Monday, October 18, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #88

As we head into the homestretch of 2010, I've already begun the process of compiling my list of the best records of the year.  I had to chuckle when I realized that one of the leading contenders for the top spot on my list of the finest records of 2010 was actually 30 years old!

Protex came together in Belfast in 1977 as part of the same Irish Punk scene that spawned Rudi, The X-Dreamysts. The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers, among many others.  At first calling themselves Protex Blue (after the The Clash song), they went to the truncated version of the name early on.  In short order, they caught the attention of Polydor Records, and found themselves in the recording studio.

As was the case with many of the UK Punk bands of the time, Protex was essentially a singles band. Their first vinyl offering was 1978's "Don't Ring Me Up" b/w "Just Want (Your Attention)" & "Listening In." The band earned a spot supporting the then-touring Boomtown Rats on the strength of the single, and in January of 1979 found themselves in the States performing before an appreciative New York City crowd.

Their would go on to record three more singles, "I Can't Cope," "I Can Only Dream," and 1980's "A Place in Your Heart," which may have been the finest of the batch.  That year, they also recorded their first album, Strange Obsessions. It is here that the waters get murky: everyone agrees that both the band and the label were unhappy with  the first version of the album, and the official story says the project was shelved.  However, dyed-in-the-wool record collectors insist the album saw release in Holland, and as a result, Strange Obsessions has appeared on collectors' want-lists for years, becoming one of the "holy grails" of Punk/New Wave vinyl.

Protex disbanded in 1981, officially leaving behind a legacy of four outstanding singles, and unofficially driving record collectors batty.  This year, the folks at Sing-Sing Records licensed the album tracks and Strange Obsessions finally saw the light of day.  Containing all of the officially released tracks found on their four singles, the album also includes a few tracks that appeared on various compilation albums and other tracks that were recorded but never released.  The sound is sharp, spiky and shimmering.  The Clash is an obvious influence, but so is the '60s British Invasion sound.  Protex played a poppy brand of Punk Rock not far removed from The Undertones, The Buzzcocks and Generation X.  Not a bad track can be found on the album, which suffers only from a somewhat trebly mix - I cannot recommend the album highly enough! (You can purchase the vinyl directly from the label using the link above, or download the album digitally at

This week's clips include Protex performing "A Place in Your Heart" before a New York City crowd on St. Patrick's Day, 1980, and an audio-only clip of their debut, "Don't Ring Me Up." Enjoy!

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