Sunday, 29 December 2013

No - Great Space

Tearing herky-jerky hardcore from another band that joins DiE at the forefront of the UK's fertile UNGOOGLEABLEHC scene, pushing this way and pulling that way, "ON MY WAY HOME I FELL BACK AGAIN CLAWING AND STUMBLING AND FALLING AGAIN" the vocals snap in polysyndetonic rush as Become Less opens and the guitars shift and shake, burst out like warnings, whistle and click like computer destruction, never settling. It's all twirl and clamor, bouncing back and forth. Nothing is similarly twitchy, stepping in and cutting back, the violence and tautness of a dancing boxer. Too Easy is muddier, slower, lumbering onwards in murk, still with that tension and release, like a fist clenching and unclenching. "SHEETS OF SOUND/FROM WITHIN/DO IT AGAIN/IT'S NOT SO HARD" Skeletal Hand lays that twitchpunk sharpness over another stompy structure, the bass giving hints of a garage punk roller, the song speaking of desolation, inside, outside, and paranoia. "IN THE DESERT/SOMETHING MOVED/SKIN PEELS/FROM THE BONE". Shifting Clouds begins stop/start but bursts into another fast fragmentary one, "HOW COULD COULD I FIND/COMFORT IN TIME". The vocals throughout this 12" are arranged in fractured smacks, jumping like they're trying to compete with (escape from) the peaks of the guitar's scrambling alarums. Restless hardcore with no catchy handles, no hooks or mollifying choral unification, just the turbulence of punnk noise.

  

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Replica - s/t EP

Really raging nogimmick hardcore punk on Prank Records in the US, Cut the Cord That... in Europe. No disrespect to gimmicks, but Replica have no time for anything that isn't pure hardcore punk drive, they hang on nothing but the anger, musically, vocally. Vocals that spit with fierce conviction, strapped and bolted to perfectly pitched hardcore punk that holds tight and mean, driving onwards with shivering precision. It sounds like, I 'unno. It sounds like a hardcore punk EP. Void, Articles of Faith, Vatican Commandos, who gives a fuck. It's hardcore punk done sharp and ugly gutsy.

Beginning with an acapella scream of "COMING FROM MY EYES! COMING FROM MY EYES!", Strings is an uncomfortable one, crashing about in pained imagery, hitting you cold and hard. Rapture, an apocalyptic call. "NO FUTURE REMAINS FOR YOU." Not the nihilistic fuck-it-off Sex Pistols drawl, but a ruinous promise. "I WILL EAT YOU ALL". Damn, that's huge. Assume the position of destroying angel, not gonna fuck you up, gonna wipe that whole slate clean. The way that Dharma snarls "RAPTUUUURE", dragging out the word, corrupting it, squeezing it out into a half-yer/half-yeah, is just the best.

I had to edit out about four uses of the word snarl from the first draft of this review. Cos that's the word that constantly comes to mind listening to this, the words ripping out with violence and threat but also in that way where it could curl into a venomous smile at any time. I keep forgetting that this is Replica's debut EP, partly cos I played their demo to death, partly cos it's just so fantastically put together.


Dealer shifts the EP, closing out the A-side, speeding up. Moving from the trudge of "ERAAAASE MEEEE! BLANK MY EXISTENCE!"  to the squeal of "ERAAAASE YOOOU!" so the first line in retrospect seems less like a self-loathing pain than a fuck-you double-dare. That's where it jumps.

Cos You Can't Stop the Weather goes forward, not forgetting the struggles, but moving onwards with them, through them, feeling them tumble around you. "Collect yourself. Collect yourself. Pick up the pieces. YOU CAN'T STOP THE WEEEATHER!". The slurring now seems wryer and than the torn out anguish of Strings, the bilious bite of Rapture. Big Black Boots hits a skittering fast rhythm and rolls with that onwards motion again. It's movement, on foot in front of the other, til you can kick shit to pieces when it tries to pull you down.

From Strings & Rapture, all loathing and destructions, wrath and anxiety, contempt, the EP explodes out of that whole. You Can't Stop the Weather still deals with the the spatterings of mistakes and misfortune ("HABIT FORMING LOSSES HAVE GOT ME PASSING TIME/WONDERING IF WHAT'S LEFT OF ME IS MINE") but they punch through that, rather than writhing around in it. Five hardcore songs of inevitability, of the struggle with blankness, of movement and personal progress, questioned, pulled at, and lived with. And it fucking snaaarls that shit at you, unrepentant in each moment. Lives lived in punk fury. One of the best straight-up hardcore punk records of the year.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Gag - This Punk Shit Is Cool But I Hope I'm Rob Zombie When I'm 28

Stealing the crown of best cover art of the year away from Criaturas' Espiritu De Libertad with their Who Killed Spikey Jacket? take on the Velvet Underground's banana thing, Gag's one sided 12" This Punk Shit Is Cool But I Hope I'm Rob Zombie When I'm 28 also completes the double with best album title of the year, narrowly pipping World Scariest Police Chases's NOFX And Out Come The Wolves Dookie and Japanther's Eat Like Lisa Act Like Bart at the finishing line.

Five tracks of stompy evil stuff, slobbery snarls closer to hunger animal barks than recognisably human sound, cackle noise and besmeared adumbrations of speech, thrumming slumbass and lumbering ghouls, horrorpunk, not as in campy songs about vampire girlfriends and zombie hordes and facing off against zombie hordes with just your hot vampire girlfriend by your side. Fear in incomprehensibility, fear in noise, fear in the distorted gargle, the hardcore clump, the echoes of mocking Flipper-y laughter squirting out of the grasping noise, the nicks and cuts of the guitar, fear in the repetition of grunts and in the sick guttural grumble. The song titles hinting at some conjurings of ugly malevolence hidden in that bestial yelp that draws up nightmarish shivers of GISM's perfectly mutilated Nuclear Armed Hogs from your fearpunk hindbrain, CLOWN FARM, RAW MEAT, STEEL SHANK. This EP is the sound of something approaching and whatever that shit is it's not good.

 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Bad Noids - Everything From Soup to Dessert

Some great dismissive and obnoxious squirtpunk from Katorga Works. Cleveland's Bad Noids start their album with a sort of freakout clattering to a stop, like the cut-off section of some invisible first track (do you remember when CDs had those supersecret secret tracks that you had to rewind the first track to get to? That was the coolest thing about that medium), the track dividings ineptly placed, straight into it, catch up or fall out. Lies is accusatory, bitterness and playground spite "You smell like shit!" isn't big and it isn't clever but it's spat with enough venom it cuts, "Here's a gun you know what you to do with it." An invitation to self-destruction, nastier and than any brutish threat.

Bad Vomit's frantic downhill run rips quickly from "DON'T CARE BOUT WHAT YOU SAY" to "FUCK YOUR HUMAN RACE!" cutting between duelling panicked snaps, one breathless, the other bitter, that rise in panic and crash into incomprehensibility as the song rumbles and shakes its rusty panels as it approaches escape velocity, escape force. "ALL I HAVE TO SAY IS FUCK YOU PEOPLE IT'S TIME FOR ME TO LEAVE AND IT WEIGHS A TON"

Caught in a ramshackle basement cacophony, Bad Noids are held together by the vocals, which are Apocalypse Hoboken snotty, Crazy Spirit anguished, and sometimes (like on the line "We're only gonna play for yoooou." on Roth's Children/Lizard People) there's hints of a Biafran gleeful snideness. Closest maybe to Joey Vindictive's pained muppetbark, words sharpened and dragged out, pulled and mutilated, like "I was born in a bad dreeeeeeam" on the squeaking/cracking proto-punk roller Nun Mother, until even the simplest thing gets right down to its raw meaning, it's defining punch. Lines don't need wit when they're done like that.

