The Pagans – “The Pink Album Plus!”

Another acquisition from my recent trip to Minneapolis was The Pink Album Plus! by the Pagans, which I unearthed in the new arrivals bin at Cheapo Records. I’ve written about these Cleveland punks before, specifically their live album The Godlike Power of the Pagans, a great record that is unfortunately marred by an anti-gay rant at the opening of the last song. I read Mike Hudson’s autobiography of the band, Diary of a Punk: Life and Death in the Pagans, and hoped to find some kind of explanation for this one way or the other, but came away empty handed. I was particularly bummed because I enjoyed the first album of theirs I bought, Buried Alive, and was looking forward to the concert album.

Look, I don’t have to agree with the messages bands put in their songs for the most part. For the most part. But when an artist treads into racist or homophobic territory it gives me a lot of pause. Certainly I’m not listening to bands that are about those ideas, and they certainly exist; but even hearing something one time in one song, or in the case of the Pagans in some stage chatter, makes me uncomfortable. In fact, I almost didn’t buy this album because of that, but I figured I’d give it a shot because that kind of thing doesn’t seem to be a theme in the Pagan’s music as far as I can tell.

The Pink Album Plus! is some sloppy punk. The bulk of the tracks were recorded in basements and a radio broadcast from Case Western (University) Radio circa 1982-83, with the last four tracks on side B coming from studio recordings in 1978-79. The recording quality is marginal and the sound appears to be at the maximum end of the recording range, with some of it seeming fried and too loud. The vocals in particular get kind of lost behind the music. A handful of these tracks also appear on Godlike Power: “Dead End America”, “Multiple Personalities”, and “Not Now No Way”, while the last four songs on side B were never previously released.

Side A didn’t have a lot going for it in my opinion, but the flip side opens strong with a blistering version of “Cleveland Confidential (Real World)”, though even this falls apart a bit due to bad sound quality during the short guitar solo. The Pagans were simply overpowering the recording equipment. The four late 70s songs that close out the record are my favorites – the mix is low, but at least you can hear what’s going on, including the vocals. “What’s This Shit Called Love” is probably the winner here, and the cover of Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” is also solid.

While I like the other two records I have of the Pagans, to be honest I wouldn’t bother with The Pink Album Plus! unless you can find it cheap, and then only for the last four songs. The sound quality just isn’t good enough to warrant many future plays.

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