November 1980 music got exciting to my 10 year old ears, and it did so with a group with energy and tunes. Pop ultimately maybe but that pull of excitement, their imagery and most importantly the actual music.
Antmusic would follow as a single a few weeks after the albums release and it would be this single that hooked me. I knew Dog Eat Dog immediately when I bought the album but it was Antmusic that would set the album up for a very successful stint in the U.K. charts, the album would peak at Number 1 and it belonged there.
A heady, accessible mix of tribal songs, chants in all the right places, a Pop Punk feel with a New Romantic leaning, they echoed the (music) times perfectly. Kings of the Wild Frontier the single would get a re-release mere months after missing out on the Top 40, it would peak at Number 2 and the performance of Top of the Pops blew my pre-teenage mind… this music thing is good huh.
Not only the singles contained within Kings of the Wild Frontier but the album would work as an album, and I have always loved that. The strain of Ants Invasion with a Post Punk feel and Space Invaders nod. The alienated spaghetti western vibe of Killer In The Home. Not a bad track on the album and although some might say their debut album (Dirk Wears White Sox) is their true classic I would disagree with this, for this is the sound of a band reaching for the sky and grabbing it with near impossible ease.
For an album to turn the youth onto music not many albums flicked this switch as genuinely as Kings of the Wild Frontier did. I’m listening to it right now, over 40 years later… and it still sounds electric.
January 1990 and what a way to kick the 90’s off. Shock-Rock Metal the kind of like we’d never really heard of or seen before. I bought the album upon release after reading the most bizarre of reviews and it didn’t disappoint. Although it was their live shows that really took this band to another level, the album with its odd mix of NWA, Punk and straight up lunatic levels of Heavy Metal - the appeal was as wide as it was crazed.
I saw them live in the June of 1990 and the band decapitating nazi-skinheads onstage with full on gore effects saw the audience, myself included drenched in (fake) blood and other bodily fluids. When I caught the bus home from the gig people on the bus already gasped when I got on because I looked like I’d been in a car accident or something such was the extent of my covering with the show effects. An absolutely legendary gig for the few hundred in attendance. Introduced by a 10 foot tall zombie Elvis. I could barely believe my eyes. I watched one of them at the side of the stage to checkout how real they were, and my disbelieving eyes saw a grunt type character gurning on his own and shouting at the wall, unaware I was watching. It was a show and they were showbusiness taken to an extreme conclusion, they pulled it off well. The album is recommended.
Scumdogs of the Universe holds up today, it’s limited sure, but briefly, at the dawn of the 90’s - we believed.
A rare foray into the current decade for me with the debut album from Mustafa with When Smoke Rises (2021). A delightful, (very) short album, yet every second is full of mindful music, soulful, heart felt and heavy hitting. Mellow, honest, open, calming yet always truthful.
Despite its mostly mellow vibe it reflects a brutal dark underbelly of American culture. Mustafa somehow evokes Cat Stevens via a (Post?) Hip Hop sensibility. Incredible song crafting, astonishing vocals, it doesn’t miss a beat in its less than 30 minute span.
An artist that could have superstardom in front of him if he wants it, not entirely sure that’s what he wants though - and it is exactly that which makes the album even more endearing. It shouldn’t matter but I love how well the video below is shot, it nearly matches the music in sheer quality. Massively recommended listening.
February 1981, WH Smith’s in Birmingham city centre have a huge display for the Killers album, (bare with me on this one). A staggering image of a Punk / Metal hybrid monster slaying Margaret Thatcher with an axe, the full size cut out showed more than the Killers album sleeve. I had, at this point never heard Iron Maiden.
Fast forward a few weeks and I go to a friends house after school to play Scalextric, I would be about 11 years old. My friend had a 14 year old older brother who had an impressive looking record collection which was for reasons I forget in the same room as the Scalextric. Anyway, I get to flick through this record collection and spot a record with a street-urchin on the sleeve, in twilight, on a suburban street. Wait a minute, this looks like the guy from Killers, but a bit younger, well, younger for a zombie-like I guess - I didn’t know there was a preceding album to Killers, but a quick check of the year on the label and sure enough I am looking at Iron Maiden’s debut album, which I didn’t even know existed - I still am yet to actually hear them.
At some point (same early evening) we get the go ahead to actually put the album on a turntable - and from that moment you can forget the Scalextric - an album that actually sounds like the sleeve artwork, Metal but not Black Sabbath. An equal to the end of the 1st wave of Punk / beginning on the 2nd wave of Punk. They should almost BE a Punk band, that image, that logo, that murky streetwise howl of guitar on Prowler. Every song on the album is almost different but their sound brings the whole thing gloriously together. Again, no bad songs on the entire album. It’s new, it’s exciting and it works, it’s Heavy Metal, but not as we knew it…