Punk rock developed somewhere in the 1970s when what had essentially been garage rock bands got louder, snarlier, and started playing shorter, faster songs. While critics argue about the official beginning of the genre (is proto-punk still punk?), it was fully fledged in the late 70s, and had already started giving way to what would become two new genres. New Wave was the poppier extension of punk (that would further develop into synth-pop and electronica). Post-punk was the darker, more introspective branch that would eventually give birth to goth and alternative rock. (Hardcore was still a year or two away.) But for a short and glorious time from about 1978 to 1982 (give or take), there was a tremendous amount of overlap in the burgeoning scene and the varied sounds they were producing. For a short while it was all “punk” or as some called it, “the new wave of punk rock” before it splintered into various scenes and subgenres.
While in the United States, bands like Undercover and Altar Boys are seen as the early progenitors of the genre, the UK had been going for a few years already, with several bands releasing vinyl LPs before their American counterparts. The earliest examples of UK punk and new wave were What of the Night, with their self-titled release in 1979; Ishmael United, with their cleverly-titled/soccer-themed If You Can’t Shout Saved, You’ll Have to Pay the Penalty hitting the same year; Rev Counta and the Speedoze (a later incarnation of Ishmael United) dropping the following year; and an incredible band from Belfast, Northern Ireland who rode the line between punk and new wave called Moral Support.
The band, fronted by Jesus Music pioneer Andy McCarroll, dropped their one-and-only release Zionic Bonds in the UK in 1980–a full 2 years before Undercover’s self-titled debut, and 4 years before the Altar Boys released theirs. It was re-released in 1981 in the USA under the band name “Andy McCarroll and Moral Support.”
It’s really difficult to oversell this band. Their quirky punk-pop takes inspiration in equal parts from Elvis Costello, Ramones and Magazine. The production is top-notch considering the era and the fact that they mostly played in church halls and similar circles. While their sound is clearly identifiable as belonging to the late 70s/early 80s new wave scene, it still sounds fresh to my ears.
I’ve chosen “Control” for the song of the day, mainly because of its timeliness. I don’t care where you stand politically–it’s good to be reminded of God’s sovereignty. When Moral Support were recording Zionic Bonds it was at the height of the Cold War and fears of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The issues may be different today, but the reminder to trust in God’s faithfulness is still relevant. Perhaps the song doesn’t rock as hard as some of their others (for more of a punk romp, check out “How the Kids Are Feelin'” or even album opener “Sin)”. By contrast, “Control” has that reggae/pop/punk feel that was so common in early British new wave. Enjoy!