Punk Greats #1 Richard Hell & the Voidoids: Blank Generation (1977)
The debut of the notorious ripped t-shirts pioneers and CBGB habitués has transcended time and became my go-to cathartic album. From the first apoplectic assault of the jarring riff which introduces “Love Come In Spurts,” which both is and isn’t a dirty joke, to the final ballad which grows on you despite clocking in at 8:14, this is formalized anxiety at its best. Most of these songs heedlessly heap together various sorts of angst that more respectable and less intelligent writers prefer to segregate: societal, romantic, existential, bratty. So, “Who says it's good good good to be alive?” isn’t a rhetorical question, which would render it mere miff, but hypophora, and he answers, “Same ones who keep it a perpetual jive.” Hell’s nihilism (ha!), so much less histrionic than it might be, is sublimated by the strident dueling guitars of Quine and Julian, not to mention his own poetical prowess: “Your mind's a wreck but that’s fine / It corresponds to mine,” “Feelings will change / we're helpless they must. / We like it that way / eliminates trust,” “I was sayin' let me out of here before I was even born.” The last line begins the sinister, almost bluesy title track which works as an anti-anthem today nearly as well as it did in 1977. Despite it’s confirmed place in the punk pantheon, Blank Generation has little in common, musically speaking, with the coeval debuts of the Ramones, the Clash, and the Sex Pistols. In fact, it really has no real predecessors, nor, even today, any important followers. But hey, that's the kind of the point, isn't it?