November 01, 2004

The Only One CD you need this month

4 out of 5 stars

The Clash….The Sex Pistols…The Jam…The Only Ones
odd one out?

The Only Ones were contemporaries of all the above bands; groups who broke down – and subsequently have shaped – musical conventions.

Whilst Messrs Rotten, Weller and Strummer are held up as some of the iconic pillars of the twentieth century, you'd be forgiven for shouting "Whooo?" really loudly at Peter Perrett, The Only Ones driving-force. Forget all that, forget the fact that i met him in a dirty rehearsal space (name-dropping!), this would-be-legend is still important. In a musical era when intelligent articulate bands (see Franz, Libertines, Bloc Party) are lauded, and the dark age of boarish, fists-in-the-air, menace-in-the-mosh-pit rock is over (see Oasis, Blur), the influence of angry and articulte poets is higher than ever before.

Like all great bands The Only Ones were ready to break up before they'd even started. Somehow, though, they managed to muddle through three albums worth of innovative and interesting punk, and this disc is cobbled together by Perrett himself largely from those LPs. The major criticism of most British New Wave bands from this period is lack of musical talent, or a one dimensional approach, slipping too eagerly into simple angry music, giving it to the man. This can't be levelled at The Only Ones. Despite coming out of London (like many of the key punk gangs), they are not bound by their situation. They refuse to sing simply about poverty and lack of oppurtunity. Disconcertingly Perrett often sounds more like New-Yoiker Lou Reed than, say, Paul Weller or Jonny Rotten. His songs are slow-burning anti-ballads with perpetual undercurrents of loneliness, of confusion, of dysfunctionality. Unlike The Clash frontman Joe Strummer (AKA The Second Coming) Perrett is not afraid of the L-Word (Love....not Lollipops). He is heartbroken and sinned against: "Some girls tell you they're lovin' ya/but love is just destruction/ disguised under another name" (No Solution), his songs meandering from enigmatic love poems to innocent nursery rhymes.

Perrett's dark, vulnerable lyrics are matched by his reluctant, seething singing; he can't stop the words coming out, he just has to fucking sing this maaan. His voice is wonderfully emotive and isolated. He is also brilliantly supported by his talented musicians who mould and melt the songs into weird and wonderful shapes, taking them off into unexpected tangents. The progessive, yet simple and haunting guitar parts are very reminiscent of Television or Patti Smith, and lets be honest, that is the only thing Razorlight are living off at the moment. The Only Ones, however, can't be similarly accused of cynical plagarism and a lack of creativity. They are living it. They are getting dirty in the thick of the action. They're on the front line with the rest of the New Wave. Its just that history has chosen to forget them.

The album really benefits from being a greatest-hits package, especially for an Only Ones beginner. Each song is interesting and varied, but the album is worth getting simply for the stone cold classic that is Another Girl, Another Planet. Those familiar with The Libertines' story will recognise this incredible song as one that Pete Doherty claimed to have written before he actually heard the original! Perrett also recently joined the Libertines on stage to play it. Whereas Doherty's recent acoustic version of the song (available on his Babyshambles bootleg The Whitechapel Demonstrations) is great, The Only Ones storm nonchalantly through this ode to an other-wordly woman, before finishing confidently and abruptly. Confused and jubilant, anthemic and poetic, Another Girl, Another Planet is the prime example of Perrett's obsession with writing mysteriously about heroin and the song features some superb lyrics: "I always flirt with death/ I could kill, but I don't care about it", "You get under my skin/ I don't find it irritating".
You Need to Hear This Song. If You Take Nothing Else From This Review, Take This! (just download it off DC++ if you can't afford the album...ssshhhh!)

The Only Ones have more than three chords. The Only Ones do not play at reckless, head-rush, G-Force speed. The Only Ones don't make you want to rip your clothes up, insert safety pins in your nose and gob on the stage. This Is Punk Though!... especially compared with todays unimaginative, commercialised, controversial-for-the-sakes-of-it 'punk' (Lets be honest Owen, punk only really existed between 1977 and 1978)

I picked up this album in the marketplace CD stall for only a fiver. You can probably find it on the 'net for even less. Look out your window. I guarentee there's a kid who can just about hum a couple of their singles walking around in Libertines T-Shirt like they are Nirvana Hoodies. This is a time when Razorlight can become one of Britain's biggest bands with their conveyor belt, rip-off album. New Wave is back, but the original is always better. The Clash are in the middle of a glorious and deserved revival. You really should hear The Only Ones. Their fucking good maaan.

