JAIMIE VERNON – THE PUNKS ARE (STILL) ALRIGHT

Jaimie_1981

Smashing Pumpkins leader William “Don’t Call Me Billy” Corgan bleated something about loss of innocence at the end of the 1970s with the band’s only true Pop song called “1979” in the apex of the 1990s version of a counter-culture movement (c/f Grunge, Cobain, Seattle, et al).

London Calling

Ironically, the tune missed the opportunity to identify the significance of that year’s own counter-culture signpost – The Clash’s ‘London Calling‘.

The album coincidently appeared exactly two weeks after Pink Floyd’s bloated Roger Waters manifesto, ‘The Wall’, about how musicians had become the Walldisconnected from fans by a metaphorical series of walls – personal, musical, and corporate; Ones that Pink Floyd would exploit to turn into a meta circus on a grand, gratuitous and grotesque scale in stadiums around the world. The Clash, and specifically ‘London Calling‘, tore those walls down from the inside out – pointing out the hypocrisy of getting messages to the masses on the back of their corporate overlords, CBS Records. Not coincidently the same label that released ‘The Wall’.

Sex Pistols‘London Calling‘ became a kick-out-the-jams call to the second generation of punks whose heroes – the Four Horseman of the Punkocalypse: The Sex Pistols – had died a fiery, snotty death on the musical battlefield. The Clash had weathered the storm and would accomplish what the Pistols hadn’t which was to conquer America. ‘London Calling‘ was the Trojan horse and the single “Train In Vain” was the knock at the gates. Something The Clash announced earlier in 1979 as the “Gates of the West”. They had sent a warning shot over the bow.

“Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” wasn’t the band’s idea. It was appendixed onto the album as an unidentified bonus track without fanfare. CBS USA sent the Train In Vainmessage to AM radio, like Princess Leia pleading for help from Obi Wan Kenobi, that this song was humanity’s only hope. Surprising to everyone, except The Clash, the album exploded for a million different reasons not the least of which was the fact that it was a double album. The Clash was in an unparalleled bout of proliferation not seen since The Beatles circa 1967/1968. The band forced CBS into letting them do a double (and would do the same again for the triple length ‘Sandinista‘ that followed as a contractual obligation fuck-you). “Train In Vain” was the label’s insurance policy. They needn’t have worried. The Clash had better songs than that. The success of the album proved it.

The original fan base that had gotten used to improvised political grenades in the form of 2 minute raging sonic assaults was divided. Strummer was still London Calling SINGLEspitting venom and the title track lead the charge, but many felt that the counter-puntal Mick Jones had gone soft spending too much time studying New York break dancing and Latin rhythms and not enough time delivering The Clash’s global message against tyranny and hypocrisy. But the album’s breadth allowed both to co-exist. They even seemed to be having (gasp) fun with tracks like the blazing re-reading of “Brand New Cadillac”.

The Clash had graduated from disenfranchised white rioters using guitars as weapons of crass destruction into musicians who could now manipulate the corporate masses and the mass media. A generation of burgeoning musician followers now had a new blueprint. The need to throttle one’s instrument to dramatize a musical narrative was no longer the only option. The Clash had written the new rules – which included melody and Dylanesque lyrical potency. And now it could be done without having to preface it with “1, 2, 3, 4”.

Green Day

Fast forward to the third generation of punk and Green Day emerged as the performance enhanced, Botoxed, auto-tuned proof of concept. The goal of The Clash, jokingly, had been to destroy Broadway. Though their DNA is Ramones and Pistols based, Green Day’s American Idiot‘ was the middle finger to American militarization that ended up as a Broadway musical (and dominated radio)- an inbred, genetically modified cousin of ‘London Calling‘ where it highlighted the cartoonish nature of politics as The Clash did, but lacked the essence of their enlightened spirit. But, surely someone must have read The Clash roadmap and actually followed it?

35 years after ‘London Calling‘ the road has led to Trinidad which is not surprising given the Caribbean influence that The Clash absorbed from so many QuicksandIsland ex-pat musical émigrés in the mid-70s UK. The genesis of the band has come full circle in the guise of Trinidad’s JOINTPOP whose new album, ‘Quicksand‘, is slick and comes fully realized courtesy Gary Hector (guitar, vocals), Damon Homer (guitar), Dion Camacho (drums), Phil Hill (keyboards, backing vocals), and Jerome Girdharrie (bass). The sixth force in the mix is Paul Kimble who wore every hat producing, engineering, mixing and providing additional instrumental diversions at the Radix Point studio in Mayaro, Trinidad.

Jointpop3

Upon first listen one notices zero “Island” sounds. No Calypso, no Reggae, no Ska. That bias and stereotype gets shot down immediately which is probably why the material Jointpop conjures up is so refreshing and indefinable except in instances of the obvious nascent Clash attitude threaded through such tracks as the rollicking “Good Bad By You” (lifting generously from revered rocker Eddie Cochrane), the title track “Quicksand” (where Gary Hector channels Joe Strummer’s vocal bark), the “Card Cheat”-like musical inspiration of “Together (Suzuki)”, “Reality And T”, and the bang-on early Clash cover of “London’s Burning” re-titled as the pride of the band’s homeland “Trinidad’s Burning”.

Jointpop is a lot more than the sum of their chief influence, however. They have added a mixture of other sounds and inspirations that are NOT punk by Jointpop1definition. The guitar driven tracks are balanced with Phil Hill’s keyboardist which work to great effect on the melodic earworm “Two People, Two People” and late-night pub ballads like “The Chief Suspect”, “Wembley” (a mere 30 seconds long), “Lost And Found” and the Vaudevillian Beatle croonfest “Down To Me” which is actually a clever protest song in disguise.

Mil MascarasWhere Jointpop shows their greatest strength musically and as songwriters is on three specific tracks: the infectious pop confection of “Mil Mascaras” – an ode to the legendary WWE Hall of Fame Mexican lucha libre wrestler – which avoids every temptation to infuse a Tijuana brass arrangement; the bouncy and frolicking Orson / Mica-esque ballad “Simply Beautiful” with its dynamic pacing and Hector’s heartfelt vocal delivery alongside some of the album’s best guitar work; and finally, the 1970s driven dreamy, soul fuelled “We Will Never Know” which has several Mott The Hoople raging coda twists that keep the listener engaged and entranced.

Jointpop is getting better on each new release. I expect they’ll shed the punk attributes, though hopefully not the ethos, and pursue more of that musical diversity they clearly know how to muster. Here’s hoping ‘Quicksand‘ is recognized as the lead-up to bigger things for them internationally. Bands like this only come along once a generation.

Jointpop2JointPop

THIS WEEK’S VIRAL FIND:

THIS WEEK’S VIRAL OLDIE:


Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON – THE PUNKS ARE (STILL) ALRIGHT”

  1. Nice picks Jamie! Loved Jointpop — a new band to follow. Great read.

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