Vibrators

Like the Stranglers, the Vibrators were considerably older than the other bands comprising the London punk scene in 1977. A rudimentary quartet with a knack for insidiously catchy songs, the Vibrators — after a brief alliance with Chris Spedding, whom they backed on the first punk novelty record, “Pogo Dancing” — established themselves with a…

Dag Nasty

With Dave Smalley of Boston’s DYS on vocals and Brian Baker (ex-Minor Threat/Meatmen) on guitar, this DC quartet was something of a supergroup; with co-production by Ian MacKaye, the debut sounds a lot like Minor Threat. Hardcore pop with heart and harmonies, it’s still much rougher than Smalley’s next stop, All. Pithy and articulate, with…

True Sounds of Liberty (TSOL)

Without True Sounds of Liberty (and Agent Orange, for that matter), it’s safe to assume there would be no Offspring. In its prime one of the top five or so punk outfits this country has ever produced, the pioneering California group degenerated from a tight, rippling hardcore quartet to a lame hair metal band with…

Big Drill Car

Orange County, California’s Big Drill Car specializes in bouncy punk-pop, full of hooks, harmonies and exuberant playing. Frank Daly’s earnest and clear vocals and Mark Arnold’s sharp, efficient guitar work brighten the six-song Small Block, a near-perfect introduction to a very likable quartet. The inexplicably French-titled “Les Cochons Sans Poils,” which suggests the group has…

Something Happens

This Dublin quartet played straightforward guitar-based pop-rock, refreshingly free of the ’60s trappings or indie- dance copycatism of many likeminded UK and Irish contemporaries. Arguments over the mix on the Tommy Erdelyi-produced debut album precipitated the release of a six-song live set recorded before a crowd of the converted. As it previews a couple of…

Eat

Lauded in Britain but virtually unknown in the States, this Bath-born/London-formed quintet’s first LP is a most impressive debut. Merging elements as diverse as the Doors, Gang of Four and Big Audio Dynamite, Eat created an instantly familiar record that ultimately sounds like no one else. From the spaghetti western blues crunch of “Tombstone” and…

Crazyhead

Taking its cues from grebo mongrels Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, this cheeky Leicester quintet — whose personnel employ such sobriquets as Porkbeast and Reverb — gleefully gooses heavy metal with a poppy irreverence that is absolutely infectious. Bolstered by two superb singles (“Time Has Taken Its Toll on You” and “What Gives You…

Momus

On first listen, the early recordings of Briton Nicholas Currie (aka Momus) suggest some sort of unholy alliance between Donovan and Morrissey. Both literate and literary, Currie is an erudite singer/songwriter of striking originality who merges European music-hall tradition with more conventional new-agey folk and synth disco; call it “fop” music. Like Woody Allen, Currie…

Into Paradise

Lucky for this brooding, gentle Dublin group, singer/guitarist David Long has one of those spot-on whines that manages to add the sense of emotional fragility — heft even — his clichéd words don’t necessarily deserve. The tunes themselves are a different, and often glorious, story. Produced by Adrian Borland (of the late, great Sound), Under…

Molly Half Head

This Manchester quartet, whose complex arrangements and skewed pseudo-poetry have roots in the members’ avant-noise origins, produce an intricate and original post-punk roar. But despite superior instrumental chops, it’s singer Paul Bardsley who remains front and center. Second only to Mark E. Smith in the Potentially Annoying Vocal Affectation Pantheon, Bardsley is fond of pronouncing…

Jazz Butcher

The Jazz Butcher has undergone more transformations than most bands do in several lifetimes. Led by the Jazz Butcher (aka Butch; in truth, Pat Fish) himself, it is, regardless of incarnation, his lyrical witticisms and humorous critiques around which the group’s music revolves. The debut LP, A Bath in Bacon, is for all intents and…

Hoodoo Gurus

Australia has produced few bands as crazily entertaining as Sydney’s Hoodoo Gurus, whose roots intersect with the early Scientists. Who else would dedicate their debut album to, among other pop culture giants, American TV sitcom stars Larry Storch and Arnold Ziffel? That their music is an invigorating combination of cow-punk, garage-rock and demi-psychedelia only makes…

Naked Raygun

Chicago’s Naked Raygun was one of the encouraging new punk bands that bloomed in the Midwest long after thrash had apparently isolated the punk aesthetic in its own circumscribed ghetto, where it would never again challenge the musical values of regular folk. Lump the longer-running Raygun in with Hüsker Dü, Man Sized Action, Big Black…

Jesus Jones

History will record Jesus Jones as a one-hit wonder (1991’s “Right Here, Right Now”), a shoe-in for the inevitable ’90s retrospectives to come. The truth is that the London quintet started in an interesting place and went downhill from there, ultimately buried by frontman Mike Edwards’ over-reaching sonic ambitions. Infatuated with American hip-hop, New York…

Nice Strong Arm

Originally from the Austin scene that spawned such kindred spirits as the Butthole Surfers and Scratch Acid, this NYC trio crafts a so(m)ber mixture of Brit gloom (Joy Division, Bauhaus) and New York guitar screech (Sonic Youth, Swans). While its work has been spotty, Nice Strong Arm has never been less than intriguing. Initially distinguished…

Shed Seven

One of the dozens of scrappy young hopefuls to emerge from the mid-’90s Britpop renaissance, this energetic quartet weds a simplistic rough-hewn guitar roar to drearily infantile lyrics that mostly serve to celebrate singer Rick Witter’s witless narcissism. Luckily, Change Giver is a catchy melodic racket that oddly recalls both the Smiths (“Head and Hands,”…

Raging Slab

Imagine the thundering ’70s sludge that would erupt from a Cuisinart containing Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Öyster Cult, Kiss and Molly Hatchet. That Raging Slab — a New York quintet led by two Washington DC escapees with roots in hardcore and art-funk and bottleneck guitarist Elyse Steinman — can make all this retro nonsense sound…

Mark Burgess and the Sons of God

After the breakups of the revered Chameleons and the Sun and the Moon, bassist/singer Mark Burgess embarked on a sort-of solo excursion that found him creating intriguing new music while heading up what turned out to be one of alternative rock’s most glorious live nostalgia acts. Zima Junction, consisting of demos “for an album that…

Snuff

Taking its cue from such fellow Brits as the UK Subs and such US brethren as the Descendants, Snuff plays speedy raveups bursting with frenetic drumming and sing-songy choruses (“Some-How” and “Not Listening,” in particular, stand out) on its marvelously titled debut (generally referred to as Snuff Said). Uncluttered production and the band’s unbridled enthusiasm and…

Wonder Stuff

Arrogance and mean-spiritedness are not two traits you’d normally offer as key ingredients for a successful pop band. But then, most pop bands don’t have half as many hooks as this Birmingham foursome led by sneering smartass and self-important singer/lyricist Miles Hunt. With its clever self-explanatory title and crisp production (by ex- Vibrator Pat Collier),…