Chris Thomson has been a member of Soulside, Ignition, Fury, Circus Lupus, Las Mordidas, Monorchid, Skull Kontrol, Red Eyed Legends, and is currently part of Coffin Pricks, who just released an excellent seven-inch on Stationery Heart. He also possesses a voice that sounds like it’s coming from a schizophrenic whose brain is controlled by both Darby Crash and Mark E. Smith.
His bands have been known for covering obscure tracks, sparking interest in forgotten bands and driving up eBay prices on Sort Sol LPs. We asked him to pick his favorite UK punk tracks that haven't been heard a million times already.
The Pack – “No. 12”
My favorite thing about late 70s and early 80s punk records are the guitar sounds. Those little yellow MXR Distortion Plus pedals were critical in the development of US hardcore. They were also, I imagine, hard to find and/or cost prohibitive for a lot of the first-generation non-American punk bands.
I’m not sure what Simon Werener is using to create this liquid-glass guitar sound, but it’s pretty fucking brutal. What I love about this song, besides those unhinged and charging guitars, are the almost obnoxiously high-pitched vocals that come in a noticeable beat or two late during the opening salvo. The drums are tasteful and unusually proficient for the era, and the thudding bass line gives just enough space to help balance out the spazz factor.
The Straps – “New Age”
Only 20 years after the fact did I figure out that Simon Werener played in both the Pack and the Straps. For anyone keeping track, he was Canadian. There’s a UK Subs vibe for sure with the chugging guitars, but it’s the vocals that pull you in and keep you interested.
The Cigarettes - “They’re Back Again, Here They Come”
As a hoarder of Small Faces and Jam vinyl, I bought this single for the cover alone. Is that some mod shit or what? “Yeah, we’re just gonna hang out in front of this wall with our suits and our turtlenecks.” The song begins with some piano chords and laughter—is this Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake for the next generation? The nostalgia is quickly erased when music kicks in. The snotty vocal delivery teases out every syllable in a more extreme John Lydon fashion. Yeah, this was definitely from ’77.
Rudimentary Peni – “Teenage Time Killer”
In terms of seven-inch packaging, Crass records had everyone beat. Those iconic stenciled letters probably took a lot of work, but man were they worth it. All their record sleeves were black and white and printed on heavy paper stock that unfolded to reveal large beautiful posters—perfect for hanging on the wall of your squat. Rudimentary Peni were champions of making the most of the poster space. If you haven’t yet checked out guitarist and singer Nick Blinko’s artwork, it’s really worth your time.
Oh yeah, the music. To me, punk has always been sped-up Chuck Berry. As it evolved it started getting faster and faster, so punk begat hardcore, and hardcore begat speed metal. Rudimentary Peni were clearly creating their own version of hardcore here, which makes we wonder if Void were listening to them a lot. You can bet that all 75 seconds of this song were known inside and out by early DC bands.
The Business – “Harry May”
Oi! is like the gangster rap of punk rock: It’s all about fighting, stomping heads, and razors in the night. Its practitioners and fans were fucking scary, for-real skinheads and street punks with tattooed necks and faces. The funny thing is, the music that these guys were into wasn’t terribly tough or scary, just lots of power chords and ordinary rock and roll stuff. Like football chants, there’s a sing-a-long quality to the choruses and the vocals are rather tuneful and melodic. Close your eyes and you could almost imagine it being some 70s-era glam. The unifying quality of Oi! is that it’s catchy as all hell. It’s toe-tapping, fist-pumping music typically delivered in an unintelligible cockney accent. I think we can all agree you wouldn’t want to listen to an album’s worth of the Business, but this track is perhaps my favorite Oi! song, with the Postmen’s “Have a Cigar” coming in a distant second.