1977: The Year Punk Broke (Part 2) & Antibalas Review

In part two of our series 1977: The Year Punk Broke, Jim and Greg look at the punk movement stateside with music writer Ira Robbins.

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So you think you know how kids are consuming music these days? Think again. Media information company Nielsen just released a report that debunks many of the myths surrounding kids and music, the biggest of which is that they just don’t buy it anymore. Teens, it turns out, consume more music than any other age group. And though YouTube has edged out radio as their primary means of discovering new music, over a third of teens bought an old-fashioned CD in the past year. What’s most surprising? Only 17 percent of teens say they download music illegally.

The Juggalos are fighting back! Last year the FBI placed the Juggalos - superfans of Detroit’s horrorcore rap duo Insane Clown Posse - on its National Gang Threat Assessment list. At last weekend’s gathering of the Juggalos, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dopeannounced they weren’t taking the gang label (or accusations of petty theft and violence) lying down. They’ve set up a website, juggalosfightback.com, where fans can submit complaints of discrimination based on their gang affiliation in preparation for what could be a class action lawsuit against the FBI. The incident reminds Jim of the FBI’s similarly misguided investigation into the content of The Kingsmen’s 1957 hit Louie Louie. He thinks maybe it’s time the Feds turned off their radios and retired from cultural criticism.

1977 - The Year Punk Broke

In the second and final installment of our series 1977: The Year Punk Broke, Jim and Greg explore the punk movement stateside with music writer Ira Robbins. Ira founded the music magazine Trouser Press in 1974. As a music journalist in New York, he was a fixture of the CBGBs scene, regularly taking [his] life in his hands to go to second avenue and hear bands like the Ramones, the Dictators, the Dead Boys, and Television play divey clubs. Whereas punk enjoyed a rapid rise in the U.K. in 1977, Ira describes the New York scene as more of a slow simmer. Fans gradually migrated from clubs like Max’s Kansas City, where glam acts like The New York Dolls ruled, to clubs like CBGBs where a younger, rawer set of performers was defining the punk look and sound. Though the Ramones, with their simple song structures and leather jackets became emblematic of New York punk, Ira remembers a diverse scene. The Dead Boys, Television, and The Talking Heads may not have sounded the same, but in economically-depressed 70s-era New York, they shared an attitude that life sucked, it’s probably not going to get better, but so what.

Jim and Greg each choose a favorite track from the New York scene. Greg goes with the Talking HeadsDon’t Worry About the Government from the band’s self-titled debut. More than any other band, the Talking Heads epitomized New York punk’s diversity. Their first gig may have been opening for the Ramones, but Greg contends the band’s sound was more dance than punk. Still, Byrne’s narrator in this song - a stressed, neurotic government bureaucrat - taps into the anxiety of the punk era. Jims goes with the ultimate American punk anthem, Richard Hell’s Blank Generation. The story goes that U.K. punk impresario Malcolm McLaren saw Hell perform the song in the U.S., then returned home and advised The Sex Pistols to write something just like it, but your own.

Antibalas Antibalas

Antibalas

Jim and Greg close out the show by reviewing the new, self-titled album from Brooklyn afrobeat band Antibalas. This is the fifth studio album from a group whose sound is largely the product of one man - Nigerian saxophone player and afrobeat inventor Fela Kuti. Kuti forged afrobeat from American jazz, African highlife, and tribal music, infusing the mix with potent political commentary. Antibalas are devotees of Fela, and recently played in and arranged the music for Fela! on Broadway. Jim’s verdict: if you don’t get an itch to start dancing listening to this music, you don’t have a pulse. Antibalas aren’t slaves to Fela’s legacy. They too are political, but they’re singing about modern day issues like the economy and immigration. Greg also observes that unlike the autocratic Fela, Antibalas is a democracy. There are some fine solos on this record, but what’s really thrilling is how the band works together. Antibalas gets a double Buy It.

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