The Vibrators

The BBC Punk Sessions

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The Vibrators couldn't have been more removed from punk's eternally youthful and musically inept ideology. Guitarist Ian Carnochan's (aka Knox) songs nodded more to Chuck Berry than to Johnny Rotten. The bandmembers were already passing their mid-twenties when they entered the punk scene, making them seem hopelessly unfashionable. However, the "Vibes" -- as fans and writers lovingly nicknamed them -- sidestepped those issues with a gleeful irreverence that did much to win over the new scene's fans. John Peel's show provided one of their best outlets, since he was the first major DJ to play punk on his show, from which these broadcasts are taken. Not surprisingly, the October 28, 1978, session is as barebones as they come; "We Vibrate," "Jenny Jenny," and "Sweet Sweet Heart" chug by in suitable Berry-ish fashion, but there's also no denying the sly humor of "Whips and Furs" or "I Wanna Be Your Nazi Baby." Steady gigging on the Pure Mania debut album's heels did much to make the Vibrators into a more cohesive, confident unit. The improvements are obvious on the June 22, 1977, session, whose take of the band's best-known song, "Baby Baby," crackles with spunky self-assurance. The material gets increasingly poppier as time passes, which doesn't dampen the boisterous noise aired on March 6, 1978, as exemplified by the cunning puns thrown throughout "Automatic Lover" -- although "Troops of Tomorrow" displays a moodier side than most listeners associate with the band. By the time of May 4, 1978's "In Concert" broadcast, the Vibrators felt emboldened to add Don Snow on sax and synths, which brightened the sound without watering down the energy. Never the trendiest of contenders, the band knew how to play up its strengths while playing to the gallery; this disc is a worthy snapshot of that progress.

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