RETURN TO GROUND ZERO: Action Time Vision: A Story of UK Independent Punk 1976-1979

atv-box

If you’re sick of today’s mall punk and you already know the old classics otherwise, there is a new 100-song box that’s a great go-to place to get your punk fix.

BY JASON GROSS

Once upon a time, some angry Brit youths thumbed their nose at the Crown and the government for a bit of cathartic fun.  Yanks were already on that tip for a few years but not quite as political as their Blighty brothers and sisters.

Though top dogs like the Pistols and Clash opted for big labels, many other punk bands opted for the indie route, traveling down stranger, more obscure paths via independent releases. Stalwart labels like Rough Trade, Fast, Stiff and Factory documented this wonderful rabble while it lasted, which it only could for a few years as most blazing styles burn themselves out quickly.  The labels themselves did a good job of piecing together their goodies in collections like Wanna Buy A Bridge?, Hits Greatest Stiffs, Mutant Pop and C81 (trying to cash in on the trend, EMI also put out Oi! The Album and Pink Floyd’s label Harvest released the classic The Roxy London WC2). Much later, around the turn of the millennium, the Hyped To Death label did its own Messthetics series to document the super obscurities of the Brit underground punk scene, though its release-first-license-later policy occasionally got it in trouble. Nowadays, even punk nostalgia is a quaint thing of the past- galleries display old record sleeves as gig flyers as artifacts, endless streams of reissues come out of tiny label releases and decades-in-the-making reunions come out of nowhere (Gang of Four, PiL, Pistols, Buzzcocks, Slits, though note that most of those didn’t last long).

uk-punk

The London-based Cherry Red label has roots that stretch back to punk’s early days putting out UK-licensed version of Runaways and Dead Kennedys albums.  After becoming an important indie music hub in the ’80s, Red has also recently been dong yeoman-like work with historic compilations covering Northern soul, Brit psych, Mod revival, the C86 scene and shoegaze.  Impressive as these works are, you could argue that alongside their amazing 2013 indie pop box Scared To Be Happy, the new Action Time Vision collection, on the venerable Cherry Red label, might be their crown jewel.

Obviously, this isn’t the place you’re going to look for hooks or musicianship but if you’re on the hunt for momentum, energy, spirit, spit and grime, this is the place to go. Cherry Red’s operation manager John Reed (also a former writer/editor) did yeoman-like assembling this box set and because the songs are so short, you get a meaty sample of DIY, underground UK punk- about two dozen songs per CD and over 100 songs total on the whole set.

Maybe the nicest surprise here is that despite the intervening decades, much of the material retains its loud, snotty, obnoxious charms that these no-hit wonders had to offer, even if some of them went on later to get some fame as Adam Ant, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, the Pogues and Gary Newman.  The common thread otherwise is the appropriately lo-fi, amateurish nature of these singles, which would make great opening/warm-up music for any alt/indie show nowadays.  Highlights abound, including the Damned, the Sniveling Shits, the Killjoys (later to be Dexy’s), the Only Ones, folkie punk Patrick Fitzgerald, Stiff Little Finger’s rabid “Suspect Device,” and one of the hooky exceptions, the Bears’ “On Me.”

Shouted chants help to make a number of the songs stand out, especially on the 2nd disc- the Subs’ “Gimme Your Heart,” The Boys’ “No Leaders” (‘you’re all crazy!’), Fruit Eating Bears’ “Door in My Face,” the Art Attacks’ “I Am A Dalek,” the Members’ wonderful suburban critique “Solitary Confinement” and Alternative TV’s anthem which provides the title of the box itself. On the downside, you do miss out on releases from New Hormones and Crass’ self-titled label and this could use more from the important Stiff and Factory catalogs, plus the 4th disc is DEEP crate digging that would even stump punk collectors but doesn’t necessarily provide as much quality as the other discs here except for Psykik Volt’s “Hall of the Mountain King” rip and Pure Hell’s Nancy Sinatra cover.

Still, if you’re sick of today’s mall punk and you already know the old classics otherwise, this is a great go-to place to get your punk fix. With a 33-page booklet that includes all the cover art of the singles plus flyers, band photos and notes about each group/song, the whole package is an insane labor of love, not to mention a licensing nightmare.  Probably the perfect Xmas gift for your younger sibling or cousin who thinks Green Day is the shit.

