The Scenics - Punk Haiku 4: I'm Set Free: Sept-Nov 1977
Continuing to school a new generation of listeners in the spirit of punk-and letting some old schoolers in on what they missed back in the day, The legendary Scenics open the vaults once again for another dose of classic live tracks. "Punk Haiku 4: I'm Set Free: Sept-Nov 1977" only covers a few weeks in the life of the band, but it was clearly an important couple of months for the band's growth. You can feel their confidence as they move well beyond the structures of punk and pop and head into the mystic, building off the sound of Television and Wire and anticipating that of bands like Gang of Four.
This set features six originals along with a handful of covers among its eleven offerings. Bowie's "Panic In Detroit" opens the set and bares only a thin resemblance to the original; here the band dissects the song into abstract lines and both in the music and the vocals, which turn the lyrics into a sort of obscure, seemingly random chanting. The song is transformed into a ritualistic tribal initiation rite.
Similarly, "Younger Version" is a fitful meditation that uses song structure very loosely, the melody discarded for the more interesting echoes between the notes. Other highlights include the killer rockers "I'm Hurt" and "Zombie Go Round," an odd, up tempo lounge take on "See Emily Play," and the abrasive ‘Nouveau Timmy," which evokes a minutemen/feedtime bass heavy minimalism.
There are three Velvets covers, including a brittle "Femme Fatale," highlighted by a massive, emotionally raw "What Goes On" that is easily one of the most powerful versions of that track-the VU might have had trouble on some nights reaching this level of transcendence.
"Not so much laid back, but fucked up," a band member says during some in studio chatter halfway through "Punk Haiku 4: I'm Set Free: Sept-Nov 1977." While that certainly could be a phrase used to describe the music herein, it is so much more than that. These songs truly are punk haikus, songs that burn hot with punk abrasiveness and irreverence, but with a fearless curiosity that concentrates poetic power in a few notes and choruses.
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