Friday, May 24, 2019

Rock River

Oregon, Illinois
"There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another," Edouard Manet

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


DOWN AT THE ROCK & ROLL CLUB—The Hives demonstrate utter domination of the rock and roll stage. No, I'm not quoting their press release or an interview quip from front man Pelle Almqvist. The Hives are truly greater then the sum of their parts, which when combined threaten to topple most venues. "The Vic is such a beautiful theater. It'd be a shame if something happened to it," Almqvist announced wryly from the stage on Monday night. "Like if The Hives played there." Almqvist's schtick—haughty (and funny) Scandinavian arrogance and mock-condescension—hasn't changed a lick since I last saw the band, and neither has his mates' ferocious, stomping, on-point playing, and that's the point: you pay, the Hives deliver, no surprises, no disappointments. Guaranteed.

The band sported a new bass player, new to the U.S., anyway; The Johan and Only's been in the band since 2013. Drummer Chris Dangerous was missing, also; as Almqvist graphically explained to the crowd, he was the victim of some recent stomach surgery, and it's testament to the band's legendary showmanship that the cog that is the replacement drummer, whose name I regrettably missed, labored smoothly inside the Hive Engine, not missing a beat (figuratively, too, his moves in perfect sync with the rest of the band.) Watching the Hives own the stage, riding atop their insanely propulsive riffs and hooks, brings to mind peak, late-70s/early-80s AC/DC: rhythm guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem, he of the stout figure and Nordic beard, anchors stage right like a mountainous Malcolm Young, and flash lead guitarist Nicholaus Arson roams the joint like a more dapper Angus, all come-hither gestures and audience-baiting, laughably basking in the glow of his own wonderfulness. And Pelle: let's just say that he and Bon would've likely gotten along. Almqvist was charmingly imperfect at this gig: he was drinking beer, and more than once lost himself in the middle of his well-rehearsed patter, at one point letting loose a genuine grin and announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the part of the show where I have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about!" He quickly righted himself on those occasions, but the crack revealed the ace showman behind the mask. I liked him better for the rare fuckups.

What I love about the Hives is their nervy but endearing self-knowledge that the act they're putting on—the Hives play so well that they destroy all other rock and roll, and you are lucky to witness them—is part-joke and yet all-true. My tolerance for "funny" in rock and roll is not that high; the Hives are funny and they know they have the goods behind the irony. The fact that there is such a gap between their stateside visits only strengthens their myth and makes the joke funnier, and more powerful. The band still dresses in matching black-and-white suits, tuxedo shirts, and bow ties, the roadies in matching all-black Ninja outfits. And the songs are utterly fireproof: longstanding faves "Main Offender," "Go Right Ahead," "Hate to Say I Told You So," "Won't Be Long," and a ferocious "Tick Tick Boom" as an encore rocked the Vic from its foundation to the balconies, delivered with oiled precision that still sounded, and felt, recklessly hammered together. I was up-front all night, three deep in the rowdy section, and I left elated, drenched in sweat and beer. The band premiered a few new songs ("Paint a Picture," "Good Samaritan," and the new single, the pounding "I'm Alive") that confidently furthered the Hives Brand, but the bliss comes in how new and stirring the old songs still sound, the riffs and eighth-notes a perpetual motion machine. I felt elevated for most of the too-short show.

I'm a fan, obviously. It's especially fun to be a fan of the Hives. You're in the joke and the joke always delivers. "You do everything you weren't allowed to do in school," Almqvist has remarked about playing live. "Jumping up and down, screaming, annoying people, and people love you for it." A jest, and the truth.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Another dimension with Ex Hex