- 13 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. This is an excellent review from what is essentially an 18 year old Theatre Studies student.
    Note – this guy has 'perfect diction'
    Also – love the way he has a little dig at Owen! Joyo no more!

    23 Oct 2004, 16:47

  2. Oh dear! Me and Will have just noticed an error in your review. Punk only really existed between 1997–1978?.....gimme a break Jack!

    24 Oct 2004, 19:46

  3. Shouldn't really be writing this here but couldn't find another way. You must be commended on taking the least favourable photo of me EVER!

    24 Oct 2004, 21:46

  4. It has come to my attention that Jack knows nothing about Punk! Come to South Wales some day, jacky and we'll show you a REAL punk show, no safety pins, no Green Day, no Blink 182, just people who believe in a DIY ethic and people who believe they aren't part of the society in which they live in. Just because punk moved out from the underground in the years you've mentioned it' just back in the underground these days. Listen to that No Choice CD and listen to the lyrics…you'll know what I mean.

    28 Oct 2004, 18:07

  5. Jack Howson

    How has it come to your attention?
    if you had wanted an essay about punk i can have a two-thousand word document on your desk by monday.
    all i was saying is that punk as it should be – (not punk-rock or pop-punk) – by very definition only existed in the late seventies (if i was being mildly hyperbolic it was just for effect)

    punk was necessary to end the progressive, indulgent early seventies rock. It had never happened before. Like rock'n'roll with Elvis or Pop-Rock with the Beatles, this was the first time anyone had ever made this music

    We don't ave that now. Punk means breaking moulds. It means doing things that are dangerous and seemingly impossible (ie success and popularity without proper equipment, musical training, connections)
    Therefore an example of punk now might be some south american jazz blues rockers who make music over the telephone….not a bunch of spotty kids (or indeed angry, childish grown-men) doing what has been established for nearly thirty years now

    'Punk' now is easy because it sells. Because people know that it is not as subversive as it once was and can let it into the mainstream without fear

    I am not trying to do-down the bands that you mention…far from it.
    I am sure some of them live by and believe in the original punk ideals. But they ain't breakin barriers

    Of course it is necessary to sing about politics and capitalism and oppression now…but this does not mean it is necessarily punk music

    Anyway, my point was that the punk genre was not about safety pins and gobbing…it was about the distillation of an attitude for a brief moment..that noone (not even the geniuses responsible for it) could get back.
    That was the whole point of the review!

    I like some of the 'punk' music today, but it can never truely be considered in the same genre as The Clash or The Only Ones because it doesnt have the same weight of force or unknown behind it…it just retreads their steps (and i have listened to the CD, thanks for the lend)

    PS Greenday??Blink??!? How dare you litter my blogs with these poor excuses for socio-political commentators, or indeed bands…they are jumped up boybands and little more

    Anyways, that was quite long and inarticulate
    See ya tmw Owen…Joyo

    28 Oct 2004, 19:42

  6. Jack Howson

    I believe in DIY

    28 Oct 2004, 19:44

  7. Good…I'm glad you aren't one of the stupid/ignorant few who thinks punk is the aforementioned bands that you dont want me to litter your blog with. I agree with pretty much everything you've said, but I think saying that punk is dead is just plain naive. Bands like Four Letter Word, Icons of Filth etc. have been playing plain punk music since the late seventies and still are doing so. OK, so the same borders can't be pushed as the same ones before them like the brilliant Clash, Dead Kennedys and to a lesser extent Minor Threat. But society is still far from perfect and until we have that Utopia that Scarfy Scarfy Jack Jack is so sure will arrive punk will always exist.

    OK, so punk rock is a development of punk as is the hardcore punk scene in which I was/am so actively involved back home in South Wales. I help out promoting a DIY record label from time to time, I organise gigs, I play in my own band and have been known to help with the local swap box system. It's not the same as the earlier bands but it would be slightly boring for music to remain unchanged for 30 years although the classics like Black Flag et al will still have a place in my heart. In conclusion punk is still alive, just in different forms to that it was founded.

