Sometime back in the late 70s in Victoria, British Columbia a group of high school drama students started a band after a night of pot-fuelled improvisation. That’s not an unusual story in and of itself, but at a time when punk was built on simplicity, these lads, who called themselves Pink Steel, took the stage with seven members, including keys and three guitar players and would become a staple of the early Victoria scene for half a decade before their demise in 1983.
Victoria-based archival label Supreme Echo has once again done an outstanding job this time bringing Pink Steel back to life some 37 years after they called it quits. This 6-track EP titled ‘Here We Go Again‘, combines the band’s first 4-track release and the 2-song single from 1981, both remastered and packaged with a 16-page booklet full of photos and their story all housed in a deluxe close pocket sleeve. Original versions of these records currently sell for over $100, so if you have either of these on your want list you are in luck.
The wonderful thing about ‘Here We Go Again‘ is that you can hear the promise in the music. Pink Steel played a form of hooky punk rock similar to Canadian contemporaries like The Diodes and The Pointed Sticks, both bands that managed to score deals with major labels. Alas, a record deal never materialized for Pink Steel and the band ended up releasing both the EP and the single on a local label called Alandhiscar Records.
“We didn’t know anyone who had ever done any recording in a studio,” says vocalist Pete Campbell. “We didn’t even know that there were recording studios in Victoria. And we certainly didn’t know anyone who had put out their music on a record.”
In hindsight, these tracks can be considered punk, but the musicianship is light years away from the three-chord simplicity of what punk was supposed to sound like back in the late 70s -early 80s. There is also a sophistication to the songwriting that moves the dial away from simply labeling the Pink Steel sound punk. A song like ‘She’s Not Mine‘ sounds like something Paul Westerberg would write and is a midtempo gem that highlights the songwriting chops present here. But the overall amateur punk esthetic of the six tracks is definitely of the time and the influence of The Clash is noticeable throughout, although at the time the band felt their sound didn’t warrant the punk rock tag.
“Though we played with crazy energy and wild abandon, our sound was not in any recognizable way “punk rock,” Campbell says. “At one of the OAP Hall shows the kids in the audience actually sat on the floor facing away from us while we played.”
‘Here We Go Again‘ chugs along with the raw amateurish passion of Generation X while ‘Controlled Collapse‘ rocks out with the fast and loud racket of Stiff Little Fingers, minus the political call to arms. ‘Some Of The Things That You Do‘ is a racing power-pop rocker, and ‘My Girl’s Radioactive‘ is a riff-heavy number that reminds me of early Adolescents. That’s a lot to unpack in just five tracks. However, it’s ‘Won’t Come in Your Hand‘ that shines bright and casts a ‘what-if’ shadow over the release. It’s a wonderfully quirky song with a little Talking Heads flair and should be recognized as a classic for the chorus alone. It makes you wonder, what if they had been signed to a record label and stayed together?
Lucky for us, 37 years later Supreme Echo knows how to release music. Order here: Supreme Echo.