The Vibrators remain painfully underappreciated in the pantheon of first-wave punk rock. Although the English band began in 1976 — around the same time as the Ramones, Television, the Clash, and dozens more — its rep never took off. Vocalist/guitarist Knox (AKA Ian Carnochan) attributes this misfortune to the group's cheeky moniker. Under a different name, radio play would've been more likely and, in turn, created better promotion, heftier recording budgets, and bigger audiences. "On the plus side," Knox notes, "the name is still subversive."
The Vibrators' 1977 debut, Pure Mania, shows that the band deserved better. From the infatuated come-on of "Baby Baby" to the antidrug/antiviolence PSA "Keep It Clean" to the starry-eyed torch song "Whips and Furs," the band's unexpectedly winsome pop was punk shaded by timing, imperfect production, and a sense of mischief creeping beneath the sweetness.
Three decades later, the Vibrators still actively record, releasing both Garage Punk, a collection of '60s garage-rock covers, and Under the Radar, an original studio album, in 2009. Knox also plans on taking time off from the group to tackle a new venture that uses radio-friendly songs for a boost in prominence. "We've made lots of great records," says Knox. "It always depressed me slightly that so many people didn't see that."