Poison in the Kitchen crying "MAMA! WHAT'S FOR DINNER!?", theirs are cozy places thrashed and crashed, Bad Noids are the weirdos born of ultimate normality. The way that suburban sprawl and all its attempts at safety and quietitude cannot sustain itself and births some real odd pricks, chugging good ol' clean-livin-American-dream coca cola cos your mum's cooking you poison, dropping Wendy's slogans into the grimey underpunk.

Roth's Children's/Lizard's People stop-start trainclank into slide-around banger and hellbeast croon, a distortion, Mary Had a Little Lamb melody, more wholesomeness thrown into the meatgrinder, like the way My Country chucks in some rootsy harmonica (also present in drowned fits on Poison in the Kitchen) in a sort of twisted exaggeration of This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, it's a corruption of folky sounds. TBIAPB were rooting their sound in rebel-folk tradition, Bad Noids are blasting tradition to smoking stumps, the harmonica fraying at the edges and dragged along in the chaos.


It's just an album full of normality motifs (the TV dinner cover, yo), but the real kick of it comes not from its subversions but the way in which it twists these things, tapping into childhood bluntness and surety, that power of tantrum, fearsome in its absurd totality, eschewing nuance and subtext for screams of "COPS! COPS! FUCK THEIR SHIT!" (or as the near incomprehensible spiralling liner notes would have it "FUCK THERE SHIT!", the is full of typoes and misspellings and shit, just adding  to that sort of sloppy inept vibe). Happy Endings "There's no happy endings/If you don't cum" dares you to look for a deeper meaning to the idea of happy endings beyond this obvious adolescent jizzjoke, their might be some deeper depression there, but this is an album that makes a virtue of it's superficial nasalizings and scrapings, it's obsessions, it's unhappiness in itself, scrawl crayola-bright on its face plain, momentstuck, givenover, screaming for this time right now, no structure behind it, nothing but the fleeting sharpness of this ugly day. The secret track a primitive stomp of "I HAVE A HEADACHE!", giggling mindlessly through the pain and a drawl of Baaaad Nooooids. Bad Noids: their noids are bad. It is what it is.

Download here.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

NUKE CULT - Join or Don't

Itchin like a spiderbite, oozin like a cracked scab, a scritching scratchin ten minutes of bloody twerp punk from Kansas mutants. The guitar burbling like molten metal, the vocals all classic bitten-off sneer and insect snickering. Stress Relief draws out a little prickly riff, that digs in and grinds it out, Circle A goes from lo-fi bassbounce to chaotic panicspit of "CIRCLE A I WON'T OBEY!", Cop Caller rages before degenerating into an accusatory "WHO THE FUCK CALLED THE COPS!". Snob similarly self-destructs into a kind of playful drumpop, noise shiver and slovenly drawl. Join or Don't, blasé blasts, drawing you in or just letting you slip out the backdoor away from these disintegratory idiots. It's your loss. Sign me up. My draft for this review was just me smearing the logo in blood in my notebook.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Kromosom - Nuclear Reich

Australian rawpunx. They've got a split with Isterismo and a 12" called 8 Tracks, and instead of the next logical step, an 8 track called Twelve Inches, they've got this thing called Nuclear Reich. Some of this band have a really great true meathead music sideproject Bloody Hammer playing a crustied take street punk/Oi! and that Criminal Damage bent has bled back into Kromosom, infecting their Mauser/Giftgasattack/Kriegshög bluntness with a little bit of melody and communal spirit. Media Control has an intro that plays like a sharpened bonesplinter take on Cockney Rejects' I Am Not a Fool or maybe even Rancid's Avenue's and Alleyways and the fistpump of Culture Degeneration (CUL! TURE! DEGENERATION!) hits as one of those inept and inane irresistible shoutalongs like Lower Class Brats' Psycho. Elsewhere though they stick to the rawpunx and they do it fine but it's not quite as great as those moments where the Oi! degenerates into gross chaos roar, or the noise lifts up in brief melody.



Draw the Line and Answer are punx scene songs, tearing at the place of punk within the world, attacking those who would exploit it from outside (Answer: "CUT OUT THE LEECH THAT FEEDS ON PUNK BLOOD.") and corrupt it mindlessly from inside (Draw the Line: "BRING BONEHEAD DESTRUCTION"), Draw the Line almost cuts itself to pieces with an anguished stumbling, but Answer is just straight tear. Nuclear Reich and Radiation are classic odes to the bomb in that pained Discharge style, the titular opening leading in with a bit of dirty postapocalyptic creep, Radiation being another real down-the-line up and out one. Culture Degeneration, Virtual Inmate and Media Control all take shots at the psychological destruction brought about by technology and media in their fallout-swathed guitar rush. Human Shell is all GISM in its makings though, creepy inhuman burps and swirling/squealing guitar solos that sit in weird contrast to the burn of the rest of the sound.



The lyrics often break into disjointed declarative shouts, like that of a migrained brain inable to construct syntax in the pain and lightning fury and just blurting out the basics of its point leaving you to put things back together,  Media Control: "ARMY OF DRONES! MEDIA CONTROL! IDENTITY! MEDIA CONTROL!", Human Shell: "STERILE! CASTRATED! DOCILE!", Culture Degeration: "PROGRESSION! REGRESSION!", Radiation: "NUCLEAR LEAKAGE! NATURE RAVAGED!". Broken pieces of a broken world, stitched together by a breaking sound. Fullblast atomic stomppunx.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Hunx and his Punx - Street Punk

If you are anything like me, you have had more discussions about what punk means than it is really wise to admit in adult company, you may have also written a 130000 word blog dedicated to ferreting out what is and isn't punk rock. You probably haven't done exactly that. Because that is fucking stupid and you are probably not that stupid.

Punk is a genre of music, it is also an attitude, and a vague political bent, but before it had the meaning of a genre of music, and before it exploded out into a thousand terrible incredibly earnest momentarily consuming message board arguments, it had a meaning somewhere between hoodlum and catamite. So street punk in 2013 might make you think of A Global Threat or Clit 45 or all those mohawked wonders with more studs than sense, but forty years ago, you were looking at someone probably a bit like Dee Dee Ramone or Jim Carroll. So here's Street Punk, reappropriating the term, restoring its original connotations of mean tough queer kids with switchblades.

This is Hunx and his Punx third album, after Gay Singles and Too Young to Be In Love, which were cool albums of 60s girl group sound roughed up and clumsy sweet, which I kinda dug but I didn't listen to too much because while I like that sort of amateurishness, I don't spend that much time listening to things that are quiet. Street Punk, like the name says, is mainly a straight-up punk rock album, taking that sound that shivered and stumbled its way through the Gay Singles and Too Young to Be in Love and running it through with stronger punk threads, which means that I like it more because I am a really predictable noise-hungry arsehole.

A similar trick to that reappropriation of 'street punk' happens with Bad Skin. It's a punk cut about acne, not big-ass bald-dudes with The Business tattoos, packed with anguished teenage destruction.

When Shannon Shaw takes over the vocalst's it's got echoes of that Midnite Snaxxx mess, on songs like the love/hate pop/punk You Think You're Tuff and its slip from denial to self-interrogation and Buzzcockian regret. Mud in Your Eyes is probably my favourite song on the album, a dreamy love shuffle of lust and grime. "You got mud in your eyes and I don't care/You got blood in you teeth and I don't care/You got grass on your skin and I don't care/You got dirt on your hands and I don't care" It's a song that's all physicality, and all dismissal of physicality, punching through the slime.



