Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ska Drummer Al Fletcher Passes Away at 45

Al Fletcher
Al Fletcher, drummer for ska and reggae artists like The Selecter, Skaville UK, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and the bands Die So Fluid (punk/metal) and Gigantic (alternative), passed away yesterday at age 45.

The following is a statement from Die So Fluid in response to Fletcher's passing:

"Al contracted double pneumonia followed by sepsis in a rare reaction to an infection. This caused his immune system to wage a war on his body that he was unable to survive, despite the fight he put up and the best efforts of the doctors and nursing staff at Ealing Hospital. Kept sedated throughout this sudden and vicious affliction, we can only be grateful that he suffered no pain and passed peacefully. Al’s passing leaves a gaping hole in all our lives as we struggle to come to terms with the fact he has gone. No one plays the drums or can tell a joke quite like you Al, you will be missed so very much. You will live on in our hearts and in all the amazing music you made. We love you."

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We offer our deepest condolences to Fletcher's family, friends, and fans.

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Rebel Music: Empire of Two's "Let Us Live"

In response to the series of ongoing, completely unwarranted, high-profile police shootings/killings of American black men (there was just another terrible shooting last week in North Miami), Dunia Best and Aram Sinnreich of Dubistry (billed here as Empire of Two) wrote and recorded "Let Us Live" in July 2016 at the Institute for Popular Music in Bochum, Germany, with the help and contributions of Hans Nieswandt, Arno Kro, Fab Horn, and others including Best's and Sinnreich's own children. It's a terrific, stripped down reggae tune whose vocals are a passionate and forceful plea to society (and its agents) that we recognize black people's humanity and everyone's basic, elemental right to live (enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."). "Let Us Live" is also a chant of sorts--to ward off this plague of violence and death that is inflicted on our fellow, non-white Americans.

"Let Us Live" keeps with the proud ska and reggae tradition of creating powerful protest songs in response to police brutality directed at non-white communities (see Bob Marley and The Wailers' "I Shot the Sheriff," Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves," Peter Tosh's "No Mercy," Max Romeo's "Three Blind Mice," The Ruts' "SUS," and "Jah War," or Ruts DC's "Smiley Culture," Linton Kwesi Johnson's "Sonny's Lettah," "Reggae Fi Peach," and more, Vivien Goldman's "Private Armies," The Specials' "Do Nothing," The Selecter's "Bristol and Miami," or "Breakdown," The Toasters' "East Side Beat," and many, many others).



Let Us Live

"Everybody screams
At their laptops and TVs
But policeman ears, they hear no sound
Even when the father pleads
For his children on his knees
They don't see a man, they just see brown

Then they shoot him in the chest
And the shoot him in the legs
And they shoot him in the back
And they hear the voices beg
"Please don't kill my father
Let him live, let him live!
Please don't kill my father
He has so much to give!"

Everybody screams
At their laptops and TVs
But policeman ears, they hear no sound
Even when the daughter pleads
She did nothing on her knees
They don't see a girl they just see brown

Then they beat her on the chest
And they beat her on the legs
And they beat her on the head
And they hear the voices say
"Please don't kill our daughter
Let her live, let her live!
Please don't kill our daughter
She has so much to give!"

Everyone believes
What's on their laptops and TVs
And policeman ears they hear no sound
Even when our voices plead
We did nothing on our knees
They don't hear a world, they just hear brown

Then they beat us on the chest
And they beat us on the legs
And they beat us on the head
And they hear our voices say
"Please don't kill our mother
Let us live, let us live!
Please don't kill our mother
We have so much to give!"

Don't kill our mothers and
Fathers and
Sisters and
Brothers
Cousins, aunts, uncles
Grandfathers and 'mothers
Don't kill our neighbors and
Lovers and
Millions of others
Let us live
Let us live"

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Notable New Releases from The Abruptors, Natalie Wouldn't, and The Downsetters!

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

The Abruptors Buffalo Ska (hot pink vinyl 7" single, Asian Man Records, 2016): Nope, it's not (spaghetti) Western Reggae (like Bad Manners' track of the same name), but three tracks of good old traditional style ska from this Buffalo, NY act (with an assist from Western Standard Time's fine horn section), including a cover of Justin Hinds and the Dominoes' durable classic "Save A Bread." The single is sold out at Asian Man, but the band still has copies to sell at gigs (and you can, of course, buy the digital download).

