Archive for Ivan Julian

The 40th Anniversary Release of Richard Hell & The Voidoids’ “Blank Generation” Brings Back The Greatest Punk Album That Wasn’t Really A “Punk” Album

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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In the wonderful liner notes accompanying Blank Generation: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, guitarist Ivan Julian remembers that the band was listening to James Brown’s album, coincidentally entitled Hell, as they went into the studio, two times as it turns out, to record their debut.   And reading that, it cracks the code on why this amazing record — every bit the equal to Television’s debut Marquis Moon, and one of just a handful of late ’70s records (Pink FlagHorses, The Clash, This Year’s Model, The Modern Dance, More Songs About Buildings and Food…) that have stood the test of time — sounds the way it does.  Because, children, Richard Hell & The Voidoids could swing, and it certainly wasn’t the rhythm section, with future Ramone Mark Bell on drums and Hell on bass, that did it.  You see, for an album heralded as a classic punk record from that first generation of CBGB bands, Blank Generation sure was funky, and Lord, was this band tight.

We remember the first time we heard it, in our campus housing at Hampshire College when future rock critter Byron Coley came back from The City with his latest batch o’ discoveries, must have been just after Thanksgiving of ’77, and the first thing that was clear was this band could play.  We’d never heard a guitarist like Bob Quine, except maybe for Jeff Beck.  But while we knew enough to recognize Hell as a progenitor of the New York punk scene — we’d spent the previous summer in the The City, we read the two papers we’d soon write for, the Voice and the Soho News — this didn’t sound like the Ramones, whom we’d seen at CBs, and it didn’t sound like Patti Smith or Television.  If punk rock was supposed to be primitive, these weren’t primitives — or at least Blank Generation wasn’t primitive — because on vinyl the Voidoids could turn on a dime, Quine and Julian’s rhythm and lead guitar playing was as tight as Keith and Mick Taylor, and the whole band was as propulsive as, well, James Brown’s J.B.s.  Even as Hell’s singing, and the affect was, well, okay, primitive, and even as they were categorized as punks, this was a band, and an album, that wasn’t an alternative anything — they were the real deal. And this was as exciting a record as that moment produced.

So here we are, 40 years later, and Richard’s a revered icon in the Village, known as much for his superb rock criticism and lovely 2013 memoir I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp as he is for having produced two of the best records from New York City’s great musical epoch between ’77 and ’83.  With this remastered version of the Voidoids’ debut, and the addition of a modest set of live tracks and alternative cuts, let us consider Blank Generation as music.  Which so rarely happens.  Hell is such an important cultural figure — and importantly, because he stopped playing music so long ago that he’s succeeded in having us think of him as a writer, not as a musician — people tend to gloss over Blank Generation, and what an incredible record it is. (And Hell himself thought so little of the classic Destiny Street that in 2010 he rerecorded it with a different band, which we thought, and said then, was a mistake.)

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Now this may be hard to follow, but try. We have long thought of Richard Hell as sort of the inverse of the Velvet Underground.  While we listen to, and revere, our Velvets records, while we are suckers for every box, all the live shit (including the material Bob Quine, who was then a Wash U law student, followed them around and recorded on a cassette deck), for us the Velvet Underground are kept alive by the bands who channel them, who imitate them, who cover their music.  A decade ago, we wrote about the Velvet Underground as much as a notion than as an actual band. When we listen to the Brian Jonestown Massacre or Spiritualized or Jesus and Mary Chain, we are in Velvets world.  In other words, the VU are something bigger than, you know, a band who put out records, great as they are.

But Richard Hell, who is such an outsized figure — co-founder of Television, member of The Heartbreakers and Dim Star, the guy whose torn pants beget “punk” as a British fashion craze — is less often considered for the two incredible records he released with the Voidoids, than in some other, broader context.  And yet, even as we read his fiction, and his really quite excellent music criticism, even as he has become, over time, something of a quite generous pen pal, we play his two Voidoids albums constantly. Forget the broader context, we revere Hell, first and foremost, because of his vinyl output with the Voidoids.

