Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20: The Lurkers, "Fulham Fallout"

Artist: The Lurkers
Album: Fulham Fallout
Year: 1978
Label: Beggar's Banquet

Over the years, for whatever reason, the general mindset of people have created parallels between bands that "were the answer" to one another. This was often done when new sounds emerged and people wanted to compare bands from either side of the Atlantic ocean. However, in most cases, once one actually listens to the music of the bands in question, it is clear that while they may share similar musical foundations, the bands themselves rarely sound anything alike. This is perhaps no more apparent then in the idea that The Sex Pistols and The Clash were the U.K.'s "answer" to The Ramones. While they all share the same punk ethos, all three bands have their own sound and approach, and truly sound very little like one another. This becomes even more clear when one hears the music of the English band that did, in fact, sound like an "answer" to The Ramones, West London's own group of misfit sons: The Lurkers. Taking a similar stripped down, simple, and straightforward approach to their music, The Lurkers are without question one of the most important bands to emerge from London's punk explosion, as it is often their sound (and not that of The Clash or The Pistols) that served as the influence for so many bands that followed. Standing today as one of the few groups of that era that is still actively making music, it is their 1978 debut record, Fulham Fallout, that remains their finest achievement, and unquestionably one of the greatest records of the punk explosion.

While The Lurkers were absolutely one of the most important bands of the entire early U.K. punk scene, they also hold one claim to fame that no other band in history can match. The Lurkers were, in fact, the very first band to ever be signed to the now legendary Beggar's Banquet Records, and their first 7", Shadow/Love Story, was the label's first ever release. Later acts on the label included Buffalo Tom, John Cale, The Fall, The Gun Club, and countless other amazing bands, and the first of all these great bands were The Lurkers. Upon it's release in June of 1978, Fulham Fallout made a respectable climb up the U.K. charts, and was helped by the previous success of the single, "Ain't Got No Clue," which kicks off the record. The song stands today as one of their greatest ever, and it is within this song that one can hear both the similarities, as well as the individuality that The Lurkers shared with their U.S. counterparts. Once one listens to Fulham Fallout, it becomes little surprise that the group is so revered, as the the album is both powerful and clean in terms of production, which was one of the biggest hurdles that many bands of the time could not overcome. The record made such a massive and long lasting impact, that in 2007, it was re-released with a dozen bonus tracks featuring demos, alternate takes, and early singles that had otherwise never been released outside of the original vinyl. From the songwriting to the attitude to the execution of each song, there is not an "off" moment anywhere on Fulham Fallout, and it is one of the few early punk records that can truly be called "indispensable."

While the music of The Lurkers certainly bears a strong resemblance to that of The Ramones, they make it their own sound, and easily stay away from what would be considered "copycat" music. By the time The Lurkers entered the studio to record Fulham Fallout, they had already had a number of changes in their lineup, including the coming and going of former Saints bassist, Kym Bradshaw. Stepping in after Bradshaw's short time with the band, Nigel Moore returned to the band (he was one of the original members) and he plays brilliantly on every track, and more often then not, it is his powerful playing that drives the songs into their frenzied mood. The other half of the rhythm section, the man known as "Manic Esso" (real name: Pete Hayes), is equally fantastic, and across a wide range of tempos, he displays a greater variance in playing style and fills then nearly any other drummer of the era. However, when one listens to Fulham Fallout, much of the focus of the music centers around band co-founder and guitarist, Pete Stride. With an uncanny knack for writing brilliant musical hooks, Stride also served as the bands' primary songwriter, and in this capacity, he proves to be able to write equally fantastic lyrical hooks. From the punishing sound of "Shadow" to the almost completely instrumental majesty of "Go Go Go," The Lurkers use their debut record to prove that there was much more behind the sound that The Ramones birthed onto the world.

The final band member of The Lurkers was vocalist extraordinaire Howard Wall. One can make the case that it is largely due to Wall's voice that the comparisons to The Ramones are so easily supported, as in both sound and style, one cannot deny the likeness to that of Joey Ramone. However, this is not a bad characteristic, and while their voices are similar, there is little question that Wall makes the sound his own, and fits perfectly with his backing band. Wall's voice actually falls more towards Jeffrey Lee Pierce than Joey Ramone, but due to the style of music over which he sings, comparisons to the latter are perhaps more fitting. It is also largely due to Wall's performance that the songs on Fulham Fallout gain their amazing amount of energy, and his voice, combined with the guitar playing of Stride, presents one of the finest, chaotic-party-inducing sounds ever recorded. Nearly every song on Fulham Fallout is poised as a perfect crowd sing-along, as the combination of Stride's fantastic lyrics and Wall's brilliant delivery made them one of the most in-demand live acts, and the raucous energy that the album emits is absolutely mesmerizing. The Lurkers are also a band that is not above a bit of "tongue-in-cheek" humor, as they not-so-cleverly cover the Beach Boys classic, "Then I Kissed Her" and re-titled it "Then I Kicked Her." Regardless of the song, every track on Fulham Fallout presents the high-octane, borderline chaotic sound that makes The Lurkers one of the most important bands of their generation.

For most people, the list of "seminal" English punk bands ends after mentioning The Clash and The Sex Pistols. However, when one truly listens to the music of these bands, it is clear that the major, more basic element of the punk sound is absent in both cases. Where The Pistols were more outrageous, and The Clash more politically charged and reggae-influenced, one must look to The Lurkers to find the more basic, more straightforward, more "everyman" sound of punk rock. Though they are often written off as "the U.K. Ramones," this is not all that much of an insult, and at the same time, it is largely inaccurate, as while the two groups share a similar sound, The Lurkers make the sound their own. Whether it was their pioneering efforts in this stripped down sound that would serve as a major influence on generations of punk rockers, or the fact that they were the first band on Beggar's Banquet, one cannot overlook the massive contributions that The Lurkers made to the development of the punk rock genre. From their brilliant early singles to the fact that, in some form or another, the group has persevered to this day, it is simply impossible to discuss the U.K. punk scene without bringing The Lurkers into the conversation. Without question standing today as one of the most influential and absolutely fantastic records of the U.K. punk explosion, The Lurker's 1978 debut album, Fulham Fallout is as perfect a punk record as one will find anywhere else in the history of music.

Standout tracks: "Ain't Got A Clue," "Shadow," and "Go Go Go."

No comments: