Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Riddle Hull

Pockets full of keys
And rooms full of doors,
Then desire for ease
And a life full of chores
Wage, car, home                   Spittle-dull
Dull ache head;                      A riddle hull.
Tired eyes that say
“Clipped wings have still beauty”
But where’s ardour in love
When love is but duty?
Pinball brain,                         Brittle skull
Thin wall house                      A little full
Glass jar descends
Fog rolls on over
Lost all intent
The stitching unwove her
A lengthy sigh                       A dwindled mull.
Pill, wine, sit;                         A little cull.

Monday, 27 May 2013

The Rotten Twenties: The Great Gatsby Review


When it was announced that Baz Lurhmann would be directing the latest take on F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novella, The Great Gatsby, the overwrought 16 year old boy in me – the one so enraptured on reading of Jay Gatsby’s life – was balking. That trailer, complete with swooping camera angles, bombastic set designs and a Jay Z soundtrack, did little to calm him down. Others told me to gain some perspective; this was a Lurhmann show – of course it would be excessive – but maybe in that excess he could bring something new and dynamic to this tale of the rotten, Roaring Twenties. The truth lies somewhere in-between; occasionally astute, but often misjudged in its overt showmanship, The Great Gatsby is a curiously hollow film that succeeds largely in reminding all just how much of an accidental masterpiece Romeo + Juliet was.

Fitzgerald’s story of one man’s obsessive quest to make something of himself in a time of rampant materialism and opulent luxury is largely revered for just how gossamer-like its atmosphere actually is – everything floats on a leaf in the breeze, waiting for that one sharp swoop to send it spinning into the ground. From its opening scene, Lurhmann’s version of events seem to consciously reject such fragility; Nick Carraway’s (Tobey Maguire) narration is given context in his placement at a sanatorium for depression and alcoholism, the story’s closing messages already realised in some tangible, quantified form. This worthy moral message hangs over the film throughout, expounded upon time and time again. Meanwhile, when we first meet Daisy Buchanan (Carrie Mulligan) in her role as sportsman and philanderer Tom’s (Joel Edgerton) trophy wife, the silk curtains dancing in the summer breeze become engaged in a hyper-real dance between the woman’s gaily dancing limbs, and any chance of subtlety – moral or aesthetic – is assuredly destroyed. Indeed, by the time we finally meet Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), it’s to the roaring fanfare of Gershwin. 

And yet, sometimes this bluntness really hits home. In the aforementioned scene, it’s hard not to get swept up in the moment of Gatsby’s reveal, so teased throughout the preceding half hour. And Nick’s drunken stumble through Tom and mistress Myrtle’s (Isla Fisher) gaudy house party is charged with a sense of total isolation, being also one of the few moments where the addition of a modern hip hop score really works. Just as often, however, the tones of Lana Del Rey, Jay Z and Beyonce simply come off as cynical in their attempts to gel a period story with modern blockbuster audiences – or as an attempt by Lurhmann to make sense of events for himself. Everything is treated on such a surface level – the deep friendship between Nick and Gatsby is continually told, but never truly shown – that you’re left wondering just how involved Lurhmann was in the actual point of the story.

In fairness, the cast are more than adept in their respective roles. There is to my mind no one better suited to the false grandeur and hubris of Gatsby than DiCaprio, who evidently takes delight in the role. Likewise, Maguire’s Nick, despite what the trailers may suggest, largely works as the film’s moral centre even if this has been twisted in Lurhmann’s depiction. Mulligan’s Daisy perfectly exemplifies that unconscious, childish rejection of responsibility that has left audiences fuming for decades. When these three are allowed to simply exist in the story, and not be pushed and prodded by Lurhmann’s stylisms, the film begins to come into its own. But then the fast cuts and the swooping cameras kick in again, and the poorly dubbed dialogue continues conversations between characters who, for seconds at a time, aren’t actually speaking to one another in their fast cars or immaculate dining tables, and you’re once again emotionally uninvolved. In the hands of another director, everything in this film could have shone. As it stands, it merely glistens gaudily.

 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories: Review


I may as well lay my cards on the table from the outset: I am disappointed with the new Daft Punk record. Whilst it was always going to be difficult to live up to the hype that they had generated with their tantalisingly expert advertising campaign, this record will fall below the expectations of even those who had drastically tempered their excitement for the Nile Rogers assisted effort.

