Sunday, March 15, 2009

Interesting footnote in rock's history

Death was Punk Before Punk Was Punk:
The group’s music has been almost completely unheard since the band stopped performing more than three decades ago. But after all the years of silence, Death’s moment has finally arrived. It comes, however, nearly a decade too late for its founder and leader, David Hackney, who died of lung cancer in 2000. “David was convinced more than any of us that we were doing something totally revolutionary,” said Bobby Sr., 52.

Forgotten except by the most fervent punk rock record collectors — the band’s self-released 1976 single recently traded hands for the equivalent of $800 — Death would likely have remained lost in obscurity if not for the discovery last year of a 1974 demo tape in Bobby Sr.’s attic. Released last month by Drag City Records as “... For the Whole World to See,” Death’s newly unearthed recordings reveal a remarkable missing link between the high-energy hard rock of Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC5 from the late 1960s and early ’70s and the high-velocity assault of punk from its breakthrough years of 1976 and ’77. Death’s songs “Politicians in My Eyes,” “Keep On Knocking” and “Freakin Out” are scorching blasts of feral ur-punk, making the brothers unwitting artistic kin to their punk-pioneer contemporaries the Ramones, in New York; Rocket From the Tombs, in Cleveland; and the Saints, in Brisbane, Australia. They also preceded Bad Brains, the most celebrated African-American punk band, by almost five years.
H/t Richard of American Leftist, who notes that contra the article, there was perhaps more in common between punk and disco than met the eye (the article leads one to the conclusion that the rise of disco was the death knell for the protopunk band Death). Hell, once the post-punk era began in earnest around the end of the 1970s and continued into the early 1980s, some interesting musical mutations of punk intensity and disco's propulsive beats emerged. Certainly, we'd want to consider some of the music that got characterized as "no wave," as well as industrial music (check out some Cabaret Voltaire's music from around 1982 or 1983, or perhaps some of 23 Skidoo's work from around that period; and if we want to go into the late 1980s, Skinny Puppy and Ministry both included elements of both genres and then some), as well as Pop Group and Gang of Four (bands that produced some genius work around 1979-1980). There was certainly a sonic blend of music of multiple cultures in many of these bands work at the time, and was one of the things that attracted me to it (along with the angst, nihilism, and occasional revolutionary rhetoric).

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