Punk, was not a genre, it was an attitude.
Punk was happening before The Sex Pistols blew it up
In the mid-70s in New York City, Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s were hosting a semi-rivalry with musical
artists that were creating music on a different level. Coined Punk, it had
attitude, whether it was 3–chord power, power bubblegum, power pop, pop rock,
experimental, funk, synth, classic, rockabilly, and on. It was being done with
an attitude, an attitude that the music relayed no matter what genre it was
participating in or skewering. An attitude that spoke what the youth movement
at that time was about, all the while fostering another fertile grooming ground
for artists that went on to inspire other generations - much like the early-60s
NYC singer/songwriter coffeehouse circuit that was the breading ground for
Dylan and countless others.
Punk as an Attitude is Old School.
The Down-Fi is Old School Punk.
Look no further than Craig Willis Bell. The man is 70s Punk personified. Every Artist who
wishes to understand Old School Punk should familiarize themselves with and
study Craig Willis Bell – I suggest here, that you Google him, as well as Rocket From
The Tombs (sub categories: Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys), Saucers, The Plan, The
Bell System, and possibly others that this reviewer is unaware of - psst: if you want a head start, you can
start here: http://www.independisc.com/saucers.htm.
Well-versed and talented, Craig W. Bell’s new band, The Down-Fi, presents America Now with Classic jangle pop that defines both ’76 - ’79
London and ’75 – ’78 New York City. The two opening songs, Let
It Go, which could
have been a Nick Lowe Rockpile classic, and Tears
In Her Eyes, which
is the best Mink Deville song ever written and sung by someone other than
Willie DeVille, set the playing field perfectly.
Hawk grabs Classic
Chuck Berry Rock-n-Roll in a Teenage “I Love My Car” love affair that nods to
Buddy Holly, Duanne Eddy, Link Wray, and even Commander Cody, all the while
slammin’ a swamp surf a la Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. You can’t argue
with the American Graffiti tale of buying that first car to impress the girl -
“I needed a ride to satisfy this lust / She
wouldn’t go out / if we took the bus / Oh, she was tough” – or finding out
that $100 didn’t buy you a whole lot of car, even if it was your dream – “It was a Hawk / A ’62 Hawk / It was a Hawk / A Studebaker
Hawk” – so eventually you trash it and move on, but it will always be your
baby; after all, it was your first. Smile, because you do remember.
Ballads in the NYC ’75 - ’78 Punk/New Wave scene
were big and sweeping, yet beautiful to the note. A lot of ballads went under
the radar because the scene was eventually renowned for its loud 3-chord,
in-your-face attitude music. But the attitude can be applied to the ballad as
well. Don’t Keep Me Waiting is the Ramones on ‘Ludes; it gives us Television
and Richard Hell & The Voidoids showing passion. The Down-Fi gives another piece of what was a vital part of the
re-creation of music during the heyday of Punk – music delivered with a passion
to present your heart and soul with the attitude that best represented it.
Presentation in all aspects fueled this artistic form and The Down-Fi delivers a textbook example of it here.
To show you just how perfect they are with their
primer of Classic Old School Punk, The Down-Fi comes out of the heavy ballad and launches into You
Be You, a
Son-of-A-Bitching Rocker. It’s a love song done with pogo/slam dancing, infused
with 3-chord bashing and dirty shredding all built around Classic Ramones
lyrics where everything is “I Don’t Wanna…”
until the singer spits out his love by proclaiming “I just wanna hang around / With you / While you be you.”
Cold takes Alice
Cooper’s I’m 18, nails it to the wall, then tears it down using Neil Young
leads while embracing Bell’s Rocket From The Tombs past, and mirroring The
Velvet Underground. Craig Bell is a musician that embraces the artistic quality
of music crafted in the musical explosion that came about during, and as a
result of, the Prog Rock & Disco era and before ‘80s hair metal overtook
the saturated commercial pop that was cashing in on the New Wave pop explosion
that Punk (as an attitude, not a genre) begat. He was part of that history and
like a tenured Professor, he passes on his knowledge by forming a group that fits
nicely among this era, yet can be considered from the Punk era. Bell is a historian in the truest sense of the form,
because he is a living reference, because he chooses to share his knowledge of
the Punk music scene and all it embraced.
What many overlook is the real sense of anarchy the
music-creating youth of those days had in regards to the world’s governments. A
lot of the “Punk” groups of those times were very politically outspoken. Taking
their cues from the 60s protest singers, the 70s youth identified with the “No
Future” persona being relayed by the Cold War governments of the time. Global
recession, high unemployment, oil shortages, weapons stockpiling, rising
terrorism, serial killers, energy crisis. Protest. Attitude. Punk.
The Down-Fi closes the CD with 4 modern day protest songs that
empower, incite, enrage, and rally us to take notice of what is happening, to understand
it, to realize our part, and to take a stand where and when we need to, however
we can. And, to do it with Attitude.
Today is a Call-and-Response style protest song that
brings to mind England’s Tom Robinson Band; it’s energetic and empowering,
it has a raw Anthem quality that forces itself out there. Network takes the catch phrase from Sidney Lumet’s 1976
movie, spills it for us - “I’m Mad as
hell / I won’t take it anymore” - and smacks it against a blistering,
pedal-to-the-metal, smoking exercise in stamina. Shit City, with its riveting drums and rolling, hammering
power chords that are struck and held in a down and dirty hard machine gun
delivery, recounts the horrors and desperation of trying to survive when
everything seems to be against you. Pure Attitude.
Now that we’re all hopped up…
It’s not so different from the America Now of the
Punk/New Wave generation, or that of The Woodstock Generation, or the
Grunge/Slacker Generation, or the Rebel Without A Cause/Rock-n-Roll Generation.
Each of these and more would (and should) embrace it. If I were to start
quoting lyrics, I’d have to reprint them all… You should buy this disc just to
play this song for everyone you know. It is the most important protest song I’ve
ever heard. It should be required listening for everyone who calls America home. It has Attitude, it’s Punk, and it can be
identified in every genre.
Punk, was not a genre, it was an attitude.
The Down-Fi is Punk.
America Now by The
is available now for: $10.98
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