Lee “Scratch” Perry
Repentance
Narnack Records
Grade: B

Calling Repentance one of the more bizarre entries to the canon of Lee “Scratch” Perry is saying quite a lot, considering the 72-year-old dub maestro has staked his legend on appearing to be completely out of his fucking skull. But as legitimately strange as this album is — full of seismic basslines and a cacophony of odd bleeps and bloops that occasionally border on sound collage — it is also a calculated career move. Press materials name-drop hip genre-hybridists M.I.A. and Spankrock, and the record’s guest list includes Moby and Andrew W.K. (who co-produced), all of whom owe something to Perry’s decades of sonic experimentation. It is a timely reminder of his influence on the outer edges of popular music. And as he assumes the role of deranged old man ranting on a street corner — at one point invoking the name of Jesus Christ as porn star Sasha Grey moans in the background — it is also a challenge to the youth who have succeeded him: Be weirder.

Radio Silence: A Selected Visual History of American Hardcore Music
by Nathan Nedorostek & Anthony Pappalardo
MTV Press
Grade: B+

Skins & Punks: Lost Archives 1978-1985
by Gavin Watson
Vice Books
Grade: B+
 
Old farts like to complain that punk today is nothing more than a fashion label, but as these two photo books exemplify, clothes were always a big part of the culture’s appeal, even back in the “pure” days. Neither Radio Silence nor Skins & Punks are necessarily about the genre’s style — the latter is a sentimental paean to adolescent life in Thatcher’s England, and the former covers the entire iconography of hardcore, from the record sleeves to the flyers — but if there is a theme running through them, it’s that looking different is almost as important as thinking different. After all, in his introduction, Nedorostek reveals that his first exposure to punk rock came in the form of a stranger’s homemade Minor Threat shirt. And anyone who has seen the charming 2006 film This Is England, set in the same era as Skins & Punks (and whose director, Shane Meadows, pens the introduction to Watson’s collection), knows the significance of sartorial choices in ’80s Britain. Both are entertaining, nostalgic trips through the bi-continental underground, proving that no important youth movement has ever been boring to look at.