Saturday, August 1, 2015


Gene October’s Chelsea, from the original punk rock class of 1976, have always been one of the definitive bands from that era. With an explosive sound of gritty vocals, insanely catchy guitar leads, and revved up classic rock n’ roll chord progressions, the musical beast known as Chelsea continues its impressive and incredible songcraft to this day. Just listen to their back catalog of classic albums including Alternative Hits, Evacuate, and their legendary self-titled debut. You’ll hear how influential this force has been in punk rock music created during the last 25 years. The band has had two amazing comeback albums including the mind blowing Traitors Gate (1994) and the cool but powerful Faster, Cheaper and Better Looking (2005).

After 15 years, the band has returned to the studio with October and legendary band fixtures James Stevenson, Nic Austin, Mat Sargent, and Lee Morell. Why? Because life is just not right without a new Chelsea album to sink your teeth into and get your proper punk rock fix. Other bands from that era do not have the chops that October continues to wield throughout the tumultuous decades the band has survived in its own cool and confident pattern of existence. Impressive indeed, this new collection infuses the melodic ferocity of Alternative Hits with the introspective grit of Billy Bragg. October’s voice is in prime form and the musicianship is more dynamic and expressive than ever. Unlike other “reunion records”, this full length is relevant and vibrant in its delivery and execution. Spirited anthems for the current disgruntled generation, certainly present in the stellar tracks “Fuck All”, “It's About Time”, “You Never Ever Listen”, and “Johnny Has No Respect”. The real standout that displays their songwriting chops is the acoustic laden and hook filled “Saturday Night Sunday Morning”. Overall, this very solid outing will instantly grow on you with repeated listens, as a proper album should.

I remember the punk revival that occurred in the mid-1990s. I was really digging on bands like the U.S. Bombs, The Stitches, Stiffs Inc., and the TKO Records roster. I kept hearing the name Chelsea repeatedly in reference to these bands, it all seemed so new and alive to me. Later on in the decade, my own band played a Friday night show completely annihilated at a hotel in Allentown, PA. We were met with an awkward response due to our insane debauchery before and during our set. We decided to lay low in our rented van parked out front before we played instead of hanging out at the bar with the locals. We weren’t trying to be snobs, but were more concerned about getting busted with our conspicuous consumption of all things illegal in order to give the show that “extra bang”.

Extra bang indeed, and the following morning I woke up with my handy bottle of Bombay Sapphire to chase away the blues from the outlandish after show party. We headed to Lancaster, PA’s infamous Angry, Young, and Poor, downed a few beers before going inside and I went on a CD/record shopping spree with a recently acquired credit card (back when they just handed them out to anyone working at least 30 hours a week). Low and behold, I saw Chelsea’s The Punk Singles Collection 1977–82. I snatched up a copy, passed out on the van ride home, fell out of the van seat, hit my head on the door after nodding off, and woke up in my bed with a gnarly headache.

The first thing I did even before grabbing a glass of water and a sedative was getting this collection loaded onto my stereo. The speakers blasted with an uncanny power and fury, like the first time you hear Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". I was hooked for life. How could a band have an output like this, where every song is great? Only Gene October would know that secret. I’ve been following them ever since and they are always a mainstay in my playlist only with the Sex Pistols and Johnny Thunders LAMF. Saturday Night Sunday Morning is a worthy addition to my playlist, and I’m a tough customer when it comes to my favorite bands releasing new records. This extremely memorable affair will outlive another tumultuous decade and if October continues to march on, we can look forward to another unforgettable outing in the near future.

--Kevin McGovern