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New Race - The First to Pay (1981)

Rob Younger: Lead Vocals
Ron Asheton: Lead Guitar
Deniz Tek: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Warwick Gilbert: Bass
Dennis Thompson: Drums, Backing Vocals

The First and Last is a live album released by the "once-only" supergroup band New Race. The First and Last is a collection of recordings from the various shows the band played along the East Coast of Australia in 1981. New Race contained members of the band Radio Birdman: Deniz Tek, Rob Younger, and Warwick Gilbert, along with guitarist from The Stooges- Ron Asheton, and MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson. The First and Last has often been hailed as one of the greatest live Punk rock albums of all time, though there is dispute as to the true genre of the album. Birdman were often regarded as one of the integral influences of Australian punk rock but their style and sound is often compared to that of the MC5 Detroit sound, and the broad genre of Proto-punk, which includes bands such as The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, and The New York Dolls.

This album earned credibility for documenting a unique, one-off event. In 1981, ex-Radio Birdman bassist Warwick Gilbert, guitarist Deniz Tek, and vocalist Rob Younger saluted their influences by joining the Stooges' lead guitarist Ron Asheton and MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson for a six-week blitzkrieg of Australia. The notion made sense, since Radio Birdman had been acclaimed on their Australian home turf yet relegated to cult fodder elsewhere, while the MC5 and the Stooges had never been commercial propositions either. Still, once listeners pass the "punk summit" angle used in promoting the album, they'll find the fruits of this alliance impressive enough to warrant further exploration. Not surprisingly, there's strangled, slash-and-burn guitar playing aplenty on burners like "November 22, 1963," a conspiratorial recall of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. This track, by Asheton's major post-Stooges outlet, Destroy All Monsters, would undoubtedly win filmmaker Oliver Stone's approval. Tek's "Descent into the Maelstrom" and "Haunted Road" open similar forays into the fretboard jungle, while the Gilbert-Thompson axis never lets up, especially on the drummer's MC5 standard "Gotta Keep Movin'." As these choices show, the set draws evenly from across the board, with "Looking at You" and an understated "Loose" nodding again, respectively, to the MC5 and the Stooges. Tek's moodier songs, "Breaks My Heart" and "Sad TV," inject variety into the proceedings, while time constraints only permitted one new song to emerge: "Columbia," whose propulsive riff and atypical space-travel theme closes the album on a powerful, decisive note. Strategically overdubbed backing vocals and guitar on three songs, as well as piano on "Descent into the Maelstrom," do nothing to blunt this album's appeal, which offers historical value from a one-off event that never occurred again. Tek's terse yet engaging liner notes aptly sum up the exercise: "Humor beats bitterness every time." It's hard to disagree when the evidence is this powerful.

New Race was a punk/proto-punk super-group based in Sydney, Australia formed in April 1981. New Race was a concept band featuring three members of Radio Birdman: Deniz Tek, Rob Younger, and Warwick Gilbert, along with their inspirational mentors: Ron Asheton of The Stooges, and Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson of the MC5.

New Race played one tour of the East Coast of Australia which consisted of 16 shows. Many of these shows were recorded in anticipation of a live album at the end of the tour, and it was these recordings which formed the band's only "official" album, The First and Last. There are two quality "bootleg" albums, also from these recordings, released on French label, Revenge Records. The three albums include Radio Birdman originals, songs from the MC5 and The Stooges as well as songs from Deniz Tek's post Birdman band, The Visitors and Asheton's post Stooges band, Destroy All Monsters along with one original song, "Columbia", credited to the entire band.

At the conclusion of the tour both Ron Asheton and Dennis Thompson returned to the United States to pursue new musical avenues. (ChrisGoesRock)

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