When Don’t Swim On The East Coast EP by The Sussed was originally released, local punk singles were a rarity. Although several impresarios in Northern Ireland had the enthusiasm to build somewhat of an infrastructure around their tribes of punk bands, it never really happened here. Instead, a glut of (inspired and uninspired in equal measure) “new wave” singles sniffed around for crumbs in the wake of the Boomtown Rats’ international success. As a result, the few punk singles of the time – Threat, Strange Movements and The Sussed – have become fairly weighty collectors items. Of these, The Sussed 7” is particularly illusive, with a print run of just 500 in 1981. It goes for stupid money in the rare occasion it appears on Discogs.
The band started in 1978 in an era that nurtured an embryonic U2 and their evil twin, Virgin Prunes, gigs at the Dandelion Market and other elements of punk folklore. Their dubious history includes support slots to U2, a graffiti campaign on busses and bank notes, and a certain billboard poster prank in 1982. More importantly, they have the great fortune of being one of the very few bands from the era with watchable footage – a studio performance for pirate TV station Channel D in 1981.
In terms of access to the recordings themselves, this is a long overdue and expanded reissue by Spit Records on the 36th anniversary of the original release. It contains the original A&B sides – DON’T SWIM ON THE EAST COAST & I WANNA CONFORM plus previously unreleased extras I’VE GOT RABIES and DROWNING IN BED. Spit Records have shown unerring vivacity as archivists down to the minutest of detail, so I’m kind of surprised and a little disappointed that there’s no sleeve notes here. It’s fairly obvious from his contribution to the Hope Publications IN CONCERT book earlier this year that Rory Stokes likes to wax lyrical about the band, so it couldn’t have been a major undertaking to place this in its deserved historic context.
These tracks are remastered, or as remastered as they could be, and the EP works best when taken as a snapshot of its place in time. DON’T SWIM ON THE EAST COAST was a clever idea, and a humorous way to address lingering threat posed by toxic gunge from Windscale Works in North Cumbria (later Sellafield). At this point in punk, most bands would have gone for a screaming rant. Sonically, the synth intro and interludes keep it blissfully amateur. The original B-side, I WANNA CONFORM, has more in common with Northern Ireland bands of the time than anything from Dublin but suffers misfortunes of youthful enthusiasm over inspiration.
The Sussed made later recordings and there’s a couple on Youtube amongst a slew of other bands also called The Sussed. Included on the reissue are I’VE GOT RABIES and DROWNING IN BED from a March 1983 session. I’VE GOT RABIES is brazen, charming and typical of the sort of track Soul Jazz Records dig up for their PUNK 45 series. Again, DROWNING IN BED, borrows heavily from the Northern Ireland late 70s pop-punk and it can’t be any coincidence that the backbone riff is something familiar from the Undertones, even if pointing out riff larceny in old punk rock is somewhat petty! These additional tracks are a curiosity but don’t really suggest any progress from exactly 2 years earlier when the tracks for the original single were recorded.
The Sussed were clearly victims of their own age – As a 1977-78 release, this 7” would have been comfortable in the company of singles by the Vipers and Rudi etc. but to be releasing elementary punk in 1981 when bands inspired by punk were either commercialising, or plying something much more underground, seems like a case of being too late for what they were aiming at.
In its favour, DON’T SWIM ON THE EAST COAST is one of very few of the era that managed to make it to vinyl, and for this brief period before the reissue of 300 sell out, it’s satisfying to have access to some of the band’s recorded output. It is also a fitting irony the original single banner “This is not a collector’s Item”, has been replaced by “Limited edition – pink vinyl”. For where it sits historically, it simply sounds too innocent for something released this side of the papal visit.
More about old Dublin punk…