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29 April 2017

Richard Hell & the Voidoids - 'Blank Generation' (Sire)

Far be it from me to care about musical 'authenticity' - to even think such a concept should exist - but I rather affectionately think of this album as an example of 'fake punk'. But what is real, what is punk, yada yada yada - boring conversations, sure. What I mean is that Blank Generation fits a lot more with the genre of 'classic rock' than with Crass or Black Flag or even the Ramones, that's all - it's a bold statement, all attitude, an invented persona glossed up and sold to the kids no different than it was done for early Dylan, Elvis, Iggy, Johnny Cash or any other male greats. That the Voidoids were a solid rock band with great guitar interplay and a knack for anthemic songwriting is often overlooked behind all of the alienation and youthful romanticism, but at this point in history the fun outweighs the sense of posturing (for me). Robert Quine and Ivan Julian are the stars here, the former ending up on Lou Reed's The Blue Mask later; I'm not always sure who is the 'lead' player but they are both aspiring guitar gods, and there's some totally shredding solos here (another reason I've never felt comfortable considering this to be 'punk' - because my punk world is more austere and principled, not so hedonistic in terms of rock and roll's supposed excesses circa-1975). Hell's lyrics are mouthy and sassy, occasionally brilliant ('Another World') and often faux-brilliant, which is a different kind of brilliant but still brilliant (the sex-obsession here is primal and raw, with the first three songs all drenched in sensuality and body-talk). The guitar lines leap out with pierces and stabs, high pitched enough to be slightly annoying and anti-social, at least in terms of mid-70s rock, and Hell's sneer takes centre stage most of the time. I always found the recordings of Hell with Television to be disappointing (or at best, just a curiosity); never heard Destiny Street either. But Blank Generation is a satisfying listen for sure. Best song: 'Betrayal Takes Two' (weirdly covered by King Missile, and they did it well); it's a catchy, uncentered insight into human relationships that's still charged with post-teenage bloodflow passion. Best baller move: (not-)singing the 'blank' (depicted as '_____' in the lyric sheet) on the album's title track, a true anthem of discontent. 'I was sayin' let me out of here before I was even born' is just about goddamn perfect no matter how you look at it.

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