Similar repetition gives power to the real curt thrashers Don't Call Me Fabulous and Everyone's a Pussy (FUCK YOU DUDE!), they tear out in 30 seconds, hinging on a simple phrase repeated, just as the closing bummer number It's Not Easy does drawling "It's not easy being me" over and over. From the criminal gang anthem of I'm Coming Back to the Beastie Boys cover Egg Raid on Mojo, this is a sloppy stabby punk rock album rumbling with Personal and the Pizzas dumbcrew mythology and mellifluous girl-group bits lifting out gently from behind the fuzz.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hunger - Dying is Ordinary

Exposed nerve noisepunk on Muscle Horse records, shrill and piercing, bloody and pummeling. Stuck in your head like an icepick, wincing with the feedback blares. One of those times when the idea of distortion seems half-ridiculous, this can't be some recognisable sound twisted into this painful form, but more a barbedwire clang of its own particular shrill birth, bursting from some new argute origin. It's less blown out than collapsed-in, slaps of drums and duelling vocal screams underneath the rubble of noise.


Calling up D-Clone/Confuse/Dust Noise/Frenzy, all markers of blistering noise, it's a world consumed in dentist drill feedback, tearing on Press, stomping and thrashing on Human Hand, wilding out on Well Rounded, running up and down in that brutal squeal. Raging distressed and poisonous against self ("WHAT IS THIS WORLD I'VE CARVED FOR MYSELF?" on Forced Hand) and world ("JUST BECAUSE IT'S WRITTEN DOESN'T MAKE IT RIGHT") on Press. Serrated hardcore, acidbath torments. Really profoundly uncomfortable stuff.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Perfume River - No Wind flexi

Wrestling the title of most ill-fitting bandname away from previous champions God Equals Genocide, who play pop-punk not epic crustcore like what you would think, Perfume River play unrelenting d-beat, not acoustic pop songs about feeling and other things that suck. Unrelenting apart from the fact that every song lasts 45 seconds or less. Released on CS in 2012, I think, getting the vinyl treatment from Symphony Of Destruction this year on a gorgeous clear flexi with silver detailing. Harsh world screams. "REPULSION!" roars Ammoniated & Lifeless. "THOSE WHO LIVE/LIVE OFF THE DEAD" A Continuation bellows through the brutish noise, repetitions, repetitions.  A repellent two minutes of human hate that turns over like a bomber engine. The wardeath noisefuck with the energy of airraid panic.


Amnesea - 1st EP

Blown all the way out past all orbitary waystations, a storming Japanese hardcore release on Tadpole Records. That sort of total splatternoise distortion that Zyanose trade in, ferocity totality. The vocals squeeze out of the signalscatter cacophony in a ghostly half-buried echo. Glitchy guitar solos breaking apart on re-entry on ソケイヘルニア. The final song gets kinda mellow and but still noisy as hell, kind of like the song Vanette topping off Slight Slappers's A Selfish World Called Freedom LP, there's tension and building threat there which isn't present on the rest of the EPs crashercrust tumbles. Slowly leading into another purewrath explosion, a raw rippedapart beast, dropping out into mid-tempo variation on that sinister runaround, erupting again. Furious and unfuckwithable brokenpunx.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Long Knife - Wilderness

Long Knife play that kind of no-quarters-given hardcore punk infused with roughhouse rock and roll tone that Poison Idea tore it up with. Long Knife/Poison Idea comparisons could be to 2013 what Night Birds/Dead Kennedys comparisons were to 2011. Both bands make hardcore punk lifting heavily from some of the best punk bands to ever do it, both sounding a bunch like bands that while beloved by many are actually kinda hard to sound like because they were just so fucking good. A lot of bands might have tinges and hints of Kings of Punk and Ian Mackaye but not many nail that sound down the way Long Knife manage, which is clear from the fact that there are not a huge amount of bands in the plain Poison Idea worship pool, the way there are with Discharge or the Ramones, because really, if your band could sound just like War All the Time, why would you want your band to sound like anything else?

A sarcastic sour perspective pervades Wilderness, it's an album born from a nasty mental space, coloured by an ugly physical space, a combination of interior and exterior filth. Back to Blackout screaming "There's a war going on in the hall/Last night's blood is dried to the wall." It's like Culo in its evocations of and obsession with these dark spaces but less gleeful in its nihilism, cos while Culo revel in their mutant imprecations, Long Knife are just trapped there. After the meanmugging instrumental Intro, the first line on Artificial Heart Recall is "Tried to paint a pretty picture with a crooked pen", which is pretty much it, it's caught in this ugly situation, incapable of escape, a world of remorseless predators and shambling forlorn prey, a Robocop slice-of-life, they really Feel the Darkness.


Narco, a Power of the Dog-style drug war assault from top to bottom, shades maybe of the outrage of Rats Blood's Heroin, which goes at the society that and the ones who judge more than it hits the addicts, but still it's got a shout of "A nation of junkies get what it deserves" just to complete its encompassing blast. Tearaway punk that explodes perfectly into squealing tracerfire solo. It also rhymes KKK with CIA which is one of the most punk rhymes you can do. That widescatter scream of anger might suggest an outside looking in exceptionalist take on all this murk, that everyone falls beneath a standard set by the narrator/singer, but it never has that superiority to it cos it attacks its own inadequacies, its own broken pens, as much as it rolls against everything else.

Drugs pop up a couple of time on the album. It's just a fact of life in Wilderness, narcotising against pain and boredom is just a thing that happens in these places. In Back to Blackout, rotting in City Baby urban decay, obliterating yourself with flophouse blue pills is the only way to chase away the flophouse blues, before it goes all quasi-metal evil as it intones the chorus. Turn Blue's "Daddy was a rolling stone/Snorting cocaine all alone".

Turn Blue and Ghost in the Hall scratch further at the inevitability of death and the pointlessness of life. "One fine day when you are gone/Will your memory flicker on" on Turn Blue, "And in the end we will all fall, tormented and alone" on Ghost in the Hall. Those Jerry A-style vocals drawling and sneering, cracking into bitter half-retches as the philippics peak.

Move It Creep that moves from uncompromising dismissal "Nevermind what you said/Integrity's a word that you've killed dead" to something starker, as the bass skates and dances under the riffs, Proxy wild. The first line's "MOVE IT CREEP! FIGURE IT OUT!" but the second verse leads off  with "I'LL MISS YOU CREEP/YOU WERE MY DAWG!" it's one of the few times that regret sneaks into the album, one of the few times that an emotion beyond spitting outrage and fatalistic snarling is pulled out. A brief acknowledgment of real feeling, but that got snatched away with all the rest of the shit, as everything will with the apocalyptic Last Wave. Tight snapping hardcore, punk rock to burn bridges to. Pig Champion rides again. On Feral Ward records.



Thursday, 21 November 2013

Maquina Muerta - s/t EP

Scalding flat rawpunx from Mexico. Clattering, primitive and physical. Gimme that ineptitude. The drums slap and crash chaotically, the vocals burn mightily with the weight of passion and affliction, a worked and turned over field in the throat, blood in spit and sound. You can hear the creases and strain as it screams "MAQUINA DE MUERTE" like an invocation on the title track, "NO! NO! NO! NO!" on Sangre Inocente, leading into Todo El Odio with an unaccompanied blisterburst bellow of "RABIA! RABIA! RABIA!". These repetitions like the simplistic direct bludgeonpunk repetitions of the music, each riff simple and uncatchy, but relentless, driven into with conviction, reiterated without quarter given, message and bluntness undimmed, unaltered each time, a monotony of brutality. This noise comes round again, this noise doesn't leave, this noise doesn't know how. It all turns over in a such a way as to almost abnegate momentum with brickwall ugliness, sticking its guitars in such inelastic scritching grooves, rarely using them for anything but the abrading. There's a slippery wild movement at the end of Sangre Inocente, with noise wobbles flickering over rerun bass riffs, a small solo that picks and bites like mosquitoes in the murk on Vacio, another one that squeals panicked and off-kilter on Progreso Camicace, like the escape from those grooves will combust and kill it all. The vocals pull it back, hold it all barely together. They're so coarse, scarier even than the music, just in the emotion they eek out, rage laced with and deepened by grief, screaming over the dronepunk that bloodies on stubbornly, rumbling, repetitive as the throb from a wound, searing. Savage and painful and goddamn inept as all. On Metadona Records.


