special introductory paragraph
The Monkey Puzzle
I Thought This Was Love, But This Ain’t Casablanca
A Little Madness to Be Free
Live in a Mud Hut… Somewhere in Europe
All Fools Day
The Most Primitive Band in the World
Everybody Knows the Monkey
Spit the Blues Out
Nothing Is Straight in My House
King of the Sun
Note: initially I was only going to talk about the original three Saints albums but then I decided what the hey? So, don’t get mad when you don’t see reviews for some of the albums. I’m working on it!
The Saints (originally Kid Galahad and the Eternals) formed in Brisbane, Australia in 1973 and toiled around their local club scene for a few years, getting nowhere. Then, some time in 1976, their self-released single, “(I’m) Stranded” (b/w “No Time”), was discovered by someone from EMI out in London and the group was shipped over and recorded and released their classic debut album (before the first Damned album no less!). They enjoyed a bit of success and adulation from the spikey haired set, then lost their original bassist, released a second album and watched their fame dwindle away as the audience that loved their first album so much simply could not tolerate horns and acoustic guitars.
Then the band released one more album that was deliberately calculated to appeal to nobody, got dropped and broke up. Okay, not totally. In a short time, chubby, tweed coat wearing singer Chris Bailey rounded up a new group of musicians and the Saints were rolling again even if he was the only original member. Meanwhile guitarist Ed Kuepper and drummer Ivor Hay went back to Brisbane, where Kuepper formed his jazzy post punk band Laughing Clowns before embarking on a solo career and bassist Algy Ward joined the Damned before starting his metal band Tank.
Did I miss anything? Oh yeah; their original bassist was a long haired, tie wearing, Cheap Trick looking guy named Kym Bradshaw.
Most people consider their first three albums to be the classics but Bailey’s later version did have a brief time in the spotlight with the R.E.M., college rock sounding “Just Like Fire Would” from their 1987 album All Fool’s Day and they do carry on in some fashion so maybe I’ll talk about those later albums in a future installment.
(I’m) Stranded – EMI – 1977
Way back abouts 2007, in my wasted, post-college haze, we would drive around Grand Rapids playing (I’m) Stranded by the Saints and Back in the USA by the MC5 on repeat on my car stereo. Both of these albums have one thing in common; they both contain a ballad which slows up the record’s pace at the fourth track. What is a pensive, Neil Young influenced, country rock ballad doing on an ass tearing punk album? Naturally I would skip to the next track, “Erotic Neurotic” (and similarly skip past “Let Me Try” to get to “Looking at You).
Every self respecting punk fan should already be familiar with the up beat, toe tapping opening track “(I’m) Stranded.” If you’re not stop reading this review and jump on youtube right now and check it out. It even comes with a music video!
(I’m) Stranded is another one of the punk rock greats from the class of ’77; containing 10 killer cuts, two of which are covers. “Wild About You” is credited to “unknown” but is actually by 1960s, Aussie garage band the Missing Links. The other is a raucous take on Elvis’ “Kissin’ Cousins”, with a particularly incestuous vibe. I also want to stress that I like the above mentioned, Neil Young-esque ballad “Messin’ with the Kid.” It is a very good song but it’s true that, while driving around, I would skip past the track every time in lieu of the fast song that follows it.
The group’s sound can be defined by guitarist Ed Keupper who has a red, reverbed tone that could take the paint off walls and a playing style that can easily be described as Johnny Ramone meets James Williamson; meaning that he furiously down strums bar chords like Johnny but embellishes the riffs with melodic accents and screeching, Raw Power style leads that send the needle right into the red.
Chris Bailey has a nasally, punky slur in which words like “stranded on my own” becomes “strayandad awn mah awwwn” that sometimes makes it difficult to understand opting attitude and cocky swagger over enunciation.
Then you have Ivor Hay’s snare heavy drumming which makes the tracks seem faster and more aggressive than many of their contemporaries; just compare the Saints with the Ramones, Clash or Pistols and you’ll see what I mean. Where most drummers go “boom-tat-boom-boom-tat”, Hay is more like “boom-boom-tat-tat-boom-boom-tat-tat”, in a manner similar to but considerably harder than Rat Scabies and without the cymbals. Just listen to his relentless pounding during six minute album closer “Nights in Venice.” That combined with Kuepper’s intense guitar work make you feel like your stereo is going to explode!
As for individual songs, you’ve got five speedy punk tunes among which include the “Wild About You” cover, which has this awesome false start that “dies” with a descending riff before coming back at full speed and “Demolition Girl”, which has a Dead Boys feel to it. Along with that there’s “No Time”, which could pass for a punkier AC/DC, “Story of Love”, a bitter ballad with some melodic guitar playing that’s closer to Neil Young than Stooges and “Nights in Venice”, which borders on thrash with its “chugga-chugga” guitar riff.
Lyrically it’s mostly just “I want you, baby” type stuff with the occasional bit of negativity heaped at jerks who you can’t trust or stupid broads. I’m confused about “(I’m) Stranded” though. Is it meant to be taken literally or figuratively? In one line he says, “I’m stranded on my own/stranded far from home” so that’s literal. But, in another line, he says, “I’m lost, baby, I’ve got no direction”, which could mean he’s stranded by the indecision in his life.
Eternally Yours – EMI – 1978
The Saints are back and they’re darker, angrier and more bitter!!! Eternally Yours has kicked most of the good time, “I wanna be your lover, baby/I wanna be your man” nonsense to the curb in order to complain about stuff that sucks. Considering they’re singing seemingly “punkier” subject matter, it’s sort of ironic, then, that the punks wrote them off JUST because two of the thirteen songs have a horn section and three have acoustic guitars, innit?
