Quite a few early punks have been lifted up to that exalted legend status over the years. Bands like the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and The Clash are hailed as influences by any rocker with his/her salt, and with the resurgence of interest in early punk there’s plenty of opportunity for many more performers to be pulled up and seen as classics of the scene and genre.
Then there are others, others who were in fact major influences but who don’t seem to get the recognition of their more (in)famous peers. I think Richard Hell falls into that latter category. I mean, this is the guy who Malcolm McLaren cited as the inspiration for the fashion look he sold out of his London shop Sex, the look that he infused into his project band the Sex Pistols. He was in the highly influential band Television before forming the Voidoids. He played with Johnny Thunders and for a while was married to Scandal’s Patty Smyth. He’s a writer and he’s an artist. In many ways he seems to have held true to the punk ideals.
Blank Generation was one of the first records I bought when I got back into vinyl, and for whatever reason (♠) it hasn’t been on my table more than once or twice. Stylistically it’s intriguing – I hear influences from a range of genres here, all played with a certain garage-punk-meets-new-wave vibe. The title track opens with guitar riffs but then flows into a rockabilly style that if it wasn’t outright poached by the Stray Cats for “Stray Cat Strut,” it was certainly a major influence… I even caught myself humming cuz I got cat class and I got cat style while it was playing. “The Plan” gives us surf guitars, “Liars Beware” brings a high speed country twang to the mix, and they commit one of punk’s cardinal sins by indulging in some guitar solo action during the marathon 8+ minute “Another World”. Probably the most classically punk song on the album is the sensationally named “Love Comes In Spurts.”
What holds it all together is attitude, Hell having adapted to and adopted a very classic New York City attitude that permeates the album (he was in fact originally from Kentucky). Not quite as snotty as his English counterparts, instead it’s more of a general “whatever, I don’t care about you” kind of thing. Blank Generation is a surprisingly diverse album, and one that earned itself a spot in at least the semi-regular rotation.
(♠) OK, the reasons for this aren’t exactly mysterious. Just look at how many records and CDs I’ve bought over the last four years.