Saturday, February 16, 2008

DIY '77-81 South Wales

I've spoken before of the cultural stock-take that seems to be going on in Wales at the moment. Here's another example (albeit comes out of America). Messthetics #104 DIY '77-81 South Wales revisits the post-punk scene in Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, and the Valleys.

Back in those bleak days there was much less of a Welsh musical infrastructure in place than there is today. Certainly outside of the Welsh-language scene. Add to this a London-centric record industry and south Wales was pretty much left to its own devices.

Messthetics #104 successfully conveys a flavour of those times. Some of these cuts are so basic and impoverished they end up sounding peculiarly avant-garde. It's no surprise then to discover that art colleges and the dole queue were the twin laboratories in which these musical experiments were incubated.

I'd like to say that you will find some lost classics on this CD but quite frankly you won't. Even allowing for crude recording techniques and basic instrumentation there is little evidence here of any outstanding songwriting talent. But let's be honest creating the perfect pop masterpiece was never really the point.

That said Messthetics #104 is well worth getting hold of. There are plenty of curiosities and wonderfully oddball moments to be enjoyed. And as a piece of pop cultural history it is excellent. Whoever is responsible for compiling, writing and presenting the sleeve notes deserves enormous credit. It's amusing too to see such luminaries as Green Gartside, John Williams, Jon Langford, and Carlton B Morgan popping up here in various guises.

Messthetics #104 DIY '77-81 South Wales is out now on Hyped 2 Death records. A must for ageing punks; collectors of Welsh esoterica; and DIY enthusiasts everywhere.