Various Artists – Action Time Vision – A Story Of UK Independent Punk 1976-1979 (Cherry Red)
“The closest the ‘art establishment’ ever came to embracing metal was punk. The reason they embraced punk was because it was rubbish and the reason they embraced rubbish was because they could control it. They could say “Oh yeah, we’re so punk so we can sneer at everybody. We can’t play our fucking instruments, but that means we can make out that this whole thing is some enormous performance art.”
Thus spake Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson in an interview with The Guardian in 2014. If only he’d bothered to listen to all the songs on this outstanding new four disc set from Cherry Red before spouting such nonsense. Sure, the genre included some utterly ridiculous songs (who, after all, would dare to argue that The Shapes‘ ‘Wots For Lunch Mum? (Not Beans Again)‘ or the equally inane ‘Get Your Woofing Dog Off Me‘ by The Jerks were anything but the epitome of ‘throwaway’?) but even those hold their own endearing charm. Indeed, the likes of Protex (on disc three with the outstanding ‘Don’t Ring me Up‘ were almost like a throwback to the early days of rock and roll, coming across like a seventies Buddy Holly.
Disc one kicks off with British punk’s seminal classic ‘New Rose‘ by The Damned. It couldn’t have been anything else really, but don’t expect to see too many other big name, major label acts on this set, lest not in the guises they are best known. Action Time Vision focuses solely on the independent acts of the era, and is consequently bereft of both The Sex Pistols and The Clash. As important and as brilliant as those two bands were respectively, the collection suffers not one jot because of it. If anything, it perfectly showcases the raw excitement, brazen defiance, high octane energy and above all, sheer variety of composition from these often very talented musicians. Yes Mr Dickinson, I did just say that. Besides, as they say, whatever they DID lack in musical acumen, they more than made up for in passion. And passion should never be underestimated in its power to move, thrill and liberate its listeners.
The genre was a sprawling spectrum of ideas, the like of which has never been matched and is probably unlikely ever TO be. The spiky ‘Lookalikes‘ by The Drones is arguably the greatest overlooked single in living memory with its “I don’t wanna be you, and you don’t wanna be me” refrain, perhaps aligning itself with John Lydon‘s disgust at the copycat fashions of the time, and Disco Zombies‘ ‘Drums Over London‘ is a misunderstood classic (see yesterday’s interview). Punk wasn’t solely limited to an aggressive “backs to the wall” rage against the establishment, however. The movement was also inhabited by hopeful romantics like the brilliant Patrik Fitzgerald, whose bare bones ‘Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart‘ is a refreshing diversion, as well as the elder statesmen The Dodgems, whose slower, half-spoken, half sneered lyric on ‘I Don’t Care‘ manages to typify the aesthetic of punk perfectly.
Even folk who are NOT fans of the genre will find some curios in here, in the form of a foul mouthed, pre-Dexys Kevin Rowland on The Killjoys‘ ‘Johnny Won’t Get To Heaven‘, the earliest forays of Billy Bragg on the explosive Riff Raff‘s ‘Cosmonaut‘ and punk’s solitary Song For Europe entry (!), ‘Door In My Face‘ by Fruit Eating Bears, amongst many, many others. The superbly packaged hardback packaging contains a tremendously informative colour booklet which tells you all you need to know about the bands contained herein, and quite simply, this is the greatest compilation album you will hear this year, bar none.
Action Time Vision: A Story Of UK Independent Punk 1976-1979 is released on 9th December 2016 through Cherry Red.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.