Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I’ve had toxic resistance to the English punk bands of the early 80s, almost as early as I became aware of them back in the day. Man, you couldn’t push aside a hippie with a stick without finding some young Mohican sniveling in the bushes right behind him. His new leather jacket was almost always adorned with colorful patches or stickers from “the Big 3” – GBH, DISCHARGE and THE EXPLOITED – as well as lesser lights such as ANTI-PASTI, ADICTS, CHELSEA, 999, COCKNEY REJECTS, VICE SQUAD etc etc. (though truth be told, in high school I was a biiiiig Vice Squad fan). Those bands always sounded totally comic to me – three-chord music for children, played ham-handedly and full of sloganeering, particularly when put up against the amazing California punk of my youth. Or against the US punk of the east coast, Midwest, Northwest and South. Or Sweden, or Australia, etc. With a few exceptions, and contrary to the fight songs coming across the pond at the time, it seems as if punk rock really did die in England around 1980 or so - but thankfully the UK had a lot more to be proud of the first half of that decade, just not from the leathered & mohawked contingent. If there’s anyone out there who wants to fight about this, get in touch and we’ll meet behind stoners’ cove or at next week’s DRI reunion.

Then I heard a song from THE EXPLOITED around 1986 that knocked my goddamn socks off, a roaring 45 that to me, is the apotheosis, the “absolute”, if you will, of moronic English punk. Of course I’m talking about “Dead Cities”. Can’t. Be. Touched! I saw a stage production of the book, later the film, “Trainspotting” at San Francisco’s Edinburgh Castle around 1991 or ‘92 that ended with this song cranked to ear-ripping levels, and I swear the smile on my face could’ve split the building in two. Resisted early 80s English punk until now? Good for you. But download this one, as it’s the proverbial exception that proves the rule.

Play or Download THE EXPLOITED – “Dead Cities” (A-side of 1981 45)


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. The zine I had in high school used 'Dead Cities' much as you do - to hold it up as the epitome of doofus Brit punk. Its comic value , however, has increased (if that's possible) over the intervening years... I needed a laugh today.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes and no.
I don't think you can really throw 999 in with the rest of that bunch.
Most of their early singles are pretty catchy pop-punk with some good guitar work.
Inane lyrics? Pretty much. Goofy posing? Yep.
But they could actually put a 3-chord song together unlike the others.

I feel so cheap.

Dave said...

I can't believe I just willingly downloaded an Exploited track! Have I just entered a stranger, more frightening universe? Considering how fucking AWFUL I consider the band to be (and they toured here recently!), it's surprisingly not totally horrible. The vast bulk of that 2nd-generation UK punk is beyond worthless, though I'll still stand by Discharge (1st 3 LPs), Rudimentary Peni and some Crass and Amebix 'til I drop dead. I gotta ask the question: are you a fan of this stuff at all?

Jay H. said...

Dave, no, I'm not. I've heard a little Crass and Rudimentary Peni that I thought was OK, but still totally overrated. No, it's this Exploited track for me, and that's about it.

Anonymous said...

Pittsburgh (like a lot of towns I imagine) was pretty damaged on most of the UK 2nd wave, dress up punk so I was pretty well versed in most of this stuff. While most of it hasn't held up I do think that a lot of those early Exploited singles kind of kill it and Discharge (up until the "More I See" single) are untouchable.
In fact Wattie spent some time in Pgh w/a girl from the scene so as a young punk kid I went to an amusement park and played miniature golf with him (He won by a great margin).
Dave Martin

Anonymous said...

Yep San Diego was fairly damaged on the stuff also. The main punk promoter at the time, Tim Maze (who would later go on to open the Casbah), in collaboration with Goldenvoice would often bring in the big Britpunk bands of the early '80s, inevitably together with Battalion of Saints and another local band, or if we who were into a little diversity, a decent touring HC act. He'd charge around 10 bucks for these shows, surely to help cover the ridiculous riders of the Britpunk "stars" and pocket a decent amount. These bands would attract the most lunkheaded element of the scene and the bands themselves always seemed tepid live compared to the more active, energetic US bands. So, yeah, bands of that period STILL leave a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I'd rather listen to some of the Oi! bands of the time who at least made some catchy tunes....I hate to say it but I got a big laugh when I heard that Wattie got beat up on stage in Mexico City after making some (supposedly) anti-Mexican remarks (sometime in the late '90s I think). Nonetheless, aren't the Exploited and those other wanker bands are still at it playing those punkathons somewhere out in San Bernadino every summer??


Nazz Nomad said...

these bands would come to NYC and we would just laugh at em.

Anonymous said...

Sonicgg vs. Wattie: BATTLE OF THE BURNOUTS! maybe we could sell tickets!
You forgot my fave 2nd-Wave UK band:

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should check out the Resistance 77 LP from around 83-84. I think that has stood the test of time better than most.


Brushback said...

I think I still kinda like Discharge and GBH a lot better.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, The Exploited... I used to love their album "Troops Of Tomorrow", a guilty pleasure even then, because Wattie &co. were viewed with suspicion by the pc crowd I hung with. Something about Wattie wearing a swastika button on the inner sleeve of another album... Still, gotta hand it to the guy: he's still at it, rocking a thinning mohawk, belting out his dunderheaded chants in front of an ever loyal fanbase of Fisher Price
punks. Glad to see some things never change.


Anonymous said...

I don't see how Rudimentary Peni is "overrated," and anyway they're the opposite of this waterhead garbage. This song's maybe the least offensive in the cannon, but to me the Exploited are the fucking worst. Outside Starship or Hatebreed. Actually, pretty much runnin' even.