The Downsetters The Asylum Hotel (CD, Liquidizer Records, 2016): This is a loosely structured concept album of sorts, where you enter The Downsetters' wonderfully twisted world of amped-up, knees-up modern ska (similar to what was produced in in the UK and Europe in the wake of 2 Tone in the late 80s/early 90s, prior to the rise of ska-punk), though it's not entirely clear if you're being offered refuge from the cruelties of daily life or have found yourself in the psychiatric ward. What is certain is that there are some really terrific tunes on this album, including "Mango Rock" (which contains a Rod Serling "Twilight Zone" intro), "Are You Reggae?" (with its nod to Don Drummond's "Man in the Street"), the struggle to get through the working week of "Who? What? Why?," the fact that oppression is oppression, no matter what the setting in "Another Day in Paradise" (and its instrumental version of sorts, "Skafusion"), the inspirational/carpe diem message of "No Burn No Shine," and a warning about backstabbers in "Fakes n Snakes." Based on what's captured here, I suspect The Downsetters must be top-notch live!

Natalie Wouldn't Natalie Wouldn't (four-track, digital EP, 2016): Seattle's Natalie Wouldn't (made up of former members of the very much missed Easy Big Fella, The Crawdaddies, The Diablotones, and The Georgetown Orbits), which toured the UK this past June opening up for The Meow Meows (including a gig at Gaz's Rockin' Blues!), just released a fantastic, self-titled four-track digital EP (three stunning ska/rocksteady/soul originals--like the tongue-in-cheek ode to selfishness "Mine" and the lament of growing older and less cooler in "Obsolescence": "No place to hide/as the world passes by me"--and a sweet, inventive take on Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love"). If you liked EBF's high-quality, quirky, and fun (sometimes even melancholy) take on ska back in the day, you'll be sure to love this EP! This one deserves a proper, physical release on vinyl...

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rude Boy George Releases Video for "Kids in America"!

My friends in Rude Boy George are continuing their promotional push of releasing one new music video a month in support of their upcoming album, Love and Dancing. For July, they've sharing their fantastic ska take on Kim Wilde's "Kids in America," shot at Coney Island during the July 4th weekend...



Also, make sure to check out their versions of other new wave classics that will appear on their album: Soft Cell's "Tainted Love,"  The Cure's "Close To Me" and Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days!"

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The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Summer/Fall 2016 Ska Calendar #34

Friday, July 22, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Chilled Monkey Brains, Bears! Bears! Bears!, PrinceLionSound, Monkeybite, plus DJ Gorilla

Don Pedro
90 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Sunday, July 24, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

Morning Glory, Mikey Erg, Opposition Rising, Skarroñeros

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Thursday, July 28, 2016 @ 6:00 pm


New York Ska Jazz Ensemble, Yunior Terry & Son de Altura

Paper Factory Hotel
37-06 36th Street
Queens, NY

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Pandemics, Be Like Max, The Holophonics, Fair Haven, and more TBA

Mr. Beery's
4019 Hempstead Turnpike
Bethpage, NY
21+

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Friday, August 19, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Rude Boy George

Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC)
4 Boland Dr
West Orange, NJ

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Saturday, August 20, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Pilfers, J. Navarro and The Traitors

The Black Bear Bar
70 North 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Thursday, August 25, 2016 @ 6:45 pm

StrummerJam w/The Ladrones, InCircles, The Threads, and The Rudie Crew

The Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
New York, NY
$10 in advance/$12 day of show
All ages

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Friday, August 26, 2016 @ 7:00 pm (boat departs at 8:00 pm)

Rocks Off Booze Cruise with The Slackers

The Liberty Belle departs from Pier 36
299 South Street
Manhattan, NY
21+
$30 in advance/$35 day of show

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Monday, September 4, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

"The Battle of Los Angeles (Rage Against the Machine Tribute)" w/The Ladrones, Punto Ge, Jobo, Axel Y La Concertina, Deraiz, Morning Fame, Larrosa

The Paper Box
17 Meadow Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+
(Happy hour: $2 beer from 2-3 pm)