Monday, 18 November 2013

Direct Hit! - Brainless God

tense fucking shit when a band whose logo you have decided to etch indelibly into your skin decides to release new music. I don't have to worry about the Hickey H on my leg as that band are dear departed, but having already dodged the Screeching Weasel bullet, no-one wants to join the group of people who got Gaslight Anthem tats after Sink or Swim, or got Anti-Nowhere League jobs before The Perfect Crime came out (though to be honest, an Anti-Nowhere League tattoo was always gonna be somewhere in the top ranks of bad decisions from moment needle hit skin). So I was kinda on edge for one of my favourite bands' new album.

Selfie of the Artist as a Young Dog
And it got worse when I heard a couple of the preview tracks and they sounded pretty slick. Slick, as in well-produced. I generally try not to harp on about production, because focusing on production in punk reviews it always just the most boring shit ever and generally seems like a transparent attempt on behalf of the writer to go "Oh look how mature I'm being knowing that music is something made by people in rooms." Fuck that, music is numinous adolescent shit for dancing to and crying over, I will treat it as sillily and ridiculously and pretentiously as I possibly can.

But yeah it sounded kinda slick, and slick is a word I only like to use when I am giving a nickname to a greaser that I have beef with in the musical that is my everyday life, and combined with the fact that I was not too into Domesplitter (I love all those songs, I'm just generally not down with rerecordings if they don't alter the song significantly in someway like Proxy's Police Car's development from demo to 7", OG KEASBEY 4 LYFE) I was definitely worried. Maybe it was just use of the words 'first date' in the song Buried Alive, the song I heard first, that brought up memories of First Date, one of Blink-182's most Blink-182 songs, and I'm just not really into that anymore.

What I did not see coming was that the song Buried Alive was not just a throwaway goofy love song, but a serial killer section of a greater narrative, a concept album about the end of the world, and not in like the way that d-beat albums are about the end of the world ("YEAH WE'RE DISPEPSIA AND WE SING ABOUT ALL THE TOPICS: NUCLEAR WAR, NUCLEAR WINTER, WAR NUKES, NUCLEAR BOMBS, NUCLEAR ARSENALS, NUCLEAR SUMMERS, FISSION-POWERED NUCLEAR ROBOT DOGS") but a collection of songs telling, from a bunch of criss-crossing perspectives, the tale of the eschaton immanentized. In this sense the full wider sound of it all apt, a big sound for a big story, works, an angelic sheen for songs of angels descending, like the way Shitlickers layered guitars like a motherfucker to get that end-of-the-world blast on their raw punk d-beat classics, but put to shinier, brighter purpose in big lifting pop-punk swells.

One thing it doesn't focus on too much though is the mechanics of that destruction, there are a bunch of references to bombs falling, but the album's focus is on consequences not causes, humans (not just humanity) faced with the nothingness rushing towards them, not the blundering brinkmanship or nationalist posturing that brought the curtain down. It's a story that works on a few levels. There seems to be something of a throughline, that you can kind of work out but it's shady and hinted at and uncertain. The main thing is a bunch of people confronting an end, maybe the end, a personal as well as a wider one. On & On and The World Is Ending (No-One Cares) open with a couple of overviews of the situation, one screamingly defiantly against the black ("LET'S GET PLASTERED ONE MORE TIME!"), the other a snotty righteous putdown of sinners. That's the first hint of this albums multi-pronged approach to armageddon, coming in from different angles, stuff like Buried Alive and Getting What He Asked For are third person. Bank of Elevators, White Robes, Back to the Tower and more are first-person, but from different characters.

A lot of the songs fit together in pairs like that. Buried Alive are both macabre stories of violent lives facing armageddon, one a serial killer, one an avenging victim of domestic violence. Buried Alive is a weird one, somewhere close to parodic and blackly comic, but with enough specificity and real emotion to give it consequence, and of course set up against that rushing doom that shoots up the tension in all. It's that uncertainty and switching up of viewpoints and tones, ghostly forgiveness, dark irony, drawn-out relief, that prevents it falling into that sort of cloying cutesy serial-killer stuff of bad 'adult' dramas and Hannibal Lecter twitter accounts.

Getting What He Asked For might be sharper in its cut off, more sudden, the righteousness gets shit on but the selfish evil of Buried Alive doesn't. What really gets closure here? The song's asking something brutal. Can even the cunt in Buried Alive taste redemption? Can even the victory of GWHAF's protagonist get stolen out of from under them. The last line screams "It's not so fucking depressing" but I'm not sure if that's true. It certainly thrills fore it snaps apart whereas Buried Alive just makes you feel weird, but it's a testament to the sequencing of this album that the pairing of these songs makes each other stronger, more complex, playing off each other in the different applications of murder, the different feel of the end hitting, with some uncomfortable stuff to say about the possible pointlessness of it all.


The idea of a brainless or absent deity has echoes of Garth Ennis's Preacher or Chronicles Wormwood, of maybe the heavenly detour of Angels in America. It's a rage at absences, at irresponsibility from those entrusted with it the most. It works on an anti-god trip, but even on the level of someone who's never bought into that line when they weren't high as hell and depressed watching What Dreams May Come at 4am it seems like a great rage to be a part of, that scream against the idea that things are ultimately fucked, meaningless, out-of-control, that we were lied to, cos we were, by someone. It's something somewhat like a soaring chorus for those days when you get so fucked off with the world that you end up daydreaming that that shit was real just so shitty people would go to hell when they die.


It is also wordy as hell. This might be the first album I've reviewed where the word count of the lyrics has a shot at outreaching the word count of this review (we'll see about that, ya cunts). Cos it jumps around with the perspectives you end up with a lot of different character songs sung in the voices of angels or suicides or desperate lovers. The characters are well drawn through dialogue, lines packed with nice natural bleed and softness to the language, words imbued with caginess and euphemism, the edges fraying with litotes and couching language. "It's kind of awkward to admit that I've been less than forthright when I implied that I was ready to die" on I Told You a Lie scuffs with shamefaced admittal. The sort of non-commital bureaucratic coaxing on Bank of Elevators, about a a dead soul facing damnation, or purgatory or pressganging into heaven's service. "When you’re done, see me here and we’ll discuss compensation – If there’s something I can say, it’s we’re especially patient." It leads to a lot of cleverly structured Sloppy Seconds double rhymes, cluttered torrential slaps of words, enjambement running over.


It's cool but it's weird for a band that tends so clearly to the anthemic to construct songs of such lyrical density, it means that when I saw them I spent like 3 days listening to the songs intently trying to learn the words and then just got too drunk/excited to remember all but the choruses, and even a bunch of the choruses do that thing where they change up with each one.

There's an Auld Lang Syne style refrain that comes up a couple of times through the album, drawing that choral flourish of ending and loss and rebirth into this punkpopalypse dance. Cos there's a lot of denial in this album, as much as there is acceptance, a lot of bargaining and and ugly discomfort and threads-left-hanging as much as there is conclusion. The messiness and contradictory nature of this album is what makes it. Sometimes joyous, sometimes hateful, sometimes despairing, sometimes all these things and more smashing into each other. Sometimes the end seems meaningless and arbitrary, sometimes it throws everything that matters into stark relief and then on I Told You A Lie it even acknowledges the idea of setting lives against the situation in that fashion and the way that that's probably not a very smart way or helpful to frame things "In fact the truth is I've only used this to understand why we're all here." It escapes and dodges away from easy answers. It's a conflicted album, sonically, thematically, silky whoa-ohs fly into angry barks. Heaven is a Black Hole, a song that reverberates with sweet harmonies and heavenly echoes still has a stumbling moment of indecision where it all shudders to a stop in the middle. It can switch between silly-sweet classic Steinwaysesque buzzpop lines like "Cause in a minute we'll be isotopes all jumbled up/Doesn't that give you some hope that we can end up together?" on White Robes to searing pain on We're Fucked.

