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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Subway Sect - Ambition (1978)

An early recording by an all but forgotten British punk band.

By the time this single was released, the band had ceased to exist. They reformed later, around front man Vic Godard. The band itself was very British punk: short punchy songs, with an almost whiny untrained vocal running high above the rest of the band, singing a nihilistic tune. But this song adds a ever present synthesizer track that itself is very high in the register; like the high part of a roller skating rink or baseball stadium's organ. Also an odd "plinking" sound that is not in time with the song at all. So much so that I find it distracting. The book says that it is the sound of ping-pong balls that were recorded from an arcade game. I'm imagining something like Pong.

Ignoring the plinking, the song sounds very pop. It's short, it's fast, the drums keep it moving, the synth and guitar are almost always fast and in a major key; when they do go minor, it's only for a measure or two, then right back to the major key. The bass part is fast, and keeps up with the keyboard and guitar which isn't always common in rock, but is common in American soul music, which is what many of the members of Subway Sect were fans of.

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