Cramps

Predating and never quite participating in the early ’80s rockabilly revival, the Cramps used that genre’s primal sound as a jumping-off point for a uniquely weird pastiche of rock’n’roll, psychedelia and a monster movie/junk food/swamp-creature aesthetic. Led by uninhibited vocalist Lux Interior (Ohio native Erick Purkhiser, who was clearly a student of Cleveland television’s Ghoulardi)…

Ian Dury

Although new wave was still two years away, the London music scene of 1975 wasn’t all Queen and the Rolling Stones; pub-rock bands were making fresh and exciting music, laying the groundwork for more radical outfits to follow. Some included musicians whose skills came in very handy when the dam broke in 1977; Kilburn and…

(English) Beat

Although lumped in with the 2-Tone crowd upon emerging in 1979, the wonderful Beat (billed in America as the English Beat because of the Paul Collins group that was also using the name) released only one single on the label. Although, in retrospect, too divergent for its own good, the inter-racial Birmingham sextet was more…

Shakin’ Pyramids

Few neo-rockabilly combos are as down-home folksy as Glasgow, Scotland’s Shakin’ Pyramids. This trio not only avoids electricity, they barely condone musical instruments, having started out as a pair of busking acoustic guitarists and a singer/harmonica player. The corrupting touch of fame lured them into adding electric guitar, acoustic bass and a spot of drums…

Wendy and Lisa

On their maiden voyage away from former führer Prince, ex-Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboard player Lisa Coleman delivered a generous helping of smooth, likable tunes. The lyrical department is a little shakier, sometimes veering into bathos — “The Life,” “Song About” (guess who). But the compositions show flashes of harmonic and structural daring, and…

XTC

Hailing from the bland English exurb of Swindon, XTC emerged from an early punk-manic phase to produce several ambitious and now-classic records: the spiky art-pop gems Drums and Wires and Black Sea, the flawed epic English Settlement and the exquisite pop pastorale Skylarking. For many years a trio of Andy Partridge (guitar/vocals), Colin Moulding (bass/vocals)…

Pigbag

Bristol’s Pigbag was an instrumental sextet with a four-piece brass-and-reed section. The music they played — mostly uptempo, Latin-tinged jazz-funk — was good fun for the length of a 1981 single, and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” was duly a big dancefloor hit. Stretched out over an album, though, the band’s writing limitations become…

Trio

Originally issued in Germany in 1981, Trio’s Klaus Voorman-produced debut album was updated to include their European million-seller, “Da Da Da ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha.” (With the lyrics redone in English, the song was popular in dance clubs outside Germany as well.) Compared to the rest of the…

Polecats

This young, stylish London trio (plus a drummer) dropped out of the spotlight after releasing Polecats Are Go!, a gem of a rockabilly revival album. Producer Dave Edmunds applies the same polish he brought to the Stray Cats, and these ‘Cats truly sparkle. Piano, saxophone and careful vocal harmonies ice the usual neo-rockabilly cake of…

Girls at Our Best!

Judy Evans is the only female Girl at Our Best! but her untrained trilling is the band’s most distinctive element. The male musicians play pep-charged tunes about narcissistic youth; unflagging chord changes and witty lyrics prevent portentousness. A good romp. Thomas Dolby is among the players. The Peel Sessions EP, recorded in February 1981, contains,…

Au Pairs

Although the quartet was evenly divided between the sexes, the trademarks of Birmingham’s Au Pairs were singer/guitarist Lesley Woods’ husky vocals and her feminist themes. They favored stripped-down, generally tuneless dance-rock, perhaps the better to drive home ironic messages like “We’re So Cool,” “Set-Up” (both on the first album), “Sex Without Stress” and “Intact” (on…

Gang of Four

If the Clash were the urban guerrillas of rock’n’roll, Leeds’ Gang of Four were its revolutionary theoreticians. The band’s bracing and style-setting funk-rock gained its edge from lyrics that dissect capitalist society with the cool precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. The Gang saw interpersonal relationships — “romance,” if you must — as politics in microcosm,…

Big Pig

From the cruel metaphor of the opening “Iron Lung” to the weary conclusion of “Devil’s Song,” Bonk is one angry record. Although technically an Australian group, Big Pig began in London around 1985, and hatred of Margaret Thatcher’s England seems to fuel the bittersweet material. Lead singer Sherine has a dark alto that complements the…

Delta 5

Their name sounds like a 1920s jug band, but Delta 5 — Leeds contemporaries of the Gang of Four — display up-to-the-minute beat consciousness welded to songs of emotional discontent. Double female vocals in pronounced British accents are backed by whomping rhythm (two guitars, two basses) and occasional splashes of musical color (brass, keyboards, pedal…

Nick Lowe

Britain’s pub-rock movement, the unpretentious early-’70s scene that played such a crucial role in the run- up to do-it-yourself punk, was based on English admiration for earthy Americana: country, R&B, rockabilly, western swing. Which provides an easy (if incomplete) explanation for how Nick Lowe could emerge from the mild-mannered Brinsley Schwarz to become the co-founder,…

Raunch Hands

In their mid-’80s heyday (such as it was), New York’s Raunch Hands were retro-rock representatives of that presumed golden age of sleaze, the mid-’50s to mid-’60s. Thus El Rauncho Grande offers neo-rockabilly, neo-R&B and even neo-Mex, all filtered through the band’s beer-heightened (lowered?) sensibilities. Learn to Whap-a-Dang is less quaint than the EP, and its…

Rezillos

Scotland’s Rezillos were a blast of fresh air compared to the more serious bands of new wave’s first charge. Initially formed as the Knutsford Dominators by students at the Edinburgh College of Art, the group was partial to an overhauled ’60s look (e.g., foil mini-skirts, pop-art fabrics) and songs with titles like “Flying Saucer Attack,”…

Nico

A fashion model and bit player in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, German native Christa Paffgen was dubbed Nico and plunged into the maelstrom of rock when Andy Warhol introduced her to the Velvet Underground, which she then joined as its femme fatale singer. Chelsea Girl, her maiden voyage on a solo musical career, is of…

Contributors

These folks either wrote reviews that appear on the site or wrote for Trouser Press magazine. If anyone listed below cares to E-mail us with a link you’d like added, just let us know. And ditto if anyone is AWOL from this list. Grant AldenDavid AntrobusJem AswadTroy J. AugustoMichael AzerradCary BakerMichael BakerEmily BeckerJohn BergstromArt BlackJohn…

Music in a Word: 50 Years on a Rock and Roll Soapbox

Why do I write about music? Why does anyone? I’ve given that question a lot of thought and I have discerned subliminal motives that are less than flattering. On one hand, it’s the desire to share what moves me, to offer the benefit of serious consideration and historical knowledge to the young and curious. On a deeper level, however, it springs from a desire to be accepted and appreciated, to establish standing in the world that I hungered for as a child.