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Friday, September 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Specials, The Far East

Terminal 5
610 West 56th Street
Manhattan, NY
$45.00 (plus service fees)

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Saturday, September 10, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Skatalites

American Beauty NYC
251 West 30th Street
New York, NY
$17/21+

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Sunday, September 18, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Big D and the Kids Table

Rocks Off Concert Cruise
The Jewel
Boards at East 23rd Street and the FDR Drive
Manhattan
$20/21+

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Toasters, The Pomps, Skarroñeros

The Knitting Factory
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Selecter, Hub City Stompers, High School Football Heroes

The Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$41.50/16+

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Sunday, October 30, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

5th Annual Devil's Night Danse w/Mephiskapheles, The Pietasters, The Brooklyn Attractors, and more!

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Ave
Brooklyn, NY
$15/21+

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Plus, there will be Duff Guide to Ska sponsored shows at Otto's Shrunken Head on Thursday, October 13 and Thursday, November 10. Bands to be announced soon.

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The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Summer/Fall 2016 Ska Calendar #34

Friday, July 22, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Chilled Monkey Brains, Bears! Bears! Bears!, PrinceLionSound, Monkeybite, plus DJ Gorilla

Don Pedro
90 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Sunday, July 24, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

Morning Glory, Mikey Erg, Opposition Rising, Skarroñeros

The Grand Victory
245 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Pandemics, Be Like Max, The Holophonics, Fair Haven, and more TBA

Mr. Beery's
4019 Hempstead Turnpike
Bethpage, NY
21+

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Friday, August 19, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Rude Boy George

Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC)
4 Boland Dr
West Orange, NJ

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Saturday, August 20, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Pilfers, J. Navarro and The Traitors

The Black Bear Bar
70 North 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Thursday, August 25, 2016 @ 6:45 pm

StrummerJam w/The Ladrones, InCircles, The Threads, and The Rudie Crew

The Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
New York, NY
$10 in advance/$12 day of show
All ages

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Friday, August 26, 2016 @ 7:00 pm (boat departs at 8:00 pm)

Rocks Off Booze Cruise with The Slackers

The Liberty Belle departs from Pier 36
299 South Street
Manhattan, NY
21+
$30 in advance/$35 day of show

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Monday, September 4, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

"The Battle of Los Angeles (Rage Against the Machine Tribute)" w/The Ladrones, Punto Ge, Jobo, Axel Y La Concertina, Deraiz, Morning Fame, Larrosa

The Paper Box
17 Meadow Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+
(Happy hour: $2 beer from 2-3 pm)

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Friday, September 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Specials, The Far East

Terminal 5
610 West 56th Street
Manhattan, NY
$45.00 (plus service fees)

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Saturday, September 10, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Skatalites

American Beauty NYC
251 West 30th Street
New York, NY
$17/21+

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Toasters, The Pomps, Skarroñeros

The Knitting Factory
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Selecter, Hub City Stompers, High School Football Heroes

The Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$41.50/16+

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Sunday, October 30, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

5th Annual Devil's Night Danse w/Mephiskapheles, The Pietasters, The Brooklyn Attractors, and more!

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Ave
Brooklyn, NY
$15/21+

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Plus, there will be Duff Guide to Ska sponsored shows at Otto's Shrunken Head on Thursday, October 13 and Thursday, November 10. Bands to be announced soon.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Duff Guide to The Untouchables!

(By Steve Shafer)

The recent passing of The Untouchables founding member, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Clyde Grimes, Jr. (pictured in an iconic publicity shot at right), led me to revisiting all of their releases, as The Untouchables were unbelievably influential on a whole generation of ska fans and bands in the 1980s. For all of us in the USA who had fallen in love with 2 Tone at a distance (many of us even after it had flamed out), we finally had a ska band of our very own that had hit it big! (I was in my freshman year in college in Ohio when Wild Child was released and remember listening to Cleveland's top commercial rock station WMMS play the hell out of "Wild Child" and "What's Gone Wrong"--and my Wild Child cassette--which I still have and treasure over 30 years later!--was in heavy rotation in my personal playlist for the next several years.)

