Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 12: The Saints, "(I'm) Stranded"

Artist: The Saints
Song: "(I'm) Stranded"
Album: "(I'm) Stranded" (single)
Year: 1976

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While it is almost impossible to argue that there was another band of the "modern" punk era before The Ramones, it is often in the months that followed their debut in which many people have simply been given a false history.  Though many may wish it to be different, the fact of the matter is, there was another massively important band that made their own debut after The Ramones, yet preceded releases from groups such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash.  Bringing a more musically complex approach to the attitude-driven style, one simply cannot deny the importance and influence that lives within the music of Australian punk legends, The Saints.  One can even make the argument that The Saints brought more attitude and the "buzzsaw" sound on guitars than any band before them, and the bands influence can easily be heard in nearly every group that followed them chronologically.  Though The Saints released a number of brilliant records over the decades, it is still their February, 1977 debut that stands as their finest work, highlighting their amazing energy and unique spin on the punk rock sound.  However, even before this album was released, the group had already set a standard for the style, and there are few songs that better represent the true punk ethos than one finds in The Saints 1976 single, "(I'm) Stranded."

The moment that "(I'm) Stranded" begins, it is clear that this is punk rock at its finest, as the high energy tempo and distorted guitar are nothing short of perfect.  The way in which guitarist Ed Kuepper screams across the track is absolutely stunning, and yet there is an almost strangely positive energy that can be felt i his playing.  While there is no question that this is an aggressive progression which he plays, this spirit and freedom that one can experience in itself represents the entire ethos of the early punk sound.  The rhythm section, anchored by drummer Ivor Hay, is equally fantastic, and his playing is far more forward in the mix than on most songs.  Working his entire kit with a furious pace, one can still detect a musicality in his playing, and it is very much in his performance that one can hear influences of other Aussie bands like The Easybeats.  Bassist Kym Bradshaw mirrors this idea, as he plays at an almost manic speed, injecting a superb groove into the song.  The speed and mood that the rhythm section keeps intact throughout the song makes the overall experience of "(I'm) Stranded" almost exhausting, as they never let up for even a moment, again embodying the punk spirit perfectly.  The way in which these three move as a single unit would form the blueprint for countless bands that followed, and their influence is especially clear within fellow Australian punk bands like The Fun Things and The Victims among others.

Providing what is nothing short of the ideal vocal compliment to the music over which he sings, Chris Bailey uses "(I'm) Stranded" to set another standard within the punk rock world.  Bringing a slightly nasal, attitude-packed sound, the fact that the single pre-dates so many other acts forces one to argue that the later artists took at least some of their sound from Bailey's performance.  Though it is not as much of a sneer as others would bring, there is a disconnected, almost disinterested sound in his voice that sets him apart from nearly all of those punk-style vocalists that came before him.  Much like the music, Bailey brings an exceptional level of energy to "(I'm) Stranded," and one can easily imagine how a song like this would have set off a live crowd.  Furthermore, in both the music and the vocals, there is a sense that The Saints were far more "real" than many of their contemporaries, and one is left to wonder if lines like, "...they cut out some heart and some brains..." might not, even in retrospect, be aimed at some of the others in the punk scene.  The way in which Bailey delivers the lyrics can easily be related to by anyone, and there is no sense of superiority which plagued so many early punk singles.  Without question, Bailey's vocals on "(I'm) Stranded" help to give the final lift that the song needs, and his performance is just as refreshing and fun today as it was more than thirty years ago.

Truth be told, when one looks for purity within the early years of the modern punk movement, there may not be another band that better represents this idea than one finds in The Saints.  Refusing to "sell out" or even remotely compromise their sound, it is rather well documented how the band somewhat avoided the "safety pin punk" that plagued much of England at that time.  This fact, combined with their authentic, unapologetic sound which they deployed, makes them without question one of the most important bands in the entire development of punk rock.  While other bands may have tried to make more of a "show" of their songs, and some attempted to find humor through the medium, it was bands like The Saints that proved that the basic, stripped down sound of punk rock was still the best way to deploy the true spirit of the style.  Though they were from Australia, there is no arguing that their influence was all over the early English punk scene, and due to the time of their first single being released, one cannot deny the fact that "(I'm) Stranded" clearly had a large influence on some of the more commercially known punk bands of this time period.  Whether it is The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Sham 69, or a countless other groups, it is quite easy to hear the sounds of The Saints in their music, and it is this fact, along with the unforgettable performance that "is" the song that makes both The Saints, and their 1976 single, "(I'm) Stranded," two of the most overlooked, yet massively influential pieces of the development of the punk rock sound.

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