Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Loss of Soul and Punk

'Were it not for music, we might in these days say, the Beautiful is dead.' ~Benjamin Disraeli

A somewhat somber New Narcotics this week in remembrance of two great artists who died yesterday. Two very different musicians but both fondly remembered as innovative, brilliant voices that projected a unique stamp upon their respective genres.

Teddy Pendergrass first found fame with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, starting as a drummer until his voice leapt to the front of the stage and the band invited him to act as lead singer. A mega hit in the shape of 'If You Don't Know Me By Now' from their debut album has since been covered a hundred times over but the afro-tastic favour of the original is unmatched in my opinion. A personal favourite from the bands catalogue is the groovy but sweet 'The Love I Lost' that chugs along on a disco riff but bellows forth a lovelorn story.

Teddy set out on a solo career in 1977, stretching his soul even further on classic ballads such as 'Turn Off The Light' and 'Close The Door' that oozed sexuality. More hit singles followed from upbeat, disco-tinged tracks like 'The More I Get, The More I Want' and the oft-covered and sampled 'Love TKO'.

The standout track of his career for me is the lovelorn 'The Whole Town's Laughing At Me' that sums up a harsh loss of love that culminates in the utter despair and paranoia that resides within the soulful stylings and voice that pleads and ponders.

A car accident in 1982 almost put an end to his career after he was paralysed from the waist down but after physical therapy he returned to music and recorded a duet with an unknown singer, now famous, Whitney Houston, called 'Hold Me'. He continued to perform live up until being diagnosed with colon cancer, the disease that would eventually take his life on January 13th 2010 at 59 years old.


Born Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr in 1981, Jay Reatard began recording at age 15 and formed a band called the Reatards. He released a couple of EPs with a punk rock ethos that used distortion,
lo-fi garage riffs and heavy drums to craft hard kicking tracks such as 'Your So Lewd' .

He also worked with The Lost Sounds and The Final Solutions, showing an impressive songwriting output, but, arguably, his best work came as a solo artist with 'Blood Visions' in 2006. An album full of aggression and quirk that bops, bounces and growls through tracks such as short, sharp opener 'Blood Visions' and the yelpy 'Nightmares'.

A relentless musician, composer and artist, he set up his own record label under the moniker Shattered Records, toured worldwide, collaborated with a number of musicians and bands and released a stream of EPs and records, such as this excellently angry B-Side 'An Ugly Death'.

His second album appeared mellower than previous output though retained the individual sense that Reatard injects into everything he touches. 'Watch Me Fall' is an album full of standout tracks that compliment and contradict oneanother. 'It Ain't Gonna Save Me' is catchy but filled with bile, whilst 'Man of Steel' seems as if it was assembled from a mish-mash of songs and riffs that somehow slot together perfectly.

Jay was an icon in the alternative punk world and his brashness, output and general demeanor towards the industry and music will let him live on in musical memory long after his death a
t the ridiculously tragic age of 29, under circumstances yet to be established.


Finally, a quick couple of new artists to keep you a little upbeat after all this gloom and doom!

From LA come Fool's Gold, a group whose afropop manages to sound somewhat like indie via the hipsters at the heart of the group (and probably thanks to the success of Vampire Weekend, those rascals). Their debut albums is available, titled 'IAMSOUND', and sounds just as joyous as that title does rolling out of your mouth. Tracks on repeat inside my head as I imagine some sunshine over an African plain (anything but ICE!) are 'Surprise Hotel' and 'Nadine'
Fool's Gold Myspace

From the Sunshine State, keeping up the warm and fuzzy feeling, are Surfer Blood, a lo-fi indie mess whose music is just pure jangle and jingle, against a backdrop of sun and summer. 'Swim (To Reach to the End)' is infinitely listenable as the garage guitars flash and melt away periodically, and 'Floating Vibes' does exactly what it says on the tin (I want to lie on a raft with this track buzzing in my ears...). Their debut album 'Astro Coast' is out on the get on it...

Surfer Blood's Myspace

Albums out next week include...
'Romance Is Boring' by Los Campesinos
'Teen Dream' by Beach House
'Transference' by Spoon
'Campfire Songs' [Re-release] by Animal Collective

That is all for this week, keep on keeping on despite such sad losses to the world of music. Just remember them through a constant, loud blasting of their records and the legacy they leave behind!

Buh Bye!

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