So after The Ramones, the next few things that came to mind were Michael Azerrad’s book ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life’, the Maximumrocknroll rant that Sonic Youth printed on the inner sleeve of their ‘Master=Dik’ 12″ and Negativland’s ‘Escape From Noise’.
It’s a pretty thick and chewy sandwich to work on. Azerrad was apparently inspired to write the book after watching a TV documentary about punk that leapt from Talking Heads to Nirvana, kinda skipping right over the whole 80’s U.S. underground that made Nirvana possible. It tells the story of those years through a chapter each on about a dozen of those bands. Four of them turn up in a row at the start of the show, after that I thought I’d spread the net a little wider for some favourite old bits and pieces and some new things in similar vein. The slightly odd choice for the Hüsker Dü track is down to the pasting Ben Weasel gives it in the previously mentioned rant included with the Master=Dik 12″ by Sonic Youth. If you can’t be bothered to try and read it off the image (although it’s worth it for a laugh) he basically calls out everyone and their mother for being sell outs, for musically growing, experimenting or having new ideas – all the stuff that was good about these bands – anything but a narrow image of hardcore that he sees as ideal. You’ve no doubt heard similar purist rants elsewhere but it’s a fun example and credit to Sonic Youth for provocatively sticking it in there. Master=Dik followed the ‘Sister’ album and is an almost entirely experimental record that sees the Youth Dik about with hip-hop and sound collage techniques, something of a forerunner to the Ciccone Youth album that came along a little while later, it’s also kind of a mess. It was released at a special low price with a cover sticker warning the unwary hardcore customer that it wasn’t as good as Big Black’s ‘Atomizer’. Although, perfectly, it did include a cover of ‘Beat On The Brat’.
Here’s Michael Azerrad talking about his book some. . .
As for Negativland, and Culturcide, where to start? ‘Escape From Noise’ is an experimental underground masterpiece of dense sound collage, I hadn’t listened to it in ages but it still sounds great. Like a lot of the bands in Azerrad’s book it came out on SST at about the same time as Sonic Youth’s ‘Sister’. Where Negativland were clearly technically smart and considered, Culturcide’s magnificently titled ‘Tacky Souvenirs Of Pre-Revolutionary America’ is its bratty lo-fi brother and basically features a guy singing his own lyrics over tapes of hits of the 80’s. It’s abject and stupid but also brilliant and not a million miles away from Ciccone Youth’s ‘Addicted To Love’. . .