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Blitz “Voice of a Generation” (1982)

When I was a kid, a friend of mine gave me a cassette that his (older) cousin in the UK had mailed him. On it was some music that his cousin and his friends were into at the time. I’d never heard anything like it. Compared to what I was listening to at the time, it was pretty heavy. It was definitely not something that I had ever heard on the radio or in the shops in Canada. It was obviously punk, but I had no idea who it was or where the music came from. All I had was a 90 minute cassette with some killer tracks on it.

I was into the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I had heard of the Sex Pistols and although I liked some of their music, I really didn’t like what I was being told they stood for. I was being told that punk in general was the antithesis of the music from the sixties; not just by the adults around me, but also by my peers who delighted in mocking the fact that I was still a believer in the message that “love is all you need”. Consequently, I wasn’t interested in punk at all, despite the fact that the rhythms and the melodies were right up my alley.

So I was really surprised to discover that I really, really liked this cassette full of who-knows-what punk songs by who-knows-what punk bands. It took me LONG time to finally find out who these bands were, lots of crappy karaoke to clerks in record stores, but eventually I was able to discover that I had two full albums by two different bands, with a few random tracks by other bands thrown on at the end of each side to fill up the tape.

In the end, I did end up tracking down physical copies of every song on that cassette (I was buying CDs at the time), and when, twenty years later, I started switching my collection from CDs back to vinyl, those two albums were among the ones that I put on my wish-list to track down.

Maybe someday I’ll discuss the LP that made up side 2 of that cassette tape, but today I want to talk about one of my favourite punk albums of all time, “Voice of a Generation” by Blitz, which took up 36 gloriously noisy minutes of side 1.

One of the reasons I loved this album so much in the first place is the tribal drumming of the exceptional Charlie Howe. and the tight, tight bass of Neil “Mackie” McLennan. These guys drive the songs like wild horses stampeding through a canyon. Carl Fisher growls his way through the songs with a voice that is part singing, part screaming, and part rioter. Nidge Miller‘s guitar pulls it all together, though the distortion on his guitar is very run-of-the mill and undermines his tight his playing, making it feel like the least important ingredient of the band.

Sometimes it sounds like proto-hardcore, and sometimes it sounds like a pub band gone a bit rougher around the edges, but it has incredible energy! It’s the rhythm though! That bass and those drums… wow. I still love it, despite how rough around the edges it sounds!

To say that this album screams “angry boys full of testosterone screaming at the top of their lungs” is an understatement. Hailing from New Mills, Derbyshire, England, Blitz was only together in their original incarnation from 1980 to 1982, producing a small handful of 7” records, and one LP before switching gears completely. Their second album (1983) sounds nothing like the first (after a quick line-up change, their second album employed keyboards and electric drums to create a Frankenstein-like piece of post punk… lots of which I like… but it might as well be by a completely different band), and the third album (1990) is yet another departure in style and personnel (sounding more standard punk and not particularly special). Putting it mildly, I’ve listened to all of it so that you don’t have to. I’m not saying all their other material is bad (I actually quite like a lot of it… though not that awful 3rd album) but it’s just not essential or spectacular, and it probably should have been released under some other band name rather than Blitz, to be honest.

To their frustration, they were labelled as an “oi” band by the music press because two of the band’s members happened to be skinheads. The misnomer was compounded by the inclusion of two tracks on the “Carry on Oi” compilation that was released in 1981. Their first album, though, is an absolute punk classic and a close examination of any of the band’s lyrics will show that they had nothing to do with the right wing fascists who made up the bulk of the “oi” skinhead movement at the time.

Originally released on indie label No Future, “Voice of a Generation” rocks with anger, swagger, ideals, exuberance, and more than a little veiled optimism. It has some typical angry, alienated-punker lyrics (I Don’t Need You) and some shock value for the hell of it lyrics (T.O? And 4Q) but also features thoughtful lyrics that rage against the injustices of Thatcher-era Britain.

