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Book Review: Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine by John Scanlan

Whenever a punk comes to grips with the classics well enough to start being cynical about them, the wet-behind-the-mohawk youngsters inevitably come to the same conclusion, over and over, ad nauseum:

The Sex Pistols were nothing but a boy band!

Yes, it is a sentiment about as new or unique as the equally age appropriate: we’re dying everyday, man or parents don’t know everything. Triteness in motion. We’ve all heard it, and more painfully, it’s probably come out of our own mouths. That’s just how it goes, I guess. Eventually, I got over it, and got back to relishing the Sex Pistols youthful, hateful, frustrated energy along with their perfect, and only, record. Like it or not, Never Mind the Bollocks is a milestone, and I’ll take it over the Ramones or the Clash any day.

John Scanlan’s book Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine is, whether intended or not, a response to the famous boy band critique. It tells the story of the Sex Pistols with an emphasis on manager and provocateur Malcolm McLaren, from his early days to the dissolution of the Pistols. It’s an interesting story alone, but with this new perspective, dimensions are added.

In punk rock, we are so used to the idea that authenticity is a hallmark of the artists, and the notion that a manager assembled a group to perform music is a mark against its authenticity. As Scanlan details it, the truth is a bit more complicated. What Poison in the Machine successfully argues is not only for the artistry of the Pistols, but also of McLaren himself. It was his obsession with provocation, transgression, and youth culture that eventually led him to form the Sex Pistols. Scanlan follows McLaren trying on different ideas, all surrounding different permutations of what would be the famous clothing store SEX. Eventually, of course, history is made, but never quite how you expect it.

And while McLaren is critical to a lot of threads punk would continue to follow, by telling McLaren’s story, Poison in the Machine also manages to give due credit to the boys in the band as well. It paints the band as more than just its members or its manager– but as a combination of influences, and more importantly, human beings, who are at odds with each others. Scanlan shows us with a collection of well-selected quotes how McLaren’s art project and the Sex Pistols became two different beasts, and then dismantled itself. It’s an almost Frankensteinian turn. When McLaren assembled Jones, Cook, Matlock, and Lydon, he didn’t plan on them having ideas or even vision, and when his monster learned to speak, the creator was out in the weeds.

It’s a fast read, with clean writing and little editorializing. Scanlan has clearly put a lot of work into the fact checking, with a good chunk of the book dedicated to references. He uses quotes and rare photos to give the reader a sense of the time and place, which is as important to the Sex Pistols as the people involved in their rise.

Great book for fans of the band who need a little more ammo in the face of trite dismissals, or punk history buffs alike– Poison in the Machine is a fascinating read.

Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine by John Scanlan, published by University of Chicago Press.


Album Review: Rise Against – ‘Wolves’

Hey look, Rise Against released a new album. Wolves is the band’s eighth full length studio album, and if you haven’t accepted the fact that they’ve settled into a very specific sound by now, you’re in for a world of disappointment. It’s been eleven years (!) since the band put out The Sufferer & the Witness, and other than switching out one guitarist for another, very little else has changed since then. Whether that’s a pro or a con is up to the listener.

Wolves is full of melodic-punk songs that could easily be interchanged with tracks off The Black Market without anyone noticing. That sounds like an insult, but it’s not meant to be one. Much like many of their Fat Wreck and Epitaph contemporaries, Rise Against have found their comfort zone and are sticking to it. Sure, Tim unleashes his scream here and there, like in the title track or “Too Many Walls” and there’s a hint of ska in “Bullshit” but the album is largely filled with 3 and a half minute songs that coast the line between societal politics and personal politics and are loaded with plenty of harmonizing “whoas.” Sometimes it pays off (“House on Fire” and “Mourning in Amerika” are catchy enough to satisfy anyone who enjoyed past singles “Tragedy + Time” and “Audience of One”) and sometimes it doesn’t (“Far from Perfect,” and “Politics of Love” aren’t terrible, but they’re certainly not memorable either).

Megaphone” and “Broadcast[Signal]Frequency” are among the best songs on the album and it’s a shame that they’ve been relegated to bonus track status. Both are fast and aggressive- two traits that are often missing from the band’s current output. If you’re only going to listen to a handful of songs from the album, make it these two. They don’t accurately reflect the album proper, but to put it bluntly, these two songs are to Wolves what “Grammatizor” and “Voice of Dissent” were to Appeal to Reason.

Wolves might be Rise Against’s safest album yet. If you can get past that, however, Wolves isn’t all that bad of an album.

3 / 5 stars

RIYL: Anti-Flag, Pennywise, Bad Religion

7 Things To Do At Punk Rock Bowling That Don’t Involve Moshing

Punk Rock Bowling is right around the corner, and it’s not just shows stacked on top of more shows. It’s a whole three day weekend of punk related events. If you’re going to Vegas this year but fear a severe case of pit fatigue between the main stage lineups and late night club shows, give your eardrums a break and check out our list of “7 Things To Do At Punk Rock Bowling That Don’t Involve Moshing” below

Rise Against stream new song “The Violence” off upcoming album “Wolves”

Hey oh! Who’s in the mood for some new Rise Against music? What’s that? You lost interest in them 3 albums ago? Well you should still check out this song because it might be the best Rise Against song I’ve heard in 5 years. “The Violence” is the first single off the band’s new album “Wolves” due out June 9th through Virgin Records (sigh).

Give it a listen below.

“Wolves” will be Rise Against’s first new album since 2014’s ‘The Black Market’. The band is also heading out on a big co-headline tour with Deftones later this year.

Check out a trailer for the upcoming documentary on The Stooges “Gimme Danger”

Did you guys know that they’re making a documentary about Iggy And The Stooges? Well you do now! Looks like it comes out later this month and you can check out a trailer for it below.

Iggy Pop releases music video for “Sunday”

Iggy Pop has released a music video for his song “Sunday.” The tune comes off of Pop’s latest endeavor, Post Pop Depression (a collaboration album with Queens of the Stone Age mainstay Josh Homme) and you can watch the video below.

Iggy Pop released Post Pop Depression on March 18, 2016.

Full Album Stream: Iggy Pop + Josh Homme – ‘Post Pop Depression’

As you may have heard, the Godfather of punk Iggy Pop and Queens of the Stone Age mainstay Josh Homme have teamed up together to record an album titled Post Pop Depression. The album, which was also recorded with the help of Queens of the Stone Age and The Dead Weather guitarist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, will be released next week and may possibly be Pop’s final album. It’s bittersweet to think about, but while you do ponder a life where Iggy Pop is no longer recording music, you can give the nine track LP a listen via NPR right here.

Post Pop Depression will be released on March 18, 2016.

Rise Against rumored to be signed to Virgin Records

Virgin Recordsofficial website has listed Rise Against on their roster, thus ending their seven-year relationship with Interscope Records, who released the band’s last three albums. So far, there has been no official announcement from Rise Against or Virgin Records, but we’ll keep you posted as more details on this situation come to light.

Rise Against’s latest album, The Black Market, was released a year ago on Interscope. The band just recently announced a U.S. tour, which will include support from Killswitch Engage and letlive.

John Lydon says The Sex Pistols won’t reunite again

In a recent interview, the Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon was asked if there was a possibility of another reunion of the iconic punk band. He replied:

“Oh no, that’s finished. I mean have you seen us? I mean, we’ve all put on weight but Mr Jones here is coming it at 500 pounds! And I did the butter advert!”

The Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, a year after their iconic album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, and had reunited periodically since then.

Glen Matlock says The Sex Pistols may never reunite again

In a recent interview, former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock said that he has not seen his former bandmate John Lydon in five years, and that there may never be another reunion of the iconic British punk band. He explains:

“I haven’t seen John for five years and I’m quite happy about that. I’ve had no cause to speak to him. There is nothing I know of in the offing and I’m really not that fussed about it. I have no idea if we will reform but who knows the secret of black magic box. I wouldn’t write new Sex Pistols material, we’re fine with the old stuff.”

The Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, a year after their iconic album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, and had reunited periodically since then.

10 things you probably didn’t know about Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols)

Most of you know that Sid Vicious was the charismatic, if not controversial, bass player in one of the most influential punk acts in history, the Sex Pistols.  You’re probably vaguely aware that the dude played hard and lived life on the edge during his short 22 year tenure in this life but that’s probably the extent of your knowledge.  The more senior among you will be more versed with his legend but there’s probably a few facts about the punk rock icon that will still surprise you.

Read our list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Sid below.

Johnny Rotten (Sex Pistols) to recieve BMI Icon Award

John Lyndon (aka Johnny Rotten) is to receive a BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) icon award for his contribution to music and fashion around the world. The BMI icon award is given to musicians who have had “a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers”.

Lyndon is most well-known for being the front-man of the controversial 70’s punk band from London Sex Pistols. The group’s only studio album is their iconic 1977 album “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols”.

The award will be presented to him on October 15th at a gala in London, England.

Click here to read the whole story.

Johnny Rotten is also the vocalist for PiL (Public Image Ltd.) who released “This Is PiL” last year through their own label “Pil Official”.

You Me at Six post “An American Spring” trailer

You Me at Six have released a trailer for their upcoming tour documentary An American Spring. You can watch it here.

You Me at Six released their last album, Sinners Never Sleep, in February 2012 on Virgin Records.

Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls) announce tour dates; Tommy Ramone drops out

Members of three of the most legendary and iconic punk bands have joined forces for a North American tour: Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls) have announced an acoustic tour this spring. The tour was originally set to feature Tommy Ramone, the last surviving member of the original Ramones, but his appearances have been postponed due to illness. Select dates will also feature Scott Kempner of The Dictators.

Check out the dates and locations right here.

Iggy Pop And The Stooges detail new album “Ready To Die”, post song teaser

Well this is not what I expected to see this morning, but I am more than pumped to report that protopunk icons Iggy Pop & The Stooges will be releasing a brand new album entitled “Ready To Die.” Check out a sample of the song “Scarecrow” here.

Iggy had this to say about making another album, six years after their last, “The Weirdness”:

“My motivation in making any record with the group at this point is no longer personal. It’s just a pig-headed fucking thing I have that a real fucking group when they’re an older group they also make fucking records. They don’t just go and twiddle around on stage to make a bunch of fucking money…”

Minutemen founder Mike Watt will replace the late Ron Asheton on bass.

“Ready To Die” drops April 30th via Fat Possum Records. Pre-orders are available here.