CULTURE

Punk era’s smoldering flames

This weekend brings to Athens two heavyweight figures of rock music’s punk era for back-to-back shows at the same club on Saturday and Sunday. Martin Rev, formerly of the arty-punk New York act Suicide, an act that was initially overlooked but eventually exerted influence on the entire scene, especially in the UK, takes the stage on Saturday at the capital’s Underworld Club (Themistocleous & 5 Gamveta, tel 210.384.0965). Hugh Cornwell, the frontman of the Stranglers during the band’s golden era, performs the following night. Rev emerged in the early to mid-70s as the keyboardist of Suicide, a duo fronted by vocalist Alan Vega that was active on New York City’s performing arts scene. Though they fell short of being credited for their trailblazing ways early on, Suicide was later recognized as a major influence on the synth-pop bands that saturated the pop market in the late 70s and early 80s; Soft Cell, Erasure, and Bronski Beat being more glaring examples. However, unlike those ensuing acts, Suicide’s synthesizer-dominated material was loaded with punk attitude. This band’s work came as proof that punk was more about attitude than raw, guitar-charged material. Though the guitars were missing, Suicide’s sound was dissonant and spooky, and the duo’s performances tended to be confrontational with frontman Vega often working up a frenzied mood that occasionally turned against him in a violent way. Charged up by the bedlam on stage, rowdy crowds were known to assault the stage with Vega on the receiving end. There was fire between the musical duo, too. Vega and Rev broke up and reconciled several times during their heyday. The 90s proved to be a decade of vindication for the act as a result of the rise of industrial dance music. Following a lengthy break, the duo returned in 2002 with «American Supreme,» the act’s first studio album in a decade. Throughout this lengthy overall course, both Rev and Vega have put out a considerable number of solo projects. There has been no shortage of controversy in Cornwell’s engaging musical life either, the bulk, if not all of it, surfacing during his earlier days as the frontman of the Stranglers, a hugely successful band whose work and stance represented punk rock’s quirkier, even humorous, side. Cornwell was one of the key instigators of the band’s cheeky tone, as well as a key songwriting component, before he eventually departed in the early 90s to pursue a solo musical path. Contrary to his expectations, the rest of the band carried on, less successfully, with a new recruit on vocals. Though much of the classic-era Stranglers material was enchanting enough to make a major impact on pop charts in various parts of the world, the band’s work did carry a sense of ugly alienation, one of the punk movement’s fundamental aspects. Later on, the roughness was ironed out, but this was around the time Cornwell called it quits with the band. The frontman, who released his debut solo album «Nosferatu» in 1979 while the band’s impetus was strong, has since put out several more. Cornwell has performed in Athens as a solo artist once before, in the mid-90s, about a decade after his first show here, with the Stranglers at a major rock festival in 1985.