Blast First! 1987. BFFP17
I had a long chat the other day to a woman in a local punk band, and it reminded me that there are nowhere near enough women making noisy records. Actually, there aren’t enough women making records of any description, but noise seems especially badly served.
So it seemed like a good time to post some women making a glorious racket – and UT sprung to mind. They’ve appeared here before on the Devil’s Jukebox, but they deserve more than that. UT were part of the New York No Wave scene, but although they were big at the time, they seem to have been forgotten about, for reasons which aren’t obvious listening to this album.
Their debt to the Velvets is obvious, and Sonic Youth’s debt to them is equally obvious, but UT don’t really sound like either of them – they’re more like a discordant version of The Slits. Maybe that has to do with how they made their records – the songs are built around improvisation, and the women swap instruments regularly, including a violin which is sadly under-appreciated in rock music (King Of The Slums being a notable exception as well as the obvious Velvets stuff). Other bands I’ve seen do that have been, as a result, laughably incompetent, but that couldn’t be further from the truth with UT. As you’d expect, this isn’t an easy listen (it’s often shouty and quite an assault on the eardrums) but there’s some great playing here and some superb material. As you’d expect their radical politics go down well with me too, but I guess that’s not for everyone.
Blast First! 1989. BFDJ 1 – 10
Ripping this boxed set of 10 7″ singles was a job for a rainy day, and since it rained yesterday, it got done at last. It’s a compilation from the heyday of Paul Smith’s consistently excellent Blast First! label, containing mostly exclusive tracks from bands which are too important to ignore. Detailed info is hard to come by, but there’s only one track here (by Sun Ra) which I know is definately available elsewhere. To add to the confusion, this also came out on CD, cassette and LP as Nothing Short Of Total War with a different tracklisting on each format.
Sonic Youth are at their chaotic best, mixing the fairly conventional rock sound they perfected on Daydream Nation with the more experimental material they were better known for back then. They also appear as their bizarre Ciccone Youth alter ego. For me though, Steve Albini’s contributions; 2 tracks as Big Black and another as, well, I can’t bring myself to type it, are the highlight here. There’s an electrifying version of Kerosene, a truly depressing track about small town nihilism and a surprisingly laid back take on He’s A Whore. Dutch Courage by the unmentionable band is a shockingly badly recorded live version, but oddly, all the better for it. Big Stick contribute a version of their classic Drag Racing, which frankly is the only thing they did really worth hearing. UT, the all women New York noise monsters are here with a re-recording of Evangelist, the stand-out from their In Gut’s House album which I’ll post another time. Dinosaur Jr. are reliable as always, and there’s a suitably unhinged live version of a track from Locust Abortion Technician by the Butthole Surfers, slightly ruined by being way too long to fit on a 7″.
Blast First! was known as a noise label, and so this boxed set is predictably noisy. There was more to Paul Smith than that though, and like Alan McGee over at Creation, he used the label as a platform for his own musical interests. That side of him appears on disc 9, which has a rare 60s recording from Sun Ra paired with a Glenn Branca piece from his orchestra of electric guitars project.
As you might imagine, the box is a bit inconsistent in places, but overall the quality of the music is remarkably high. The essential tracks more than make up for the filler; this was a compilation the label made a real effort with, and it shows.