s. Not fascist so much as stampeding in that particular direction. Though it’s not as if serious f***ing noise isn’t getting made about it.” (Philip Random)
“Turn On The News arrived in my life as one of those ‘you must hear this’ items. 1984 sometime, the dark middle point of Ronald Reagan’s reign. It’s a radio night, Bostock shouting everyone else down, elbowing his way to the turntable, demanding we pay attention to the first track on Side Four of Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, punk rock’s first truly epic album. Which, of course, meant Zen Arcade wasn’t really punk rock. It was too big, too beyond, and no question, Turn On The News was its most essential four and a half minutes. A song of pain, a song of despair, and yet hope as well, because it’s a song of consciousness, of not turning away from the noise and pain of the world. And it forced a turn of phrase, in my life anyway. Some friend’s boring you to death with his girlfriend issues, or the details of the mortgage on his new condo. You finally just shake your head and say, ‘Turn on the news, man. There’s people out there with real f***ing problems’.” (Philip Random)
This is Husker Du as they broke through, defining that zeitgeistmoment when punk finally embraced the psychedelic, became eternal. But Pink Turns To Blue is also Husker Du hinting at their inevitable demise. Or more to the point, Grant Hart, the drummer, the guy who wrote and sang it. A song about heroin and what happens when that person you love is changing colour on you, turning the wrong shade of blue. F***ing junkies. They ruin everything.
“DOA saved my life any number of times in the 1980s, mainly through their live shows. From the back of auto body shops to abandoned youth clubs to at least one high school gym to the Arts Club on Seymour (still the best damned live venue the Terminal City has ever had) to at least two sold out Commodore Ballrooms, to some impromptu acoustic messing around off the edge of a movie set – it was never pretty, always somehow beautiful. And I’m pretty sure they did War In The East every time, their only reggae song, because it slowed things a touch, clarified a few key points. Fighting one another – killing for big brother. Same as it ever was.” (Philip Random)
Wherein American punk-hard-core (whatever you want to call it) bushwackers Black Flag unleash a profound anthem of insight and purpose unto the world. Because we’ve all done it, invested precious hours of our lives in smoking dope, drinking cheap swill, watching crap on TV. Originally found on an EP of the same name, but most of us heard it first care of the Repo Man Soundtrack which, it’s true, probably saved the western world, but first it had to destroy it.
“Husker Du‘s 1984 double album Zen Arcade was one of those documents that changes everything forever. Here was a punk-hardcore-whatever that was simply, enormously MORE. Here was a band that was going to do whatever the f*** it wanted as long as the sound was sharp enough to cause bleeding at fifty yards. What’s Going On Inside My Head was my mantra for a while – less a question than a howl of purposeful confusionism. Don’t bow to the chaos of the age. Eat it. Let it nourish you.” (Philip Random)
You had to love the cover of Tupelo Chain Sex’s Spot the Difference. Little punk kid sporting a Ronald Reagan Adolph Hitler t-shirt, getting pulled two ways at once. But the real treasure was the music. Not just another hardcore band from LA, these guys had former Frank Zappa alumni Sugarcane Harris in their midst (not to mention a guy named Stumuk blowing a monster sax) and thus were brilliantly all over the place. Reggae, dub, ska, jazz, rockabilly, hardcore – everything, with lead off track The Dream (an extrapolation on an old Cab Calloway hit) serving as a whip smart intro to what remains one of the great (mostly) forgotten albums of any era.
Second of two in a row from the Minutemen‘s Double Nickels on the Dime, a double album featuring forty-three mostly hard, mostly fast, mostly abrupt nuggets that manage to be unerringly smart, angry, political, and damned good. Themselves, at one-minute-eighteen seconds, doesn’t even feel rushed, just urgent, because all the men who work the land need to wake the f*** up and see beyond the rhetoric. True in 1984. True in 2016.
First of two in a row from the Minutemen‘s Double Nickels on the Dime, arguably the best double album of the 1980s. Because 1984 was supposed to be the year that we all finally found ourselves in George Orwell’s living hell, betrayers of love, loving only Big Brother. But if you were digging deep, steering clear of the sewage that was flooding the mainstream, you had punk-rock-hardcore-whatever-you-want-to-call-it getting ambitious (progressive even), swinging hard for the fences in all kinds of cool ways. And the Minutemen were leading that charge.