October 14, 2008
Sympathy Sessions (Sympathy for the Record Industry 1996)
Outside of the Buzzcocks, Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers, I never really got into the poppy punk anthems of contemporaries like the Clash and Ramones. All of the 77-82 punk bands have moments which leave me humming like the fool I am, but I feel more kinship with those who twisted it into grubbier forms. Whether it be the bizarro concoctions on Wire’s first three albums or the Killed by Death series, punk just seemed like it should be alien, aggressive and ugly in its own beautiful manner. My wussy teen years led me to ignore the 60s Nuggets, Pebbles and Back from the Grave comps, but they felt like a stirring slap in the face once I heard the roots on punk in all its catchy and primitive glory.
One of the bands that opened my eyes to the gruff history of punk were the Oblivians. At the time, I had no inkling of their influences and garage rock had more to do with Animal House than anything else. However, their debut singles and eps captured what I always wanted from a punk band. It had a nasty streak a mile wide and the band played the living shit out of each song. It was fast, shitty-sounding and their live set was a simple reminder that rock and roll can stir you like a gospel anthem in a church full of hopped up folks speaking in tongues.
Sympathy Sessions collects their early singles and eps for the Sympathy label and includes some of their absolute peaks and only a few meager valleys. Their collaboration with Quintron stands as the pinnacle of their career, but this is a great representation of what made them so immediate and special. No frills or ambition to make a grand statement; Sympathy Sessions is a reminder of punk’s kinship with 60s rock, gospel, R&B and the power of a bad attitude. It is a revival session for folks with a hankering for trouble.