Since there's very little information about The Untouchables and their releases on the internet (with the exception of the Marco on the Bass blog, which has posted several great interviews with various members of the band), I thought it might be a good idea to put together an overview of their releases to honor Grimes' and The Untouchables' considerable musical legacy. So, below for your consideration, please find The Duff Guide to The Untouchables.

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Live and Let Dance (1984, Twist/Enigma Records): After releasing two DIY singles ("Dance Beat," b/w "Twist 'n Shake" in 1982 and "Tropical Bird" b/w "The General" in 1983), honing their chops and building up a massive LA-area following, and going through some personnel changes, The UTs borrowed $15k and recorded an EP's worth of material released on their own Twist imprint (which was picked up for distribution by Enigma). But things didn't take off until they scrounged up an additional $7k to make an incredibly creative and dynamic video for their could-have-been-a-2-Tone-hit "Free Yourself," which grabbed the attention of Stiff Records label head Dave Robinson in the UK, who flew in for one of their LA gigs and signed the band (which then garnered them a deal with a major label in the US--MCA licensed Stiff releases at the time)--and won them a Billboard award for best independent music video of 1984. The EP also includes the first version of "What's Gone Wrong" and their phenomenal live cover of The Monkees' "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone." Of note: "Free Yourself" wasn't re-recorded for Wild Child. There was no need--it's perfect.

Wild Child (1985, Stiff/MCA Records): Even though there were two other domestic ska releases that year which would eventually prove to be as wildly influential on the development of the US ska scene--Fishbone's self-titled debut EP on Columbia (a few years earlier, members of that band were in the crowd at The UT's shows at the O.N. Klub in Silver Lake, Los Angeles), and The Toasters' self-titled debut EP on Moon Records (subsequently reissued as Recriminations)--it was The Untouchables' debut album Wild Child that had the biggest and most immediate and significant impact. While The UTs had been heavily influenced by 2 Tone and everything mod after seeing Quadrophenia, they also had been blown away by the all-black, Birmingham ska band The Equators (they formed before fellow Brummies The Beat!), who had performed in LA in 1981 (UT singer Jerry Miller said, "We were very big fans of 2 Tone, but with The Equators, that’s where it was at with us because it was so groovin’ and soulful. Their recordings were sacred to us."). So, whereas The Specials and Selecter injected their ska with punk fury and The Equators incorporated elements of rock and reggae to their sound, The Untouchables largely went for American '60s soul in their ska mix (perhaps best represented by The Specials' Jerry Dammers producing The UT's cover of Jamo Thomas' 1966 soul track, "I Spy (for the FBI)"--a big mod/Northern Soul hit in the UK in 1969), which certainly broadened their appeal far beyond the ska scene in the US and beyond. "Wild Child," "I Spy (for the FBI)," "What's Gone Wrong," and "Free Yourself" are unequivocal American ska classics and the rest of the album is pretty fantastic, too--not a bum track among them.

Dance Party (1986, MCA/Stiff Records): Not absolutely essential, but there are extended, remixed versions (ubiquitous in the 1980s!) of key tracks from Wild Child ("I Spy (for the FBI) National Security Mix-Up" and "What's Gone Wrong Lover's Rock Mix" are both excellent and hardcore UTs fans should have them) and live cuts from Spring Break at Daytona Beach (another take of their fantastic cover of The Monkees' "(I'm Not Your") Stepping Stone"--also on Live and Let Dance--and the funky "Hey UTs"). Of course, the ska cuts are relegated to side two. One suspects that this is a bit of a stopgap release, as a follow-up to Wild Child wasn't immediately in the pipeline, but the quality control remains pretty high here.

Agent OO Soul (1988, Twist/Restless Records): Like Fishbone's incredible Truth and Soul (also released that year), this album was seriously hobbled by poor sequencing that buried most of the really ace ska material on side two ("Cold City," "Shama Lama," "Sudden Attack") in favor of less compelling soul and funk up front (with the exception of "Airplay" and "World Gone Crazy," and maybe "Let's Get Together"). Having said that, I caught the UT's Agent OO Soul tour in NYC at Joey Ramone's Downtown Club in April of '89 and all of the songs they played off this album--including the title track--sounded completely amazing live (decades later, this gig still stands out as one of the best shows I've ever experienced). Fun facts: LP copies of this album came with a poster and UT comic/lyric book--and this was their first release on compact disc!