DOWN AT THE ROCK & ROLL CLUB—I was surprised that the Ex Hex show at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. hadn't sold out; after all they're a local outfit. My friend Steve shrugged, looked around at the venue, and said, "rock and roll." That is: it ain't selling these days. The crowd eventually packed the place nearly full, and pity those who didn't come out to hear this terrific band, touring behind their sophomore record It's Real. Onstage Ex Hex delivers glam, attitude, hooks, and old school showmanship, their sometimes angular, idiosyncratic tunes finding a true home under the lights. I'm a fan, but was a bit taken aback to see bassist Betsy Wright strap on a guitar as the band hit the stage. I learned that the original trio is now a quartet, at least at shows: David Christian plays bass while Wright joined Mary Timony on guitar and vocals; Laura Harris is steady on the drums. The dual axes delivered the goods: Ex Hex's sound was both fatter and brighter than on the albums, the riffs more muscular. Something seemed off with the band the last time I caught them a few years back, at the Empty Bottle in Chicago; the band was more confident this time around (though I also recall a wan-looking Timony complaining at the Bottle that it felt like it was 110 degrees onstage). The band's songs' evocations of late 70s' FM radio hits—"If Pat Benatar, why not Ex Hex?!", that eternal debate—were made graphically present by the glinting guitar lines, and the tunes sounded more radio-ready than ever, whatever that means in this century. As always, Timony's leads added so much personality to the songs: they're somehow thoughtful, melodies inside of melodies, musical ideas among ideas, fretboard Greek Choruses. If an Ex Hex song is a party, then a Timony solo is the guest you remember most the next morning. Wright's bad-ass riffing and her own rawer, less studied solos were a perfect balance to Timony's head-down care and attention. The women's now-standard lean-in toward each other during solos is arena camp; I like the stage-ready gesture, but I fear it'll become too schtick-y. In any case I hope Wright keeps her bass in its case from now on. The band confidently tore through a clutch of great tunes from both albums: "You Fell Apart," the driving three-chord "Diamond Drive," "Tough Enough," captivating versions of "Another Dimension" (which cast a spell that never lifted) and "Radiate," "Rainbow Shiner," and an encore of "Radio On" and "Hot and Cold." (Regrettably they didn't play my favorite from the new album, the complex "Want It To Be True." I don't know that the studio arrangement would work well onstage.)

The strutting Ex Hex played with grateful smiles on their home turf, their sturdy songs hook-laden gifts back to us. Thanks.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


I recently visited my parents and three of my siblings in Maryland. For fun, Amy and I decided to Airbnb an apartment in a building in Wheaton less than a mile from where I was raised. The place features a top-floor open-air terrace with a social gathering area (flat screen TVs, a bar, lounge chairs, etc) and one night we headed up. I was astonished to realize that my vantage point (above) looking south down Georgia Avenue toward Silver Spring, and, beyond, Washington D.C., would have been impossible when I lived there in the 1960's, '70s, and '80s without me being in a helicopter (improbable) or in bed at three in the morning, dreaming of flying over town (likely). These kinds of epiphanies are startling and melancholic, a graphic indicator of the changes in our old hometowns, equal parts banal and urgent. No real news here, and yet you're forever altered with the reckoning. At one point I realized that our building—one of a clutch of new mid- and high-rise apartments that in the last couple of decades have sprung up in once lower- and middle-class, quiet Wheaton—stood at the precise spot where the Country Boy Market had been in operation since 1955, a leaning, ramshackle fruit-meat-produce joint that you can only find in small rural towns now. Wooden, low-slung, red-painted, the store contributed to the strangely bucolic feel that parts of Wheaton had when I was a kid. Wheaton is only ten miles north of the D.C. line but in the 1970s if you looked in the right places, it felt and looked like a small town. My friends and I often stood in front of Country Boy on Friday and Saturday nights looking for a generous soul who'd buy us beer so we could head into the woods near our high school and get drunk before football games.

Those woods, that school, all gone now. Country Boy itself eventually moved to a spiffy location one 'hood north in Glenmont, where on our way out of Maryland Amy and stopped to pick up some Schaefer Beer, which I still love as much as when I drank six-packs in those woods last century. The stuff's getting scarce: someone had cleaned out the stock at Elbe's, my usual source in Wheaton, a rare longstanding joint still in business—intel directed me to Country Boy, which I hadn't even known existed anymore. The owner there told us that a shipment was coming in the next day and, offering his card, asked us to give him a call on his cell when the place opened. At 8 in the morning the following day I waited on a loading dock as a couple workers unearthed a case of Schaefer for me from the delivery truck. I grabbed the beer gratefully and it was some measure of solace, a gentle head nod to a barely-visible past. We climbed into the car and headed west via the sparkling, controversial Maryland Route 200, an intercounty connector finished in 2011 after homes had been removed and environments disrupted. Viva, eminent domain. Viva, the future.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

