The Only One CD you need this month
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.