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A new postpunk festival highlights a genre's revival 

Wednesday, Oct 7 2009

Professor, DJ, and journalist Michael Stock takes music-nerd obsessiveness to new levels. In 1999, when researching a film about Joy Division leader Ian Curtis, he not only interviewed members of such late-'70s bands as New Order, Crispy Ambulance, and A Certain Ratio, he also talked to their ex-girlfriends and widows. And then, while writing the script for what would eventually morph into Control (albeit without his stated involvement), he refused to listen to any music made after May 18, 1980, the day Curtis hanged himself. So it makes sense that his Los Angeles club night, "Part-Time Punks," has become one of the best-curated, most-beloved weekly events in town since its 2005 inception at the Echo.

Taking its name from a Television Personalities song, the party features live music by bands who were either around during postpunk's 1978-'84 heyday (Pylon, Medium Medium) or were inspired by those that were (Mika Miko, Crystal Stilts), along with DJ sets by Stock and guests. This year, he brings his Part-Time Punks festival to San Francisco. If a live set by Joy Division peers Section 25 isn't excitement enough, the iconic Raincoats will be reconstituting for their first local show ever.

In honor of the festivities, here's a guide to the best British postpunk releases, in alphabetical order.

A Certain Ratio, "Shack Up"

By covering the Washington, D.C. love-funk outfit Banbarra, this Manchester outfit laid the dance-punk template for the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem.

Delta 5, "Mind Your Own Business" and the rest of Singles & Sessions 1979-'81

Razor-sharp guitar wrapped in bouncy bass and smirky humor — quite possibly the only punk band inspired by Saturday Night Fever and "Heart of Glass."

The Fall, The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall

On the Fall's 1984 LP, Mark E. Smith steals from the Stooges, the Go-Go's, and Joy Division, walking the delicate line between freaky and fun.

Gang of Four, Entertainment

This 1979 album is often considered the epitome of postpunk: tightly wound guitar hooks, sneered vocals, sociopolitical lyrics, and a sense that the fucked-up world can be improved upon by jumping around.

Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures

The Manchester quartet's 1979 debut boiled down punk's aggression into something menacing, made more nerve-wracking by Curtis' wavering bellow.

The Raincoats, The Raincoats

The trio's debut is still as bracing and intense as it was in 1980 (or 1994, when Kurt Cobain helped get it reissued). It's the Velvet Underground with ADD (and with three caterwauling female singers and a crazed violinist instead of a Welsh cellist).

Section 25, Always Now

This Blackpool outfit's 1981 debut LP further distills Joy Division's bleak sound, offering pounding drums and cauterizing guitars alongside Larry Cassidy's deadpan, droning vocals.

The Slits, Cut

More indebted to dub than to punk, the 1979 debut by this female trio sounds remarkably agile even today — forming the framework for Björk's elastic flights of fancy.

The Soft Boys, Underwater Moonlight

The second album by Robyn Hitchcock, Kimberley Rew, and pals sounds far cleaner and janglier than most postpunk. Then again, the lyrics are as weird as anything Curtis (or Syd Barrett) came up with.

Compilations: Rough Trade's two-disc Post Punk Vol 01 connects groundbreaking artists (the Bush Tetras, Essential Logic) with newbies (Les Georges Leningrad, the Futureheads). Soul Jazz' In the Beginning There Was Rhythm focuses on discordant, arty acts (This Heat, 23 Skidoo), while GRLZ shows that female-led acts (Ludus, Jajaja) art-rocked just as hard — and weird — as the dudes. Rhino's three-disc Postpunk Chronicles set spreads across the Atlantic and stretches the genre definition, including such debatably postpunk acts as the Three O'Clock, the Rain Parade, and the Lyres.

About The Author

Dan Strachota


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