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Ivan Julian

The Naked Flame

(2:59; US: 29 Mar 2011; UK: 29 Mar 2011)

Punk pioneer shreds a few new ones. Is CBGB's still closed?

You’d be forgiven for not recognizing Ivan Julian’s name. The prolific guitarist was a founding member of 1970s NYC punks the Voidoids, in which he played alongside leader Richard Hell and drummer Marc Bell, who in a few years would become Marky Ramone. He contributed his skills to The Clash’s Sandinista! and albums by Afrika Bambaataa, among others, when he wasn’t forming bands of his own like the Outsets and the Lovelies.


Fast forward thirty-odd years, and Julian is here with a new set of tracks, this time with himself at center stage. As you might expect, it all sounds pretty punk, although there’s considerable nuance mixed in with the gyrating guitars and raw vocals. After a couple of so-so false starts, the record kicks into gear with the sturm und drang of “The Naked Flame”, which sounds like a Hendrix tune caught in a time warp from the 1977 Bowery. The most basic of rock elements—wounded guitar, shriekmoaned vocals, sudden stops and starts—are transformed into something cathartic. Put simply, it rocks.


So does much of what follows. “Hardwired” offers a snaky riff and a hint of (gasp!) keyboards in a Stooges style raveup, while “Constricted” answers the question, “What would Lou Reed sound like if he’d jammed with the Dead Boys?” “Sticky” has a smoother sonic gloss—although “smooth” is a relative term here—and “You Is Dead” even approaches something close to the blues. Listeners partial to the unvarnished, DIY aesthetic of early punk should do themselves a favor and give a listen to this latest offering from one of its original progenitors.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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