Review Summary: Paranoia in the tram..
During my second year of university, I played guitar in a short-lived anarcho-punk band called Prize Pig (named so after the iconic Simpsons episode in which we all learned that you don't make friends with salad). The bassist of the band was one of those people you wish you'd found when you were fourteen and only starting to get into music. She was beautiful, clever, played fast and mean, and knew so much obscure punk music, it made you dizzy listening to her during evening beers. One night, midway through my third week in Prize Pig, she came over to the tenement I was living in at the time with food, booze and a box of books. It was an outstanding trove. Everything you needed to fall in love with punk forever. Jon Savage's England's Burning
, Treat Me Like Dirt
about the 80's Toronto punk explosion, The Big Midweek
, and finally Jürgen Teipel's Verschwende Deine Jugend
(Waste Your Youth), a semi-rare document of West German post-punk and new wave scenes in the original German. I didn't speak or read a lick of Bosch, and so she read it to me over the course of a month, wonderful quiet nights, lights low, wine lips, all that good shi
Like so many retellings of their time, what made Verschwende Deine Jugend
so fantastic and indelible wasn't just the stories it held, but the long list of unknown bands it was serving up for the reader to go out and find and take in. That's how I came across Abwärts, a Hamburg post-punk outfit who put out two LP's in the early 80's, quickly earned themselves a warm spot in the hearts and ears of every German kid who was in the know, and then, without grand dramatics, partially splintered and moved into other directions, like a lot of the great baby bands of the time.
, the band's 1980 debut is excellent in its every aspect, from execution to surface style. From the grainy paste-job photo on the cover to the spiny, tense antic songs within, it cruises and runs, charged with just about the purest motivation a lo-fi release could hold - the fu
cked-off vigour of young kids miring themselves in the underground, forging something exciting and untrod.
Skinny, barbed guitars and rubber bass-lines drive Amok Koma
. The band splice electronic flourishes on anxious numbers like "Shanghai Stinker," small proggy touches on the howl-packed "Mehr," and even throw in some Middle-Eastern string-work on "Türkenblues." But the primal base of the record is like a preserved trilobite of the era and its DIY production slants. Skeletal, snotty, jittery and utterly untethered; it's a compressed collection of what made that scene so intoxicating and one-of-a-kind. A snap-shot of punk's first coordinated fusion with electronics, Abwärts were part of a garrison as it was in its beginning, before new wave, goth and gloom started broadening that sound, gaining texture and beauty, but losing so much of the attitude.