Random Access Memories displays its artists’ hearts on its sleeve from the outset. The title of opener “Give Life Back to Music” alludes to a sentiment that the duo have expressed in interviews numerous times in the run up to the release; that much modern music, and particularly the electronic genres from which they sprung is lacking in soul and needs some heart injecting back into it. In some ways this is almost certainly a reaction to the EDM phenomena (that Daft Punk themselves helped birth with their 2007 Alive tour), which now finds itself traipsing across the stadiums of America, sponsored by energy drinks companies and playing amped-up  light and sound extravaganzas to drunken twenty-somethings. This is dance music, but not Dance Music.

However, Daft Punk’s main criticism is also where the problem with very own record now lies - the music is simply soulless. They have always walked a very fine line, playing with the theme of exploring human emotion via electronics, but whereas previous releases seemed to tap into something which allowed them to pull on the heartstrings, this does nothing. Witness the banal plodder that is “Instant Crush” featuring Julian Casablancas. This falls so close to much of the lame MOR pop on regular radio rotation that it’s astonishing that it comes from a group who have previously created their own zeitgeist.

Likewise “Doin’ It Right” with a guest vocal by Panda Bear of Animal Collective. This could have, like many tracks on the record, been an ideal collaboration. Unfortunately it instead crawls along, repetitive in the way that bad pop music sometimes is, rather than the way good electronic music sometimes is. This is not to say that Daft Punk’s move to the pop centre was always doomed to fail, in my opinion the best track on their magnum opus Discovery was the Todd Edwards assisted “Face to Face”, at that point by far the poppiest song that they had ever made.

Neither is it to say that the record is all bad. “Touch”, including delicate vocals from Paul Williams is not without its own very bizarre kind of charm and “Get Lucky” is also a pretty good pop song that by now most people reading this will have heard and formed their own opinion on. For me by far the highlight is the Giorgio Moroder assisted (funnily enough) Giorgio by Moroder, and not only because the monologue by the iconic Italo-German producer makes you feel as if he’d be a thoroughly nice chap to sit down and have a cuppa with and discuss how nice it is to see the kids dancing. It actually feels fairly inspired when the track drops down to a synthesised kick matching Moroder’s description and falls silent before coming to life again as an entirely different beast.

In the most part however, this is a washover of a record not befitting of artists of this calibre. The sheer number and diversity of the guest spots leaves you with the feeling that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are operating as mere curators rather than artists in their own right. Simply put, this is a record that has had such a sheen put on it that it has been polished into non-existence.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Heavy Metal? Iron Man Three Review


Earlier today it was announced that Robert Downey Jr. may have been spotted lunching with the a few key Disney bigwigs, likely to discuss whether or not his contract as a certain Tony Stark is to be renewed. It’s pretty well known that, over the past five years, RDJ’s salary for the role has grown exponentially, reaching awe inspiring heights by the time of last year’s Avengers Assemble. But then, Avenger’s Assemble was one of the highest grossing movies of all time, and it looks like Iron Man Three isn’t going to fall too far behind either. Big investments for big charisma and even bigger returns – even to a foolish idealist like me; it’s a no-brainer. If, however, this latest addition to the ever-expanding ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ does happen to be Downey Jr.’s final fling with ol’ Shellhead, it’s certainly a higher note to bow out on than previous efforts would have suggested. Shane Black’s turn in the driver’s seat continues down that winning line first paved by Favreau (and subsequently tarnished), later gilded by Whedon, and brings with it a healthy dose of 80s buddy action.

Taking place almost immediately after Avengers Assemble, Iron Man Three already does one better than its predecessors in actually feeling like an organic continuation of the franchise at large, whilst still giving its focal figure a (sort-of) sturdy narrative of his own. Having narrowly dodged consignment to oblivion at the climax of that last adventure, Tony’s dalliance with the Iron Man armour has become a total fixation, with the line up shifting from Mark VII right up to Mark 42 by the start of this latest foray. Yet whilst Tony anxiously tries to prepare himself for the unknown future, it’s a few key figures from his past that seek to ruin him; namely, former cripple-turned-handsome-super-scientist Aldritch Killian (Guy Pearce) and the shadowy Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an enigmatic terrorist who leads the elusive Ten Rings faction previously alluded to in the first two features.

