Home > Arts/Culture/Entertainment > Kate Fagan cements her place in Chicago punk history with a new reissue

Kate Fagan cements her place in Chicago punk history with a new reissue

Before she began fronting trailblazing Chicago ska band Heavy Manners in the early 80s, Kate Fagan was a new-wave powerhouse. Her 1980 single “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool” became the best-selling local release at Wax Trax. Since then, unfortunately, physical copies have been all but impossible to come by. A house fire destroyed its second printing, and a 2016 seven-inch reissue by Manufactured Recordings (which included two previously unreleased bonus tracks) sold out quickly.

Early punk connoisseurs will be pleased, then, that the four songs from the 2016 reissue are making their 12-inch debut on an expanded version of the single that features four more previously unreleased tracks. All six additional tunes come from The Kissing Concept, a semi-autobiographical rock opera Fagan wrote in the 80s. “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool” is an obvious banger, with a minimal rhythm and a jaunty postpunk riff. Written shortly after Fagan taught herself bass, the song pokes fun at the hipster poseurs infiltrating the New York punk scene she’d just fled. Fagan’s vocals do most of the work, staying at a standard 80s pop level before rising into chirps; with her quavering, high-pitched voice, she often sounds a bit like Yoko Ono. The single’s original B side, “Waiting for the Crisis,” is a timeless, tongue-in-cheek stab at U.S. arms trading.

The rest of the album recalls Blondie with its tinkling synths and funky dance beats, though you can also hear Fagan’s interest in reggae beginning to assert itself. Closing track “Say It,” produced by Peter Tosh, features offbeat guitar rhythms and a synth line that mimics the tone of a steel drum. Fagan’s sound is rooted in the 80s, but these tracks—which delve into the mysteries and frustrations of love and the falseness of trend chasing—are enduring. This release should finally cement Fagan’s rightful place in Chicago punk history.

Kate Fagan’s I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool is available through Bandcamp.

Leave a Reply