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New Music Discovery: Basement 5

July 6, 2013

This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

Basement5frontWhat’s Making Me Happy This Week is a new music discovery that is nearly 30 older than my last “new” discovery, Kate Nash’s debut album “Made of Bricks.” As you may have noticed from my prior post, two weeks ago I made my first visit in many months to one of my favorite record stores, the wonderful Hold Fast in Asbury Park, NJ. One of my favorite things about the summer is having the opportunity to head out to the Jersey Shore and spend some time in Hold Fast, perusing their punk collection and chatting with Joe, the friendly store owner. In my review of the store, I wrote about the eclectic finds, especially in the punk and post-punk genres – one of those finds is an album that I picked up on my last visit, Basement 5’s 1965-1980.

Basement5backBefore coming across the album, I’d never heard of Basement 5. The album cover intrigued me, as did one key phrase on the back cover: produced by Martin Hannett. Only recently have I developed an appreciation for the amount of influence that a producer has on the sound of a record, and Hannett in particular has been cited as an innovative and influential producer. Hannett makes his presence on an album apparent, as he did during his time developing the sound of Joy Division.

What scared me just a bit was something else on the back cover – the photo of the band. Reggae is one of the few genres that I don’t even consider listening to (all due respect to Bob Marley of course) so a group of Rastafarians didn’t exactly seem my musical bag. Luckily, Hold Fast recently installed a listening station – after 30 seconds of 2 tracks, I knew I had something special. Basement 5 wasn’t a reggae band. They were a London-based reggae-influenced punk band. Or maybe, they were the reggae-influenced punk band (and far more punk than reggae). One of their first gigs was opening for PiL, and their lead singer (and creative force behind the band) was Dennis Morris, legendary photographer of Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols. Of course he was.

It’s fun to randomly pick up an album and instantly want to play it over and over again. Reggae-fusion-punk. Too cool.

And that’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.

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6 Comments
  1. Have not previously heard of Basement 5, but a fusion of punk and reggae sounds like fun.

    • Apparently this is the album to get too … it’s called 1965-1980 but it’s not a compilation and it was released in the late ’70s. Just a misleading title. Let me know what you think!

      • G-Rox permalink

        It’s true, it’s a shamefully overlooked but essential album. Even when it was released it hardly received any attention, reason why it became hard to find for a long time. Of course it was released in a time when we were overwhelmed by new brilliant and to become classic releases with a frequency that exceeded our (financial and attention-wise) possibilities (being 15 years old at the time). Furthermore the reggea, dub and beats fusion was absolutely not hip in those days, the album was considered extremely experimental at the time – looking back now you could say the band was extremely ahead of their time!
        In spite of that I picked up the song ‘Last White Christmas’ from the scarce radio airplay it got in those days (it may have been released as a single) and it stayed on my mind and in my ears for 30 years on until I found out this album was rightfully picked up for rerelease and I finally could get my hands on it. It has been reviewed on various websites, where you can also find more information on the members that played in the band and how it came together. So when the Basement 5 may not have been financially rewarded for their efforts, they now at least receive the recognition for their brilliant and visionary work.

      • Wow, thanks for the great feedback! It must have been a great time to be 15!! I can only imagine spending my time and little disposable income finding gems like this plus the amazing music generally coming out in the late ’70s. Could be worse though … I could be 15 now when it’s impossible to discover anything the way we did back in the 70s/80s/90s. (I sound like the old man saying “back in my day…”)

  2. G-Rox permalink

    Congratulatiions on your website. I accidently discovered it while searching for concert reviews of the Thermals. I’m a big Thermals-fan nowadays. Never heard of the ‘Screaming Females’ before but based on your review I’ll surely check them out.
    There’s certainly good music in every era, but it’s just not always brought to our attention so easily. You’re doing a great job! Thanx.

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