Is The War Over? Cardiff DIY At Its Finest

People rarely talk of the Welsh music scene, but a lot of notable acts have come out of Wales, and not just Tom Jones. The Alarm, Hybrid, Attack! Attack!, and Manic Street Preachers are just a few of the amazing bands to emerge from Wales over the years.

Bullet for My Valentine is also from Wales, but try not to hold that against the whole country. I’m sure if they would have known then they would have done something to stop them.

Back in the 70s, when punk and new wave was exploding all over the UK, there was a pretty tight-knit group of punk/new wave bands in Wales trying to be the next Joy Division or Sex Pistols. It must not have been a huge scene, but enough of them had the foresight and business sense to start a label, Z Block Records, and work on getting the music from the scene released. Sadly, Z Block didn’t take off. Aside from a few singles, their only release was this LP. But what they lacked in staying power and quantity they more than made up for with in quality.

This is a great compilation of music that remains totally unique and worthwhile. It works both as a perfect time capsule to an era and scene and as a quality record that can be enjoyed in its own right. It’s also a crazy collectible due to the fact that it was the first release to feature Young Marble Giants, who went on to find some success in the years after they broke up. I bought my copy for six bucks. Score.

But I’m here to pass my savings onto you! Well, maybe not my actual savings, but the digital recordings that my savings brought. Enjoy the album, there’s some really unique stuff here.

Addiction
Violence
Stampede
Seek & Search
For a band who were only on one full-length LP and never managed to put out a single, I sure was able to find out a lot about these guys. They were just kids when they recorded these three songs, with the eldest member of the group only 17-years-old. Despite their young age and obvious talent, they couldn’t stick it out for very long, suffering various line-up changes before eventually breaking up in the early 80s. You can read a bit more about the band at this website dedicated to UK punk bands from the 1970s. Try not to hurt your eyes on the green font.

As for their music, it’s pretty good, definitely better than their young years would suggest. They oddly remind me of early 999, and not just because all their songs are about offing fools. The short, fast and loud “Seek & Search” is my favorite, and not just because I secretly imagine it as a musical prequel to The Stooges’ “Search & Destroy.”

Mad Dog
Killer
Someone Here Must Like Me
If you do a search for “Mad Dog” on Last.fm, you get two results:

1. NC Powerviolence trio based from Raleigh, NC

2. Some band from the 1970s?

Sadly, I’m going to have to echo Last.fm’s confusion. I have no idea who these guys are,  but they sound vaguely like a Welsh Ramones. “Killer” shows their obvious surf-rock influences, while “Someone Here Must Like Me” is classic NYC-style punk rock, complete with a yelling “1-2-3-4!” intro. Not great by any means, but still worth a listen.

Test to Destruction
Passive
Both Addition and Mad Dog were punk with some other rock leanings, this…is something else. It’s like…someone took oscilloscope and beat it with a Silver Apples record. This is abstract noise with abstract lyrics put over it. Not my thing, but to each their own I guess. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find anything on these guys. Anyone know anything?

Riotous Brothers
Airey Neave
No Justice
Hard to get a bead on what these guys were all about. “Airey Neave” is very new wave, but “No Justice” is pure pub rock that sounds like it’s straight out of a good Dave Edmunds LP. Another band that I can’t find a single thing about online.

Reptile Ranch
Waterhole
Finally, a band with a modicum of an online presence. Reptile Ranch was Z Block’s main act, mostly because one of the guys who founded Z Block was also in the band. Out of many of the bands here, they also showed the most promise. “Waterhole” is a great track, very minimal-meets Talking Heads in a strange way. Unfortunately, they only put out a couple of 7″ singles before Z Block Records folded and they called it quits. Their guitarist, who goes by the name Spike, went on to form a group called Weekend with Alison Statton from Young Marble Giants. They had a good run on Rough Trade for a few years and released several records. You can read a (very) brief history of Z Block from Spike here.

The New Form
On the Edge
Boy
Blockhead
Another group that will remain a mystery to me it seems.  “On the Edge” and “Boy” are good enough low-fi new wave, but of their three contributions to this record, the wacky and fast-paced “Blockhead” is by far the best. It’s stupid as hell, but I’ll be damned if it hasn’t been stuck in my head most of the day. Great fun.

Beaver
Mac The Knife
Kleptomania
This shouldn’t be a surprise, but there have been about a dozen bands called “Beaver” over the years. Classy. “Mac the Knife” is not related at all to “Mack The Knife” and is actually about stabbing dudes with knives. It’s a good track, but “Kleptomania” is bland pub rock that’s pretty forgettable.

Young Marble Giants
Ode To Booker T
Searching For Mr. Right
I’m not putting these songs up because you can get them legally on the most recent re-issue of YMG’s only full-length LP, Colossal Youth. I still do want to talk about this band for a bit, however.

