For about the first four years of Life in the Vinyl Lane I pretty much wrote about every single record and cassette I acquired. Unless I thought it totally sucked, I wrote about it. Over the last year or so that compulsion has relaxed a little, though if I’m being completely honest I sometimes feel guilty when I can’t find the inspiration to write about a release. Because I’m a little crazy that way.
Zounds’ The Curse of Zounds was one of those records I picked up and for whatever reason figured probably wouldn’t make the cut. (♠) And then I played it for the first time. And went to the computer to find out more about Zounds. And immediately ordered a copy of Zounds founding member Steve Lake’s 2013 book about the band, Zounds Demystified. That’s how hard this record hit me on the first listen.
Zounds lyrics contain a lot of politics. They also include satire, absurdism, surrealism, gut feeling, comedy, emotion, contradiction (♣), confession, love, hate, celebration, comment, disgust, and a million other things. Zounds is not a political rock band, it’s a cry for help.
— Steve Lake, Zounds Demystified (p. 6)
Sounds was part of Europe’s anarcho-punk scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their sound on The Curse of Zounds varies a bit, incorporating elements of first generation punk, post-punk, English folk, and prog. The idea of prog existing alongside punk seems like a massive contradiction, but songs like “Little Bit More” have a prog-like structure sung with punk attitude. Pieces of The Clash and Dead Kennedys somehow peacefully co-exist alongside Can. It’s weird, and it works brilliantly. There are familiar elements interwoven throughout The Curse of Zounds, with Zounds in many cases pre-dating the bands that later took these musical elements and became famous for them (I’m thinking specifically here of the very The Cult-like “This Land”).
As near as I can tell The Curse of Zounds was never released on CD, which is a shame in that it would be approachable to more people. But that’s one of the reasons I have a record play, because so much of this stuff never made it onto a silver disc. If you find a copy, buy it. You can thank me later.
(♠) Holly and I sometimes use the term “blog fodder” to describe oddball stuff I buy… stuff I might not have bought otherwise but figured it might be interesting enough to write about.
(♣) One of these contradictions is the album cover itself. On the front you have a group of firemen putting out some kind of fire. But if you flip it over and look at the continuation of the photo on the reverse you’ll see that their hoses are hooked up to a petrol truck. They’re spraying gasoline on the fire.