    29 Oct 2004, 10:14

  8. yeah, good points

    i agree that you still need political or socio-political messages in music, without a doubt. and if your message is one of anger or frustration then obviously it will manifest itself in an angry sound.
    but my point was exactly what you said…that it would be boring if music remained unchanged for thirty years

    therefore my general opinion on a lot of the hardcore-punk scene (that was exactly the term i was trying – and failing – to find is that it is devoid of any real impact because it retreads old steps, (three-chords, barely discernible lyrics, prominent drum and thrash guitar), and therefore doesnt live up to the 'punk' moniker. Obviously this was a generalisation, designed 1) to convey my passion for the album i reviewed, and 2) to vent my frustration at the lack of seminal punk/rock music in this era. I wasn't having a go at the music you listen to, and i am sure that many of the bands you mention (tis a right little scene innit) are worth a listen. i am enjoying dry river fishing … but i still stand by the original point – maybe slightly less fervently – that 'punk' now and 'punk' then are incomparable in terms of importance and future legacy.

    29 Oct 2004, 16:00

  9. OH MY GOD …. Owen I'm baffled at your insight into Welsh punk & Jack, I knew you were a music buff but bloody hell mun you LIVE it. I used to know this much info about the Spice Girls, it was a sad, sad day when they split …

    29 Oct 2004, 16:55

  10. Once again Jack I agree with you.

    Hardcore punk however is an amazing genre if done correctly, but most band within the genre are kind of lumped together with bands like Hatebreed and Sick of it All, where in reality there is a lot more to hardcore punk than this. Bands like Strike Anywhere, Stretch Armstrong and to an extent older bands like Gorilla Biscuits and 7Seconds have very little in common with Hatebreed and the like. I know what you mean that the genre is generic though, I'm going to see Champion play Wednesday, and love them though I do, they do sound exactly like every other hardcore band, but it's still bloody good [if not tedious if they play a long set].

    The main issue here is that we're getting bogged down in pigeon-holing music. And although many bands take pride in the 'hardcore' label [i.e. Ten Yard Fight, Stretch Armstrong, Champion etc.] I do sometimes question does it really matter? There is a lot more to hardcore and/or punk than just some tunes,but if you truly believe in those ethics would you really be overly bothered about flashing the PUNK label everywhere you go. It's like the philosophical question of "are you really a nihilist if you call yourself a nihilist?".

    All pigeon-holing does is confuses people, but I do admit it's a easy way to help describe a band and it is constantly misused [esp. by dickheads at MTV and Kerrang] The worst case in recent years for me is the whole 'emo' thing. Bands like Funeral for a Friend are described as being 'emo', any jock who shops at Topman, and who dies his hair black is now 'emo' and the term is TOTALLY wrong. Emo was an underground music scene from the eighties [I think it was the 80s. might be 90s though :S], which in essence was very much like hardcore, with DIY beliefs etc. It stood for 'emo_tional' when bands [Like Rites of Spring, Heroin etc.] were really singing about issues to them, these were guys with real life experience and real issues to be 'emotional' about. Not like FFAF singing about their 'love that got away', I have already agreed that music genres develop, but when a strictly underground, anti-mainstream genre gets pushed down everybodys throats [including people who previous to this '_fashion explosion' had NO interest in live music] surely it's a different genre all together. Which brings me nicely back to the original arguement, yes punk music has changed, but fundamentally its the same genre it was 30 years ago, it is still underground [despite misuse of the word punk to pop-punk bands] and it's still making a difference, slight though it may be to the lives of the people involved [i.e that benefit gig we all organised that raised just shy of £2000 for Unicef's Earthquake appeal]

    I've written a lot, so I'll conclude. People with died black hair and use straighteners, cut your hair, die it blonde and stop using the word "random". Stop crying over your lost love because there's more fish in the sea. hehehe, I love being a cock.

    02 Nov 2004, 09:57

  11. eh?......whatever.

    02 Nov 2004, 22:51

  12. julia maynard….?thanks alot

    think you have summed up some stuff nicely there owen. Fucking Funeral For a Friend (note the extra alliteration) are dire.
    Music is to be enjoyed and to be heard and to broaden horizons. I have no real interest in pigeon holing or generalising. It created quite a lively debate though!
    Enjkoy your gig my friend

    03 Nov 2004, 15:03

  13. Julia I totally agree … WTF?!

    05 Nov 2004, 16:14

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