November 20, 2013

Swell Maps - A Trip to Marineville (1979/1991)

Even though brothers Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks (not their real names in case you were wondering) had been tinkering in a band together for several years under the name Sacred Mushroom, it was not until the rise of the British Punk scene of 1976-1977 that they (along with several friends) began gigging and eventually found their way into a studio as the Swell Maps. The Maps had a hand in creating the D.I.Y. ethos of early punk, as bassist Jowe Head recalls, "We didn’t actually invent the DIY punk scene, because The Buzzcocks released “Spiral Scratch” before that. They had management though, so I don’t think that they really count! Also, Television Personalities and the Desperate Bicycles were getting their own labels together at the same time. We all became aware of each other, and supported each other's efforts- it was a shared sense of pride and pioneering spirit!" When the Maps finally got around to recording a full-length after a 1978 John Peel session created some buzz around their first single, "Read About Seymour," the result was A Trip to Marineville, a mad scatter-shot of an album that manages to offer some of the most challenging music of the British punk movement, but be forewarned: for the most part, this is not punk of the simple three-chord-thrash variety. Mixing in surf guitar, kraut-rock flourishes and some glammy overtones, there is simply nothing else from the original (post) punk era that sounds quite like Swell Maps. This is especially evidenced by songs such as "Gunboats" and "Adventuring in Basketry," which demonstrate the band's obsession with kraut-rock legends Can, creating a unique mash-up of anarchic sonic textures that Swell Maps would explore to even greater affect on their next album (and swan-song), Jane from Occupied Europe. Along with Wire, Swell Maps practically invented the template for art-punk, and are, in many ways, undeserving of their "badness to madness" reputation. Nikki Sudden: "We knew we were good, and despite what is still being written about us we could actually play. Listen to the records and you'll hear that we had a very good idea of what we were doing. Epic and I came to regret all the in-jokes we put about, but the music still stands up [...] We weren't 'conscious innovators' though. We just did what we did."

A Trip to Marineville (1979/1991)
 1. H.S. Art
 2. Another Song
 3. Vertical Slum
 4. Spitfire Parade
 5. Harmony in Your Bathroom
 6. Don't Throw Ashtrays at Me!
 7. Midget Submarines
 8. Bridge Head (Part 9)
 9. Full Moon in My Pocket
10. BLAM!!
11. Full Moon (Reprise)
12. Gunboats
13. Adventuring into Basketry
14. My Little Shops
-Bonus Tracks-
15. Ripped & Torn
16. International Rescue
17. Loin of the Surf
18. Shoot the Angels
19. Elephant Flowers (No. 2)
20. Turn Me on Dead Man
21. Bronze & Baby Shoes 
22. Nevertoseeanyotherway

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  2. So were the The Clash copying Swell Maps?