So much to prove

Purple Hearts, 1979

Labeling Purple Hearts a "Mod Revival" band created a problem where there didn't need to be one. This late 70s/early 80s outfit was a tight, punkish power pop band, and their first three singles were among several of the era's debut waves that built swiftly with crescendoing power. Yet most onlookers aligned them with targets, scooters, and beach riots, and then a nostalgic film, and boxed them up. A pity: strip away the Mod affectations, all of which the band courted but which in the end obscured them, and these three songs are timeless evocations of adolescence: the urgent search for identity; ongoing frustrations; and with earnest optimism, narrow-mindedness giving way to perspective and insight. All knotty aspects of growing up, all evoked and danced on top of with fierce and righteous rock and roll by the Hearts. And they ripped onstage: here's a show recorded live on October 1979 for the BBC Radio 1 In Concert Series.

Happily, hindsight has been generous to the top-tier bands in the Mod Revival movement. Ignore the unfortunately time- and date-stamp label and, as with Purple Hearts' contemporaries, the similarly tagged Chords, elevate to the eternal demands of great rock and roll. And play 'em loud.

single, 1979

single, 1979

single, 1980

Monday, April 29, 2019


Excerpts from "1957" in An Emotional Memoir of Franz Kline, by Fielding Dawson.
Drunk all night and were falling asleep in our chairs, it was too late and hopeless to leave and go all that way from Avenue B, so Franz [Kline] put on pajamas and fell into bed. I too, beside him, as dawn broke. 
I woke in terror, rigid in anxiety for his arm was around me, and he was murmuring. I shifted position and he mumbled in his sleep and turned away, yet muttering—but sadly, talking his sleeptalk to her. 
He was sitting at the bar, gazing at his glass of beer. His set jaw dragged his eyes and lips down, in a bitterness. He didn’t move for a long time and I became a little: alarmed. I moved quietly beside him, and gently put my hand on his shoulder. 
Softly, “Franz.” 
He turned and looked at me. His eyes were so deep they were without focus. His voice was distant and hollow, but the last phrase was terrible, bitter in disappointment. 
“At first I thought it was a stalk. Then I saw it had a head on it, and then I saw it was alive.” 
It was a bright afternoon. For some reason I wasn’t sitting at the bar, but in one of the small center booths, quite near the telephone. Franz was sitting a couple of stools down towards the door from the beer taps, at the bar, by himself, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. 
He was clean shaven. He had his black pin stripe suit on, and a1 clean white shirt open at the collar; his shoes were shined. He had his hat on, slightly to one side, front brim snapped down. He was dramatic and beautiful. 
Now, [Willem] de Kooning, in his paint-splattered paint clothes, sat unnoticed by Franz, at the end of the bar near me, exactly in my line of vision, and of course I watched them both, Bill’s left elbow was on the bar, and  right hand cupped his right knee—feet hooked over the rung of the barstool—his head was forward, arrowhead, profile. His blue eyes held a certain silvery glitter, perceiving Franz. Franz, there, glowing, de Kooning was looking into the glow. 
But then he, Bill, began a change. I saw the start of a smile, and he looked so directly at Franz a personal beam of intense affection came out of his eyes and shone on Franz; almost religious, or a fullness with revealed torture. Bill stepped partly off the barstool and whispered. 
Franz turned. "Bill!" 
Bill picked up his drink and walked down, sat on a barstool beside Franz; after an instant of speaking I heard Bill say, softly, like someone telling a dear friend a piece of great news not everyone is allowed to hear, What about a little drink? 
Franz laughed, and Bill said to Louie, "Let's have a couple of little drinks here. And this one's on me." 
Quite a while later they were in the same place, but the were leaning on each other, heads together, like small stocky guys—no, tall buildings, tilting across avenues against each other—sky-scrapers, rather; having a little close conversation.
Kline and de Kooning

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Remorse, a Triptych

American Aquarium, "Ain't Going To The Bar Tonight," Dances For The Lonely (2009)

Go To Blazes, "Why I Drink," single (1992)

Hank Thompson, "Hangover Tavern,"A Six-Pack To Go (1966)

Friday, April 26, 2019


I'm not much of a musician. Strike that: I am not a musician. Drum and piano lessons in grade school, idly fooling around on a beat-up, passed-down acoustic guitar in the family basement, air guitaring (ongoing). My greatest success came with an imaginary band I formed with my younger brother.

