Saturday, July 22, 2017

Know Your Product (1977-1978)

This package, released in the '90s, is branded as "the best of the Saints," a roaring whining not-to-be-missed '70s punk-rock outfit out of Australia, when really it's just more or less the band's first two albums, which fit snugly together on a single CD. For all I know, that could really be the best of the Saints—'70s punk-rock bands famously shot wads early and fast—but this is all I know of them, except they're still going, with lots of breakups and people in and out since then. I can't even remember how this CD got into my house (garage sale?) but I'm glad it did. For me, all punk-rock starts with the Ramones and thus I'm often most partial to the contemporaries feeling their way to the same ends in the post-glam twilight, for example the Suicide Commandos and the Vibrators. The Saints, who got together originally in 1974, are a pure chip off that fine old block. The sound comes at you like a stuttering wallop of sludge: pogo bass, squalling buzz saw guitars with gentle bolts of feedback, and a gentleman with a hawk of phlegm at the back of his throat who sounds vaguely dissatisfied with all things. But this is not about bludgeoning—the love for pop melody the Saints inherited from glam is still there, in every track (for otherwise it would have no reason to exist). The propulsion turns explosive on modest little killer rockers like "This Perfect Day," "One Way Street," and "Run Down," which can about snap the neck if you're not careful. For more clues, let's go to the covers on the first album, from 1977, (I'm) Stranded (some of them first released on a 1977 EP): "Lipstick on Your Collar," a Connie Francis hit in 1959 ... "River Deep Mountain High," the famous crash and burn of Tina Turner and Phil Spector in 1966 ... "Kissin' Cousins," an Elvis Presley hit in 1964 ... and "Wild About You," by the Missing Links, a '60s Australian garage-rock forebear. I love the title of (I'm) Stranded for the New York Dolls reference almost as much as for the cheek of starting it with a parenthetical. That's so pop! The second album, from 1978, Eternally Yours, is starting to show more shreds of ambition, such as an intermittent horn section or harmonica. There are also changes on the CD, such as "Do the Robot" for "International Robots," which is generally an improvement. The sequencing is different too. Robert Christgau complained in the '70s about the horns and he has a point, but I'm also interested in next steps for punk-rockers: strings, synths, horns, acoustic, African rhythm, etc. Horns represent a certain bent toward soul that I like. But I admit a little of it goes a long way so I'm glad it's sparing here. Know Your Product is like a great live set, with songs and hooks crawling all over each other to make it irresistible. I'm going to just go ahead and call it essential.


  1. Went to YouTube to listen and someone had posted The Real Kids there. So I am wicked sidetracked at the moment.
    Will return to The Saints I promise.

  2. Found my copy of The Real Kids on CD. Now listening to The Saints. Love the horns.

  3. Don't know this collection and my memory is being a little disappointed w/ the debut LP overall but the single, "(I'm) Stranded," was one of the great defining statements of Ramones punk orthodoxy.