on 27 March 2001
Richard Hell, the influential punk/poet self styled Rimbaud figure of New York punk. It follows that his music with the Voidoids should also be suitably nihilistic. It is. Love Comes In Spurts is Hell's love song, with an unmissable double entendre. His voice is shaky, unsure, like an American Vic Goddard. His lyrics however, are sharp, clever and reveal his intensly intelligent mind which is hidden behind the dumb punk exterior. The sublime Blank Generation, one of the classic punk singles of all time, influenced the Sex Pistols Pretty Vacant. The connection is obvious. But the differences are vast. The Pistols... lyrics offer no passion, no ideals and no sense of a future other than a superficial one. Hell offers us the blank to fill in as we choose. Instead of I Belong To The Blank Generation, Hell intended there to be a space where 'Blank' should be. You work out the rest. Hell remains a romantic, albeit a doomed one, throughout and his follow up album Destiny Street is just as good if not better. Guitar supplied by 'virtuoso' and one time Lou Reed guitarist Bob Quinn. An excellent album, punk noise but ethics from somewhere else altogether.
One of my principal memories of Richard Hell & The Voidoids stems from the gig I saw on 12 November 1977 when the band was supporting The Clash at Hastings Pier Pavilion of all places (remarkably, a fact I was able to confirm via the tour poster, which is available on Amazon!). I distinctly remember being unimpressed with Hell’s band at the time – I probably even preferred the other support band, the French all-girl band, The Lous. Listening to this debut album again now, I think I know the reasons for my initial reaction – namely, the Voidoids were far from ‘straight punk’ (mind you, so, I would argue, were The Clash), instead demonstrating (in particular) a rhythmic sophistication quite far removed from the prevailing (and expected) '1-2-3-go’ approach of much of the punk scene.
That said, the album certainly has its moments, punk-wise, none more so (of course) than the title song, whose beginning (and Robert Quine guitar break, midway through) is as memorable today as it was 40 years ago (and I would place Hell’s song alongside the likes of Blitzkrieg Bop, Anarchy In The UK and White Riot as one of the defining songs of the era). Almost as memorable is album opener Love Comes In Spurts (either a Hell romantic ditty or a 14-year old’s cubicle antics, depending on your point of view) which Hell wrote before getting kicked out of The Heartbreakers (allowing them to 'rewrite’ it as One Track Mind – arguably the best thing Thunders’ band ever did). Elsewhere, each of Liars Beware, New Pleasure, Down At The Rock And Roll Club, Who Says?, The Plan and I’m Your Man demonstrate the band’s rhythmic, lyrical and melodic prowess, as well as their apparent influences (notably Jonathan Richman, I would say) and potential future influence (Talking Heads, in particular). Betrayal Takes Two is another highlight – Hell dabbling in all things romantic again – whilst the near-epic Another World (Hell’s Sister Ray?) again showcases Quine’s guitar. Finally, two intriguing covers, a simply marvellous version of John Fogerty’s Walking On The Water and a surprisingly straight, crooning version of All The Way, made famous by Frank Sinatra and recalling Sid Vicious’ My Way (but without the comedy).
Apologies for the barracking all those years ago, Richard….
on 8 June 2005
A must have. Hell had already performed versions of some of the key tracks - including Love Comes in Spurts and Blank Generation - during his spells with Television and the Heartbreakers. But the versions on this legendary album finally allowed the songs to stand out as some of the great recordings of the punk period. Hell's lyrics - among the sharpest of the era - find their ideal foil with Ivan Julian and Robert Quine's uncanny guitar interplay. While Hell's wordplay and decent bass playing fitted made him an ideal frontman, Quine is in many ways the star of the show. His remarkable solos heralded the arrival of a major talent, whose work - despite spells with Lou Reed, Lloyd Cole and Matthew Sweet - never really got the recognition that one of the all time great guitarists deserved.
Richard was the midwife of punk rock, who birthed it but never fully entered the tent as the creator of the universe because Malcolm pushed him out of the way. He was one template Malcolm gazed onto with awe when managing the Dolls. Eventually Hell was waylaid, his talent shrivelled up as narcotics became his focus. Richard only produced two Voidoid albums. The first marked a new era, the second was trying to catch up.
The sound is a 60's punk template taken to somewhere else by Robert Quine's guitar strokes creating a jerked intricacy of avantic sound patterns. Anti melodic rhythm unleashing two pit bulls snatching at each others throats, the guitar lines snarl through the album, his signature tune, chiming in a new rhythmic fury. Quine had a previous stint with the last gasps of VU and a flirt with the bored dome of studying law. Now sadly no more.
Hell's voice is a NY caustic matured whine floating on a coat of ennui. Blank generations abounded, articulating the artistic, moral, militaristic and emotional bankrupcy of a country in the throes of post Vietnam regret. In New York money poured out, whilst art flourished.
The Ramones, Suicide, Blondie, Hearbreakers, Television and the Cramps are all deified in the rock hall of fame whilst Richard is left sloping on the outside, awaiting his time in purgatory as part of the famous pantheon. Hell refused to reinvent himself for 77 but should be lauded for ushering in the new era.
This album marks the watershed of punk, the stronger tracks are concise, beaten into shape and engage the expressive nihilism of nothingness. Love comes in spurts Hell ejaculates, an antidote to "all you need is love." Love gets other forms of battering throughout the recording as Betrayal takes Two.
Personal anger, pain, made it work. Light years away from the chumpz of disco where everyone was in lurrrrrvvveee baby. Hell was in anguish.
Not as visceral as the Pistols, nor as bubblegum shattering as the Ramones, as sound inventive as Suicide or as delicious poptastic as Blondie. It was the opening statement, the first day, the genesis of the musical revolution.
Whilst Richard gave the world the look, the ripped up t shirt, the short cropped hair and the snarl, he could have delivered far more. Trapped in his narcotic world, the planet turned on its axis, without thanking him for giving birth and Robert for providing a new sonic template.
This however for retrospective rockers looking for gold still glitters as the present 21t Century tip has smothered all the gems.
on 10 June 2015
This is a magic CD. Fantastic, amazing, powerful music of the great Richard Hell! The drummer was Marc Bell = Marky Ramone. I bought this edition from Japan and it has 2 more great songs. Amazing music with The Voidoids!
on 17 May 2002
My sister used to work for a record PR company in the late 70's and came home with an armfull of Richard Hell. This record stuck itself to my turntable.
Love Comes in Spurts and Blank Generation, especially stuck in the groove as my stylus wore it down. Lovely tunes, fantastic energy, not discordent at all.
Keep hearing The Hives on TV trailers of late. Nice tunes and energy, reminds me of this great underheard album. Some great tracks. Love comes in Spurts.. Oh no it hurts.
Lick it and See.
This album appeared the same year as the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks and is in the same league. But the sound here is more varied and the lyrics more poetic, like on the harrowing slow song Betrayal Takes Two with its intricate guitar work. My favorites include the subversive tour de force Love Comes In Spurts, the anthemic title track and the melodic song The Plan, while others are interesting. Different avenues of rock are explored - it’s more than just angry 3-minute anthems. Unfortunately the album isn’t consistently good, it has its weaker moments. Five stars for historical importance, three stars for the music.
on 10 February 2012
If you love the pistols and the clash you have to get this !!
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on 18 October 2014
This is just a superb lp I cant praise it highly enough Thanks
on 11 June 2015
It's a must have for collectors of the new wave.