Saturday, October 19, 2013

Revenge 88 Was All Alone

Dig around in the earliest issues of Maximumrocknroll, before that zine became overly dogmatic in its conception of what constitutes acceptable punk, and you’ll find international reports about vibrant punk scenes from around the world. Since those early days, the Bloodstains Over… compilation series has been the primary torchbearer for classic international punk. The first Bloodstains Over Belgium comp is one of the best in the series, with thrilling cuts by Mad Virgins, Spermicide, Onion Dolls, P.I.G.Z., and others. Best of all, tucked near the end of the record is “Neonlights,” the b-side of Revenge 88’s “Alone” 7”.

Revenge 88 started out as Stagebeast, who put out one single, “Belgium (Ain’t Fun No More)” in 1978 after winning a contest for an EMI Belgium record contract. Both “Belgium” and its b-side “Working Man” are jaunty rockabilly-indebted tunes that have just as many saxophone solos as guitar solos. The sax in “Belgium” in particular has a punk unruliness that hasn’t really been heard much on that instrument outside of the Lounge Lizards’ early albums. Both songs are essential, but Stagebeast ended up sabotaging their own career almost immediately. An incident with their record label (they trashed the label’s office) caused them to lose their contract and they broke up soon after.

They bounced back a few years later under their new name Revenge 88 and self-released their first single in 1981. Gone are the fifties rock ‘n roll affectations, replaced by lumbering metallic bass and siren guitars, while frontman Frank Dubbe sings about, well, being “Alone.” “Neonlights” is all bass too (post-punk was afoot after all), and the guitar is left to make nonmusical sounds during the verses while the lyrics are the polar opposite of the a-side, extolling the virtues of making it through the long work week so you can party under neon lights. Not exactly breaking new ground with the lyrics, but it’s such a blast that you’d have to get absolutely no joy from music to really care.

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