I recall the several years of piano lessons with some distaste. They took place in Mrs. Pollack's basement a few neighborhoods over from mine; I have distinct memories of my mom picking me and my younger brother after school to take us there, and as I remember it it was invariably raining, the windows in the station wagon fogged over, my headache likely a result of the gross weather, not the existential ennui that gripped me. I had some difficulties getting over my childish aversion to going into strangers' homes, and I never much enjoyed entering the Pollack's, with its oddly modern architecture and wall-to-wall carpeting and strange smells (and appointments; I think they were wealthier than we were). I do recall my red piano book fondly, and can still sing, and maybe even play, "Song of the Volga Boatmen," and some others. I never liked practicing. (Stop the presses.)

The vivid memory I have from those long afternoons is unsurprisingly a lesson, but one not having much to do with scales. Mrs. Pollack instructed us, sternly but with her round, friendly face, to never let the mistake that we'd invariably make during practice or recital show in our playing; that is, we were told to play as if we hadn't made a mistake, seamlessly, and thus it's likely that the patient parents in the room wouldn't notice, or would at least politely behave as if they hadn't noticed. I took this little instruction to heart—it emboldened me, at age eleven or twelve, to play with confidence and a kind of worldly air that said, Of course mistakes happen, but I won't let them rule me. It wasn't an easy lesson to learn and I'm struck now at the pressure it put on us kids, as we were at an age when comical errors can cast the entire day in melodrama, when making mistakes went to the core of what felt like lame moral character—ie, I'm a loser—though we couldn't articulate that at the time, only feeling it in our hot faces or in our ears ringing with derisive laughter of classmates. At one recital, a girl tripped over some difficult passage and, upset, slunk back on her bench, sulking; she tried again, and again made a mistake, and to the horror of all of us began hammering the sequence of notes until she got them right, alternately dramatically sighing her way through the embarrassment and screwing up her face in frustration. As with all adolescent dramas, her public failing has grown to mythic proportions in my inner retelling, and I'm sure she recovered just fine. Maybe she continued to play piano, perhaps wildly successfully, or just for fun. But her face, those slumping shoulders, stayed with me. I never played piano or any keyboards seriously after these early classes (my brother did) but that lesson in grace and stoicism stuck with me, a small step toward maturity and, dare I say, sophistication. Funny what sticks at that age. Thank you, Mrs. Pollack.

Photo via Because I Like To Decorate.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Everything's ahead of us

On the same day when Chris Estey asked on Facebook for votes for the Top Ten cowbells in rock and roll, and the inevitable shouts for Grand Funk's "We're American Band" went up, Tom Breihan at Stereogum posted about the song. Now that's some funky coincidence. I happen to be reading Billy James's 1999 hagiography An American Band: The Story of Grand Funk Railroad now, too, so here's to serendipity.

Breihan nails the song's appeal well—it's a mildly embellished tour diary, rhymed and set to music. I'll add that my two favorite moments in the song—which I love immoderately, and which may be a perfect rock and roll song—have nothing to do with the lyrics or playing, but with expectations. After drummer Don Brewer sings the first verse, the story unspooling, the band settles back into the killer groove with which the song opened. On first listen, you know a second verse is coming and it was like waiting (back when we waited) for next week's episode of your favorite show, or putting down a great read knowing that you'll pick it up again and open it later that night. I can't wait for the next chapter! Similarly, during Mark Farner's eight-bar guitar solo after the second gangsingalong of the epic chorus, you have a feeling that that chorus is coming back; on later listens, you know it's coming back. Few moments in rock and roll from that era still fill me with the same heady joy, the sweet spot, the song's equivalent to the moments between drinks two and three, say, the night still young, the chorus coming 'round again. Everything's ahead of us. Party it down!

I'm grinning writing this. It doesn't hurt that the song is perfectly produced by Todd Rundgren: instincts to jam endlessly are squashed; Craig Frost's eighth-note organ stabs maintain the excitement simply but urgently; the chorus is repeated an ideal number of times, not too few, not too many. The song's greatness lies in the way I'm always brought me back to the first times I heard it.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Pursuing something

