Bold Beginnings : Louisville Punk 1978-1983 (Noise Pollution) 2007.
The other day I got this CD from the uber-cool Noise Pollution Records label outta Louisville, KY. It’s called Bold Beginnings : An Incomplete Collection Of Louisville Punk 1978-1983 and it’s right up my fuckin’ alley.
To those who don’t know about the Louisville music scene, it has always been strangely cutting edge and arty for a town of its’ size and geographical location. I talk about the history of the town a bit in my !!! post. The fact is, there are many places in the US twice the size of Louisville that have never produced a Squirrel Bait or a Rodan or a even a Your Food for chrissakes.
In more “cosmopolitan” cities like Boston, NYC or San Francisco, punk rock was considered, at its beginnings, a form of rock-n-roll. Bands like The Heartbreakers, The Nuns and The Real Kids were playing rock-n-roll and they knew it. The audiences knew it too and the entire vibe of the early punk sound in these cities was, to a degree, based around returning to something that was lost in all of that awful high-minded 1970′s prog. CRIME for instance, billed themselves as San Francisco’s only Rock-n-Roll band and that completely speaks to this point.
Here in the middle of the country, punk was never and would never be considered a form of rock-n-roll by anybody. If you wanted to listen to rock-n-roll you would listen to Led Zeppelin or Sabbath or AC/DC. Punk was even more marginalized here than on the coasts. Consequently, a lot of cities out here skipped that whole rock-n-roll thing altogether because it was inconceivable that we could be or were playing rock-n-roll.
Oddly enough, what that meant is that cities like Indianapolis, St Louis, Columbus and even Chicago produced bands and scenes that were less connected to the rock-n-roll tradition. The scenes were often smaller and more polarized against the outside community at large. Judging by this CD, Louisville was certainly similar although in some ways, much more productive.
So Bold Beginnings starts with Louisville’s first-ever punk band No Fun and right away you know you are in the full-on Midwestern art-punk zone. Each song by No Fun follows a similar pattern; repeated garage chords with barked vocals by either Bruce Witsiepe or Tony Pinotti. Tara Key, who was an integral part of the Louisville scene and went on to form the great Homestead act, Antietam, played guitar in No Fun and shares vocals on my favourite song by them; “Evasive Measures”.
To say that No Fun is a revelation to me is an understatement. This was recorded in Louisville in 1978? Apparently, it was from a demo and all I can say is No Fun needs an entire CD retrospective.
Next up are The Endtables, who many of us became aware of from the Bloodstains Across the Midwest comp. The Endtables were fronted by a dude named Steve Rigot who carried the Gary Floyd flag, both in terms of size and gender-fucking. Musically though, The Endtables were something else altogether, mixing really weird guitar progressions with Steve’s David Thomas-style vocal approach. The resulting sound reminds me of a lot of bands but still sounds totally unique.
Tara Key’s next band, The Babylon Dance Band follows. They seemed to be Louisville’s great punk hope, getting write-ups in The Village Voice and such. Excellent stuff, although it is hard to follow The Endtables and No Fun. Blinders follow and if any band on this comp sounds traditional it is them. With that said, Blinders mixture of punk rock and rockabilly sounds closer in spirit to The Dicks than anything else. The Dickbrains follow with some poorly recorded live tracks. This is a shame cuz they sound pretty good and I would have liked to have heard Cathy Irwin’s (of Freakwater fame) first band with some better fidelity.
This is followed by Malignant Growth who were a really gnarly bunch of hardcore dudes from Shively, a blue collar suburb of Louisville. The three songs included on this comp are all from the Master Tape Volume Two compilation put out by Paul Mahern and that’s disappointing cuz I would have liked to have heard some other stuff by these guys. They were definitely an over-looked band in the Midwestern hardcore scene and had a lot going for them. Another band that deserves a full retrospective!
Another great band on Bold Beginnings is the band Your Food who completely have flown under my radar. Apparently they released an LP called Poke it With A Stick on Whoredog Records in 1983? Does anyone out there have this? I would love to hear it. The three songs on this comp are all from it and they all have that jagged weirdness to them that I eat for breakfast. Time-wise they would have been contemporaries of bands like Pylon and I can definitely see these two bands sharing a stage.
Looking at the pictures in the 16 page booklet that accompanies Bold Beginnings, I am reminded of how gender-equal the early punk scenes in a lot of cities were. Certainly, Tara Key, Cathy Irwin and other women helped get the ball rolling in Louisville. Outré personalities like Steve Rigot also added a lot to these scenes. Once the hardcore dudes took over, a lot of the experimentation that grew out of this diversity disappeared. I don’t know if that was the case with Louisville though. Bold Beginnings ends in 1983 as arty as it began in 1978 with Skull of Glee.
The next acts I am aware of from Louisville were Squirrel Bait and Antietam, who were pretty damn creative and unique as well. After them the floodgates opened with the Louisville scene. Even in the early days, Louisville punk rock was better than most. Check out Bold Beginnings and find out. It’s even better than a “hot brown”.