Moving Away From The Pulsebeat: Post-Punk Britain 1977-1981 – Various Artists (Cherry Red)

Moving Away From The Pulsebeat features 105 tracks from nearly as many artists culled from one of the most fertile eras in music history, compiled by a label that was there when it happened.

“Post-punk” has become a term so universally used these days that it almost has become meaningless. But back in 1977, with The Sex Pistols ready to self-implode, with Patti Smith on top 40 radio and with The Clash heading out into parts unknown, “punk” as a genre had quickly made its mark and then left countless wannabe rockers forming bands in its wake.

This was not just a regional phenomena . New York City…the home of The Ramones, Dictators and Television begat the No Wave (with a little help from Brian Eno) while over on the West Coast, hardcore punk bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Dead Kennedys were raising a ruckus. Even down in New Zealand the AK79 scene was flourishing thanks to Chris Knox eventually spawning the Dunedin-based Flying Nun thing.

But arguably, nowhere was more exciting than in the UK where everyone was forming a band and releasing a single after seeing and hearing the Pistols, The Damned and The Clash.

Cherry Red Records formed in 1978 and immediately became a major player in the independent record sweepstakes along with Stiff, Chiswick and Raw. Soon they were signing bands like The Monochrome Set, Felt and The Tights, while picking up overseas artists like Dead Kennedys, The Runaways and Destroy All Monsters.

46 year later and they are still going strong, still run by their founder, Iain McNay.

Which brings us to this 5-CD box set.


Moving Away From The Pulsebeat…the name snagged from The Buzzocks’ debut album, Another Music In A Different Kitchen… as veteran music journalist Mark Paytress reminds us in his brief essay that features in the 40-page booklet that accompanies the 5 discs. The remainder of the booklet is a goldmine for trainspotters and collectors, giving “essential” information on records that were barely released by artists who could barely play.

There are plenty of “big” names sprinkled through the set…tracks by The Jam, Sisters Of Mercy, The Psychedelic Furs, Killing Joke and The Cure (to name a few). But the real fun is discovering bands like Swell Maps, Spizzoil, Glaxo Babies and Scars, many of whom came and went in one brief, loud blast.

One thing that becomes apparent while listening to these bands is the musical diversity found among them. There is a lot more than just three chords and some snarling singing. Elements of Dub, Reggae, Jazz, Glam, Krautrock, Metal, even Classical are woven into the mix resulting in some of the most adventurous music ever made.

An example is Underneath The Gloss, a 6-minute plus track by Second Layer, originally released by Cherry Red back in 1981. I guarantee you’ve never heard anything like it.

And there are plenty of hidden treasures like that among formative tracks by the likes of Joy Division, The Birthday Party, The Undertones and Public Image Ltd, the act that arguably started it all when Johnny left the Pistols and teamed up with Jah Wobble and Keith Levene.

This box sets covers the years 1977-1981 and it does it well, but one could argue that we are still in the post-punk era today.

Marty Duda