Saturday, November 04, 2006

Let's Take the Subway



Admittedly, much of my post-punk discoveries derive from Simon Reynolds' fabulous Rip It Up And Start Again - a nice overview of the p-p/new-wave years (1978-1984 according to Mr. Reynolds). I've posted a link of it on the right hand side-bar of this page, which will direct you to the Amazon UK store - definitely worthy of a read.

One such discovery that he pointed out was the Brit-punk group Subway Sect, headed by Vic Godard. Teaming up with very notable company including The Banshees, Clash, and Sex Pistols, Subway Sect were in a very true sense, an original punk band that would precede the upcoming wave. And not only original in the chronological sense, but more-so due to their uniqueness. Without stealing too much of Reynolds' findings, suffice to say that they had a rebellious punk spirit, but never overtly expressed it like their contemporaries. While the Pistols would vehemently make snarling lyrical quips, Godard intelligently crafted his music to defy what "rock music" was. Cutting ties with the past, starting anew, and certainly ignoring the norm, Godard purposely made music that deviated from the pack. Not to mention their style, strange antiquated getups, not quite meshing with the punks.

This all sounds fantastic - fresh and vigorous ideas from a band solely concerned with creating new unique music; new styles; new ideologies; new everything. This begs the obvious question - why are they unknown while the other contemporaries I've mentioned all rose to fame? Their single "Ambition" was extremely well regarded and sold quite well following a rise in the charts and being featured in several prominent musical publications. Godard was even hailed alongside other forward thinking punk champions such as Mark Perry (Alternative TV), John Lydon (Sex Pistols to P.I.L.) and Howard Devoto (Buzzcocks to Magazine and later Luxuria). Despite this, the band manager, Bernie Rhodes, also happened to be the manager of the Clash, and made no secret of the fact that Subway Sect were his second fiddle. As a testament to that fact, the band's debut album never saw the light of day. That'll surely sully any chance of success. Having said that, it truly mystifies me as to why another label wouldn't have picked them up and subsequently released the album, especially considering the eagerness of many label heads to jump on the punk bandwagon and sign anyone that showed a remote inkling of prowess.

The interesting thing to me is that Subway Sect were thinking ahead to post-punk just as punk had started. Godard's quiet rebellion which brought about his forward-thinking demeanor is an extremely notable attribute and was mirrored soon after by the likes John Lydon of P.I.L, following his breakup of the Pistols. Sadly, my collection of Subway Sect is very limited, though recently I've found a small source for more of their singles. I've included Ambition, easily their most successful work. It's quite catchy and enjoyable mainly due to its pop-twinged synth-line and light nature.

Subway Sect - Ambition [mp3]
Buy it from the Rough Trade Shops 25 Years Collection

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