Six Of The Best – John Robb

March 18, 2011

Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…

Who better to begin with than someone who fills every above criteria of bands, bards and barometers. Most people here will be familiar with the name of John Robb. Favourite bands? That’ll be The Membranes. The Three Johns. Goldblade. Bard? That’ll be his bylines in a variety of broadsheets and music publications as well as his definitive account of The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop. Buy it here. (Better late than never, eh?) Barometer of hip opinion? The one thing you can guarantee when you read anything written by John is that it will be passionate, opinionated, heartfelt and thrilling – in short, he means it, maaaaaaan. John has the words DIY PUNK ROCK written through his bones like a stick of Blackpool rock and this is reflected in both the subject matter and take-no-prisoners approach of his writing. Take this piece he’s recently written about Flats for example (more on them in a bit). In fact, take the time to visit his website Louder Than War. It’s choc-full of rants, raves and right-on the money reviews. I drop by from time to time. It’s a right good read and I think you’d like it too.

I got in touch with John and asked if he’d like to contribute to this feature. Quicker than you can say “A-Wop-bop-a-loo-bop a-wop-bam-boo“, he’d sent this briliant reply………

I listen to so much music that I find 6 tracks hard to pin down but here goes.

The Stranglers ‘Down in the Sewer’
Funny, dark, sardonic and plain weird…the zig zag Beefheart bass riff in the midddle, the Ventures on acid guitar break and Hugh Cornwall at his oily best, that ass sound and those keyboards at the end- magical. Punk was everything to me, saved my life and even if The Stranglers were not conventional punk their lack of convention made them even more fascinating- from here we discovered Killing Joke,The Fall, Joy Division- the world!

The Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields’
Yearning, nostalgic and disturbing, like the darkest Lewis Carroll story. Tripped-out but also very northern, with the dank, musty air of fifties post war Liverpool of childhood memory warped through LSD and the super hip summer of love – how could that be a pop single?

Crass ‘Shaved Women’
Incessant drums, mangled rhythms and a powerful message from one of the most imaginative British groups of all time- whose music was far ahead of its time and is sat there waiting for a new generation to explore and get inspiration from- and we haven’t even touched the politics yet.

Shellac ‘My Black Ass’
The best recorded rock record of all time. The perfect sound. This is what we were aiming at in The Membranes in the early eighties but just didn’t have the know how. Somehow Albini took that noise and made it into a science and on this track utterly perfected it. When the bass hits it sounds like an avalanche of raw power.

Hariprasad Chaurasia
Indian flute player…Spotify his name – so many great tunes- the Indian flute is so atmospheric it floats me away. I’ve been to India lots of times and its a full-on overload of good and bad coming at you fast. It’s an amazing place and will be the superpower of the 21st century- it has an amazing tradition and a whole rush of stunning music like this that evokes moods and atmospheres that you didn’t know existed- I also love Kirtan- the Indian harmonium religious music.

Included on the compilation is Manzh Khamaz Teental

Flats ‘Let It Slide’*
Pure noise. Indie kids who discovered Crass, Discharge and Rudimentary Peni and made it there own. Seen them live- brilliant- they haven’t connected to their audience yet but they will do- they do this stuff really, really well and when they twist it with their love of Wu Tang Clan and slow dirge noise they could make something totally genius. They are also an example of the endless rush of great young bands out there of differing styles…here’s a few more: Deadbeat Echoes, The Temps, Rats On Rafts, Obsessive Compulsive, Young Fathers, Folks, Charli xvx …

*Sadly I’ve been unable to locate ‘Let It Slide‘ for John’s compilation. Instead I’ve included Flats Waltz, the lead track from their debut EP from August 2010.

John Robb http://www.louderthanwar.com/


Every Six Of the Best compilation will come in a handy RAR download file. Get John Robb’s here.

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s One of the Best from John – Goldblade‘s Hairstyle. All tch-tch-tch hairspray hi-hats, Blaxploitation brass and Superstition-esque clavinet runs. With a great ‘nah-nah-nah-nah-nah‘ refrain in the middle. Punk/funk? Funk/punk? Who cares!

Coming next in this series – Six Of the Best from David Quantick.


  1. Some great off-centre choices and good to see two bands-in-black getting shouts: Crass and The Strang’s huge fan of both..

    Have you read John’s Oral History of Punk?

    Looking forward to more of these..

  2. Excellenty choice, love down in the sewer! Not discovered ‘flats’ yet, gonna check em out! Was nice to see john robb at the recent stranglers leeds gig 🙂

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