A Decade of Dance Live (1990, Restless Records): Recorded at the height of their powers before a hometown LA crowd at the Roxy in December 1989, The UTs ripped through a career-spanning set that documented just how incredible they were in performance (this is also one of the best sounding/produced concert albums I've ever heard). Great renditions of all their well-known hits are captured here--plus "Twist and Shake" (their 1982 debut single) and "The General" (from their second single in 1983)--as well as excellent previously unrecorded tracks like "Live and Let Dance," "Amateurs Ranking," and "Johnny." Of all The Untouchables releases, this one deserves the deluxe reissue treatment on vinyl! It's simply brilliant.

Cool Beginnings: Rare and Unreleased, 1981-1983 (1992, Stellar Records): A collection of studio and live recordings from when the band was finding their footing and figuring out their sound (they then considered themselves mods who played ska), which gains power as it moves forward in time. Some of early material is a bit rough, but there are some really promising songs here, like the ska tracks "Gov't Don't Need Nobody" and "Overcrowded Hell," the moody reggae/dub cut "Who Do They Think They're Fooling?," and the cool mod throwbacks "Cuz She's Mine" and "Motion Like Hers." Best of all, of course, are the gems from their first two singles, "Dance Beat," b/w "Twist 'n Shake" and "Tropical Bird" b/w "The General." This comp was never widely released, so the few existing used copies are expensive, but it's a must for UT completists.

Greatest and Latest: Ghetto Stout (2000, Cleopatra): By the early 90s, The Untouchables had gone dark (missing out on the massive ska revival in the USA later that decade--d'oh!), so it was a shock when I stumbled upon this album at the Virgin Records store in Union Square in 2000 on a lunch break (was there any promotional push for this?). New songs like "Be Alright," "Jade," "Bond, "Keep on Pushing," and "Movin' 'n' Grooving" are good to great additions to The UT's repertoire, but the rest of the album consists of (admittedly well done, but unnecessary) re-recordings of many of their popular tracks from the 80s. One wishes that they hadn't split the difference between forging ahead and the pull of nostalgia, but gone with all new tunes (or songs that were never recorded in the studio, but were part of their live set, like "Live and Let Dance"). Still, there's good stuff here for the diehard UT fan. Note: Cleopatra re-released this album on green vinyl and CD in 2015 as Free Yourself Ska Hits.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Duff Review: Vivien Goldman "Resolutionary (Songs 1979-1982)"

Staubgold Records
2016
CD/LP

(Review by Steve Shafer)

In the early 1970s, Vivien Goldman's first and incredibly auspicious job right out of university was serving as Bob Marley's public relations person at Island Records (years later, she was Marley's biographer), just as the label released Bob Marley and The Wailers' first major label album--Catch a Fire--which had been specifically crafted by Chris Blackwell to appeal to the white rock crowd (and obviously worked spectacularly well). Whether or not this cross pop-cultural mash-up (at a time when the British and American music scenes were still largely segregated) set Goldman on her path mining the intersections of frisson between diverse musical genres is a matter of conjecture, but it certainly serves as an apt illustration of what became her life's work and passion. By the middle of that decade in the UK, when punk, reggae, and dub ripped everything up and started again, Goldman already had departed Island to become a music journalist doing interviews and writing reviews for Sounds, New Musical Express, and Melody Maker, covering an omnivorous array of key punk, post-punk, and reggae artists (see this list of her many pieces).

Not surprisingly, it was a time when, according to Goldman, "there were no barriers between journalist and artist." She was living, socializing, and collaborating in the same Ladbroke Grove, London neighborhood as many of the punk and reggae acts she was writing about in the music weeklies (such as members of The Clash and Aswad; Chrissie Hynde was her roomie for a time). A gifted soprano, Goldman grew up in a musical family (she and her sisters sang, her father played violin--an instrument that appears on many of her songs) and apparently was always singing, which--along with her connections to some of the most talented and daring post-punk and reggae/dub musicians in the UK--led to her writing and performing songs with David Cunningham and The Flying Lizards in 1979, as well as singing (with Neneh Cherry and The Slits' Ari-Up) on Adrian Sherwood's productions for Prince Far-I in 1980 and the New Age Steppers in 1981. That year, she also recorded her debut solo single, "Launderette" b/w "Private Armies" ("Private Armies" also appeared in its dub version on the debut New Age Steppers LP). In 1982, she moved to Paris to write for Actuel magazine and became highly enamored with African pop music (which she played on her pirate Radio Nova show "Cherie Noire" with Eve Blouin), recording and releasing the "It's Only Money" 12" EP in 1982 with Blouin as the duo Chantage (which is French for blackmail).