We're Fucked, a straight up hardcore rippper, like their split with Hold Tight!, burning with the fury of betrayed suicides. If more pop-punk bands are gonna start throwing hardcore bangers into their stuff (like how RVIVR did earlier this year of The Hunger Suite Part II: Dark Territory) then I'm down with it, more pop-punk bands should forget they're not Die Kreuzen for a minute and a half and punch holes in the glistening wings of the anthems with a bunch of screaming anger in the middle of the album, bursting with pain and voidborn rage, "We'll pluck out your eyes so they won't see the end/We'll box out your ears so they can't hear the end". This fury is brought-up again at the end of I Told You A Lie which shifts gears from a mid-tempo crooner into a panicked rush that leads into the confident punch of Home To You which slams straight into a dramatic bomb blast.


And then the end. The end of all these endings. How can you do that? Such an intricate chaotic thing, swirling with brawling boxed-out emotions, what seem like possibly dozens of stories, all hinting at dozens, hundreds, thousands more. Packed as much with bleakness and anger as it is with romance. Like I said, there's a narrative here, buried and cut up like its characters, obscured and tricky to unpick but that's unimportant ultimately, being secondary to the flux of human feeling that pours from every song in every different way. How can you sum all that up with one big closer? Well, it ends with a song about fucking up angels. Yeah, maybe it's kinda easy to bring everything all into one fantastic upwards tear, a shining coming together of all the twisted broken souls streaming, smiling and violence in their hearts, towards the gates of heaven, but the wide warm singalong of lines "WE WANT OUT WHISKEY BOTTLES BACK NOW/OUR GUITARS AND AMPLIFIERS/COS THIS NIGHT AIN'T OVER TIL WE SAY IT'S DONE!" grab everytime as it rolls back seamlessly into a reprise of the similarly joyous and unrepentant On and On. It an album built of endings, painful ones, triumphant ones, sudden ones, that goes up against the finality and futility of it all but can't help but loop back in on itself in an endless humane and life-filled continuation of the fuck-yous and the get-pumpeds that runs like a river on, communal and victorious, vicious and companionless, making you lose the idea that it's some tense, really


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Frau - Demo

All-woman hardcore punk band featuring members of Good Throb and Woolf, less prone to flensed-Pixies rise-and-fall of Good Throb, or the art-garage weirdthreat of Woolf, Frau are just as uncompromising in their hardcore punch, but more streamlined for the attack. Like those bands though, it's got that clattering energy where the different instruments are clearly distinguishable and seem to rip around chaotically knocking chips out of each other as they bounce forward.

Hostile lays it out, a song that contains one of those perfect FUCK YOU! GET PUMPED! punk summations in the line "WHAT I LACK IN SUBSTANCE AND STYLE/I MAKE UP FOR BEING HOSTILE" . The songs built of a catchy bassline and some stabbing guitar, all backed up by an undercurrent of keening feedback getting right in your brain and making you feel real weird. I really like the feedback on this tape, it's not enough to be oppressive and ugly in a Merciless Game kinda way, but it's present enough to be unsettling, a thin sharp edge on this noise.


Safety Instructions is a terrific song, over another great repetitive bass/guitar interplay it lays out a nervy anxious love story written like a twitching uncomfortable fuck-off to the doomed twattish romanticism of something like There Is a Light That Never Goes Out. In The Smiths's number "to die by your side well the pain and the privilege is mine" and yeah, it's a sweet line but it's easy, too easy. Life and love is a more complicated dangerous proposition. Fuck a deathwish. The choice to live, the desire to make someone safe in an always unsafe world is a scarier thing than fatalism and suicide pacts. Safety Instructions gets that Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy, not a template, and is full of the jagged present fear of caring about someone more than you care about yourself, its vows of protection are more daring for how unsteady and unconvincing they are. Those sorts of promises are always an effort to convince yourself as much to anyone else.


It's that sort of rawness that pervades Frau's stuff from the sarcastic punk crack of High Heels ("HAIRCUT! HAIRCUT! AM I ON TREND!?") to the stop-start pained/directed rage of Accused and more declarations of renegade spirit on Trouble, it's a punk tape sparking furiously against itself. Rickety in its construction, curt, barely holding together the basic materials of its scathing tone, snappy drums, guitars set to aggravate, clean earworm basslines and the vocals that can pierce and rage on Paris, run along with the bluster of Sherman's Gone and smear themselves into noise on Trouble before the whole thing terrifically blares itself to pieces in cut-crash blastpunk on Nada.



Available here.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

RAMONA

Probably the greatest song ever written about the Ramones is R.A.M.O.N.E.S. by Motorhead, originally on the album 1916, later covered by the Ramones themselves, which rolls through, with vision and thunder, a flash of images of the Ramones urban knucklehead milieu: “Black leather, knee-hole pants/Can't play no highschool dance




Then there's Guitar Wolf, who bite the styles of Motorhead and the Ramones in equal measure, Japanese noise superheroes in black leather, everything louder than everything else, cramming words together in a sort of impressionistic punk rock fuck you, where you can tell exactly what they mean, but also are incapably of explaining exactly what they’re saying, heirs to the ultimate cool of the Ramones, black leather jackets and simplicity, crunching out the surf-garage throb of the song Kung Fu Ramone Culmination Tactic.

Ramones tributes often come at their subject from the same sort of angle, with the same sort of shimmy, careening around in a 100mph coming together of that black leather, ripped up jeans, speed and noise, jukebox romance, communal shouts of the backpatch-cool stupidity slogans "GABBA GABBA HEY!" and "HEY! HO! LET'S GO!", an emphasis on the Ramones as a combination of teen heartthrobs, dangerous herberts and cretinous goobers. And an overwhelming desire to be joined with them somehow, to imitate, to hang with that crew, like on The Migraines I Wanna be a Ramone, which packs 40-odd Ramones references into its 3 minutes, going deep beyond the pinheads and the beaten brats, managing such lyrical feats as rhyming Mama's Boy with Animal Boy. There are also at least three other songs with the same title.  

A similar desire for assimilation exists on I Wanna Be Like Dee Dee Ramone by The Parasites. “I Wanna Be a Blitzkrieg Bopper/Wanna Be a Real Punk Rocker.” It's pleasingly reckless in its fuzz and scramble, but it does have the problem of focusing wholly on the punk rebel icon at the expense of the series of life experiences that defined Dee Dee, The Parasites never mention their desire to be a rentboy in 70s New York, have a lifelong heroin addiction, play in GG Allin’s band or release an unbelievably bad rap album that demonstrates all the flow and lyricism of a cartoon moose on barbiturates.

 The Spazzys have the song I Wanna Cut My Hair Like Marky Ramone, about wanting to cut your hair like Marky Ramone, but acknowledging "It's gonna look dumb, but it's gonna be fun." For the Spazzys, they don’t care if it means they can’t get a boyfriend, looking like Marky is way more important. A shitty momcut as being part of something greater, cheap self-mutilation to join the cult. Kinship with this group of impossible freaks.