Whilst much of the marketing material, and the film’s own premise, have suggested a rather dark turn more in keeping with the recent Batman and Spiderman adventures, in reality, Iron Man Three is simply a maturation of its previous formula. This is still full-on action comedy, it’s simply had the dial turned up slightly – the jokes are wittier, and the punches harder; both of which are breaths of fresh air after the cringeworthy two hour lightshow that was Iron Man 2. Tony may be taken (literally) taken to the bottom before the midway point, but by the film’s end, Shane Black’s influences are less The Dark Knight Rises, more Die Hard with a Vengeance. Much of this of course falls on the capable shoulders of RDJ, but is also due to a renewed...weightiness in scripting from the Marvel house. The film still suffers some of the issues that plague this larger franchise generally; wavering plotlines and a muddled narrative buckling under the many demand it stresses upon itself, but Iron Man Three manages to come away feeling much more fully realised than say, Captain America or Thor, largely living up to its ambitions.

 For attentive comic buffs there are, as always, plenty of points to nerd over, and the late plot twist provides an angle these movies – for all their jocularity – sorely need to stop coming off so po-faced at the final hurdle. Like Avengers Assemble, Iron Man Three is a hot mess. But that’s a darn sigh more enjoyable than genre mis-fires like Thor, or the total lack of identity seen in Captain America. If this is a farewell to Tony Stark’s solo outings, it’s as good as could have been expected.

 

These Guys Don't Suck: Modern Vampires of the City Track-by-track Review



Now that Ivy League songsmiths Vampire Weekend’s latest LP, Modern Vampires of the City, has been released to stream on iTunes, I thought that I’d give a brief track-by-track review of what is easily their most accomplished and enjoyable album to date. With its agile allusions to heavyweight pop icons like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Paul Simon, it would appear that VW are self-consciously attempting to position themselves within the great American songwriting tradition. I don’t want to spoil the review in advance, but it’s fair to say that they’ve nailed it.

Here's a link to the album stream in case you want to listen along: http://consequenceofsound.net/2013/05/stream-vampire-weekends-new-album-modern-vampires-of-the-city/


  1. Obvious Bicycle
We’re eased in gently with an understated, piano-led melody, the crunching percussion foregrounded in the mix as so often in VW’s work. When the chorus kicks in – all radiant, sixties-esque harmonies – we get our first hints that VW are determined to realise the biggest, breeziest pop sound imaginable on their latest LP.

  1. Unbelievers
The carnivalesque organ sound instantly conjures the influence of Dylan’s seminal Blonde on Blonde album. Indeed, VW seem to be intentionally alluding to the grizzled elder statesman of Americana with the titles of the album’s first two tracks, which together echo the Dylan number ‘Obviously Five Believers’, or maybe that’s pure coincidence/evidence that I need to get out more. Despite its seemingly pessimistic lyrical slant, bemoaning the rise of a fundamentalist strain in American Christianity, the mood is irrepressibly festive, with its hints of folksy flute and music hall piano.

  1. Step
The Simon and Garfunkel vibe comes to the fore here as VW slip into a more melancholy, yet beautifully poised, register. Ezra Koenig’s vocals arrive as if from a distance, and the waltz-like instrumentation has a slight reverb which gives the whole track the feeling of having been recorded in some ghostly, abandoned NY ballroom. The enigmatic, literate lyrics emphasise VW’s emotionally candid yet playful persona, insightfully pointing up the way in which a pretentious yet insecure young postgrad might try to conceal his need for emotional connection behind some hopelessly high-falutin’ allusions. Once again, the almost hymnal chorus is sublime, most of the backing dropping away to revel in the boyish charm of Koenig’s falsetto.

  1. Diane Young
Kicking things up a gear, VW rolls out a modern retooling of Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Elvis, like some classic motor fitted with a new superpowered engine. The irresistible melody is continuously broken down and reassembled, drum machines and guitar seemingly short-circuiting in staccato bursts and explosions, whilst Koenig’s voice is electronically shot up and down in pitch. Like those 50s rock originators it borrows from, this is a song all about the fastest rides, the most carefree people, and wildest summers, and its whiplash speed of delivery conveys that brilliantly.

  1. Don’t Lie
A fairly typical VW song, with its hints of baroque classical accompaniment and immediate, summery charm, is given extra beef by the pumped-up percussion courtesy of drummer Chris Thomson. Proceedings take a Caribbean twist in the last thirty seconds with the introduction of a reggae-style guitar lick – a first indication of things to come.

