The Nightingales were definitely in the Post-Punk swim of it all with their “Idiot Strength” having more than a faint whiff of The Cure emanating from its tense, coiled, energy. When the choppy guitar chords sprung to life in the left channel only about a minute and a half in, it had the effect of a warning klaxon. Vocalist Robert Lloyd and some of his bandmates in The prefects had seen the future and it was in well-written songs instead of formless dirges. Lloyd would go on to become a Brum kingpin with his Vindaloo label later down the road.
All we knew about Lowdown International was that they appear on this album, but “Batteries Not Included” was a fascinating song of two minds; a lurching verse structure where primitive synths and guitars were locked in a seesaw battle for dominance before the verses burst free from the stasis to explode into frenetic punk energy. The mordant social commentary sure didn’t hurt this band any! I’m amazed that they didn’t go on to big things.
Joe Crow was another ex-Prefect/Nightingale who moved on to better things. His one single “Compulsion” showed up on Cherry Red’s “Pillows + Prayers” compilation, but the song here was previously unreleased. I have to admit that I really enjoyed the combination of prominent bass with a motorik rhythm, no guitars, but a tremolo Stylophone instead taking the melody places. They issued a CD of about seven tracks in 2007 called “Coincidence” but this track is only here.
Nikki Sudden popped up again with his first solo single, the the wonderful, quirky Pop of “Channel Steamer,” Which sounded like Buzzcocks meets Duane Eddy. Sudden was certainly shaping his vocals in the Pete Shelley style here but an unexpected treat here were the deliciously flat harmony vocals of a young lady named “Lizard” on the sleeve. She was the first woman to manifest so far on this collection, but the second half of this disc would set about correcting that oversight.
Post-Punk Feminist Issues
Cult Figures had a name that might been inspired by The Cure’s sidestep as Cult Hero, but otherwise, there wasn’t a hint of The Cure on the jangly “I Remember,” Instead the track had a dusky late 60s Pop vibe with lyrics actually about love! A more fascinating music on that subject came from the pen of Au Pairs, the vibrant, feminist Post-Punk combo who did for feminism what Gang of 4 did for Marxism. Their “Love Song” applied a Bo Diddley beat variation to a dispassionate deconstruction of lovesong cliché. I remember seeing “Music For A Different Sex” in the import bins everywhere back in the day. how is it that I still don’t have a copy of this undoubtedly intoxicating album in my Record Cell? This track hails from that and I need to obtain one of these…quickly.
If Au Pairs feminism hit with the impact of a university textbook, then Fast Relief imparted a visceral feminism as experienced by women every day of their lives, regardless of their educational backgrounds. The opening couplet sounded like a mother nagging her daughter and pulled no punches.
“What A Waste” sounded like a very young woman recounting the expectations tossed into her face on a daily basis. Every word sounded like it was taken from someone’s life and the jangly, percussive mix of music surrounding it managed to convey a fevered spirit of joyous defiance demanding that we dance to it. This was another band surfacing only here, 40 years later that should have had at least a few highly sought after 7″ singles. Give a listen to this and everything else, below.
Vision Collision were a band immortalized since they were on the bill at the third Duran Duran show at Barbarellas, but the psychedelic-meets-dub, angular energies of “Cuba” showed them to be a band that should have not had to wait 40+ years to have one of their songs finally reach our ears. Vocalist Fozzit was singular for being the only black voice here.
Speaking of dub, the band Dance were the only players here that were investigating that Post-Punk touchstone in full. “Revolve Around You” was a male-female duet that stopped midway, following a burst of sped up tape noise to explore version space for the second half of its five minute length.
Finally, The Pinkies “Open Commune” was at least the A-side to their indie single of the era. They had in Jayne, another female vocalist, with a bright turn in a jangling, fascinating blend like early TVLKING HEVDS if they had a full horn section.
It was wonderful that the swirling scene of Birmingham’s Post-Punk era was captured in all of its frantic glory as maybe a fourth of the bands here were made up of the same pool of musicians combining, and recombining for the sound and vibe that would click for them. Some of these acts, any fan should know. Swell Maps, The Hawks [Stephen Duffy], Nikki Sudden, Au Pairs, and Fàshiön Music all managed to get a leg up and to have their music released on something other than a D.I.Y. indie label. A few had careers that managed to persist until this day.
Yet all of the music here painted a broad picture of the variety of style that was ultimately the calling card of the Post-Punk movement. And thankfully, Easy Action have made it available on the silver disc as well as the LP formats. Just £11.99 on CD or £25.00 of you like flipping sides. It’s a must have for ancient ones who were there and for anyone else wanting a glimpse of an explosive period of musical growth as it happened in the midlands of England, over 40 years ago. D.J. hit that button.