1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Robbi Robb”

Fight It With Your Mind – Asylum Kids

Fight It With Your Mind – Asylum Kids width=

Fight It With Your Mind – Asylum Kids

The cover of the Asylum Kids’ album ‘Fight It With Your Mind’ has a picture of an x-ray of a skull from the side with soundwaves, looking like they were made out of blood, moving through the mind of the owner of the skull. There is something a little disturbing with this image and it is therefore not too surprising when you plonk the record on to your turntable to find that the music is also unsettling.

As the title track opens the album, there is an immediate sense of edginess with a swirling and ominous bass guitar that sucks you over to the dark side. And this feeling stays with you throughout the song, even when the music swells to the angry chorus where we are told over and over again to ‘fight it fight it fight it with your mind’. Dino Archon’s bass prowls around the song like some sort of fictional devilish animal while Robbi Robb jumps around like a cage fighter, punching viciously at an unseen opponent.

The Asylum Kids were possibly the best punk band to come out of South Africa. They were smart, angry and dark. They lived on the fringes of society, tapping into the minds of the disaffected and disowned. They walked like the rough hero strides through an apocalyptic city that is in perpetual darkness. And where that movie hero would have a shotgun slung over their shoulder, the Kids have guitars. The music lures you into the darkness, but the message is to fight this darkness. They were the right band at the right time, questioning our society and its views.

Where to find it:
Black Poem Jugglers – Asylum Kids (1994), Tusk Music, WOND 123

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As I Went Out One Morning (aka ‘Damsel’) – Tribe After Tribe

As I Went Out One Morning (aka ‘Damsel’) - Tribe After Tribe

As I Went Out One Morning (aka ‘Damsel’) – Tribe After Tribe

Cover versions always bring out the debaters in us. Which is better, the original or the cover?  Should anyone even dare cover the song? How can anyone make it better than the original? These are the kind of comments and questions people ask and make when faced with a cover version. But, it would take a brave man to question Robbie Robb and his Tribe After Tribe for daring to cover a Bob Dylan track. Granted it was not one of Dylan’s better known songs, but hell, it was still Dylan for goodness sakes.

But like Abstract Truth’s cover of ‘Oxford Town’, Tribe After Tribe did a spectacular job of covering Dylan and I would venture that only the most hardened of hippies would begrudge them having done so. With Robbi’s edgy, menacing guitar and primal yowling (i-e-yeah) thrown against Bruce Williams rattling drums and Fuzzy Marcus’ dark and threatening bass and those tribal ‘oh-uh’s, this is a juggernaut of a cover version that rams itself through your senses, pummelling you on all sides.

My advice is that you don’t try listen to this alongside Dylan’s version (which appeared on his ‘John Wesley Harding’ album) as the two as so chalk and cheese, so north and south, so folky and rock that you have to be in two completely different moods to enjoy them both. When you smoke some weed and grow your hair, then Dylan’s your man, but if you, like Twisted Sister, wanna rock, then Tribe After Tribe’s the version to go for.

Many have covered Dylan, few have done so with as much anger, energy and sheer force as Tibe After Tribe do with ‘As I Went Out One Morning’. This ranks alongside Eddie Vedder’s ‘Masters Of War’ in the list of great Dylan covers.

Where to find it:
Rocking Against The System – Various Artists (2002), RetroFresh, FRESH CD119

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Feeling The Spaces – Asylum Kids

Fight It With Your Mind - Asylum Kids

Fight It With Your Mind – Asylum Kids

It was UK punk band Sham ’69 who sang, ‘If the kids are united, then we’ll never be divided’. Well back in the 80s in South Africa the kids known as Robbi Robb, Steve Howells and Dino Archon were united for a little while under the banner of the Asylum Kids and produced a couple of great punk albums, but then they divided and went on to Tribe After Tribe and The Dynamics, but while they were united, there was little division among punk fans that they were the best band in the country (fans of Sonja Herholdt and the like would probably have disagreed).

‘Feeling The Spaces’ appeared on their debut album ‘Fight It With Your Mind’ and does not have spaces, but definitely has feeling. The song is a controlled barrage of thrashy punk. I say controlled as there is a tune in there – it’s not just a noise – which doesn’t relent as it rattles through the 3 minutes 43 seconds at pace with angry drums clashing with heated guitars and underpinned by a pulsing bass.

The feeling comes to the fore in Robbi’s voice as he injects venom into lyrics like ‘and everyone seems to doubt the leaders’ and ‘coldness is spreading/out here it’s lonely’. This is South African punk at its best, and it sounds as fresh and invigorating now as it did back then.