While Goldman would go on to write and record with groups like Massive Attack ("Sly"), Ryuichi Sakamoto, Coldcut, and Luscious Jackson, as well as with several house music producers, Resolutionary focuses on her recordings from the late 70s/early 80s--an era brilliant for its great fluidity between musical genres and the easy exchange between artists from markedly divergent scenes that oftentimes resulted in extraordinarily innovative and challenging music, some prime examples of which can be found here (punk had, at least temporarily, freed a generation of young musicians from pop music's constructs).

The "Launderette" b/w "Private Armies" single (issued in the UK as a 7" by Window/Rough Trade and as the Dirty Washing 12"--which included "P.A. Dub"--via NYC's pioneering art/punk label 99 Records, home to Liquid Liquid, ESG, Bush Tetras, Maximum Joy, Glen Branca, and others) is reason enough to pick up this compilation of Goldman's work (and considering that the original 7" and 12" versions command very high prices, they're an absolute bargain here). These tracks are unequivocal (and somewhat shamefully obscure on this side of the pond) post-punk gems.

"Launderette," written by Goldman and Aswad's bassist George Oban (who came up with the song's distinctive and catchy bass line), was apparently surreptitiously recorded on Virgin's dime during Public Image Ltd.'s sessions for their Flowers of Romance album (but, considering how record deals are structured, it really was PIL's dime in the end, wasn't it now?), which is how John Lydon and Keith Levene ended up with producer's credit on the tracks. Goldman was backed by PIL's Keith Levene, Robert Wyatt, Vicki Aspinall of The Raincoats, Steve Beresford of The Slits and The Flying Lizards, and George Oban. It's a slightly uncomfortable, off-kilter, shambling track that feels a bit tentative and improvised in spots. The bass and drums are firmly planted in reggae territory--particularly the prominent, fluid, and continually unfolding bass line--but the dissonant, droning violin and slashes of guitar, the tinkly toy piano, and crazy collection of busy percussive instruments clash with and grate against the orderly rhythm section, threatening to derail everything (but don't). Floating above all of this tension is Goldman's lovely singing--her delivery is wonderfully conversational and free of any vocal mannerisms. It's almost as if she's recounting this short, unsatisfying affair in her head (particularly the lyric, "I had to learn to say no") as she encounters her ex in the very same ordinary place they met.

"I wanted tenpence for the dryer
Yes, that was how we met
My laundry bag was broken
My clothes were soaking wet
I felt I needed hugging
You needed board and lodging

I can't complain
We went down the drain
Seems like I can't get away from you
Even in the launderette

Now my socks to your socks in the dryer
And your jeans run into my shirt

You always were untidy

You wanted coffee round at my place
It all seemed just a lark
But you hadn't left there two weeks later
and your hair's all over the bath
It's good to get you to go
I had to learn to say no

I can't complain
We went down the drain
Seems like I can't get away from you
Even in the launderette

Now my socks to your socks in the dryer
And your jeans run into my shirt
I can't complain
We went down the drain

You always were untidy"



"Private Armies," written by Goldman and performed by many of the same musicians who backed her on "Launderette" (Shooz on drums, Keith Levene on guitar and bass, Steve Beresford on toy piano and bass, and Vicky Aspinall on violin) is another post-punk/reggae/dub cut--with an ominous, lurking bass line (which is more prominent in "P.A. Dub")--produced by Adrian Sherwood, who introduces Jungle-like percussion into the mix.