 This is in the subgenre of songs specifically about minor Ramones. Generally the songs that focus on the Ramones revolve around the main core of Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee, Tommy, Richie, CJ and Marky kinda gets kicked to the curb or just short shout outs, though there is Tommy Ramone by The Vapids, a two minute biography that follows their first drummer from his awkward teenage years, "TROUBLE ALL AROUND!" is its repeated refrain. Elvis doesn't even get one song to my knowledge, but then again he only played two shows, whereas Marky was in the band for 12 years and even gets the indignity of usually being left off the iconic logo shirt in favour of Tommy. (Also, when the Ramones covered R.A.M.O.N.E.S. they changed the lyrics from “Hear Marky kick some ass” to “Marky takes it up the ass”)

Even Kung Fu Monkeys' I Miss the Ramones has to add "Let’s not forget Marky!" almost as an afterthought. I Miss the Ramones was penned around the Ramones break-up, serving as  framing them in a larger cultural narrative, running through post-war music history from the 50s onwards heralding the Ramones as heroes arriving in the nick of time “to save the day and take back radio” from the turgid indulgence of classic and prog rock. An idea which does have some merit, though the implication that the Ramones were also somehow responsible for exposing the Watergate scandal is probably a bit farfetched.

The Mr T Experience End of the Ramones says goodbye to the Ramones with a transcendent final show, everything coming together for a last 1-2-3-4 where the pang of goodbye is temporarily obscured by the blazing exit in spite of, or maybe because of, the beating life has given the four not-brothers “Joey is a vegetable Dee Dee's going bald Johnny got kicked in the head but the kids still love them all” 

They do and they still miss them. The loss is often palpable. Punk Rock Club RIP is mournful, the passing of a venue where good times were had, the Ramones were seen, friendships were made and jaws were broken, it's as sad as a song that bubblegum can really be and you can read the grieving for a show space as grieving for the Ramones also. Their mention is often punk rock shibboleth, a touchstone, like in The Queers anti-hippie anthem Granola Head, “I’d rather be at home, listening to the Ramones.” or in Screeching Weasel’s I Need Therapy as the painful result of this obsession lamenting the fact that he’s "O.D.'d on The Ramones cause I just sit around at home"

MTX, The Queers and Screeching Weasel being the Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee of the 90s Ramonescore revival, simplistic sharp catchy punk cuts on love and isolation and loss. Buzzpop barbs of that inspired the likes of The Transgressions with Baby I Love You (But I Need Someone to Talk to About the Ramones), in this, as in (The Huntingtons Jeannie Hate the Ramones, and The Creeps My Girlfriend Hates the Ramones) adoration for the Ramones is a relationship acid test. It’s probably Ramones-worship at its most juvenile, which is pretty fucking juvenile in a field which is an endless shambling parade of four-chord arrested development. Stylistically not amazingly interesting, the The Transgressions at least get out in 40 odd seconds of screaming, the Huntingtons and the Creeps rely on a mix of terrific pace and sloppy vocal collisions between dry whoa-ohs and snotty scrapes, to sustain themselves, until the Creeps song gets kinda slower and a bit boring. What it really points too though is that sort of teenage shortsightedness, music taste over all, judgemental punx exclusivity, a ridiculous shiteheaded personal integrity over compromise and happiness. How many people are there out there suffering just cos some girl ain't into. Is it really as common a problem as these bands make out? Similarly dumb but coming from the other directions are The Come Ons with She's Ugly But She Likes the Ramones (though that does put the Spazzys fears of loneliness to rest).




It might be these sort of bands which are put on blast by the goofball iconoclasm of Boris the Sprinkler’s Kill the Ramones released on a double A-side single with the song Kill the Sex Pistols, by a band that clearly loves the Ramones as much as anyone, once recording a whole album cover of the Ramones’ End of the Century. The Ergs! offer a less drastic solution pleading over a ripped off and muddied-up Teenage Lobotomy riff Xerox Your Genitals, Not the Ramones.

Of course, Kill the Ramones was written before the main three Ramones had actually died. Since the end of the century Dee Dee, Joey and Johnny have all bought it. My favourite version of Motorhead’s R.A.M.O.N.E.S. is on the 2005 live bootleg Stagefright where Lemmy introduces the song with a growl of "I was gonna stop doing this song last year, but then another one died, so I had to start all over a fucking again.”

Since then Ramones songs have leant even more towards the mournful, dug further into the loss, it works as well as the kisses and adoration, because the Ramones weren't just about the teenage bounce and gangs, Joey's voice was always capable of an edge of sadness in stuff like Danny Says and She Talks to Rainbows

 Joey Had to Go, a mid-tempo stomper, from Nomeansno ramonescore side-project, The Hanson Brothers, draws a vivid portrait of Joey as a sort of braindead intergalactic traveller, "He couldn't count past four. But he didn't need a whole lot more. He was weird all spindly and tall. Standing in his leathers up against the wall.” an impression probably fostered by their most famous on screen appearance in the Roger Corman classic Rock and Roll High School where the entire band comes across like spaced-out weirdos struggling to grasp the fundamentals of human interaction, Dee Dee endlessly baffled by the prospect of eating a slice pizza. Here Joey’s an alien being passing through, bestowing his wisdom and then he’s gone, more worlds to tear up, more galaxies to get hoppin. 




The Sloppy Seconds, still aren’t at that stage of acceptance yet, with the tightly-rhymed slamdance denial of You Can’t Kill Joey Ramone, “NO! NO! NO! JOEY DON’T GO!” it screams, “Save your prayers for Dee Dee” it pleads.

Not all of the songs deal with love and loss, imitation and destruction, for instance,  Frenzal Rhomb explicate the art/artist division in the song Johnny Ramone was in a Fucken Good Band But He Was a Cunt (subtitled GABBA GABBA YOU SUCK) but that’s an outlier. Most of them get their kicks in romance and pinhead longing.

 The crush of Helen Love’s Joey Ramoney, which portrays a long-distance desire over a sweetly skipping keyboard riff, sampling Joey’s hey-ho’s and running away with its own silly love. “There’s a girl who loves you on the other side of the world” it reassures Joey, perfectly capturing that bedroom-poster closeness you feel towards your teenage idols. Certainly more pleasant than The Maxies’ Sandy with its promise of “For you, Sandy, I’d dig up all the dead Ramones.”


 Amy Rigby’s Dancing with Joey Ramone, is, at least at first, mellow dancefloor seduction, with a possibly spectral Joey, who keeps his distance, as she copies every move he made. On the initial listen you get caught up in the gentle shuffle, and it comes across as resembling the adoration of Joey Ramoney, but on relistens it gets weirder and more aggressive ("I tried to say something/He said "Girl, shut your mouth, they're playing Papa Was a Rolling Stone") and besides, if you're copying every move he makes, Joey Ramone’s main move was leaning forward and looking scary as he shook his head about arrhythmically so really the scene’s less romantic than it might appear. At the end the unreliable narrator finds herself alone, but still stuck with those warm gluey memories as the song suddenly speeds up into Ramones pastiche.

 Sleater-Kinney’s I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone focuses on this heartthrob idea, usurping Joey’s place as an idol, with a rebel yelp. It's equal parts that imitation and destruction. Joey's a god, but one to kill. "I wanna be your Joey Ramone/Pictures of me on your bedroom door/Invite you back after the show/I'm the queen of rock and roll."

Delay’s Everything You Hate brings together that metaphorical power together with the complex interpersonal relationships, the tension and loathing that characterised the band for most of its existence, synthesising their place as icons with their reality as humans. “You say you don’t like the Ramones/But I think we’re a lot like the Ramones/Cos we look good together but we don’t get along/We’re a lot like the Ramones.”

Modern Life Is War's D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S. similarly mixes the reality with the fantasy. It's got that assimilative desire, but it's also from a point in time when the Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee are in the ground so it's way darker and more tortured in its cry of "Now I just wanna go back home and turn up my stereo/Until the rhythm melts my bones 'cause I'm a Dead Ramone"

Shonen Knife, known also as the Osaka Ramones, who have also released full albums of Ramones covers and played entire Ramones cover shows. The song Ramones Forever, tells the tale of a life lived through the medium of Ramones. It’s a simple process that has played out all over the world for the last 35 years. Day 1, hear the Ramones on the radio. Day 2, buy a Ramones album. Day 3. Start a fucking punk rock band. 

