Wire, The Black Sessions (Pink Flag, 2012)—
In the first wave of UK punk, Wire simultaneously invented post-punk and hardcore on the album this label is named after. . . I was told their recent work returned to that sound, and this hard-hitting live album confirms it. . . This is Wire at their most primal—songs that twist to the left, then slam back on track, head toward you and explode. . . Try 3, 10.
Cut Hands, Cut Hands (Very Friendly, 2012)—
William Bennett was the prime mover of Whitehouse, perhaps the most relentless, monolithic and migraine-inducing of the first-generation power-electronics pioneers. . . Now he returns with something nearly as grand, violent and elemental, but more subtle and (yes) listenable. . . Painstakingly researched African percussion patterns, played for impact NOT dilettante exotica, and threaded through with spasms, twists and crescendos of beautifully sculpted noise. . . Try 3, 12.
Kendra Smith, Five Ways of Disappearing (4AD, 2012)—
Ms. Smith was the bassist in the legendary, explosive first Dream Syndicate lineup, then formed Opal, which turned into Mazzy Star when Hope Sandoval replaced her… Leaving before excess visibility is her magic trick, and the clue to her enduring mystery and allure (hence the album title)… Recorded just before she vanished into her mountain hideout (so far so good), this is handmade psych-pop from a free spirit and a luminous voice, like Nico if she was a hippie survivalist… Try 1, 9, 13.
The Gateway District – Some Days You Get The Thunder (It’s Alive Records, 2009)
I never got that into the Soviettes, but those former members of that group here deliver a set of songs that live up to the ragged greatness of their Minneapolis punk-and-roll predecessors (think Replacements/Hüskers/etc. when they were young and on FIRE) while sounding totally contemporary . . . Beer, desperation, romance, the Mississippi, two girls’ voices intertwining and holding on for dear life until a guitar roars out of the darkness—this is how it’s done, and it sounds pretty damn great… start with 6, 7…
Gerardo Manuel y el Humo, Apocallypsis (Lion Productions 2012; orig. 1970)—
Reissue of “Peru’s first hard rock LP,” and it’s pretty excellent… No indigenous Andean music curlicues, sadly, but fine. Hendrix/Santana-inspired space-blues workouts, and some crazed vocals and distorto-guitar… Try 1, 7, 10
Suzi Quatro, Classic Quatro (Razor and Tie, 1996)—
These early—and mid—1970s recordings were as crucial to the emergence of punk and new wave as the contemporary work of Bowie and the New York Dolls; Quatro’s pioneering modern, hard-edged, tough-girl glitter sound and persona was a direct inspiration to a teenage Joan Jett, among many others… Historical interest aside, this is excellent cool-rocking tuneage that moves your feet and sticks in your head… Try 1, 3, 10, 11
Radio Zero will be an ongoing review of music of critical interest. Michael O’Flaherty was the pop-music critic for The Baffler, and is the author of the novel Shiny Shiny.
Mecca Normal, [Self-Titled] (Smarten Up!, 1986)—
Debut from this artistically uncompromising, singular duo; an incredibly raw and alive take on protest-folk as filtered through distortion—crazed punk rock guitar (no rhythm section necessary), as if there was NO ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE between Woody Guthrie and Black Flag. . . The detonator is Jean Smith’s trilling, wailing, snarling vocal presence, somewhere between Lydia Lunch and Corin Tucker (on whom she was a key influence). . . Try A/3, A/6, B/1