This Just In: Lesson No. 1

One lazy Sunday I was playing Glenn Branca’s The Ascension in the store and a customer asked what it was. I told him and he replied “It’s making me uncomfortable.” “I think that’s his point,” I said. On the surface, moments of it seem like an approachable rock record, but pretty quickly, the repetitive, atonal tension can prove frustrating for some. There are perpetual builds that seemingly go nowhere, never releasing or fully resolving. The whole affair can be kind of disorienting if you listen too closely, and maybe that’s what happened to the customer. Mission accomplished, I guess.

But it’s not The Ascension I’m really getting at today (sorry for the tangent), it’s Branca’s first solo work, Lesson No. 1. Like The Ascension, moments of Lesson No. 1 can be deceptively accessible, but it’s the tough bits that would go on to leave a legacy in the form of the legions of noise/art-rock bands it’s influenced. As a bonus, this 2×12″ reissue by Superior Viaduct also includes the 1982 dance piece, Bad Smells, featuring Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore. Read more about the release below and don’t forget to check out this week’s new releases, reissues and restocks at the bottom.

Glenn Branca – Lesson No. 1 2×12″:
“After cutting his teeth in the late ’70s no wave scene with bands Theoretical Girls and The Static, Glenn Branca made his first solo statement, Lesson No. 1, in 1980. The inaugural release on legendary post-punk / dance label 99 Records, Lesson No. 1 unveiled Branca’s visionary guitar concepts with two monstrous, side-long compositions that helped forge NYC’s downtown art-punk sound and acted as a massive influence on countless young groups, including Sonic Youth and Swans.

The title track is easily Branca’s most accessible moment; its driving beat and interlocking patterns resemble German pioneers Neu! playing Phillip Glass. Never before (or since) has minimalism sounded so euphoric. “Dissonance” is the A-side’s polar opposite. Dark, skittish and unhinged, Branca leads his band (guitar, keyboard, bass, drums and sledgehammer) through block after block of industrial terror, leaving listeners drained in the process.

Soon after the release of Lesson No. 1, Branca began to work on ambitious, long-form symphonies. Bad Smells, included here as a single-sided bonus 12-inch, was commissioned in 1982 as a dance piece for choreographer Twyla Tharp and originally released on a split LP with John Giorno. Featuring Sonic Youth guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, Bad Smells is a thrilling multi-section guitar assault that foretells much of Branca, Ranaldo and Moore’s work for the next decade.”

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New, reissued and restocked lessons to learn…
2pac – All Eyez On Me 4LP
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness LP, CD
Art Blakey – Art Blakey and His Jazz Messengers LP
Ash Borer – Cold of Ages 2LP
Beat Happening – Black Candy LP
Belfi / Grubbs / Pilia – Dust & Mirrors LP
Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe 2LP
Bouncing Souls – How I Spent My Summer Vacation LP
Casket Girls – True Love Kills CD
C.O.M.A. – Clinik Organik Muzak LP
Com Truise – Galactic Melt 2LP; Wave 12”
Crass – Penis Envy LP
David Ackles – s/t LP
Death – North Street 7”
DIIV – Oshin LP
Dinosaur Jr. – Bug LP; Dinosaur LP; Farm 2LP
Dirtbombs – Ooey Gooey Chewy Kablooey LP
Don Peake – The Hills Have Eyes OST LP
Doug Paisley – Strong Feelings LP
Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is Not… LP
Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action LP
Flesh World – s/t LP
Forest Swords – Engravings 2LP
Fuzz – s/t LP
Galaxie 500 – Today LP
Gang Starr – Step in the Arena LP
Godflesh – Hymns LP
Grateful Dead – American Beauty LP; Grateful Dead LP
Grouper – Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill LP
Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit LP
Have A Nice Life – The Unnatural World LP
Helm – Impasse LP
Jesus And Mary Chain – Automatic LP, Barbed Wire Kisses LP, Darklands LP, Honey’s Dead LP, Stoned & Dethroned LP
John Carpenter – The Fog 2LP
King Khan & BBQ Show – s/t LP
KVB – Immaterial Visions LP
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver 2LP, This is Happening 2LP
Lorde – Pure Heroine LP
Marissa Nadler – July LP
MV & EE With the Golden Road – Shade Grown LP
Neil Young – After the Gold Rush LP; Live at Cellar Door LP
New Bums – Voices in a Rented Room LP
Oh Sees, Thee – Carrion Crawler LP; Floating Coffin LP
Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction 2LP
Pharmakon – Abandon LP
Phosphorescent – Muchacho LP
Reatards – Teenage Hate / Fuck Elvis 2LP
Santana – Borboletta LP
Shannon and the Clams – I Wanna Go Home LP
Silver Mt. Zion – Fuck Off Get Free… LP
Slothrust – Of Course You Do LP
Songs: Ohia – Hecla & Griper LP; Magnolia Electric Co. 2LP; s/t LP ; The Lioness LP
Sonic Youth – Anagrama LP; Goo Box 4LP; Murray Street LP; Rather Ripped LP; Simon Werner A Disparu LP; Smart Bar Chicago 1985 2LP
Space Lady – The Space Lady’s Greatest LP
Thug Entrancer – Death After Life 2LP
Tim Hecker – Mirages 2LP, Virgins 2LP
Tool – Lateralus LP; Opiate LP; Undertow LP
Various Artists – Killed By Deathrock Vol. 1 CD
Violent Femmes – Hallowed Ground LP
Volcano Choir – Repave LP