Tracklist:

DISC ONE:
1. THE DAMNED – New Rose
2. EATER – Outside View
3. THE RADIATORS FROM SPACE – Television Screen
4. THE CORTINAS – Fascist Dictator
5. THE DRONES – Lookalikes
6. THE LURKERS – Shadow
7. THE REZILLOS – I Can’t Stand My Baby
8. 999 – I’m Alive
9. JOHNNY MOPED – No One
10. SHAM 69 – I Don’t Wanna
11. PUNCTURE – Mucky Pup
12. THE SNIVELLING SHITS – Terminal Stupid
13. THE VACANTS – Worthless Trash
14. THE ZEROS – Hungry
15. MANIACS – Chelsea 77
16. THE OUTSIDERS – One To Infinity
17. THE KILLJOYS – Johnny Won’t Get To Heaven
18. JOHNNY AND THE SELF ABUSERS – Saints And Sinners
19. THE UNWANTED – Withdrawal
20. THE WASPS – Teenage Treats
21. THE PIGS – Youthanasia
22. LOCKJAW – Radio Call Sign
23. NEON HEARTS – Venus Eccentric
24. JERKS – Get Your Woofing Dog Off Me
25. THE PANIK – Modern Politics
26. SOME CHICKEN – New Religion
27. THE CARPETTES – Radio Wunderbar
28. THE FLYS – Love And A Molotov Cocktail
29. ALBERTO Y LOST TRIOS PARANOIAS – Gobbing On Life
30. THE ONLY ONES – Lovers Of Today
31. SUSPECTS – Nothing To Declare (Live at The Vortex)

DISC TWO:
1. SWELL MAPS – Read About Seymour
2. PATRIK FITZGERALD – Safety-Pin Stuck In My Heart
3. THE BOYS – No Leaders (Demo)
4. THE STOAT – Office Girl
5. ACME SEWAGE CO. – I Don’t Need You
6. V2 – Speed Freak
7. BAZOOMIS – Give It All To Me
8. RAPED – Moving Target
9. BIG G – I Hate The Whole Human Race
10. SUBS – Gimme Your Heart
11. TUBEWAY ARMY – That’s Too Bad
12. THE XTRAVERTS – Blank Generation
13. FRUIT EATING BEARS – Door In My Face
14. FRONT – System
15. SATAN’S RATS – You Make Me Sick
16. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – Suspect Device
17. MENACE – G.L.C.
18. THE DYAKS – Gutter Kids
19. SKIDS – Reasons
20. RUDI – Big Time
21. THE ART ATTACKS – I Am A Dalek
22. BEARS – On Me
23. ‘O’ LEVEL – Pseudo Punk
24. THE MEMBERS – Solitary Confinement
25. NIPPLE ERECTORS – King Of The Bop
26. ANGELIC UPSTARTS – The Murder Of Liddle Towers
27. MEAN STREET – Bunch Of Stiffs (Live at The Vortex)

Action Time Vision box

DISC THREE:
1. ALTERNATIVE TV – Action Time Vision
2. SOCIAL SECURITY – I Don’t Want My Heart To Rule My Head
3. THE TIGHTS – Bad Hearts
4. RIFF RAFF – Cosmonaut
5. THE DOLE – New Wave Love
6. JOY DIVISION – Failures
7. LEYTON BUZZARDS – 19 And Mad
8. DEMON PREACHER – Little Miss Perfect
9. THE OUTCASTS – Just Another Teenage Rebel
10. THE FALL – Psycho Mafia
11. CHELSEA – Urban Kids
12. PROTEX – Don’t Ring Me Up
13. THE CRAVATS – Gordon
14. HORRORCOMIC – England ’77
15. U.K. SUBS – C.I.D.
16. SPIZZOIL 6,000 – Crazy
17. THE DODGEMS – I Don’t Care (Full Version)
18. THE USERS – Kicks In Style
19. PETER AND TEST TUBE BABIES – Elvis Is Dead
20. THE RUTS – In A Rut
21. DISCO ZOMBIES – Drums Over London
22. NICKY & THE DOTS – Never Been So Stuck
23. THE SHAPES – Wot’s For Lunch Mum ? (Not B****s Again!)
24. NO WAY – Breaking Point
25. THE WALL – New Way
26. THE HOLLYWOOD BRATS – Sick On You

DISC FOUR:
1. ADAM AND THE ANTS – Zerox
2. NOTSENSIBLES – Death To Disco
3. THE VICE CREEMS – Danger Love
4. MURDER THE DISTURBED – D.N.A.
5. COCKNEY REJECTS – Flares ‘N’ Slippers
6. PSYKIK VOLTS – Totally Useless
7. THE MOLESTERS – The End Of Civilisation
8. THE NEWTOWN NEUROTICS -Hypocrite
9. PURE HELL – These Boots Are Made For Walking
10. FIRE EXIT – Timewall
11. THE PACK – King Of Kings
12. STEROID KIDDIES – Dumb Dumb
13. ENGLISH SUBTITLES – Time Tunnel
14. THE PROLES – Soft Ground
15. THE ADICTS – Easy Way Out
16. THE DARK – My Friends
17. WOODY & THE SPLINTERS – I Must Be Mad
18. VICTIM – Why Are Fire Engines Red
19. THE X-CERTS – Anthem
20. F-X – Slag
21. THE RIVALS – Future Rights
22. SILENT NOISE – I’ve Been Hurt (So Many Times Before)
23. VICE SQUAD – Nothing
24. THE PREFECTS – Things In General
25. THE LICKS – 1970’s Have Been Made In Hong Kong
26. FATAL MICROBES – Violence Grows
27. POISON GIRLS – Under The Doctor

 

Leave a Reply