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Now it’s true that people play Blank Generation and Destiny Street as much because they want to hear Bob Quine’s skronk as because they want to hear Hell, and while we get that — we’d rather listen to Quine and Ivan Julian together than Quine on a fucking Lloyd Cole album — let us give Richard the credit he’s due.  Blank Generation is, as this 40th Anniversary release shows, one of the rare albums from that era that, 40 years on, holds up. The world may worship Television’s Marquis Moon, and and we certainly gave Verlaine his due upon that record’s 35th anniversary release, we have always thought Hell deserved the same treatment, the same reverence. He’s not a guitar god or a lyrical mystic, his singing’s not Bono great, his bass playing perhaps tends more in the direction of Sid Vicious than Jaco Pastorius, but, you know, hell, if you’re into real rock’n’roll, as we called it at New York Rocker, he’s the real deal.  And he was the songwriter, band leader and visionary spawning two of our favorite records ever.

Along the way, Hell has a made some artistic mistakes, and they’re not always the ones he thinks.  He was correct — as is proved on the 2nd CD of this anniversary release, with its alternative versions of “Love Comes In Spurts” and “Blank Generation” — to have gone back in the studio in the summer of ’77 to completely re-record the album.  He was right to have had his compendium known as The Richard Hell Story remastered. But the less said about Destiny Street Revisited the better. (We understand why he’d want a mulligan on the output from his drug-addled days, but it is possible to be sobriety addled too, and some things are best left as they were.  Wire wonderfully recorded Change Becomes Us in 2013, comprised of songs botched in a 1981 live release. But that was cleaning up a sloppy live set of great songs; Destiny Street’s songs sound better on the 2005 remastering of The Richard Hell Story, but the original is a masterpiece, and not just because Quine is on it.)

Richard Hell’s efforts at polishing and remastering the past are worth it.  He’s an exceptionally intelligent artist who, all grown up and having survived himself, wants to be known by the way he hears his music, which is not exactly the way it ended up released.  But the way it ended up released is fucking awesome, even if remastering CDs can make something sound marginally better.

He should take comfort in having produced, in the original Destiny Street, a sophomore album better than his friend and rival Tom Verlaine’s 2nd Television album, Adventure.  And he should take new pleasure in the recognition that Blank Generation really can be understood not simply as a great punk album, but as one of the finest rock’n’roll records ever made.

Download Those Albums Next Week, Help Ivan Julian Today

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 30, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Ivan Julian was the last member recruited to The Voidoids, Richard Hell’s seminal punk band from the ’70s. According to a letter Hell sent friends last week, guitarist Bob Quine “was so impressed by Ivan’s chops, he copped the slot on the spot.  He’s only gotten better, year after year, as a player and all around monster of goodness, and that’s the truth.”

Ivan’s got cancer, and on a Go Fund Me page set up to help raise money from all fans of real rock’n’ roll — and this means you! — they are just over halfway to the goal of raising $20,000 to pay a portion of his medical expenses.  Yeah, a portion.

Ivan’s a great guitarist, a producer who’s twisted knobs for such stalwarts as The Fleshtones and Capsula.  But as a guitarist?  Oh yeah, even in a band with Quine, Ivan more than held his own, adding pure liquid propulsion to one of the great guitar tandems of the age (the other one, of course, being Verlaine und Lloyd in Television, the band Hell helped found and then left behind.)

Two stellar musical lineups have been assembled for a pair of fundraisers for Ivan at New York City Winery on May 4th and May 7th.  You’ve already missed your chance to see Debbie Harry MC that first evening with Richard Barone, the Bush Tetras (!), the Dictators (!), Richard Hell, Ian Hunter, Garland Jeffreys, Lenny Kaye, Willie Nile, Vernon Reid & Burnt Sugar, and special guests.  It is possible you still can get tix for show #2 with Lydia Lunch (!), Ira Kaplan, Arto Lindsey, the aforementioned Dictators, Thurston Moore & Lee Ranaldo, Reid & Burnt Sugar, Jim Scavulos of 8 Eyed Spy renown, and Matthew Sweet, on at least one of whose best ’90s albums saw Ivan bring his swing.  Is there any question about whether these will be the best shows of the season?  And, with an assemblage like that, do you get how respected and revered a musician and human being Ivan is?