Where to find it:
Fight it with Your Mind/Solid (Aka The Complete Asylum Kids) – Asylum Kids (2005) Fresh Music, FRESHCD 147

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The Watch – Tribe After Tribe

Power - Tribe After Tribe

Power – Tribe After Tribe

When the Asylum Kids broke up in 1982, Robbi Robb went on to form Tribe After Tribe. Their first album made a statement purely with its title – ‘Power’. And that’s what they made – powerful music. ‘The Watch’ is one of those controlled anger songs. One can feel the venom in the song, but you can’t really put a finger on what the menace is. Is it the thump-thump thump of the bass, or the steady barrage of drums? It could be, but can you dance to anger? Perhaps it’s the guitars that snarl and growl around the beat. But it’s too tuneful to feel fully angry. There is an eerie synth that seems to want to escape from the song, heading off at landscape tangents and that just helps one to not identify the anger.

This leaves the lyrics and vocals. The former, if they contain the answer, are too cryptic for one to say with certainty. I mean what does ‘Sum up the fading decadent stallion/behind the door lost in snow’ signify? Or ‘cat’s on the rhine’ for that matter. The vocals are probably the closest one gets to seeing the anger without any disguise. Robb’s voice sounds angry. He could make ‘Unchained Melody’ sound like a hate song if he wanted, he has one of those voices. But even here, he’s not cranked that element up to full.

This leaves one with two options. Either ‘The Watch’ is not an angry song, it’s just a pleasant rock song by one of South Africa’s premier bands of the 80s. Or it is angry, but Robbi is just too good at disguising it. Either way, there is no denying that this is a powerful song as it thunders along. ‘The watch is in line’ Robbie tells us. In line with what? In line with all the other damn fine songs that Tribe To Tribe recorded.

Where to find it:
Power – Tribe After Tribe (2003), Fresh Musci, FRESHCD140

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Eloise – Tribe After Tribe

Eloise - Tribe After Tribe

Eloise – Tribe After Tribe

‘Eloise’? That was that song by Barry Ryan wasn’t it? And wasn’t there a South African disco cover of it? (Yes, Rouge turned it into a concerto). And The Damned did a cover too didn’t they? So, Tribe After Tribe went a did a cover as well?

No. This is a completely different girl. Barry Ryan’s girl was a little posh but with a slightly naughty side, a bit like Princess Diana. The Damned, just dressed her up as a Goth while Rouge’s ‘Eloise’ was Karen Lynn Gorney (she in the red dress, dancing opposite Travolta in ‘Saturday Night Fever’). All lovely girls that you could take home to meet yer mum.

But the Tribe’s girl is a bit scary. She “can walk on fire” and “goes outside in halloween clothes”. She is also shrouded in a dense, swirling mass of guitars and menacing drums. She is not sung about in the bright-eyed, clean-cut voice that Ryan has. This Eloise is snarled about. She is a child of Twilight, dressed in black and sexy as hell. She is a woman that can make Robbie Robb sound like he’s howling at the moon.

Venture, if you dare, into the world of this Eloise. You will have your senses battered, your mind twisted and your ears blasted. And remember, you do so at your own risk.

Where to find it:
Enchanted Entrance – Tribe After Tribe (2009), Noize Factor, NF01.02CD

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Schoolboy – Asylum Kids

Schoolboy – Asylum Kids (They were Robb’ed)

Schoolboy – Asylum Kids

Schoolboy – Asylum Kids

The Asylum Kids were one of the leading bands in the late 70’s early 80’s punk movement in South Africa. Led by the enigmatic Robbi Robb (later Tribe After Tribe) they soon captured the attention of Benjy Mudie but their outspoken lyrics and comments from the stage also got the security police interested in them, but not for their musical talents.

‘Schoolboy’ was their first single which was released in 1981. The picture sleeve depicted a bunch of disaffected schoolkids on the kerb, one has a guitar and leather jacket instead of a blazer, while another nonchalantly smokes a cigarette. The image itself would have been enough to raise the ire of the masses of mother grundies that infested the country.

Unlike some punk of the day, the Asylum Kids never took on the thrash, reckless sound. They were more Clash than Sex Pistols. To my mind, this less noisy approach was a sign of intellect in that the lyrics were too important to be lost in sneers and screams. ‘Schoolboy’ was probably the “poppiest” tune that the Kids recorded. It doesn’t have that dark edge that later songs like ‘No, No, No, No’ and ‘Fight It With Your Mind’, but it was an important part of the development of one of the country’s greatest punk bands and is still one of the stand out songs of that era.

Where to find it:

The Complete Asylum Kids – Asylum Kids (2005) Fresh Music, FRESHCD 147

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