Sneering through the early stages of punk rock

Buzzcocks, Ramones, Stiff Little Fingers all come out to play

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Dead Kennedys Logo

Instead of presenting a well-ordered, fairly balanced, genre-specific rendition of punk’s ever-sprawling evolution, it’s time to enjoy a few classics that only sound more punk with age.

The best of the bottom of the barrel, these tattooed, three-chord rocking mother-fuckers wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“Barbed Wire Love” " Stiff Little Fingers
Straight Outta Belfast should have been the title of this Northern Ireland punk outfit’s first album. Formed in 1977, Stiff Little Fingers put politics into their music with a sneer and a wail.

“Barbed Wire Love” combines the band’s best aspects, laying down a standard riff and some roughly hewn vocals before busting out a Motown-inspired chorus halfway through and a series of handclaps in the closing minute.

“Kill the Poor” " Dead Kennedys
This track sums up everything the Kennedys pretended to stand for. With a basic ear-assault backing him, frontman Jello Biafra satirically promotes the “neutron bomb” as a way to annihilate the world’s impoverished people. As Biafra explains, “It’s nice and clean and gets things done.”

“Kill the Poor,” the first track on the band’s seminal Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, caused some Christians to label the band “the most dangerous band in the world.” How’s that for overkill?

“Sheena is a punk rocker” " Ramones
A song about a punk band writing a punk song about a punk girl who’s a punk rocker? What are the odds?

Forget the argument about who started punk, The Sex Pistols or Ramones; just throw laurels on Iggy Pop and the Stooges and let it go.

Close your eyes and enjoy the show. You feel like your’re in the 1970s almost immediately. Don’t forget the torn leather jacket. Remember, man, it’s all about the music… or the studded belts.

“What Do I Get?” " The Buzz-cocks
The Buzzcocks, who formed before The Sex Pistols but were beaten to the punch by those nihilistic bastards for releasing a full-blown album, were one of the first punk bands to dirty up the British air waves.

The Buzzcocks combined pop with chaos and punk. Many Buzz-cocks songs, including “What Do I Get?,” address the treacherous topic of love.

Singer Pete Shelley belts out “What do I get?/ Nothing at all/ ’Cause I don’t get you.” Unlike today’s pop-punkers, he probably means it.

“Clampdown” " The Clash
While “Clampdown” was never released as a single, it contains all the necessary elements. Joe Strummer slots his political commentary into a catchy chorus and some quotable lines. Whether it’s addressing the Nazi regime or capitalism is debatable.

After a few listens, you won’t want to be caught dead “wearing the blue and brown/ working for the clampdown.” Nothing sounds better than a revolution. It’s just too bad it never happened.

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