Four Tops
"Elusive Butterfly" was a hit for Bob Lind in 1966, reaching the number 5 spot on the U.S. and U.K. charts. The lyrics are purple in splotches and occasionally sentimental, but powerfully evocative, too:
You might wake up some morning
To the sound of something moving past your window in the wind
And if you're quick enough to rise
You'll catch a fleeting glimpse of someone's fading shadow
Out on the new horizon
You may see the floating motion of a distant pair of wings
And if the sleep has left your ears
You might hear footsteps running through an open meadow 
Don't be concerned, it will not harm you
It's only me pursuing something I'm not sure of
Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love
The second verse has its share of clumsy lines ("You might have heard my footsteps / Echo softly in the distance through the canyons of your mind") and the image of the singer "running through the long-abandoned ruins of the dreams you left behind," is wincingly close to Poetry 101, but the overall effect is unnerving and strange enough to work, especially as the heartache is softened by the airy, lilting balm of Lind's melody. The verse ends with the singer gliding past his elusive love "followed close by heavy breathing." Indeed.

Four years later, the Four Tops offered a transcendent cover of "Elusive Butterfly" on Still Waters Run Deep. Their version trades Lind's folksy lightness for something unsurprisingly fatter and funkier, their assured arrangement beginning with an atmospheric high organ line made spookily earthy by bongos and percussion. Levi Stubb's vocal is, as always, commanding and aggressive yet warm and nuanced, breaking in places but confident throughout. A string arrangement send the song airborne in a different way than Lind's acoustic buoyancy does, more groove than light. This is very much a group vocal arrangement, of course, Stubbs and Abdul Fakir, Lawrence Payton, and Renaldo Benson trading lines and exhortations, but there's a reason Levis was the front man: everything he sang sounded urgent and desperate, even songs with a lighter touch; such was his command of his baritone and its emotional range.

When I was in graduate school, the late writer John Haines liked to tell me that he believed popular music stole the love poem from the poets. The argument rang true to me. From Sinatra and Elvis to Beatlemania and Motown to Bubblegum and Boy Bands to Britney and Ariana, popular music delivers headiness and urgency, a Top 100 wattage that conventional love poems sometime blink feebly against, lacking spectacle. "Elusive Butterfly" is an eternal ode to lost love that via these two versions achieves poetry of a particular sort: melody and melancholy, singing voice and aching heart lifting cliché and Hallmark gentility into something greater, and deeper.

"Elusive Butterfly," from Still Waters Run Deep (1970)

Friday, April 5, 2019


Kurt Cobain died 25 years ago today. I remember sitting in a lousy Pizza Hut in Athens, Ohio sometime in 1992. Nevermind was out, and huge and getting bigger. Amy and I were eating when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came on. At the end of the song, to which we were paying only minimal attention, a denial, a denial, a denial, a denial roared through the place, cutting through everyone's meal, personal space, and sense of decorum, or peace, and it felt like nothing else than a demand to reevaluate things. That simple, and that profound. As what happens when encountering great art, the environment had been altered, and I'd been unprepared.

A year or so earlier, as I wrote in Field Recordings from the Inside, my neighbor on First Street and some friends of hers were out on her front porch.
I walk past and hear a song coming from their house that I’ve never heard before, and can’t place. In the few moments it takes to reach my front steps the music seems to have moved from sweet to ferocious to anthemic to desolate and back again. The singer’s great. The riffs are loud, but clean. “Who is that?” I yell from the street.

She smiles beatifically at me. “It’s Nirvana!”

When Nevermind was released in the fall of 1991 I was only vaguely aware of Kurt Cobain’s band. I’d looked the other way when their early Sub Pop records were issued, as I hadn’t been ready yet for their tuneful howl. What I heard my neighbor say was “nirvana” with a lower-case “n.” In the way we instantaneously make sense of a complex moment and its scope, it felt like what she had described for me was a feeling, a place, made of roar and stillness, to where she’d been transported, a spiritual instant. Not much later, when Nirvana took off commercially, I made the critical appellative correction, but the influential exchange on the street had imprinted itself in me. That was less music I heard walking by her porch on an ordinary sunny day in autumn than a state of being.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

DeKalb, Illinois, or something

Near the close of "Give Peace a Chance! Grand Funk Railroad Take Shea Stadium" in the August 1, 1971 issue of Creem, writer and guitarist Lenny Kaye imagines a time in the near future when Grand Funk Railroad reverently bring their manager Terry Knight onstage and launch into a version of "I (Who Have Nothing)" a 1966 hit for Terry Knight and the Pack, in which future Grand Funkers Mark Farner and Don Brewer played. Little did Kaye know from the vantage point of '71 how ugly things were going to get between Knight and the band over the next few years, as an ugly breach-of-contract lawsuit by Knight and a resentful out-of-court settlement by the band created a million-dollar drain on Grand Funk that threatened to derail their promising career. Instead, after wrenching free from the exploitative Knight, they added a member, hired producer Todd Rundgren, and the rest is history.