 The song triumphantly climaxes with a scene of Shonen Knife supporting the Ramones, which actually happened. This is one of the ultimate attractions of punk rock, that you can start a shitty band in your shitty town and then be sharing the stage with your heroes not long after, but, more than with any other punk band, the Ramones lend themselves to hero worship as much as best-friend fantasies the Ramones are definitely on pedestals. 

The inclusive/exclusive balance, the build-it-up/tear-it-down counterplay, where you can be part of something, you can change your last name to Ramone, but you're not a RAMONE-Ramone. You can wish to obliterate every idol, but you still need heroes somehow, that impossible thing to aspire to. You can get close, but you still got that gap. You’ll never quite be one of those four sloppily uniformed thugs, leant against the wall looking cool, but almost trying too hard to look badass and disaffected and ending up like some weird broken simulacra of teenage cool, all the more desirable for its sliced and mangled take on that languid adolescent pose. The Ramones are gone, whether you think them benevolent aliens or just a bunch of fucked-up dudes from New York, they're gone, but when  Shonen Knife sing “RAMONES FOREVER! MUSIC FOREVER! RAMONES FOREVER! PUNK ROCK FOREVER!” you don't really feel like they are, you feel like they're just around the corner, something eternal and drawn in the stars and much as their etched in brick and scrawled on toilet doors and commemorated in a thousand bad tattoos, a couple hundred sloppy punk rock songs. They meant something, they did something, yo, cuz 13 human beings have walked on the moon, but only 8 have been Ramones.




Not all of these songs are available on youtube, but you can track most of them down somewhere online. For a more complete detailing of songs about the Ramones, see this excellent list which I stumbled across while editing this piece.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

DiE EP

From new label Sonic Terror Discs, a vinyl rerecording of a ripping demo from this new UK punk band, who I've seen tear it up live a couple times. The vinyl's sound is naturally fuller and more packed out than the tape. Obnoxious (both tape and seven-inch acknowledgements proclaim "Thanks to: NO CUNT") and agitated, concerned with big picture hopelessness, no small moments of despair, big shit philosophical monoliths of anger and angst like on Life Is Hate, a slower thing than the hardcore punk drive of some of the other songs, needling with its guitar line at first, but chugging along and flaring up with slicing parts, and then running up again into those needles as it screams "LIFE IS HATE/LIFE IS HATE/LIFE IS SHAME/LIFE IS CHAINS/LIFE IS WAR/LIFE IS HATE." Futility has got some more street-punk tinges to it, in the way the background vocals chime in, equally as shouty as the main vox, as it slams itself bodily into government evil and thrashes about in underclass wrath. Bodies has a heavier bass rumble to its speed, like a kinda out-of-control truck kinda rhythm, No Vision is a mostly wordless stomper, stretched since the demo, that flails over a steady trudge, relentlessly oblivion bound in workmarch and daymares and and other killing drugs. "NEED DRUGS FOR HEALING/LIQUOR FOR BREEDING/DESTROY ALL FEELING/TIL YOU'RE FACE DOWN ON THE FLOOR". Their eponymous song is warm writhing hardcore punk with a background hum, nihilistically scorching with lines like "BORN INTO CHAOS/PURPOSE UNKNOWN" although "THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUTH/WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" here as the final line on the EP, almost doubles as an curt expression of showbound purpose as much as the bleak truth of shit life that it is. Real stuff.

Available on their bandcamp. Thankfully the page is no longer NSFPWDWTSSPGABJWSUATOWAGL.  (Not Safe For People Who Don't Want To See Seth Putnam Getting a Blowjob While Shooting Up And Tying Off With a Guitar Lead).

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Proxy - Police Car

"First there's beer then there's shots then theres cops then next of kin
Then violins
First there's violence then there's silence then there's sirens." - Lifter Puller, La Quereria

Here's a 100% guaranteed test to find out if your punk band is a good punk band. Does your punk band have a punk song about the police and/or police cars where at some point there is a siren sound effect or the guitars sound like a siren? If so, well done, you are in a super sweet punk band.

The Boys, Chaos Death Squad, The NailsCock Sparrer, Tom and Boot Boys, Black FlagRamonesObliviansCockney Rejects, Hard Skin,  The Rip Offs, Anti Todor, The Toy Dolls, Blanks 77, The Clash, Lärm, truly some of the greats. And now Proxy, whose song Police Car I have listened to a ridiculous number of times in the past couple weeks. Originally on their fuckin tight 2012 demo as Police Car (Goin' Home). This rerecording does not fall into the trap that too too many demo rerecordings do smoothing over the chaos, it retains the renegade criminal dance and expands it, hardens it into its perfect cop-baitin' form.

On the one hand Police Car is a song about stealing a police car. On the other hand it is a song about the utmost joys of human existence. Or maybe not, that's just what I get from it whenever I sing it. Imbued with the spirit of the catchiest GBH songs, a classic streetpunk chug with the momentum so locked in that those slippery bass runs can squirm up and down, struggling for release like a dog on a chain.


Police cars! Roving the streets. Who among us hasn't felt that familiar bite of panic when the blue lights wail past, when the jam-sandwich brigade pulls up behind you at the lights and your girlfriend freezes up next to you and almost involuntarily whispers "Be cool. Be coooool." Stealing a police car just seems like the wildest thing in world, all the freedom of that line in Dead Milkmen's Punk Rock Girl ("We got into a car/Away we started rollin'/I said "How much you pay for this?"/She said "Nothing man, it's stolen") but with added radical bite, just dug in again and again and again, drawn out and built into a perfect punk shout, voices pouring in like a waterfall.

It's not got the incredulous outrage of Who Killed Spikey Jacket's cry of POLICE TRUCK! WHAT THE FUCK!? or The Clash's breathy panicked gasp of "I've keep running. Police on my back.", nor has it gonna the sarcasm and blue malevolence of DK's Police Truck, what it has is fucking joyous singalong, of a moment of true giddy liberty, a stolen car, a brief one-in-the-eye for the system and its protectors. The cop trudging home embarrassed, you careerin through empty streets, sirens on your side for once, a car full of morons free until the morning.

How fucking great is the line "GONNA GET BEAT LIKE A DRUG ADDICTION!"? It's the line in the song that shows the consequences, the knowledge that this soaring glee is gonna get swiped out from under you and you're gonna feel the sting of a nightstick, which frames the whole song differently, it's not just dumb vandalism, careless and delusional, there's enough knowledge here to see what's gonna happen, but enough forward drive and enough momentary transcendence to giggle at the prospect of the comedow, just for a little while. Also just as a simile it's something special, the idea that drug addictions are just something you beat, clear and easy enough to slot into this figurative hole, rather than something you struggle painfully with. Here they're something that you kick to death, not something you succumb to. And that's just tossed off casually, this total faith in its onwards thrust, shrugging off true killing void shit like an iron-arse coolguy motherfucker. And then getting your head put in by cops, then probably going out and doing it again. Singing this song as you do it, building from drums to guitar to chorus, your dumb friends with you, kissing those faded ACAB knuckle tats and knowing that they were the best decision you ever made drunk.
The other two songs are pretty great too, Parasites is a triumphant take on crust punk squalor, half-parodying/half-celebrating the scabied scratching filth of punx life, a song of sympathy for the bed bugs that eat you while you sleep, framing them as just as a part of a rebel chain of stolen sustenance, "PARASITES WITH REFINED TASTES WE SHARE A DESTINY/ALWAYS BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS/TIL IT'S OUR TURN TO BLEED" A Marxist Joe's Apartment street punk singalong. It's another anthem constructed over those sort of up and down roving basslines reminiscent of Stiff Little Fingers' Here We Are Nowhere, with a fantastic mellow guitar solo that slips into dissonance and squealing towards the end.
Fountains of Youth, a beerpunk Blitz blitz. Strung out with punk tautness, it's singing drinking songs, but in the face of the doctor looking disapprovingly at your bloodwork. A blowout in the same vein as Oblivians' I'll Be Gone, where the drunken steps are one you know well and you head once more into the bar, dead friends. Like Police Car it's a celebratory song imbued with the rueful knowledge of what all this self-destruction springs from, and what it leads to. "A FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH! AN OCEAN OF BEER!/A REMEDY TO OVERCOME AN OVERWHELMING FEAR" is what's called for. The songs a kind of push and pull, that sort of interior bargaining between bad shit you know's coming and good shit you need to make you forget, even when the good shit drags you closer to bad. A cirrhosised barroom belter. Those next few pints might fill you again full of vim and teenage shirtiness, but your body don't bounce up from the hangovers the way it used to. The bruises stick around longer. "WE'VE ALL BEEN THROUGH THIS BEFOOORE/BUT THIS TIME THIS TIME THIS TIME I DON'T KNOW!" But fuck it.
This band is punxvest good.

