Wayne Kramer Presents Beyond Cyberpunk
Too many times, a project like this comes out sporting some well-known person’s name that has very little to do with that person, just throwing that person’s name on the record to cash in on whatever cache the name may have in the hopes of making a few bucks. Thankfully, that’s not the case with Beyond Cyberpunk. Not only does the legendary Brother Wayne Kramer select all the tunes on here (from Musicblitz.com’s vast library of exclusive tracks – which, yes, means you can download pretty much all this stuff for free on their site rather than buying the disc. How’s that for punk?), he contributes a track of his own, writes extensive and entertaining liner and production notes, produces close to half the tracks, and even plays on a few of ‘em.
Musically, Beyond Cyberpunk is most notable for bringing back several punk rock stars of the past, giving them a chance at the limelight through the Internet that they’re not likely to find in major label land these days. That’s not to say that this record lives in the past, or that any of the artists are washed up – to the contrary, most of the stuff here is quite vibrant and alive. The disc also takes a quite liberal view of what constitutes “punk”: to paraphrase Brother Wayne’s liner notes, it’s about new ideas and attitude, allowing for the inclusion of folks like Stan Ridgway and David Was, who don’t immediately meet most people’s textbook definition of punk (though they should!). Additionally, a few newer groups are tossed into the mix, making this a good combination of young and old, with both age groups equally cantankerous.
In the “old guys” department, the most noteworthy reappearance is the original line-up of Richard Hell & the Voidoids, together again for the first time in 23 years with the transcendent and surprisingly upbeat “Oh.” Mudhoney’s “Inside Job” (featuring Kramer on bass) recalls Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life” with its driving beat, while Iggy’s former Stooges bandmate, Ron Asheton, shows that he’s still alive and well with his shredding guitar driving the rollicking “Dead End Street.” Dee Dee Ramone’s “Bad Little Go-Go Girl” ably exhibits his songwriting chops (he wrote most of The Ramones’ best tunes), but unfortunately, also shows why Joey was the singer in the band. The Dead Boys’ Jimmy Zero rises from the grave with his new band Lesbianmaker, and their clever rocker, “Take Me in Your Arms (Like Heroin).” And Ridgway and Was offer two atmospheric tracks that are easily among the album’s best, Ridgway’s lush, cinematic “Beloved Movie Star” and Was’ sparse, Beck-on-acid “Chow Mein Street.” And new tracks from the likes of Chris Spedding, Pere Ubu, and Brother Wayne himself more than match the level of quality set by the other oldsters.
From the new kids on the block, the strongest track is easily Mother Superior’s “Black Silk,” which finds Henry Rollins’ backing band in full-on Thin Lizzy mode. Quickie’s “Medicated (Just To Get By)” was a bit of a disappointment simply because the band has better tracks available on the Musicblitz site (check out “Mushrooms on Sesame Street,” for example), but is still a rousing and worthy shout-along. Strung Out’s vicious “Betrayal” is another winner, while the record’s only (comparative) detritus comes from Downset and Cooter, who contribute decent tracks, but don’t match up with the standards of the rest of the record.
All in all, a great set of tracks. I recommend checking out one or two tracks on MP3 first – if they meet your liking, you’re sure to dig the rest of the record. Also, Kramer is pledging to keep the Beyond Cyberpunk project alive on a subsection of the Musicblitz site (http://www.musicblitz.com/cyberpunk), with new tracks being added toward an eventual follow-up disc. A worthy and interesting project.