It's the harrowing tale of witnessing what one assumes is a racist attack, given the amount of racial violence in England at the time, that becomes a rumination on the capacity for violence in boys which is enabled/unleashed in men as they join groups, gangs or government/business sanctioned agents of violence (such as mercenary forces, counterintelligence agents, or the police) who attempt to enforce/impose a particular, often fascist, political agenda/viewpoint through brutality and murder. But at the end of the song, she completely takes the piss out of these men by mocking their macho obsession with violence and phallic-y guns in suggesting that it all may be because they're impotent (and unable to perform the most elemental male function--procreation). All of this obsession with power and might has to be compensating for something...

"Froze for a moment, just sat in a Mini
While the skinheads beat shit out of person on the pavement
Blood everywhere

Sets of initials with licenses to kill
Brand name business footing the bill
Blood everywhere

Private armies
Private armies
Blood everywhere

Little boys like dressing up
Little boys like dressing up
Dressing up in uniform
Little boys' toys blow things up
Little boys' toys blow things up

If the heavy metal boys or the boys in blue
Don't like the look of you, you'd better watch out
Really out of order
Really out of order

If you can't get a hard-on, get a gun
If you can't get a hard-on, get a gun"



The two Flying Lizards tracks (with Viv Albertine of The Slits and David Toop on guitar, Steve Beresford on bass and piano, George Oban on bass, Dave Solomon on drums, Bruce Smith on hi-hat) actually chronologically precede Goldman's debut single, but they're in the same vein--offbeat, funky reggae-influenced post-punk tracks conveyed from a woman's perspective. "Her Story" (written by Dave Solomon, David Cunningham, General Strike, and Goldman) concerns the historic (and continuing) subjugation of women and their treatment as property throughout a great deal of recorded history--and how men even profit from recording love songs to/about women, while treating them so shabbily and considerably less than equals.

Vivien Goldman (sung):
"Knights in shiny armor
Always takes the key
History, history, hypocrisy
But you can still make money
By singing sweet songs of love"

David Toop (spoken in monotone):
"I own you
You don't own me
You are my territory
This is a love song
This is a love song"

Vivien Goldman (sung):
"I blame our books
I blame the TV
I blame Top 20 for my jealousy
But you can still make money
By singing sweet songs of love"

The truly disturbing song "The Window" (written by Goldman)--shades of The Special AKA's "The Boiler"--turns the supposed eroticism of "Dracula" and similar misogynistic myths (virginal women want to be dominated and forcibly seduced/taken) on its head in this stalker scenario--a man is trying to break into a woman's home and her thoughts on the matter are crystal clear:

"Can you hear him bang at the window?
(He's throwing things at the window)

I don't want to let him in
I wish he wasn't twice my size

Sometimes I think he's a vampire
(He's making holes to drain blood)"

The fact that Goldman sings these lyrics in an almost resigned, matter-of-fact way--she's been here before and previously physically suffered from his abuse--is all the more creepy. The song ends with the crappy choice before her: "Sometimes you fight for the world/Sometimes you fight for yourself/Should I sit and listen/Sit, wait, listen hoping that the door's shut tight?"

Things shift dramatically with Chantage's marvelous and giddily euphoric full-on reggae cover of Bob Marley and The Wailers' "Do It Nice," cheekily retitled "Same Thing Twice" to emphasize the come-on of the chorus: "Baby, you're so nice/I'd like to do the same thing twice!" It'd be hard to resist an offer that sounds this fun and good. Goldman's and Blouin's delightful, insouciant "It's Only Money" ("...and every day it's worth a little less") has a melodramatic musical theater vibe to it (and a cynicism towards commerce/capitalism that reminds one of Cabaret's "Money"), albeit one that is set in the fantastic crossroads of a several dozen cultures, where Roma violins meet African soukous guitar, Trinidadian steel pan drums, Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican dance rhythms, Broadway--even a smidgen of British music hall. (Indeed, all of Chantage's songs are concerned with some sort of transaction between people, whether it's financial, emotional, or physical). The musical portion of the compilation closes with the short-but-sweet, a cappella "Tu M'Fais Rire" ("You make me laugh"), which sounds like a '60s French pop song and where Goldman's and Blouin's voices complement each other beautifully (all of Chantage's tracks were produced by Adrian Sherwood, Alan Jakoby, Carroll Thompson, Chantage, and Chris Thomas--and feature a wonderfully international group of musicians, including George Oban on bass, Bruce Smith of The Pop Group/Slits/New Age Steppers and Style Scott on drums, Jerry Malenkani on guitar, Deadly Headly and Annie Whitehead on horns, Bubbles on steel pan drums, Steve Beresford on piano and euphonium, Jancsi Hosszu on violin, and Ann Howard, Archie Pool, Carroll Thompson, and Neneh Cherry on backup vocals).

