- by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2019-07-12 Label: Sacred Bones Records
Cortex’s Spinal Injuries is a necessary addition to any early 80’s post-punk collection. (It was recorded in 1981 and released in 1983.) Let’s face it: Sooner or later, the punk rockers had to fess up and come clean about knowing more than three chords. And what followed was a deluge of interesting records that rivalled the spate of prog bands from the early 70’s, which perhaps, gave the record world one side-long epic too many. But think of all those great post-punkers: The Sound, The Clash, XTC, Wire, The Cure, The Del-Lords, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Teardrop Explodes, The Gang of Four, and of course, Howard Devoto’s Magazine.
And the first three songs, “Mind of Darkness,” “Warrior,” and “Fear of Glass” do recall the jerky rough rhythms and sharp melodies of (the great) Magazine, circa Secondhand Daylight. “There’s someone in my mind I don’t want to know,” sings Swedish rock icon Freddie Wadling, which mirrors The Correct Use of Soap’s dark confession about “A Song from Under the Floorboards.”
By the way, “Warrior” recalls the sound of Eddie and the Hot Rods in their Life on the Line glory days.
It’s grim lyrical stuff (and we haven’t even discussed “Napalm Sticks to Kids”!). But, to be honest, I found some website that labeled this record Death Rock or Goth Rock. I don’t see that at all. This is simply exuberant music from a band with a whole lotta life in its grooves, that orbits the same planet as Peter Gabriel (a one-time perpetrator of side-long prog epics) and his dark eerie opening song, “Intruder” from his Melt album, which got him booted off his American Atlantic record label. It’s also dark in a Stranglers sort of way.
Interesting: “Nightmare No. 74” sounds like Joe Strummer and the Clash, circa London Calling, with a bit more Guy Stevens deviancy. And “Morning Moon,” with the same Strummer-like vocal, is piano fronted reggae with a wonderful guitar bit.
Death rock? Goth rock? Not a chance.
The next song, “Freaks,” is, again, piano played, and quite frankly, oozes with humanity and psychological compassion. The percussion touches beauty.
That piano still pervades the music. “Mayhem Troopers” swims in the undercurrents of great rock ‘n’ roll, perhaps like (my beloved) Mott the Hoople, with added sax to grease the dancefloor with A Low Spark from a High Heeled Boy, as Ian Hunter’s “Honaloochie Boogie” blares from the jukebox. The rock pulse continues with the before-mentioned “Napalm Sticks to Kids,” which probably isn’t as urgent as its title demands (which may be impossible!), but it’s a necessary thing to say, every once in a while, by some poet, saint, or rock band. Once again, The Clash come to mind.
Death rock? Goth rock? Still not a chance.
“5 Seconds” is just great joyous rock. The song explodes with a heavenly guitar solo and big keyboards. The tune has the energy of Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning.
The final tune, “Flowers of Evil,” slows the pace. Rock music demands, from time to time, a bit of drama. Again, that piano touches the humanity of the song.
Now, this release is a vinyl re-issue with various colors and what have you. Thank you, Sacred Bones! The world needs this stuff. And the bonus tracks, “Sleepwalking,” and “Jesus I Betong” are included. They both fit into the (sometimes) intense rush of the best of early 80’s rock. Sure, it’s a bleak glance at life; but it’s also a tough and important rock ‘n’ roll handshake with Nightmares, Freaks, Evil Flowers, and Napalm that Sticks to Kids.
John Lennon simply sang, “Help.” Bob Marley simply sang, “Redemption Song.” And this album sings yet another tune that bleeds with humanity’s need to sing its confession to an ever-expanding rock ‘n’ roll universe.