Or maybe they didn’t appreciate being called trendy posers in lyrics such as these:
You say you got all the answers
You heard ’em all on the telephone
Now you’re tellin’ everybody
Ya been sniffin’ glue up in the business zone, C’mon
We got new thoughts, new ideas, it’s all so groovy
It’s just a shame that we all seen the same old movies
Now you think you got the first in fashion
New uniforms, we all look the same
A new vogue for the new generation
A new profit in the same old game, C’mon
But, man, check out some of these lyrics! Almost every song is a complaint about something!
It’s never gonna give me what I want”
“Ain’t nobody tells me what to do now
I heard all the lies and been promised the world
But no businessman is gonna use and confuse me
‘Cos I ain’t no puppet for no capital gain”
“Aren’t you a mess
You shouldn’t act like this”
“I’ve taken all I can
I’m not gonna stand here
And be walked on no more”
“I said twenty one years is a long long time
to be in this prison when there ain’t no crime
So come on jailer won’t you bring that key
I said I wanna break that door, don’t you hear me”
“Don’t talk to me ’bout what you’ve done
ain’t nuthin’ changed, it all goes on”
“You’re just like in the magazines
front cover stuff, you’re the cream
Posted in such a careful way”
“You’re the latest in high fashion magazine
Always hanging’ round tryin’ to cause a scene
And oh so perfect in every little thing you do, Ain’t it true”
“I stand alone now
I don’t run
I don’t care nothin’ ’bout your seventh son
I been misunderstood for too long”
Those are ALL from different songs! See what I mean though? It’s all about being ripped off by the man, heartless women or attention grabbin’ whores. The only songs I didn’t mention already are “Orstralia”, “Untitled” and “Do the Robot.” While “Orstralia” is an ironic put-down of the group’s native country and “Do the Robot” is just about good time fun, “Untitled” actually, strangely appears to be a love song!
I know what you’re thinking… I DON’T CARE ABOUT FUCKIN’ LYRICS!!! WHAT DOES THE GODDAMN RECORD SOUND LIKE?!
Well, of course it’s good. It’s the Saints!
Chris Bailey is still Chris Bailey, slurring his words with the same cocky attitude (which is probably why I had to pull many of the lyrics from the sheet) and Ed Kuepper still owns on his guitar. As far as his tone goes, it’s not as harsh and paint pealing but it’s still got a nice level of gritty distortion and it’s clear he’s not content with just furious down strumming with shrieking solos. “Lost and Found”, “Private Affair”, “Run Down” (with harmonica!) and “Do the Robot” could easily fit among the songs on (I’m) Stranded with their Ramones meets Stooges approach. However Kuepper is definitely playing more melodic stuff, incorporating Stones and other 60s garage influences on more mid-tempo numbers like “Know Your Product”, “No, Your Product” and “This Perfect Day” (later covered by the Fall!!!), “wipe-out”, surf guitar on “Orstralia” and “(I’m) Misunderstood and of course strummy, acoustic guitar in “Memories Are Made of This”, “A Minor Aversion” and “Untitled.”
Prehistoric Sounds – EMI – 1978
Cashing in their chips with their third and final album, Ed Kuepper said, “fuck it, I’ma do what I want!” Not only was Prehistoric Sounds a “fuck you” to the punk crowd, who callously wrote them off because of a couple horns and acoustic guitars, but also as one to the record company, who were expecting more of the same. The result is, of course, fantastic. Prehistoric Sounds is clearly Ed Kuepper’s baby, whose horn dominated, soul influenced approach would predict the music he’d make with his next band, Laughing Clowns.
I’m warning you though; there’s NO punk on Prehistoric Sounds. There is some energetic rock in the form of “Every Day’s a Holiday, Every Night’s a Party”, “Brisbane (Security)” and “Everything’s Fine.” The last one even has a boogie piano! I suppose you can throw in “The Prisoner”, a hypnotic, bass-driven, Gang of Four-style, post-punk rocker but that’s about it.
Basically, it’s like this: where (I’m) Stranded is, for the most part, a raucous, up-tempo, punk rock ‘n’ roll-a-thon to throw on at parties and bop around to and Eternally Yours is a darker, angrier and slightly more melodic version of the same, Prehistoric Sounds exudes a bleak, “the party’s over”, “there’s gotta be more to life than this empty, debauched lifestyle I lead” vibe. The only songs that break up the album’s pissy mood are the good time rockabilly of “Crazy Googenheimer Blues” (at least it SOUNDS happy even though it’s about a guy whose gal left him for being a lyin’, cheatin’ drunk), the ridiculously happy, poppy, “La Bamba” style love song “Take This Heart of Mine” (written entirely by Chris Bailey, no less!) and a pair of up beat soul covers.
But if it’s hooks and melodies and good songwriting you’re looking for, then Prehistoric Sounds has it! The tone is set with the first unhappy note of “Swing for the Crime” and its horn section/acoustic guitar rocking to a Bo Diddly beat (unhappily that is) and some pretty strange lyrics. After that the album gives you a drunken gate, slow number which has some really depressing lyrics (“All Times Through Paradise”), a couple of unhappy acoustic/electric rock tunes (“Church of Indifference” and “This Time”), a couple of sarcastically upbeat songs with lotsa booming horns, the aforementioned detours into rockabilly, post-punk, happy pop and the soul covers (Otis Redding’s “Security” and Aretha Franklin’s “Save Me”). And though I like the song “The Chameleon”, it seems as though they made the same point several times earlier on the record. Also, with Bailey singing sadder material, his slurred style oftentimes sounds less cocky and more whiney.
Like I said it’s a great, unique, creative and diverse album. It also signaled the end.