Look, we all know you are eagerly awaiting Friday’s release of the new Black Mountain album, that you’ve pre-ordered Kevin Morby’s next ‘un, that Woods and PJ Harvey will have new recs out soon.  Buy all means buy ’em.  But before you do, if you really love rock’n’roll, click the link above, and contribute at least the cost of two albums.  The life you save may play a blistering lead on the next album that, yeah, saves your life.

 

Capsula’s “In The Land Of The Silver Souls” Breaches U.S. Shores

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on March 16, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Capsula is a throwback to an era of punk rock that may not ever have existed, a remnant of a Platonic world where all songs are played fast, where the drummer keeps an animalistic beat for hours on end, a place where the pogoing guitarist can fill the stage and stage the fills with melody and soul as the girl bassist with the bunny ears rocks harder than Izzy Stradlin. They are, in short, a revelation, Buenos Aires expats who moved to Bilbao, Spain because in South America, in Tom Verlaine’s words, the distance it kills you, and there was no way to foster a career having to cross the Andes just to get a gig in Santiago or Punta Arenas.

When Songs & Circuits came out five years ago, we could scarcely believe our luck, pinched ourselves to find a modern punk band that played fast and offered steaming parilla of smoking riffs and still poured on melody like it was hot sauce. Rising Mountains had a few points deducted for sameness, for the too familiar problem of punk bands that evolve into generic rock. It was still hands down better than 9 out of 10 rock albums that came out that year.  They then traded favors with the esteemed Ivan Julian — after he produced their album, they cut his, serving as a high-class backup band on The Naked Flame. For the past year we have waited to find out if their third album would be a step forward.  (Others, released in South America earlier in their career, have been as lost to the world as an Incan alphabet).  And now we know: In The Land Of The Silver Souls, officially released here on April 4th, but magically available in the iTunes Store this morning, was delivered from Old Europe back to the New World.  March 16th, 2011 will not go down in history as a great day for Planet Earth, except… Capsula’s new album is precious metal, 14-carat pure and good.

The album kicks off, as Songs & Circuits did, with an indirect assault.  “Wild Fascination” stirs the blood, but it’s not til Martin Guevara wraps a guitar riff ’round Coni Dutchess’ ample bass and Nacho Villarejo kicks “Town Of Sorrow” into overdrive that we see plates sliding off the Bilbao Guggenheim as every Basque bastard starts to rock.  By “Hit’n’Miss,” a song that embodies the entire Capsula oeuvre in a single cut — Cali pyschedelica, garage rock, a frisson of Leaving Trains tunefulness — we’re convinced that Capsula’s new one dissolves into a salubrious groove.

The problem with punk bands, traditionally, is they either keep knocking their heads against the same brick alley wall, or they try to get somewhere.  Too often bands you really love — let’s take the not-quite-punk, but of that era classic L.A. band The Dream Syndicate as an example — get good enough to really play well but what they choose to play is… rock.  And your heart breaks.  This could have happened to the Clash, when Give ‘Em Enough Rope followed their epochal launch, but fortunately they then figured out how to turn to musical idioms — New Orleans syncopation, say, or rockabilly —  to infuse their music with its antecedent roots.  Happily Capsula’s going the Clash route, or should we say the Clash roots.  We hear occasional underpinnings of blues here and there, and in the daring “Communication,” they quite wondrously come close to the sound of Mr. James Osterberg’s “Penetration.”

Over the years, we’ve obsessed over the Fleshtones, the Mekons, Luna, and Television, the Stones and the Clash, the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  At the dawn of what appears to be a great year in rock’n’roll music, we’ve just played an album by a band that has emerged as our au courant fave, the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World, Circa 2011.   We’ve played Capsula’s new one maybe three times. We suspect we’ll be playing it for years to come.  If we’re lucky.  Capsula is playing at SXSW, like tomorrow.  If you want to know where the spirit of real rock’n’roll now lives, it’s in The Land Of The Silver Souls. And it prompts us to challenge First Communion Afterparty: your move.

Heaven-Sent Marriage: Ivan Julian and Capsula

Posted in Music with tags , , on May 1, 2010 by johnbuckley100

In the nick of time, just as my iPod was showing carpal tunnel effects from replaying Capsula over and over, those nice folks in Bilbao who run Bloody Hotsak sent the Ivan Julian & Capsula cd The Naked Flame by meth-jacked carrier pigeons. Man, if ever there were two musical forces meant for each other it’s the former Voidoid and these ex-pat Porteno savants.

