During our recent trip to Oslo I had my best luck with finding Norwegian punk rock at Råkk og Rålls. It’s three floors of great stuff – records, CDs, magazines, memorabilia… something for pretty much everyone (who is into music…). After I’d wrapped up my shopping in the vinyl basement I went up to the mail floor to check out, and that’s where I spotted Anarki & Kaos on the wall. It was expensive. Probably a fair amount more than I wanted to spend really. But they took credit cards, and I figured I’ll probably never make it to Norway again, so why not. And after listening to it today for the first time, I’m glad I did (and, of course, when I got home I checked Discogs… and it turns out the price I paid was pretty much spot on with the asking prices there… <whew>).
This comp consists of 18 early Norwegian punk songs, all from different bands. The time period is perfect for me – I find that I prefer the stuff from the late 1970s, so this is exactly what I was looking for. And it delivers – all the sneering and attitude, most of it compressed into pretty short bursts of music. The recording quality is varied – some songs sound great, others are scratchy, raw, and hollow. My guess is it isn’t like there were a lot of master tapes to go back to when this was released in 1992, so you do the best you can with what you have. It also comes with a 20-page booklet that is a collection of material from some old fanzines and such. The booklet is actually very high quality and a nice addition to the record.
There’s some good stuff on Anarki & Kaos. Anaconda’s “Clever London Houses” stands out for its great hook, and I’m also particularly fond of the opener “Hey Sir” by Pink Dirt with it’s spoken introduction, 50s style rock guitars, and vocal sounds straight out of Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is definitely second generation punk rock – these bands learned from the first wave of punk, and hardcore hadn’t started to influence this material. It’s raw, but a bit more polished in that these folks know how to play. Plus their influences are on display – this isn’t anti-rock, in that you can hear some surf (Sjølmord’s “Holocaust”), rockabilly, and even classic rock ‘n’ roll in the sound, though unlike some of their counterparts in the UK, I don’t hear much in the way of reggae or ska.
I did run into a few troubling problems with this record. The vinyl looks pristine – not a scratch or scuff to be seen, and I ran it through the record cleaner when I got home. But. That didn’t prevent a skip on the last track of side A… though a quick stylus cleaning and running a brush over the record seemed to have resolved that problem, as I played the side through two more times with no problems. But on the B side… there are two spots that generate skips, but interestingly enough both are in the gaps between tracks. I’m wondering if there isn’t some kind of locked groove problem in those two spots, since re-cleaning the stylus and brushing off the vinyl didn’t seem to resolve the problems. Kind of a bummer, especially on a more expensive record. I guess that’s one of the risks of vinyl in general, but like most record guys I’m anal and it bugs the hell out of me.
Anarki & Kaos also came out on CD, and was re-released on CD (but not vinyl) in 2007 with a couple of bonus tracks, so it might be worth trying to track down, as it’ll be way cheaper than the record. In fact, it’s even available on iTunes for just $9.99… so you have no excuse to not give a listen to some of these songs. There’s a Volume 2 as well which is CD/mp3 only… I might need to check that out myself.
[Tangent Alert!] Sometimes I wonder if this whole vinyl infatuation makes any sense at all. I could have just as easily (in fact, more easily…) bought both volumes of Anarki & Kaos as digital downloads, and had enough money left over to buy like eight more albums online. Maybe I’m part of that last generation that feels tied to the physical media… but I have a hard time buying downloads. It’s kind of ridiculous, and I know this. Sure, the quality of an mp3 or mp4 isn’t has high as that of a clean record or a CD, but let’s be real – it’s plenty good enough the vast majority of the time. There’s just something about having the physical object that I can’t seem to get past. I guess I feel like music should have a form, something tangible, and that is certainly tied to how we consumed music up until the new century. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy my vinyl, and I’m glad it’s in resurgence; but sometimes I wonder what’s more important to me, the music, or the sense of “owning” the music by having something I can hold and look at. I’m not 100% sure. But if you’ll forgive me, the record is over and I need to go tend to my turntable.