(Originally posted on my Agony Shorthand blog, January 2005. The best of this stuff has just been reissued on LP in 2015 – more here)
Before I read through the liners on this collection, but after I’d dug in deep to disc #1, the 1977-79 collection “25 A-Sides”, I had STEVE TREATMENT nailed as a massive Marc Bolan fan. Rollicking, strut-heavy glam chops abound on Treatment’s early 45s, but instead of being a full-on electric warrior tribute act, his act was seared with the raw knowledge of 1977 punk rock.
Turns out that he and his punker pals were indeed huge Marc Bolan/T.Rex worshippers, and spent the better part of the glam era hanging out closely with the man himself. When punk arrived on England’s shores, Steve Treatment and his Bolan buddies Nikki Sudden & Epic Soundtracks gently convinced Marc into bringing THE DAMNED along on tour, which may have been the one gesture that kept Bolan’s credibility alive with the sneering punk crowd a few months beyond its natural shelf life. Punk also meant that Treatment and his friends were now free to throw their own musical ideas onto wax; thus were born the legend-producing SWELL MAPS, and the dustbin-of-history- relegated STEVE TREATMENT.
For a few months, these acts actually were one and the same. On Steve Treatment’s debut EP “5 A-Sides”, the entire band that we now know as the Swell Maps were the key players. This record is incredible, and hearing the four tracks beyond “Danger Zone” (which was on an early “Messthetics” compilation) is one of the early musical highlights of 2005 for me. I’ll put them all up on a par with the Swell Maps’ “Dresden Style”, “Real Shocks” and “Read About Seymour” – all are just as spastic and aggro, and like the Maps, none of them fit into the “punk” bucket as popularly defined. Treatment then played a bit part on some of their early records. Seems like the Swell Maps, in getting a decent record deal and some radio airtime for their 45s, were able to propel their subsequent legend forward a bit, but I can’t figure out why the excellent Steve Treatment EP didn’t give him the same kind of push.
Yet Steve Treatment had a fine rock career well beyond this initial blast of sound. “25 A-Sides” collects his next couple singles as well, in addition to unreleased material recorded at the very end of the 1970s. Most tracks are in the same vein as the first single – very raw, very homemade-sounding, very British experimental glam rock. Treatment had no quarrel with overlaying a truckload of effects, echoes and delay on just about everything he did, so it all sounds as if it was recorded in a huge empty warehouse on unmistakably cheap equipment.
The first CD breaks down about halfway through and starts to recycle some of the earlier tracks, but if you’re a Steve Treatment completist then you’ll be a happy guy. The second disc, “Your Friends Are In The News”, collects multiple recordings of his from the latter two decades, still well aligned with the DIY spirit and virtually as raw and unkempt. Like “new wave” never happened! Just not as exciting. But your life is short, right? And you’ve got a lot of music you need to listen to, am I correct? You therefore won’t need to spend much time with this one, but I wouldn’t miss out on this package overall if it means you’re never going to hear those first couple Steve Treatment singles.