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The Groups of Wrath chronicles the advent of the punk scene


Songs of the Naked City
TVT Records.

By Sande Chen
Arts Staff

Songs of the Naked City is a nostalgic chronology of the 1970s' burgeoning punk scene. It showcases the New York Dolls and several other groups that frequented CBGB's in New York.

With their high heels and ragged wardrobe stolen from garbage bins, the New York Dolls, headed by Johnny Thunders, represented the ultimate in countercultural alternative in the early '70s. Their eventual impact on the course of alternative music is incalculable. The Dolls' classic track "Human Being," from their second album Too Much Too Soon, surely influenced the Sex Pistols. On their vinyl debut, Generation X alludes to another cult classic from the same album, "Stranded in the Jungle." More recently, 7 Seconds makes another reference to the same song on their "Colourblind Jam."

In 1975, the New York Dolls irrevocably broke up, making way for The Ramones, four high school friends from Forest Hills, N.Y., who emerged as the new kids on the punk frontier. The Ramones, whose first records contained songs that clocked under two minutes, were primarily responsible for accelerating the speed of punk music. The Clash, Generation X, and other British punk bands soon followed their example. Wrath presents two previously unreleased demos, "Judy Is A Punk" and the sweet "I Wanna By Your Boyfriend," recorded by the Ramones in 1975.

By the mid-seventies, the New York scene was in full swing. The Ramones,the Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and Blondie started to appearing in CBGB's and similar venues. Richard Hell, known as the first poet of punk, reputedly began punk's fashion sensibilities with his torn clothes and use of safety pins. Richard Hell and the Voidoids' second album Destiny Street produced the title track and "Downtown at Dawn," both included on this compilation. Voidoid Mark Bell eventually joined the Ramones.

Another band, Suicide, formed in 1972, was particularly noted for their riot-causing acts. Vocalist Alan Vega was the first to bring "performance art" to the stage. Despite expectations, both "Cheree," Suicide's first single from their self-titled album debut, and its B-side "I Remember" are light and wondrous.

Wrath also includes material from 2x5, a Marty Thau compilation released in 1980, which featured the Bloodless Pharaohs and the Fleshtones. The Bloodless Pharoahs' signature song "Bloodless Pharaoh" is enjoyable despite its subject matter: dismemberment and decomposition. The Fleshtones have a similar sound which relies heavily on keyboards.

At a time when disco fever remained high, these innovative groups searched for an alternative. The New York Dolls, the Ramones, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids all contributed in setting the stage for the British punk explosion and the post-punk era. Certainly, the impact of the New York punk scene in the 1970s can not be forgotten, a cause to which Wrath contributes greatly.