SAUCERS / ALLIES: 78-81: LP

Mar 07, 2011

One of the things that too often gets lost in the history of the punk rock pigeonhole is the sheer breadth of diversity in sound the term encompassed in its early years. Terms like “‘77 punk” usually refer to some Dolls/Ramones variant, totally ignoring the fact that harder to pin down acts like Patti Smith, the Voidoids, and Television were cranking out brilliantly fucked up music right next to Dee Dee and his needle-pal Thunders. Also lost in this age of instant, intercontinental connections is just how different those influences would manifest themselves in isolated pockets around the country, from New Orleans to Los Angeles to, in this case, Berkeley, California. Saucers were one of Berkeley’s early punk champions, formed by guitarist Dave “Slave” Velasquez and Farfisa-flogging vocalist Joey Michaels. According to the liner notes, within a week of the two getting together, a two-track recording of their tune “Piggy’s Jukebox” was in local radio station KALX’s regular rotation. Bassist Shelly Wolfe and drummer Jake Smith soon rounded out the lineup and by 1980 the band (along with Romeo Void, no less) was being lauded as the year’s best new band by Ginger Coyote’s seminal fanzine Punk Globe. The band’s two studio and four live cuts here feature a more sophisticated approach than the average three-chord thud punk fodder, with an organ-drenched yet muscular sound with vocals that are more Mothersbaugh than Johansen, mixing political outrage with a streak of sarcastic humor. Soon after their Punk Globe’s kudos, however, Michaels and his Farfisa were gone, and the rest of the band soldiered on under the new name The Allies. Likewise, The Allies side of the record sports two studio and four live tracks, and showcases a band with a more conventional guitar-driven sound than the Saucers, though the intelligence is still very much in place and, in the case of “Cold Act,” a reggae influence was starting to creep into the sound. By 1981, then-married Shelly and Dave’s marriage unraveled, and the band followed suit, with Dave joining Necropolis Of Love and Jake Smith going on to play guitar for Bay Area peace punk icons Crucifix and an early lineup of Faith No More, among other things, and the rest of the members spreading out to various parts of the world. All told, this is one of those rare compendiums of rare, now-obscure punk bands that is as much a good listen as it is a time capsule piece that shows that punk sonic revolution was a lot more diverse than at first blush.

 –jimmy (raveuprecords.com)

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