  1. Hannah Hunt
Another album highlight. Heavy on the bass, which forms an oceanic backdrop against which floats Koenig’s story of what appears to be some kind of shaggy dog love affair. More than halfway in, it suddenly explodes into all-out ballad material, as all of the band join in for a cathartic reprise of the chorus.

  1. Everlasting Arms
Dominated by a blissfully warm synth track, the reggae-esque guitar from ‘Don’t Lie’ makes a return, weaving in and out of the pattering percussion, again giving the song a festive feel – this time something closer to a beach party.

  1. Finger Back
One of the album’s more straightforward tracks, driven by Koenig’s Beach Boys-channelling vocals, which rise and rise to the point of euphoria, and the propulsive melody. Notably, such a well-crafted pop song that it can even survive the moment when Koenig presumably intentionally flirts with hipster self-parody by singing about someone falling in love ‘at the falafel shop’.

  1. Worship You
On this track, VW are seemingly going for the soaring atmospherics M83 recently attempted on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, only I feel that VW realise it more successfully. The brief verses are blown away like dust in the wind by the overpowering, pulsating, synth-led choruses, which manage to evoke drunken elation at a summer musical festival and were presumably written precisely to be performed at such a venue.

  1. Ya Hey
Probably the single best track on the album, and the greatest indication of how VW’s songwriting chops have evolved over the past few years. Encompassing several different genres, from the Marley-esque reggae previously hinted at, to baroque pop, and embracing both commercial accessibility with its massive chorus, and a more experimental impulse (check the bizarre, Smurfs backing vocals), it’s a runaway triumph.

  1. Hudson
Perhaps the most stylistically unique and unprecedented track in terms of VW’s back catalogue and general approach on this album. Koenig’s vocal melody and the orchestral flourishes put one in mind of a gloomy show-tune from a downbeat Broadway musical, but this is coupled with a martial drumbeat and stuttering, electronica-informed production. After the upbeat 40 minutes preceding it, this much moodier piece arrives like a bank of storm clouds covering the sun. Taken altogether it’s very intriguing, and just another sign of the fertile directions in which VW have been able to develop a sound that originally seemed as if it might have reached its limits on their first two albums.

  1. Young Lion
Not so much of a proper song in itself as a brief coda, Young Lion has little of the same brio and excitement as what has gone before it, but with its dainty piano and swooning harmonies, it sounds like a final breath of satisfied achievement. Yes, like a lot of VW’s work it edges towards coming off as slightly smug, but, on this quite remarkable pop album at least, they’ve earned it.



Sunday, 5 May 2013

Post-mortem: An introduction to post-punk Pt.2



7. Moody (Spaced Out) - ESG, Come Away With ESG 1983

Crossing the Atlantic, we find that the post-punk scene has been just as vibrant up until now in the more cosmopolitan centres of the United States, particularly New York. Less inclined towards the highbrow experimentation rife in the UK, bands such as Blondie, Devo, and later REM would soften post-punk's angular excesses by incorporating influences from disco, glam rock, and folk, and go on to achieve, in some cases, enormous commercial success.

On the other hand, before giving way to a more mainstream sensibility, Talking Heads (under the aegis of the great forerunner of post-punk, Brian Eno) would become the definitive art rock band by annexing the musical landscapes of North and South Africa in order to beef up songwriter David Byrne's jittery poems of global anxiety and alienation. Less happily, they also unintentionally perpetuated other artists' bad habit of smothering exotic instrumentation over their own records in a lazy attempt at earning broadsheet credibility.

But I've picked a song by ESG, because they're a mostly overlooked act from the same period, who unselfconsciously contributed to the same profound shift in American post-punk towards music that was first and foremost fun. The Scroggins sisters, an African-American family living in the South Bronx, formed ESG in the late 70s and used the minimalist sound of post-punk, coupled with the polyrhythms similarly explored by Talking Heads, to make a brand new type of dance music. The jumpy, jovial nature of their songs vividly evoke a downtown New York neighbourhood on a hot summer's day (or night) - the carefree children, spraying fire hydrants, and sexual pheromones in the air. Without ESG, it's fair to say that there wouldn't have been the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.


