Richard Hell started out playing bass with his high school friend Tom Verlaine in the band Television, but got the boot before the band ever recorded anything. If you want to read a bit of history about this, I suggest you read my review for Television's Marquee Moon. I also recommend reading these liner notes from a Rhino compilation on the '75-'80 New York scene and A History Of Punk. Both articles give due credit to Television/The Voidoids and Richard Hell in general in respects to punk's originations and music history. Before I go any further I will also mention that Hell played bass with ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders in Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers, though I'm not sure if he stuck around long enough to record many, if any, songs for their album. If you want to know a bit about what kind of person Richard Hell is, read this passage from the aforementioned Rhino compilation liner notes: "Further downtown there was a Bowery dive named for its "Country Blue Grass and Blues." Two guys named [Tom] Miller and [Richard] Meyers built a stage there with their own hands. Years earlier they had been arrested in Alabama for setting a field on fire, after disappearing for several days from boarding school. One said he just wanted to keep warm (he later changed his name to that of a French symbolist poet: [Tom] Verlaine). The other said he wanted to watch it burn (he later changed his name to [Richard] Hell)." The Voidoids came out of the New York scene, and were more roots rock than most of their contemporaries. While being rootsy, their music also had an abrasive edge and funky interior. Lead guitarist Bob Quine was the perfect sonic compliment to Hell's unmistakable vocal style. The mood purveyed in each song musically was the perfect compliment to Hell's amateur rock-poetry. Blank Generation is the debut album from Richard Hell & The Voidoids, and I personally think it is bit better than Television's Marquee Moon. The Voidoids, though generally less technical, were able to unleash more raw energy and edge than Television.
"Love Comes In Spurts" opens up the album; it is a love song from a time when that didn't mean a shallow, faked display of emotion. There isn't much I can say for this song that it can't say for itself with lyrics such as
"baby love comes in spurts
in dangerous flirts
and it murders your heart
they didn't tell you that part
love comes in spurts (oh no it hurts)"
Hell also wrote a completely different song with the same name back when he was in The Neon Boys (which became Television, which he left).
The intro to "Liars Beware" seems to serve as a symbol of rising aggression right before the music kicks in. The lyrics certainly hold a certain amount of angst towards "pompous jerks" and "ridiculous creeps". The following verse/chorus openly flaunts such angst:
"Look out liars and you highlife scum
who gotta keep your victims poor and dumb--
Your motives and your methods are not disguised
by your silk, soap, sex, or your smiling lies.
Look out here, you pompous jerk
Look out here, I go berserk
Well I guess you put me in my place
but I won't forget your stupid face
"New Pleasure" is very sweet to the ears. Lines such as "Your mind's a wreck but that's fine. It corresponds to mine. We're in a room the door closes Automatic aut- (hypnosis) -matic automatic auto-." and " Too weak for life you have become. You can't get dressed you're too numb. But we assume sublime poses. Deep in true to life (hypnosis) true to life in true to life in" are song in Richard's untrained, eccentric vocal style, a style that is particularly appealing in this song.
I can't imagine anyone not being able to decipher what "Betrayal Takes Two" is about by simply reading it. I'd have to say the best part about this song is the guitar work in the middle. It isn't a bad song; I just find it somewhat boring at the moment.
"Down At The Rock 'n' Roll Club" is about the finer things in life, such as ripping your shirt (something Hell "invented", which became a staple in the contradiction that is "punk rock fashion") and going to the rock 'n' roll club. "Partner don't you pull no gun, down at the rock 'n' roll club. We just gonna have some fun, down at the rock 'n' roll club." A classic Voidoids song; definitely high on the list of their best stuff.
"Who Says It's Good To Be Alive?" dishes out a healthy helping of nihilism. It really is a good question, anyone have an answer?
"Blank Generation" is the tune The Voidoids are known for. It is their anthem, and it really is their best song. Then New York Dolls manager, future manager of the Sex Pistols, and all-round worthless bag of shit Malcolm McLaren ripped off this song as the basis of the Pistols' "Pretty Vacant". However, the song does not mean "Vacant Generation", it means " Generation>". Since this is such a classic, I am going to give you guys the complete lyrics. Aren't you lucky? " I was sayin let me out of here before I was
even born--it's such a gamble when you get a face
It's fascinatin to observe what the mirror does
but when I dine it's for the wall that I set a place
I belong to the blank generation and
I can take it or leave it each time
I belong to the ______ generation but
I can take it or leave it each time
Triangles were fallin at the window as the doctor cursed
He was a cartoon long forsaken by the public eye
The nurse adjusted her garters as I breathed my first
The doctor grabbed my throat and yelled, "God's consolation prize!"
To hold the t.v. to my lips, the air so packed with cash
then carry it up flights of stairs and drop it in the vacant lot
To lose my train of thought and fall into your arms' tracks
and watch beneath the eyelids every passing dot
"Walk On The Water" is a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover. It is a great cover, too. I guess that is about all I have to say on the matter.
"The Plan", musically, is one of my favorite Voidoids songs. Great guitar playing by Bob Quine.
Out comes the funk in "Another World". " I could live with you in another world." A song of futile love and alienation.
"I'm Your Man" was originally a B-side track that was later added to the Blank Generation reissue. Good thing too, because this song is fucking great. In case you haven't figured out, it is a love song. Duh.
Blank Generation ends with a Sinatra cover, "All The Way". A Sinatra cover, not much else I can tack on to that, eh?
Go buy this album. Seriouslyâ¦ if you don't own it, you are missing out big time.
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