The last track is an interesting time capsule of sorts--an interview with Goldman from 1981, after the release of the "Launderette"/"Private Armies" single, with audio zine "Morrocci Klung!" that was released/distributed on cassette. In it, Goldman discusses the meaning of these songs (and dispels some of the incorrect interpretations at that time), gender politics, men's tendency to express themselves through violence, and the assassination of John Lennon.

A long-overdue retrospective of (a good portion of) her musical work, Vivien Goldman's Resolutionary (Songs 1979-1982) is jammed full of very smart, oftentimes provocative, and always incredibly enjoyable songs--and is a vital post-punk document. As a diehard fan of that phenomenal era of music, attitude, and style, I almost can't express how happy I am to have this album in my collection...

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End notes: Vivien Goldman is currently an adjunct "Punk Professor" at NYU and recently wrote a musical based on Kid Creole and the Coconuts' story with August Darnell.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Summer/Fall 2016 Ska Calendar #33


Saturday, July 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Sweet Lucy, The Ladrones, The Vansaders, The Condors

Black Bear Bar
70 North 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Sunday, July 10, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

NYC Ska Orchestra, The Full Watts Band

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10

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Friday, July 22, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Chilled Monkey Brains, Bears! Bears! Bears!, PrinceLionSound, Monkeybite, plus DJ Gorilla

Don Pedro
90 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Pandemics, Be Like Max, The Holophonics, Fair Haven, and more TBA

Mr. Beery's
4019 Hempstead Turnpike
Bethpage, NY
21+

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Friday, August 19, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Rude Boy George

Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC)
4 Boland Dr
West Orange, NJ

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pilfers, Jay Navarro and The Traitors, The Pandemics

The Black Bear Bar
70 North 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Details TBA

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

StrummerJam w/The Rudie Crew and more!

The Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
New York, NY
More details TBA

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Friday, August 26, 2016 @ 7:00 pm (boat departs at 8:00 pm)

Rocks Off Booze Cruise with The Slackers

The Liberty Belle departs from Pier 36
299 South Street
Manhattan, NY
21+
$30 in advance/$35 day of show

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Monday, September 4, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

"The Battle of Los Angeles (Rage Against the Machine Tribute)" w/The Ladrones, Punto Ge, Jobo, Axel Y La Concertina, Deraiz, Morning Fame, Larrosa

The Paper Box
17 Meadow Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+
(Happy hour: $2 beer from 2-3 pm)

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Friday, September 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Specials, The Far East

Terminal 5
610 West 56th Street
Manhattan, NY
$45.00 (plus service fees)

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Saturday, September 10, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Skatalites

American Beauty NYC
251 West 30th Street
New York, NY
$17/21+

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Toasters, The Pomps, Skarroñeros

The Knitting Factory
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Selecter

The Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$41.50/16+

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Plus, there will be Duff Guide to Ska sponsored shows at Otto's Shrunken Head in the fall!

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The Frightnrs New Album "Nothing More To Say" To Be Released on 9/2/16 on Daptone Records!

The Frightnrs' forthcoming album, Nothing More To Say, will be released on September 2, 2016 through Daptone Records. You can pre-order the digital album now through The Frightnrs' Bandcamp page (you can't preview any tracks just yet there--but you can listen to samples at Amazon). There's no word as to when the LP and CD can be pre-ordered from Daptone (though you can pre-order both on Amazon now).

Obviously, this is a very bittersweet achievement/moment for the band, as their incredible singer, Dan "Brukky" Klein, recently passed away from ALS. But I expect that the music contained on this album will be a wonderful way to remember and celebrate Klein's music and life.

If The Frightnrs' previous releases are any indication, Nothing More To Say should be a brilliant album of rocksteady, reggae, early dancehall, and rub-a-dub.

I'll be sure to post review it when it's out.