Monday, March 1, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #55

UK SubsUK Subs via

As band names go, "The United Kingdom Subversives" was kind of unwieldy. When Charlie Harper and Nicky Garratt shortened that name up a bit to become The U.K. Subs, however, they hit upon a winner. Of course, how good a band name seems is always greatly influenced by how good the music they play actually is, and how well the name and the music match. One might expect the overly-formal sounding United Kingdom Subversives to be playing something like yawn-inducing keyboard-heavy prog-rock in the Emerson, Lake and Palmer vein, but a band called The U.K. Subs just sound like a bunch of guys you'd hear down the pub blasting out three-chord chant-along punk rock for the masses. And damned if that isn't what they turned out to be?

Harper, Garratt, and a revolving line-up of additional band members have been there since the beginning, and unlike so many other first-wave punk bands who disbanded and then reformed in recent years to ride the nostalgia wave, the Subs never stopped.

Formed in 1976 and releasing their debut album, Another Kind of Blues, in 1979, The U.K. Subs sound has changed little in the past three decades. Harper's pre-Subs experience in the British pub-rock scene with a band called The Marauders seasoned the Subs' chant-along punk with just a little bit of straight rock-n-roll/R&B, making them a very British-sounding band indeed - think The Exploited slowed down by half a step or so, or The Sex Pistols had they never replaced Glen Matlock with Sid Vicious. The British fans rewarded them with a number of UK Top Forty hits: "Stranglehold," "Tomorrow's Girls," "Party in Paris," "Keep On Running," and several others were huge hits in their native land, and even though they never achieved similar chart success outside of the UK, they developed a strong worldwide following who continued to fervently support the band long after musical tastes had changed and the UK charts were no longer a regular stop.

After an initial salvo of three albums essential to any punk rock record collection worth its salt (the aforementioned Another Kind of Blues, 1980's Brand New Age, and the live Crash Course), the Subs settled into a regular schedule of releases that have continued up through 2008's World War - and have followed the pattern of each album's title beginning with the next successive letter of the alphabet, making it easy to keep their chronology straight! You can really jump into the Subs discography at any point and find enjoyment, but those first three records - especially the debut, in my opinion - are musts.

This week's NW4NW entry features two of The U.K. Subs' biggest British hits. First up, the wonderful "Stranglehold," a #26 hit in the summer of 1979 that was so beloved, the Subs performed it on Top Of The Pops twice in June of that year. After that, the seldom-seen promo clip for "Party in Paris," which went to #37 in 1980. Enjoy!

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