SUBWAY SECT: 1978 Now: CD

Contrary to what happened later, there was once a time when punk was more about how you approached music than what you played. Just take a listen to Wire, The Ramones, Billy Bragg, The Slits, Television, and the Weirdos one after the other and you’ll see what I mean. One of the odder, more interesting bands to come out of the first wave of English bands was Subway Sect. Led by Vic Godard, the band’s lack of full-on distorted guitars and arty take on pop music stood in stark contrast to the hullabaloo of bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash (the latter of which they shared a manager, Bernie Rhodes), but their output was just as vital and edgy as anything their more popular peers produced. Although the original lineup managed a single, Rhodes sacked the bulk of the lineup while the band was in the midst of recording its debut album, and all but the song “Ambition,” which proved to be a popular single, was lost to time (although rough mixes have apparently been bootlegged over the years). Some thirty years later, Godard and most of that original lineup have decided to rectify that situation by going into the studio and re-recording the album. Given the length of time that has passed, the result is surprisingly good, with the songs and the performance both retaining the necessary vigor to give it that needed punk edge, and the quirkiness of the songwriting keeps them sounding very much “ahead of their time,” even thirty years down the line. While those who think punk is solely about Black Flag, Ramones, Rancid, and any band that sounds like them, will no doubt be sorely disappointed, those with a broader understanding of punk’s role as wrecker of the status quo will find this to be one of the genre’s most important releases.

 –jimmy (Overground)