Shock Nagasaki

Year of the Spy

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The debut album by New York retro-punks Shock Nagasaki (following a split EP with Portland's thematically similar Straitjacket) is a thoroughly enjoyable trip back to the streets of London circa 1978. Second wave punk bands like the Cockney Rejects, 999, Chelsea, and Sham 69 (all of whom, plus several others, are cleverly namechecked in the album's press kit) took the disparate sounds of the Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Damned and turned it into a more rigidly defined sound, look, and attitude. This tightening of the stylistic parameters -- not the more experimental and freewheeling early days of the scene -- is what has gone on to define punk musically, even if more modern-day bands pledge allegiance to Sid Vicious than Slaughter and the Dogs. This is not to downgrade the achievement of Shock Nagasaki, because Year of the Spy is every bit as enjoyable as the best second wave punk albums of the '70s. Singer Jamie Coville bears a distinct vocal resemblance to the mighty Joe Strummer, yet he manfully resists the temptation to slip into a lazy imitation of same, and the album's 12 brief songs flow together perfectly into a seamless mix of pop hooks and punk thrash, complete with the requisite anthemic shout-along choruses and glam-inspired guitar riffs. There's little new or different about Year of the Spy, but when a band can channel the sound and spirit of a bygone time and place without sounding like mere copycats, it's an impressive achievement.

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