Welcome to the newest feature of TBAW called 5 albums. From time to time I will post a list of five great albums that fit a particular theme or genre with a short description of each. This first installment will deal with albums under the punk-funk or dance-punk genre, a genre that started as an offshoot of the late 1970s post-punk scene. Bands of this ilk added rhythms and bass lines lifted directly from disco, funk, dub and Krautrock. Combined with their aggressive punk sound this created albums that you could groove to as easily as you could rock out to. Here are a few gems from this classic genre, and yes the Red Hot Chili Peppers were left off the list intentionally.
Minutemen – Paranoid Time EP
Double Nickels on the Dime is a far better album than this, but not only does this EP groove way harder, it’s just over six minutes long, so even if you hate it you won’t have wasted much time listening to it. It’s basically an extreme version of Wire (another great band but not funky enough for this list) with Bootsy Collins on bass. These guys were originally hated in the 80s hardcore scene for being too musically challenging, but at least they had the balls to try something new.
Gang of Four – Entertainment!
Twelve songs about how the rich exploit the poor. Oh, and did I mention that this is the most plagiarized album in all of punk and alternative rock? Think Steve Albini was the first with the scrap metal guitar tones? Nope. Think Fugazi were the first angular punk band? Nope. Think Bloc Party and countless other NME-post-punk revival bands based their entire recording career off this record? Yep. Think any of them were any good? Nope.
James Chance & the Contortions – Buy
Alright, now we’re starting to move into weird territory. The missing link between James Brown and NYC punk rock, frontman James Chance doesn’t sing as much as he yelps and squeals, and it helps that his rhythm section is the most powerful of any band here. Bonus points go to the fact they used a saxophone long before a bunch of lame indie bands explored the artistic boundaries set by Kenny G (I’m looking at you Destroyer, M83 and Bon Iver).
The Pop Group – Y
Less concerned with songwriting as they were with creating noise, the Pop Group were no doubt one of the most unique bands of the time. Mark Stewart outdoes James Chance at his own game, upping the ante for the role of demented lead singer. Instead of looking to James Brown for inspiration, he takes from Jamaican deejays, effortlessly riding along the loose jazzy-beat set by the his band. It’s the most out-there album on this list, but well worth a shot.
Public Image Ltd. – Metal Box
It’s the hardest album to dance to on the list, but easily the best. Every review I have ever read of this album goes into length on how Lydon was still “getting rid of the albatross” around his neck, but let’s not forget one thing: the songs are incredible. Bassist Jah Wobble is the true hero of this record, creating saturated bass lines that act as the perfect counterpart to Keith Levene’s textured guitar work. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s a Far More Interesting Band.
By Andrew Burton