If Jimi Hendrix had been born ten years later, if he’d arrived in the States fresh from London in ’77, not ’67, he’d probably have sounded like Ivan Julian.  A big part of the Voidoids sheer propulsiveness came from Julian’s guitar (bisected perfectly by the unearthly skronk of that scruffy lapsed lawyer, Bob Quine, on the other ax(is), truly bold as love.)

Teaming up with Capsula for an album is so cosmically right it’s surprising; life doesn’t usually proceed along such lines as a perfect Ben and Jerry’s mashup. Okay, so The Naked Flame is lacking the pop tunefullness of Martin Guevera’s songwriting for Capsula, but what it does have is Julian, some years after the fact, perfectly channeling Lester Meyer’s vocals from back in the day.  I mean, you’d be forgiven, once you located Julian’s guitar work, for confusing this for Blank Generation Repaired. The B side loses steam, or at least is spottier than the 6-song A-side, but damn, now we have something other than the two Capsula albums we can hum note for note in our sleep.

The Fleshtones’ “Take A Good Look” Wins Super Tuesday

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on January 23, 2008 by johnbuckley100

It’s two a.m. somewhere in America, and the Fleshtones are leading a conga line out into a dirty, rainy street.  Keith’s guitar pokes the door open, Bill’s dragging along and pummeling the tom tom, and while Peter does the frug, Ken’s bass is still thumping through the amps they’ve left inside.  The crowd follows, girls giggling, boys laughing til they can’t stand up, all the diehards deputized as official members of the Fleshtones Glee Club, singin’ along.  Right at this moment you say to yourself, “How long can they keep being the best rock’n’roll band in America, playing their hearts out night after night — ever since Gerald Ford was president! — putting out really good records year in and year out, alas never quite getting that break?”  Suddenly a patrol car pulls up, and just as you wonder whether their luck, and yours, has gone from bad to worse, the cops get out dancing to the tune of “Jet Set Fleshtones,” and you know, your heart tells you, no, you can feel it in your bones: these guys aren’t done yet.  No way.  Not the Fleshtones.  Just to prove it, today the ‘tones released a new album (produced by Ivan Julian of Voidoids fame.) “Take A Good Look,” something like the 17th long player by the Gods of the Garage, is the Fleshtones’ best album in at least ten years, and one of the top three or four records of their long and storied career.

  •  The sound is a throwback all the way to those singles and the “Roman Gods” album produced by Richard Mazda.  And of course it is: Ivan Julian, one of the only New York punkrockers who could generate as much six-string excitement as Keith Streng, knows the really good Fleshtones records have always had their inspiration come from Mies Van Der Rohe.  No, not when he said, “Space is liberation.”  When he said, “Less is more, dummy.”
  • The dynamic of the band has shifted, with Keith now singing one out of every three or four songs.  I’m not complaining, though I happen to think Peter Zaremba is now and always has been one of the great vocalists in rock.  It’s just different.  Keith’s asserting himself as never before, singing songs like “Shiney Hiney,” which is not a disquisition on the groundwork of the metaphysics of morals, but a set of instructions about what the world can kiss.
  • If, like me, you think of the Rolling Stones’ “Between The Buttons” as a pop album, you’ll understand why the Fleshtones have always been so much more than just a garage band, so much more than just the most exciting band that’s ever jumped up on top the bar in your hometown and done the gentleman’s twist.  In an ideal world, no, in a halfway decent one, “Love Yourself”, with its haunting blues harp and infectious beat, would be coming out of radios on every dashboard in town.  That it won’t proves nothing but the deficiencies of the planet we live on.
  • Don’t believe me?  Go listen to the title track, to “Jet Set Fleshtones,” to “Ruby’s Old Town.”  Next time Bono boasts about his coop in the San Remo, or wherever it is the rich rockstars live, play him the Fleshtones song “New York City.”  It reduces the U2 song of the same name to so much twaddle.

Yes, I’ve listened to the new Black Mountain, and to the new Cat Power, both out today.  The Fleshtones win Super Tuesday in a landslide.  Those other guys have put out good records, about which Tulip Frenzy will be weighing in later.  For now let’s shimmy out the door and celebrate the ‘tones return to magic form.

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