8. How Soon Is Now? - The Smiths, Meat is Murder Jan 1985

'I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.' So goes Morrissey's typically piercing refrain on one of The Smith's most enduring songs. If Ian Curtis was post-punk's first great frontman, an exposed nerve of devastatingly unguarded and almost otherworldly vulnerability, then Morrissey (full name Steven Patrick Morrissey) was the second. Unlike Curtis, he represented a more relatable figure, even if many of us would seek to deny the Morrissey that lives inside us all: the loneliness we can conceal with barbed remarks and affectation, and the moments when the dam breaks and we burst forth in embarrassing emotional candour. Although their sound would for the most part quickly leave many of the more readily identifiable traits of post-punk behind, on 'How Soon Is Now?' The Smith's wrote a quintessential example of the genre. Johnny Marr's unstable, careering guitar always puts me in mind of the drunken stumble home after a night out through early morning city streets, with Morrissey as that little voice in your head running over the evening, its furtive gains and disappointments. 'So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry, and you want to die.' Amen to that.


9. I Am Damo Suzuki - The Fall, This Nation's Saving Grace Sep 1985

The hubris of the title of The Fall's ninth album is typical of its frontman and only consistent member, Mark E Smith. Ever since the Manchester band's insolent swagger onto the musical radar in 1976, Smith had used the thrilling and relentless, repetition-heavy assaults of the music as a podium from which to vent his own misanthropic ego, and rail hilariously against perceived idiocies of society, fashion, and the state. Smith is still soldiering on, with 30 studio albums under his belt, and a trail of jettisoned band line-ups in his wake, but This Nation's Saving Grace will probably always remain his finest hour, laden as it is with infectious riffs and manic yet controlled energy. The late, great head of Factory Records, Tony Wilson, once called Smith 'attitude personified' and it's a label nowhere better illustrated than on 'I Am Damo Suzuki', where his distinctively venomous voice is reinforced by the sinister guitar and pounding, tribal drums, seemingly ringing a death knell for the whole of Britain. It is awe-inspiring, and like all of The Fall's 80s work at least, well worth surrendering to.


10. The Sprawl - Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation 1988

Back in the States, the more avant-garde impulses within post-punk had evolved into noise rock, which kept the deconstructive possibilities opened up by its precedents, whilst amplifying the potential for ear-bleeding forays into dissonance, atonality and mercilessly loud performances. Hearkening back to the pioneering work of Wire, outfits like Big Black, Swans and Sonic Youth disregarded stale traditions of songwriting in favour of digging into the abstract textures of noise that could be created with the standard rock band set-up. Sonic Youth would go on to achieve the most lasting impact and success within this movement. These art-school brats' interrogation of consumerism and gender politics, and brittle, intellectual persona would have a huge influence on the emerging genres of alternative and indie rock. Their double album opus, Daydream Nation, from which 'The Sprawl' is taken, is now often regarded as one of the keystones in late 20th century music, marking the moment when rock music turned in upon itself and unravelled its own inner workings.


11. Pictures of You - The Cure, Disintegration 1989

Fittingly, this whistle-stop tour of post-punk ends with its ascendancy to the mainstream and the globally successful. As a band estimated to have sold approximately 27 million albums, The Cure demonstrate that post-punk's vibrant re-envisioning of popular music, and more complex engagements with emotional material, were never meant just for art circles, but for everyone.

In the early noughties, a brief post-punk revival saw bands like Franz Ferdinand and Interpol suddenly exposing this forgotten golden age to the light of day. The movement didn't last long: too immersed in the past, it died from a lack of fresh creative oxygen. Perhaps Savages can revive it for longer this time, but to do so they must remember that post-punk was never so much about a particular, well-worn sound as a fearless, undying belief in the paramount importance of daring concepts and innovative ideas.





Friday, 3 May 2013

Post-mortem: An introduction to post-punk Pt. 1


On the website of hotly-tipped London band Savages, a manifesto of sorts has been posted, stating that the band 'is not trying to give you something you didn't have already, it is calling within yourself something you buried ages ago...giving you the urge to experience your life differently, your girlfriends, your husbands, your jobs, your erotic life and the place music occupies in your life.'

That 'something' buried could be the movement of post-punk, exhumed and reanimated once again by Savages, the latest revivalists of a genre seemingly immune from death. As four women, Savages have inevitably been pigeonholed as a feminist appropriation of the post-punk sound, and indeed, although it's never overtly politicised, their music does seek to carve out provocative new areas of expression for women (violence and abuse, sexual fulfilment) within what has typically been a male-dominated scene.

