There’s always something to be discovered when digging through the stacks at Radio 1190. Our station is pretty stoked to call itself home to about 30,000 CDs as well as thousands of vinyl records. We’re coming up on our 20th anniversary as Radio 1190, but we’ve been collecting since long before then.
I wasn’t feeling the new music as much this week, so I decided to opt for something older. All of the records I encountered this week are gems, but if I had to be more specific, this one is a diamond: a Rough Trade post-punk compilation featuring some of the most ingenious bands the late 20th century produced. ESP, The Rapture, Magazine, The Fall and Au Pairs are just a few.
Rough Trade has long been known as one of the most reliably fresh and influential independent labels. Compilations are hard to describe, especially when they aren’t particularly cohesive. What unites these songs isn’t content or timbre but rather the fact that they’re all really, really, REALLY good. So instead of trying to fit all of the wonders of this comp into a paragraph, let’s dive into some favorite tracks.
Initially known as Kleenex, the Swiss post-punk band LiLiPUT provide something infectious and unexposed with their song “Die Matrosen.” A heavy baseline and sharp rhythm lead you straight into an clumsy saxophone melody, circular guitars and, eventually, whistling. This song is imaginative in every sense of the word, and you just can’t help but want to dance to it. Everything by LiLiPUT is solid, from their angular guitars to the pure force of their vocals harmonies. I really recommend giving them a listen.
The Raincoats were one of the first and most important post-punk acts, pioneering the genre before the heyday of punk had even ended. Frequent tour partners of LiLiPUT and equally as original, The Raincoats left a lasting impression on alternative music because they had little musical experience, so they took a fairly lax and abstract approach to instrumentation. Their style is loose and chaotic. However, the song on this compilation is a little less all over the place because it happens to be a cover of The Kinks’ smash hit “Lola.” The melody is still there, but it’s deconstructed sound: The changes to the rhythm and harmonies somehow manage to be both lazy and extraordinary, reinvigorating the original song. It’s different enough that you can love both versions in their own right.
Finally, a listen to Wire, with the track “Ex Lion Tamer,” from the infamous “Pink Flag.” I don’t necessarily feel worthy trying to describe this song because it’s such a classic. But I can tell you, if you haven’t listened to this record, you should. Wire emerged from the punk era and withstood the test of time through their constant experimentation. While “Pink Flag” maintains more of a simplicity than the other albums pulled from for this compilation, it’s familiar yet so entirely itself. The chord progressions are anthemic, rhythms are fast, and the vocals offer something so indescribably perfect when they echo back and forth as well as sing in harmony. “Ex Lion Tamer” is raw, it’s unsettled, it’s an unbridled wave of creative energy and maybe a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll freedom as well.
You probably already know what it is: 1190 AM, 98.9 FM in Boulder or online at radio1190.org.
Klefeker is Radio 1190’s music director. Read more reviews: coloradodaily.com/columnists