song of the week: Pärlor åt svinen
album of the week: a reference of female-fronted punk rock 1977-89
Anybody who’s known me long enough is doubtless tired of my riff about how what jumpstarts the aging process is when you stop falling in love with new music. It’s a little worrisome that I followed up a spin through the new album from The Alarm (Direct Action; not bad — seemed stronger than Guerilla Tactics) by exhuming some of their ‘84 and ‘85 material (embarrassing as it is, although I know by some objective standards those are not good records — watered-down Clash or U2, depending on which album you pick — they still get my blood pumping).
But I think it’s reasonable to make some exception for older music that you never actually heard before, and that’s what the floating-around-the-internets 12(!)-volume Reference of Female-Fronted Punk 1977-89 is chock full of. I’ve made it through volume 5 so far, and along the way revisited plenty of familiar names (Poison Girls get a special shout-out as a “oh yeah, I need to listen to that album right now!” pick — “Other” still knocks me out.)
What’s primarily amazing about this compilation, though, isn’t the trip-down-memory-lane aspect, it’s the incredible breadth of artists I’d never heard of before. You know the saw about how 25 people bought the first Velvet Underground album and/or the first Big Star album, but they all formed bands? A Reference of Female-Fronted Punk 1977-89 suggests that if a few million people heard The Sex Pistols, a few thousand of them started bands that only 25 people heard. Or maybe heard only for Warhol’s fifteen minutes. There are plenty of underexposed English-singing artists from the US and the UK, but what knocks me out about the selection as a whole is its polylingual and global scope.
My absolute favorite find so far is Sweden’s Fega Påhopp (”Cowardly Attack,” if I can trust the Internets) who apparently only released this one stunning single. The B-side “Hålla masken” is swell enough stuff, but the A-side, “Pärlor åt svinen” (confusingly mislabeled as “Hålla masken” by A Reference of Female-Fronted Punk 1977-89) is the stunner. It starts out rather unassumingly (if I were splitting genre hairs I’d call Fega Påhopp “postpunk”; certainly not hardcore) but midway through the song takes a hard left turn and accelerates into deep uncharted waters. The vocal performance is flat-out amazing — I was reminded of the first time Kristin Hersh curdled my blood with “Hate My Way,” and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins demented utterances in “I Put A Spell on You.” And I played it again, and again, and again.
Just so you don’t think Ive become a helpless fuddy-duddy, I did listen to some new stuff this past week, with Male Bonding (cue the Pitchfork hype-cycle backlash in three … two … one … but I thought this was solid, if every safe) and, especially, Effi Briest at the top of the heap.
p.s. If I listen to a lotta Ronne James Dio this week, that ain’t about nostalgia, that’s about paying respect.