Apparently, it was this record that got them a record deal with Rough Trade, which lead to the recording of Colossal Youth. That means someone at Rough Trade listened to Is The War Over? all the way through, and decided that the band on it that was the most marketable and with the highest chance of “making it” was the trio with songs that featured a drum machine and organ. Of course, that person was right, even if it did take over a decade for the band to find a real audience. Sometimes overnight success takes a few years to really kick in.

8 Responses to “Is The War Over? Cardiff DIY At Its Finest”

  1. Tim Keegan says:

    Tim from the New Form here. Thanks for your comments. Glad that you enjoyed Blockhead we used to love playing it. Formed a band for my 50th and played it.

  2. gareth says:

    Tim – great to find this album mp3 posted – really takes me back to the 70s in Cardiff.

    Do you know if a CD was ever published? Would love to get this on my digital music collection..

  3. I rarely drop comments, however I read a bunch of comments on Is
    The War Over? Cardiff DIY At Its Finest Lost Turntable.
    I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s okay. Is it just me or do some of these remarks appear as if they are coming from brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are posting on other online sites, I would like to follow you. Could you make a list of the complete urls of all your social networking sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  4. Lost Turntable says:

    A link to my Twitter feed is on the sidebar. I don’t use the rest of those things you mentioned.

  5. taff punk says:

    I saw just about all these bands at various venues in the late 70’s. I used to follow Mad Dog around a fair bit, as my brother was in them, they were from the Rhondda Valley, and were a crossover metal/punk band. Originally called Screaming Abduls, then Equus [? right spelling ] Ramones were a big influence, also Ted Nugent, Quo, a real mixed bunch. Unlike other bands around the time, they didn’t see the need to cut their hair off to prove their love of the New Wave. They certainly had some grief from local punks about their flowing locks, but they didn’t care. Other self penned ditties, apart from the 2 on the compilation were ‘frying tonite’ which was an anti racist song, and ‘free spirit’, their set was half covers/half originals, covers included ‘this perfect day’, ‘pretty vacant’,’rockaway beach’
    and ‘neat neat neat’. They played all around South Wales, supported Adam and Ants pre pop star days in Newport, played with Victims–later Victimize.
    They got more into the Hard Rock/Metal style in the early 80’s and used to play a lot of Biker Festivals. They released a single ‘sherrif’ and a self titled album in the mid 80’s. These are both very collectable within the NWOBHM scene. The band reformed a few years ago as The Dog, with a different singer. Hope that helps !!!!

  6. Tim C says:

    Thanks so much for putting these songs online. I was chatting to a mate (Julian Norman-Taylor) last week who dropped into the conversation that as a teen in the 70s he’d released some songs… He gave me the name of his band (the new form) and google brought me here- really enjoyed listening to all the songs on the album. Cheers! Tim

  7. blob says:

    Addiction are playing the central hotel Pontypridd on 14 March 2015. It’s been a long time since the last gig. Good luck, we’re still awesome.

  8. In a bid to raise enough money to maintain their vital services for young people in the heart of the Cardiff city centre, Grassroots Cardiff will be hosting a one of a kind night with an array of fantastic musicians, all of whom have strong connections with the acclaimed city centre youth project.

    Young Marble Giants, formed in 1978, are a post-punk Cardiff trio whose music was constructed around the instrumentation of brothers Philip and Stuart Moxham, and the distinctive vocals of Alison Statton. Their first vinyl release was on the compilation LP “Is The War Over?” on Cardiff DIY label Z Block Records in October 1979, recorded on location at Grassroots Coffee Bar, which makes Young Marble Giants the first of a great number of world-famous artists taking their first musical steps in Grassroots.

    Thirty-five years after its release, Young Marble Giants’ legendary ‘Colossal Youth’ remains a landmark in post-punk music. The band split in 1980 and reunited in 2007. They have been since playing some very rare shows around Europe, which makes this show one not to miss.

    They are supported by Headfall, a delicately melodic and quietly captivating post-punk act from Bristol. Grassroots was where Headfall had their very first rehearsals, as well as where they held their acclaimed bi-monthly Cafe Kino live events, before going on to establish Bristol’s award-winning vegan cafe/venue of the same name.

    Further support comes from fellow Young Marble Giants bassist Phil Moxham and drummer Drew Moxham’s post-punk rockabilly trio The Irascibles, and a special guest one-off DJ set by Guto Pryce of Super Furry Animals & Gulp.

    This event is the latest in a series of live music events and fundraisers all over Cardiff. All proceeds from the ticket sales go to Grassroots Cardiff. Tickets available here: http://bit.ly/1M7IZxt. Join and share the Facebook event here: http://on.fb.me/1SKYSc1

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