The first release from new label Rongorongo shines a light on the grey area between punk and reggae. ‘Spiky Dread’ is the result of a few years of hunting by Wrongtom and Ed Zed, who sifted through a plethora of punk and post-punk oddities, picking their favourite approximations of dub and reggae - a side of punk which is largely overlooked, save for tales of the mighty Don Letts playing roots records at The Roxy, or dub sessions round at John Lydon’s gaff in the wake of the Sex Pistols.
‘Spiky Dread’ tells a deeper story, focusing on the lesser known practitioners of punky reggae, with the odd iconic act snuck in for good measure. Opening the set, “America’s greatest unknown band” The Offs sat snugly amongst the mutant disco and noise bands of early ‘80s downtown NYC with an infectious brew of punked up funk and ska … their ‘Cool Down’ is a rare moment of downbeat brilliance. The following 13 tracks take in the skanking R&B of The Offs compatriots Bad Brains (who also grace the album’s cover thanks to Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Lucian Perkins), dubbed-out Liverpudlian dancehall from Jah Scouse (and two-thirds of Young Marble Giants), a heavyweight bubbler from South London art collective Family Fodder, and the unlikely combination of prog, punk and reggae from Birmingham’s Dangerous Girls, responsible for some of the best-worst rhyming couplets ever committed to tape.
Acclaimed writer and punk professor Vivien Goldman appears here twice, penning liner notes as well as dueting on the lovers rock cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Do it Twice’ by her short lived group Chantage, with faders manned by dub experimentalist Adrian Sherwood. Heading north, there’s a rare opportunity to catch A Certain Ratio in dub mode in their Sir Horatio guise, whilst back down to Brighton we hear Peter & The Test Tube Babies tormenting their bassist with the Clash-esque (well musically at least) ‘Trapper Aint Got A Bird’. Also included is Return Of The Panthers’ apocalyptic dub rocker ‘Calling Captain Nemo’, which has sat unreleased for 30 years since these Cardiacs associates split up soon after the recording session. Another Home Counties group Red Beat offer up a sneering skanker produced by Killing Joke’s sonic mastermind Mark Lusardi, who also boasts credits on PiL’s ‘First Issue’ and LKJ’s ‘Bass Culture’.
A brace of Brit-dub legends make an appearance, first on Ruts DC’s rhythm collision with Mad Professor and then Dennis Bovell crops up with The Slits, who’s ‘Animal Space’ 12” is as unsettling as it is slinky. Finally, the session wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the mecca of UK bass music, and Bristol serves up two of it’s finest uneasy skankers via the dislocated dub of Glaxo Babies versioning their own post-punk staple ‘Who Killed Bruce Lee’, and the frenetic steppa ‘Work’ by Electric Guitars closes off thecomp with a jerky response to Two Tone’s ska revisioning.