Wednesday, September 6, 2017

14 And A Half And It Wasn't No Laugh

Richard Hell and the Voidoids : Love Comes in Spurts

In September of 1977, Richard Hell and the Voidoids released their debut album, Blank Generation. It is full of nervous, high-strung energy as the band's two guitarists, Ivan Julian and especially Robert Quine match Hell's energy with solos that owe more of a debt to free jazz than punk rock. It remains one of my favorite albums of 1977.

Hell had already invented the sartorial side of punk rock with his reliance of safety pins and bad haircuts, The former Richard Myers had also changed his name.

One thing I wanted to bring back to rock and roll was the knowledge that you invent yourself. That's why I changed my name, why I did all the clothing style things, the haircut, everything. So naturally, if you invent yourself, you love yourself. The idea of inventing yourself is creating the most ideal image that you could imagine . So that's totally positive.

Lester Bangs was a huge fan of Blank Generation ( though it should be admitted that Quine played on Bangs's Hell-like single "Let It Blurt")  Robert Christgau gave the album an A-, writing:

Like all the best CBGB bands, the Voidoids make unique music from a reputedly immutable formula, with jagged, shifting rhythms accentuated by Hell's indifference to vocal amenities like key and timbre. I'm no great devotee of this approach, which harks back to Captain Beefheart. So when I say that Hell's songs get through to me, that's a compliment: I intend to save this record for those very special occasions when I feel like turning into a nervous wreck.

Hell approached rock like a lost poet more than an angry young man. Despite Sire Records efforts to sell the album as part of a four record " New wave rock'n'roll, get behind it before it gets past you" blitz ( the others being Talking Heads '77, The Saints Stranded and The Dead Boys Young Loud and Snotty) Blank Generation failed to sell. Hell would never really be able to capitalize on everything he did for punk rock and lost a few decades to drug abuse.

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