Still Buzzing

UK pop-punk pioneers the Vibrators play Spokane again, likely for the last time

Still Buzzing
The Vibrators: Real punks don't age gracefully.

They say it's their final U.S. tour, and as they've been on the road — in one form or another — for more than 40 years, you tend to believe them.

For that reason alone, the Vibrators' upcoming (and presumably last) Spokane show shouldn't be missed. (They played here at the now-defunct The Hop! five years ago.) Though they're regarded — along with the Clash and the Jam, among others — as members of punk's class of 1977, they formed in February of 1976, standing out for being older than most of the bands in the UK's punk scene.

Within a month, the quartet played live for the first time, opening for the Stranglers, another band notable for having a few years on the competition. Supporting the Sex Pistols at London's 100 Club earned them a spot on the bill of the two-day 100 Club Punk Rock Festival, where they backed up British guitar session ace Chris Spedding; that public association provided the band with status and credibility that most in the nascent punk scene lacked.

From there, things moved quickly: With Spedding's backing, they recorded and released one of the first punk singles, "We Vibrate"; collaborated with Spedding on "Pogo Dancing," the first punk dance record; headlined the Roxy in London; opened for Iggy Pop (with David Bowie as his touring keyboard player!) on his UK tour; then became the first punk band to sign with a major U.S. label, Epic Records, which released their debut Pure Mania in June of '77.

The years have taken a toll on the band, and the trio that takes the stage Sunday night at The Pin! will feature only one original member, drummer John "Eddie" Edwards.

Bassist Pete Honkamaki has been a Vibrator for the past 14 years, and guitarist/vocalist Nigel Bennett has his own punk pedigree as longtime frontman for the Members, another late-'70s group which fused punk and reggae to create a sound that differed from most in the scene. Bennett, who first joined the band 27 years ago, is on his third go-round in the Vibrators' lineup.

"The Vibrators is just a pop band that plays it heavy," Bennett told Guitar Player in 2009.

Over the past four decades, the band's lineup — other than Edwards — has constantly been in flux: No less than 21 musicians have counted themselves as band members.

Though the Vibrators have released 16 studio albums — with their 17th, Past, Present and Into the Future, due for release by the end of this year or in early 2018 — Pure Mania and its follow-up, 1978's V2, remain the band's best work.

"We were trying to do something different," Edwards said of the Vibrators' early releases five years ago in an interview with the Dallas Observer. "It came to be called punk, something with a bit of an attitude.

"Music needed a kick in the ass."

The power of Pure Mania's top tracks — the singles "Baby Baby" and "London Girls" (its B-side, "Stiff Little Fingers," provided the iconic Irish punk band's name), as well as "Yeah Yeah Yeah," "Into the Future" and "Whips & Furs" — hasn't diminished. The tunes are insidiously catchy; stripped-down, supercharged pop-punk. V2 features two more strong singles in "Automatic Lover" and the delightfully loopy, manic "Judy Says (Knock You in the Head)," the band's last single on Epic and arguably their best.

Sunday night's show is the 11th in an ambitious stretch of 38 gigs in 46 days that goes from coast to coast, then back again; if recent set lists are any indication, expect to hear plenty of the best of the early days, some choice covers, and even a couple of surprises. ♦

The Vibrators with Wasted Breath, Deadones USA, Scared of Bears and Skunktopus • Sun, Sept. 17 at 6:30 pm • $15 • All-ages • The Pin! • 412 W. Sprague • • 368-4077

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