Pure Hell is so obscure musically, that when I went to go look up the lyrics to one of the songs on Noise Addiction (2006) – made up of songs the band recorded in the 70s, there was only one song listed on the tracklist page on Genius for the project. So I spent 10 minutes finding some decent pictures of the group on Google and adding those – and the full tracklist – on to the Genius page, and now my Virgo deed for the day is done lol.
2010: Noise Addiction
While looking for those pictures (that I ultimately ended up using here, too, because there are so few pictures of the group), I came across an article on Dazed by Cassidy George, where they detail a bit of the history and mystery around Pure Hell, which was a great read and brought the world of Pure Hell together a little better.
The article talks about how the group got its start in West Philadelphia, before going to New York in the 70s to become a part of the punk scene that was finding its footing around that time. The group had a few shining moments during that time, performing and mingling with some different punk acts that were pretty big in the seventies, rounding out in a European tour not too long after. However, they remained pretty obscure compared to their white counterparts.
Something that popped out the most to me while reading that particular piece of their history was that members of the group mentioned that some of the folks who they were looking to work with (as far as management and record labels went) wanted them to shed their punk style, in exchange for a more funk and R&B-centric style and sound. This switching up of their style was touted as the key to the success they wished for. And something that completely slipped my mind while listening to Death’s project last week was that MOTOWN RECORDS had been established not that long before, so its artists were really beginning their careers or seeing the beginning of their primes, as Motown was in the midst of its second decade in business. And as result, a lot of the Black acts that were making it at that time were coming out of Motown or were adopting a Motown-esque sound and dress; anything outside of that was being overshadowed by the Detroit company’s artists. If Black folks wanted to be on the radio, funk and disco was the key to that move. And when the guys of Pure Hell decided that becoming a funk group and shedding their punkness wasn’t something that they were willing to do, they were essentially pushed to the side (this is something I wanna speak more about later on this week). That, along with some conflict their eventual-manager that led to the loss of their masters, slid Pure Hell further into the depths of forgotten history, as they struggled to find their footing without a record label, manager, or control over their music. Eventually, their masters – as well as Noise Addiction – were sold on eBay, before the album was released officially by an independent record label in 2006.
A listen to Pure Hell’s sole official release is proof positive (I didn’t know how much I loved the phrase proof positive until I read Meg thee Stallion’s op-ed today) of the group’s talent. Though Noise Addiction has a fast-moving tracklist – most of the 15 tracks seem to average around 2 minutes long – it’s a really great listen. I’d describe it best as a WILD ride lol. After about 10 seconds of opening instrumentation, the project’s opening lyrics are a 8 second-long (and vociferous) “NOISE!” and that’s pretty indicative of what we get through the remainder of the project. Without looking at the progress bars and the tracklist as the songs were finishing, it felt like each track bled into the next, sending me into the greatest moment of musical whiplash I’ve ever experienced lol. Usually, I prefer a project where the tracks feel connected but unique, so it took me a second to get used to how Noise Addiction was playing in my ear. I also had to remember that these songs were not made to be listened by someone sitting on their bed with a blanket wrapped around them, drinking a smoothie on a Tuesday afternoon lol. They were very much created for loud, cramped, sweaty places where you’re so engulfed by how your energy is fusing with the energy of the people around you that you don’t CARE if one song sounds 100% different than the next. Which was a little bit different than the experience of listening to …For the Whole World to See (2009); Death’s project – with a smaller tracklist and longer songs – felt like a consistent movement throughout different musical spaces on each track. But this wasn’t Death’s project, and I had to remind myself of that; once I did, I settled into the project a lot more and pretended to be at a concert for about half an hour. I don’t see myself revisiting the project as a whole, but I definitely pulled a few favorites out of it.
Overall a good project from a group with an interesting, albeit unfortunate, history. However, while the guy’s of Pure Hell might not be able to fully bask in the flowers of being some of the leading pioneers in punk music, it seems as if the ability to make the music that they loved and stand for their right to exist as fully – and without limits – as they wanted meant more to them than any money or fame could offer.
I HIGHLY recommend this Dazed article for further reading: Cassidy George, “The forgotten story of Pure Hell, America’s first black punk band”
(listen to Noise Addiction to See on spotify by clicking the image below)
here’s something else you might like…
LOL so this week was supposed to be the continuation of the Week Fulla Women in 90s and 00s R&B, but I decided to switch things up. After listening to Death’s …For the Whole World to See (2009) – a project containing tracks the band recorded in the 70s – late last week, I got … Continue reading Week Fulla Black Punk: First Listen #39: Death’s ‘…For the Whole World to See’