But on a broader level, post-punk has always been geared towards this objective of redefining the parameters of popular music and the life of the populace. Following hot on the heels of the punk explosion, an eruption driven by undirected anger and apathy, which quickly congealed into an increasingly conservative, borderline fascist slew of homogenous three-chord rock songs, the post-punk acts would distance themselves by adopting much more intellectual and deconstructionist personas.

To mark the release of Savages' debut album, Silence Yourself, and for those yet to start exploring this fertile genre, here are eleven key songs from the formative post-punk period charting its restless and dynamic mutations:

1. Heartbeat - Wire, Chairs Missing 1978

Many cite John Lydon's (formerly Johnny Rotten) Public Image Ltd as the first post-punk band, but Wire would seem to make a better case for the title. Before the Sex Pistols had imploded, they were already making wildly inventive, abstract rock. Their overriding interest in the way simple, even primitive forms of effects-heavy guitar music can be twisted into strange, otherworldly shapes, almost like aural sculpture, is a very definitive trait of post-punk, and it's nowhere more apparent than in this brilliantly conceived track from their sophomore album.     


2. Public Image - Public Image Ltd, Public Image: First Issue Dec 1978

But we mustn't forget Public Image Ltd. It's a shame that John Lydon is best known to the public for the Sex Pistols, when his second band, and labour of love, PiL marks the more visionary and innovative period in his career. Their first single, Public Image, is cited by many other post-punk luminaries as the song that inspired them to start writing radically new music. Although the influence of punk is still very apparent in Lydon's keening delivery and bitter, confrontational lyrics, there are hints of the post-punk sounds to come in the expansive, echoing drumming and propulsive guitar riff. PiL would go on to write much more avant-garde and bleak stuff on their second album, Metal Box, and even experiment with the material, consumerist aspects of music delivery by releasing their vinyl record inside a (you guessed it) metallic container, but they were never more exciting than on their very first cut.



3. Natural's Not In It - Gang Of Four, Entertainment! Sep 1979

Leeds university graduates Gang of Four demonstrated just how wide-ranging and unashamedly smart the post-punk sphere could be. Incorporating elements of black music into their sound, particularly the writhing bass and guitar of funk, and merging them with distorted, fragmented squalls of feedback and vocalist Jon King's near-hysterical (and very, very white) voice, they helped give birth to the schizophrenic new sub-genre of dance-punk. The danceability of many of their tracks sits intriguingly at odds with the political content, the band filtering the usual topics of love, sex, and good times through their Marxism-informed viewpoint in order to expose the hollowness and superficiality of late 20th century life.


4. Transmission - Joy Division Nov 1979 

For many, Joy Division are the defining post-punk group and one of the greatest bands in British music history. In their early days, they were a fairly unremarkable act, their wings clipped by their unaccomplished musicianship. But under the musical guidance of producer Martin Hannett, they soared. More so than anyone else in the history of post-punk so far, Hannett emphasised space in the band's recordings. On a typical Joy Division song, the instruments - the metronomic drumming, the sparse, ringing guitar - and Ian Curtis' ageless voice sound as if they're performing miles apart from one another, brilliantly conveying Curtis' lyrical preoccupations of isolation, helplessness and despair. For me, the single Transmission is the pinnacle of this extraordinary band's unique magic.


5. Arabian Knights - Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ju Ju July 1981

Described by The Guardian as a 'pop marvel', the single Arabian Knights perhaps marks the moment at which post-punk began to flirt outrageously with the mainstream. The pounding drums and high-pitched guitars place the song squarely within the post-punk camp, but there's a much more pronounced adherence to the conventions of pop music, especially the huge singalong chorus. And then there's Siouxsie Sioux herself, one of the first pivotal female figures in post-punk history. Her flamboyantly macabre, theatrical dress sense and androgynous, operatic vocals would prove hugely influential on both the Goth and new wave movements. This is pretty much a perfect song.


6. Paper Hats - This Heat, Deceit 1981

If post-punk was drifting towards the dancefloor, it was also disappearing into ever-more obscure side alleys. Recorded in a cold storage facility by three multi-instrumentalists, the Deceit album is perhaps the most challenging, stark and uncompromising record in post-punk. There are almost no concessions to popular taste at all, with most of the tracks violently smashing together different musical styles and employing sudden, wrenching changes in tempo and rhythm. Evoking the contemporary threat of nuclear war and the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the album effectively conveys the turmoil and mounting dread of 20th century history, and is an undeniably difficult, but rewarding listen. Paper Hats, with its visceral force and mesmerising, krautrock-influenced ending, is the standout track.