Ahhh, the late seventies in Britain: Thatcher’s bulldozing rhetoric, Vesta curry, bin strikes, three TV channels, mass unemployment. Bad times. Until… insert punk clichés here, and someone book Stuart Maconie to talk about the DIY ethic of forming your own band, in a misty eyed piece to camera on a pop cultural TV show to be screened on Channel 4.
This twenty track compilation focuses on the very band who would soundtrack such a clip show. Disco Zombies, headed by one Andy Ross on vocals and guitar (the man who founded Food Records with Teardrop Explodes’ Dave Balfe) are lesser known than yer Pistols, Clash etc, but no less interesting, as this collection can attest.
It’s typically scrappy, two minute stuff – tracks like Punk A Go Go are sprightly, scruffy ditties. The line “My premature ejaculation went over her head” makes me snigger, in spite of myself. Top Of the Pops is like a playground chant in bondage trousers – but that’s all part of the winning formula.
Okay, Lenin’s Tomb, with its singalong polemic, may lack the Lydon sting of lines like “a cheap holiday in other people’s misery”, and Sex Olympics‘ power pop is more low-key, a raised eyebrow rather than a Buzzcockian scathing sneer. But it’s hard not to warm to these little fuzzy tunes.
It’s tracks like Mary Millington that really upped the game for the band – a teasing, Wire-like riff throughout, while wistfully ruminating on the qualities of the notorious British porn star. And Here Come The Buts showcased a more contemplative, musically sophisticated direction.
All in all, South London Stinks may not possess the sonic experimentation of better known bands from the era like The Slits, Wire and The Pop Group, but it’s not without its charm.