Kaye's piece was reissued in 2003 in Barney Hoskyns' essential The Sound and the Fury: 40 Years of Classic Rock JournalismKaye spends the bulk of the eye-witness piece describing Grand Funk's enormously successful sold-out show at Shea Stadium on July 9, 1971, a terrific account that places you right in the rocking and swaying and weed-bathed stadium bleachers alongside Funk freaks. (Here's some great of-the-era footage of the show, which famously sold out in 72 hours). Kaye also considers the band's Midwest roots, and the key to their considerable success:
Grand Funk never disappoint, unless you happen to be looking for things that just aren’t there. They’re always square-shooters, on the level, up front and together. They believe wholeheartedly in their ‘brothers and sisters’, instinctively think of their audience in that light, and this in turn means that they will never treat their fans badly: never step on them or scorn them or take them by the heels and shake them until the last little bit of change falls out of their pockets. They realize that given another time and place, it might’ve been them down there rather than them up here; a sobering thought—for any musician. And if, in the end, it may come to mean that they'll never be more than the sum total of their audience, that Grand Funk will never be able to rise far above themselves that they levitate a crowd beyond any of its other awareness...well, what the hell, rock'n'roll is only rock'n'roll, and it ain't too many who get to find God in a I-IV-V progression.
That's a pretty great definition and defense of bare-bones rock and roll, and, notwithstanding the Funk's often tedious, elongated boogieing, soloing, and we'regonnarocktonight exhortations, Kaye really nails the source of their earnest appeal in the early 70s.

All of this is to say that I was startled by the paragraph near the end.
But even with all this, they haven't hit their peak yet, and I’ll tell you why. They’ve saved the best for last, those sly l’il devils. You’ll see: one of these days, they’ll be finishing up a concert in some out-of-the-way place: Dekalb, Illinois, or something. The closing bars of "Inside Looking Out" will shudder to a close, and they’ll leave amid cries for more. After only a matter of seconds, though, they’ll be back in their places, excited and energized, like kids who are about to receive an unexpected surprise. 
I find it hilarious and awesome that Kaye would choose l'il DeKalb as the site of an imagined emotional moment onstage between Grand Funk and Knight. (DeKalb with a lower "k." That's alright, Lenny Kaye, or should I say kaye, it was probably the editor.) I don't know if Grand Funk ever played DeKalb; a few years later KISS did on their first tour, at Northern Illinois University's Field House, so I guess that could've been the place where Farner, Brewer, and Mel Schacher brought the Funk, another stop on a long journey for The American Band. Alas, the moment never happened, and DeKalb remains a what-if in 70s arena rock myth. Or something.

Photo of Kaye at Village Oldies, NYC via Pinterest.

Friday, March 29, 2019

More Chords

Discovering The Chords has been a revelation. Here are a few more killer singles: stirring, excitingly played, politically aware, urgently gang-hollered and rocking. "The Chords came out of punk," singer and guitarist Chris Pope explained a few years back to Rock At Night. "We were all 14-15 when it kicked off—so it was our time, our music. But we were also steeped in '60s Brit Pop. We wanted to marry the two sounds together...sort of the Who meets the Clash in some mad 'mod-punk-rave-mix-up' somewhere in South London."

The Chords' run of 45s in 1980 into '81 measures pretty damn well against other bands' similar spans (The Jam, The Buzzcocks, etc.). (Absent below are "Maybe Tomorrow," released in January 1980, and "Something Missing" released in April, both of which appeared on the band's debut album.) More proof that the late 70s/early 80s was really a golden era for well-produced guitar-based rock and roll, and more evidence that The Chords were a notch above the other Mod Revival bands, transcending the limits of identity politics with brash songwriting and stirring performance. I wish they'd held it together for another album.

"Now It's Gone" [re-recording], bonus single issued with So Far Away, May 1980

"The British Way Of Life," single, July 1980

"In My Street," single, October 1980

"One More Minute," single, May 1981
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