Everyone song here is a fullfight anthem, Varukers vicious, pouring out from abused and battered chests, built from crappy frayed souls. The sort of songs that make you read invincible, make you move with purpose and Thug Murder steel, fists clenched, and a songsturdy step. A moment of freedom is what you're looking for, a time when all but this drops away, Proxy here conjure up these moments, of ridiculous giggling fits and arm-in-arm drunken stumblings, shithead community and tearaway joy, frangible and gleaming and ready to get slammed down and erased by the omnipresent spikes and speedbumps of reality, but when you can get those times, in the choruses and in the pit, and when you can get those moments when you're old enough and got enough broken bits to know just how fleeting they always are, but still live in them when you crash into one, then that's something of live lived maybe the way you ought to live it. Or maybe just the way I wanna live it.

"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'" - Kurt Vonnegut, probably not talking about jacking cherrytops, but hey, different strokes.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Beer Belly/The Injections/Dinosaurs - Young Punx Go For It

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Oblivians - Desperation

One of the absolute best bands of the mid-90s garage punk scene, Oblivians have here, on In The Red Records, their first album in 15 years, and they still got that stomp, still got that dirt, but they are a little more restrained, a little smoother, they haven't got that wild holler of Cannonball and they're half a rockin world away from the colossally rumdrunk blastblues of AAAA Thee New Memphis Legs, but they can still write a way sweet rock and roll song. Punx reunion material can end up being good (American Steel's Destroy Their Future), the bad (post-Danzig Misfts) and the so horrible and aesthetically, philosophically and morally unacceptable that everyone involved should've died fucking young to spare us all (Dead Kennedys reworking MTV Get Off the Air as MP3 Get Off the Web). It can deal with stuff in a few ways too, it can pretend that not a single day has passed, and that can go well, but often it goes fairly badly, the ridiculousness of a band all the more apparent when 40 year olds not twentysomethings do it, it can moan about like a tedious old man, angry now at exactly the thing it was in the first place when it was angry at the thing it is now (the attitude exemplified by most interviewees in every single punk doc interviewing old punx), or it can retain the struggle that defined the band at first, but approach it from a slightly different angle, without devaluing their original stuff, and also without retreading it too much. Which is what Oblivians manage to do here, everything's in place but there's nothing as unhinged or perfectly broken as Bad Man, but then they're also thankfully old enough to know that using the n-word in a song title is just the dumbest dumbest shit ever.

The very first song acknowledges their ageing, I'll Be Gone "Let's rock & roll as we get old/We will before too long.", the fuzz feels warm, not abrasive, enveloping everything but not kicking it to pieces, the song frayed around the edges. "I won't have to watch/Cos baby I'll be gone."

The two sides of a crazy night out in two songs early in the album. The dry shimmy of Woke Up in a Police Car, "Woke up in a police car wuuuh-oh/Handcuffs cut into my arms wuuh-oh." The wuuh-oh a deadpan kicker on each line, not wailing or soaring, just sitting there like punctuation, head in your hands as we hear the clang of jail doors. But then just when you think that it's clambered up in Murtaughian resignation, too old for this shit. Straight after it, like an elliptical narrative, the dirty rock and roll shake of Call the Police, all swagger and relentless organ riffs (provided by Mr Quintron) "You better call your wife/Call your bossman/We ain't never going home/Call the po-lice, call the po-lice/We gonna get our drinks on". Stuck after Woke Up in Police Car rather than before it lifts you up from the drunk tank blues and throws you back out on the wild streets in a dirty rock and roll shake, slathered in engine grime.

Despite being a mostly inactive band for over a decade, the members of the Oblivians have not been idle, they've been involved in The Reigning Sound, True Sons of Thunder, The Legs, Bad Times, South Filthy, The Compulsive Gamblers, Knaughty Knights, the Tennessee Tearjerks and more. Moving onwards to the next project without hesitation, like the prolific filmmaking of Johnnie To, Rainer Werner Fassbinder or Takashi Miike. New work is the best work. Get something out then get something else out. Do not wallow. There's been constant work, an ongoing exploration of rock and roll's dirty corners with a work ethic that would put anyone not named Billy Childish to shame and that all comes together here.

So each song has its own slightly different feel, drawing from a different little bit of the punk/rock/blues spectrum, there's Pinball King's schoolyard chant, a defiant teenage dream that charms in its obvious failure bent. The skifflish kick of Loving Cup. Run For Cover's rolling train feel, an onwards thrust like a lo-fi sloppy take on Overkill or Kriegshog's Burn. Fire Detector got a 77 punk feel, the inane metaphors the Damned's Love Song ("SHE MISTOOK ME FOR A FIRE DETECTOR!") sleazed up. The wail of Oblivion (OBLIVION! THEY CAN'T GO ON PRETENDING LIKE THEY DON'T KNOW HOW TO SPELL IT ANYMORE!). The relentless prod of Come A Little Closer, another dancefloor story. The bedraggled blues of Back Street Hangouts. The handclaps and bounce of Desperation. "She leaves me... IN DESPERATION!"

Mama Guitar is maybe as close in feel to their oldest stuff as is this gets, the guitar-scrape dragged under by the throbbing bass. The time where the slop and fuzz seems less warm, more oppressively inept, as the flat drums pound on and the guitar solo dances about in the underbelly of the song. It's where the album really goes from warmth to nastiness, right at the end, finally abandoning to snap back once more into that backyard rock and roller fighting pose, a cover of an old rock and roll song destroyed as it's paid tribute to.

This is an album of love and loss, fire and ashes, parties and hangover. It's an album of consequences. Dancing approximations, purposeful waggle and puling shuffle sliding into each other. A drunken party dancefloor finishes and becomes a damaged morning-after slide but you can't really draw the line between them that clearly, the hands in hands and bodies pressed together as the band played another killer has got the sorrowful knowledge of tomorrow's aches in the kisses and steps, the wounded stumbling of the next day has got the smile and joy of last night's last dance present in its parts. The poetics and mechanics of each movement blurrin into one another, footprints cut across one another, hurt in the freedom of dance and healing joy.

Like on Em, a love song that seems more about knowledge and acceptance than a rush of feeling. It's about lives intersecting, but not colliding and exploding, just shaping each other slightly and moving on. There's pain but there are also friends. There is anguish but we're not alone. There is an end but it is not the end. "Life can be so underhanded/Sometimes I can hardly stand it/The day is dark but the sun's gonna shine again/When I think about you, Em!"