The band sounds far more professional than expected from a so-called “indie punk” band. Musically and lyrically it speaks to the unrestrained energy of youth. There is a reason that everything they released prior to 1983 ended up in the top 5 of the UK Independent Music chart. Despite often sounding abrasive and angry, it was a cut above the rest in terms of style and caliber of musicianship. Blitz followed in the footsteps of the much more polished and flashier Adam and the Ants, albeit far rougher and noisier, with their own punk style of Burundi rhythm. Hell, they even included their own take on Adam Ant‘s famous whooping and yodelling in their fantastic single Warriors (which ended up charting at #2 in 1982). If their recordings suffer from anything, it isn’t the music itself, but rather the less than sparkling production and flat, uninspired mastering (especially on their early “All Out Attack” EP).

It’s hard to believe that the album turns FOURTY this year (!!) because it still makes me wanna scream along with the lead singer, and it still makes me feel like the world can be made better if we scream loud enough.

All of the tracks on this album are worth a listen, but I have included only those I deemed essential in the playlist below. Rather than devote twenty pages to it, I’m going to let you be the judge. I also included two non-album tracks that are essential in any Blitz retrospective (Youth and New Age).

Is it loud? Definitely. Is it angry? Sometimes. Is it fun? Hell yeah.

A1 – We Are the Boys Just a bunch of skint lads down the pub

A2 – Time Bomb  When you have nothing but empty promises, anger eventually explodes. Time is not on the side of the politicians who break their promises again and again.

A3 – Voice of a Generation  Pretty succinct chorus: “I don’t wanna be poor no more”.

A4 – Bleed  Some people are psychologically screwed up and don’t show it until they explode.

Inside, you’ve rotted away / And you won’t know until that day

When we have drained you, it will be too late / To save your skin and alter your fate

A5 – I Don’t Need You  A one night stand wants another go, but he’s not interested.

A6 – T.O?  What’ch think your doin’, touchin’ me there?

A7 – Propaganda  Governments warn people about communists and spies from abroad, but ignore the bigots, racists, and fascists right here at home. I love this song. Propaganda: you scare me to death.

A8 – Criminal Damage Fuck the system. Once it’s broken, maybe we can fix it.

A9 – Vicious  Yes, it is an awesome cover of the Lou Reed song, done better than the original, IMHO, and I actually love the original.

B1 – Warriors This is likely my favourite track on the album. The single version reached no 2 on the charts, but I prefer the album version.

B2 – Nation On Fire  I’m not entirely sure, but my guess would be this is basses on the Brixton uprising of 1981.

B3 – Your Revolution  You think you’re a punk because you wear the right clothes? Queuing up to pay your poll tax while singing Anarchy in the UK? Actually stand for something or fuck off.

B4 – Scream  Everyone is screaming about something. We’re all screaming so loud that nobody can actually hear what’s wrong.

You crack me up with your noise / You and your little bully boys
Screaming back’s the only thing to do / Look, you got me at it too

B5 – 4.Q.  Dedicated to small minded friends who think you should just settle down, and don’t rock the boat. It ain’t subtle.

B6 – Escape  Maybe this is my favourite track on the album? Growing up, I always thought the word claws was actually closet….

Sometimes I need to be me / Sometimes I need to be free
I got to escape from the claws / I got to escape from the laws

B7 – Moscow  Painting a picture of life in Moscow if all the propaganda is to be believed.

B8 – Closedown  I love the texture and the feeling of this track. It’s got a great bass into, a surf-inspired guitar riff, and a spoken-word bridge that sounds like it might have been sampled from an old film. Sadly, I can’t make out a single word of that spoken-word bridge, haha!

What do you think? Had you heard of Blitz before? Are you a fan? I’d love to hear from you!

Have I missed anything? Are there any songs I should have included in our playlist? Drop me a line in the comment section below! Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss our next monthly (ish) post (We’ll never bother you more than once a month). PLUS! subscribers get a discount on any purchase made from us.

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