Virgin Prunes

Dublin weirdoes with androgynous names and a predilection for semi-melodic rock and conceptual lyrics, the Virgin Prunes (one of whom, original guitarist Dik Evans, is the Edge’s brother) released two intriguing 45s before embarking on the ambitious “A New Form of Beauty” project (the concept being the beauty of being different — and, by metaphor,…

Misfits

Although considered part of the hardcore scene, New Jersey’s Misfits date back to the first CBGB and London punk surge. Drawing their sound from the Ramones and the Damned, and their look from horror movies and Kiss, the Misfits began by releasing a string of 7-inches on their Plan 9 label. Two of these —…

Bad Brains

At their best, Bad Brains are a band to make the hairs on the back of your neck ripple in awe. Rastafarians from Washington DC by way of New York City, Bad Brains play a groundbreaking, incendiary mixture of raging hardcore punk, deftly thudding metal and heartfelt, liquid reggae, bristling with spiritual fervor. Visionary frontman…

Pailhead

Although not quite the cultural turning point of Run — DMC’s collaboration with Aerosmith, Pailhead’s two records (1988’s “I Will Refuse” and Trait) do mark an historic genre conjunction. By the late ’80s, hardcore and industrial were ripe for merger, and two preeminent icons — Ian MacKaye (frenetic vocalist of Minor Threat and Fugazi) and…

Sex Gang Children

London’s fervent Sex Gang Children were all the rage of the English underground in 1982-’83, spearheading the positive-punk movement which mixed the raw energy and commitment of punk rock with the dark theatrics of goth. Sex Gang’s individual parts resemble a mélange of the Banshees, T. Rex, Bowie, UK Decay, Sex Pistols and Adam and…

March Violets

The March Violets began in 1981 as one of Leeds’ four famous drum machine bands, alongside the Sisters of Mercy, Three Johns and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. The Violets favored stark, primitive rhythm-box beats (as did the others), overlaid by Loz Elliott’s heavy bass throb and Tom Ashton’s inventively droning guitar (reminiscent of Magazine’s John…

45 Grave

Los Angeles’ 45 Grave were the leaders of the 1981 death-rock explosion that also birthed, among others, Christian Death and Dance with Me-era TSOL. The group was a breath of fresh graveyard air and, unlike many serious gloomsters, always kept tongue firmly in cinematic cheek. Playing with punky venom and a slick metallic sound (the…

Meatmen

Obnoxious, crude, offensive, blasphemous, tiresome and funny — the Meatmen are one band you’d never be able to explain to your parents (or even the vast majority of your peers). The rude punk parodists from Michigan heard on the infamous Blood Sausage and Crippled Children Suck 7-inches stomped on the sensitive issues of society with…

Slaughter & the Dogs

This Manchester punk group’s classic “Cranked Up Really High” was the first 45 released by that city’s pioneering independent label, Rabid Records; Slaughter and the Dogs regularly gigged at London’s famed Roxy Club. (They appear in the punk documentary Don Letts filmed there.) About as talented as others in the second tier of ’77 punk…

Sleep Chamber

If ever there was a group obsessed with obsessions, Sleep Chamber is it. This Boston outfit (basically the warlockish John ZeWizz aided by constantly shifting personnel) makes ritualistic industrial music that works on both a shock imagery level and on a more intellectual erotic/occult plateau. ZeWizz is mind-bogglingly prolific, having independently unleashed (in the US,…

Minor Threat

As the seminal hardcore band of our nation’s capital, Minor Threat played fast, impassioned music that defined the genre while never succumbing to its shortcomings. The quartet had both a sense of melody and a sense of purpose. “Straight Edge” was among the first hardcore songs to call for abstinence from drugs and booze, and…

Echobelly

Many Britpop bands of the mid-’90s can trace their sonic roots back to various new wavers of the not-so-distant past; in that case, Echobelly is the result of a marriage between Blondie and the Smiths. Less self-conscious and more pop-oriented than Elastica but just as modishly tight, the smart, kicky London quintet delivers bite-size hits…

Dead Can Dance

Mesmerizing if a bit laborious, Dead Can Dance’s eponymous debut finds the Australian-born/London-based Anglo-Irish quintet spinning slow webs of drum-driven but mostly shapeless guitar music with chanting, singing and howling by Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard. The more intriguing four-song Garden of the Arcane Delights EP (included on the Dead Can Dance CD) has crisper…

Insides

Less R&B-influenced than the similarly moody Portishead, the Brighton duo Insides recalls an older stratum of offbeat, melodically simple semi-electronic music. On Euphoria songs like “Walking in Straight Lines,” “Distractions” and the intriguingly titled (but unrelated) “Carly Simon,” it’s hard to decide which is lovelier, Julian Sergei Tardo’s sonic backdrop (the hypnotic, circular synth patterns…

Black Crowes

Led by the brothers Robinson, Atlanta’s pot-loving Black Crowes (previously a jangly R.E.M. clone band) lit up the dawn of the ’90s with a then-surprising nod to the hard-driving arena sounds of the ’70s. Arriving in a brief pre-grunge window of time when rock was still dominated by the dying gasps of hair metal and…

Einstürzende Neubauten

Part deadly earnest post-musical composers, part boys- with-toys goofballs whipping up a ruckus for the pure joy of making noise, Berlin’s Einstürzende Neubauten (Collapsing New Buildings) have built a distinctive, challenging and extremely imaginative sonic career out of implements generally intended for other utilitarian purposes: power drills, humming power lines, water towers, air-conditioning ducts, plate…

Alien Sex Fiend

Although Alien Sex Fiend emerged via England’s early-’80s Batcave movement, the group was hardly typical of the era’s gothic genre. From its 1983 debut, “Ignore the Machine,” ASF established a unique sound, melding ghoulish frontman Nik Fiend’s (Wade) creepy Cockney-accented ravings to the pulsing cosmic keyboards of his consort, Mrs. Fiend; Johnny Ha-Ha’s drums are…

Vice Squad

Formed in ’78, Bristol’s Vice Squad grew to become one of the most successful bands of the second British punk era. They made powerful music with bitterly intense lyrics and had — until she departed, following a disagreement over animal rights — a major focal point in lead singer Beki Bondage. No Cause for Concern…

Veil

Attempting a gothic sound comparable to mid-period Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bryan Gregory’s first post-Cramps project, the aptly titled Beast, was nothing like his old group. The Beast’s three 45s in the early-’80s were of mixed quality, and Gregory soon faded into obscurity. His three bandmates, however, moved to the UK and forged ahead as…

Jellyfish

At the very dawn of the ’90s, a semi-successful (if misguided) marketing approach led to brief retro- psychedelic notoriety for Jellyfish, a quirky San Francisco quartet led by multi-instrumentalists Andy Sturmer (mainly vocals and drums) and Roger Manning (mainly keyboards). The two had survived the failure of Beatnik Beatch (a forgettable pop-rock quartet whose one…