Soundchecks Music Reviews
Sanctuary Visual Entertainment SVEF0098
57 minutes (E) DVD Region 0
review by Tom Johnstone
Don't be fooled by the title of this DVD (or the black and white picture on the front of a scruffy looking kid holding a football and staring at a Ramones-style brick wall). This is not a punk compilation. Don't expect to find anything by The Ramones, The Clash or The Sex Pistols. It is a Virgin/ EMI release after all. Some of the hit singles featured here are little more than novelty records, such as the Toy Dolls' Nellie The Elephant, The Members' Sound Of The Suburbs and The Vapours' vapid Turning Japanese. The bands showcased here are more likely to wear shirts and ties than ripped t-shirts, particularly those of the mod-revivalist persuasion, represented at its best by The Jam and at its worst by Secret Affair.
But once I'd got over the initial disappointment at the Top Of The Pops-friendly content of the track list, I found that there is plenty to enjoy on Teenage Kicks, not least the title track. The Undertones' muscular bubble punk anthem was deservedly the favourite song of the late, lamented John Peel, and the band also feature towards the end of the DVD with their catchiest single, the instantly memorable My Perfect Cousin. Two tracks later and we're treated to a raw live rendition of Ever Fallen In Love, with Pete Shelley sporting a shirt that makes him look like he's auditioning for Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. But never mind The Buzzcocks, here's a couple of gems: Madness' Baggy Trousers and Dexy's Midnight Runners' Geno.
This isn't the Dexy's Midnight Runners of denim dungarees and gipsy reels, but the Dexy's of white socks and donkey jackets. Geno is a rousing blue-eyed soul chant, backed by Dexy's crisply percussive brass section. It's hard to imagine a song like that getting to #1 today. Baggy Trousers was never my favourite Madness song, and the video is chiefly remembered for its flying saxophone player. But together the song and the video provide a trenchant piece of social criticism, in which the flying sax artist functions as a welcome surreal element. Intercut with disturbing shots of shop dummies falling over, the band dance robotically in their crombies and shades, as they sing about school kids "trying to make a difference to their day," in the shadow of boredom and the cane. School is also the subject of the Boom Town Rats' I Don't Like Mondays, in which the lesson being learned is "how to die."
XTC's Making Plans For Nigel is a single that I remember becoming irritating after constant repetition. In the video, a series of unsettling tableaux continue this theme of boredom and repression, as a disorientated young man is subjected to a series of experiments by a mad doctor figure, and is then shown a series of cards, displaying various employment options. This echo of The Clash's Career Opportunities reminds us that though punk expressed raw anger at the boredom and disaffection they found in everyday life, the later 'New Wave' bands represented here gave the same themes a more mainstream expression. At times this borders on caricature, as in Sound Of The Suburbs, but for every tacky curiosity like this, there is a gem like Up The Junction by Squeeze.
for PIGASUS Press