Saturday, 27 July 2013

Cülo - My Life Sucks And I Could Care Less

"I feel that the future is hopeless and that things cannot improve." - Sarah Kane, 4:48 Psychosis

Metal-umlauted buttpunk played at nosedive rates. Cülo smashed their way in with a series of fucking great demos and seven inches which were collected on Life Is Vile and So Are We. This is their first real full-length, My Life Sucks (And I Could Care Less). Opening with the chirps and bloops of synths on Gestapo Boots of a Mutant, the album quickly tracks into its hazardous hardcore pace, running out this song in a punk instrumental, thrashing onwards with tension, setting the scene for this album's snarling confrontational stamp, which is anti-most shit.

ANTI-SOCIETY: Societies Claws, Dominant Farce. Lives lived in serried rows, proceeding down the same paths. Cülo ain't down with that.

ANTI-COP: On the Streets: squealing in and speeding up. Cops sharpen society's claws. Cülo ain't down with that.

ANTI-WAR: Down in Equador: dry vocals through a weedy death haze, like the jungle madness of Lucius Shepherd's Life During Wartime. Weird kid in a bad way soundtracked by soldier boot speed trampling. DOA In My Head twirling around in guitar tightness like sanity down a plughole.

ANTI-NOT BEING ON HEROIN: On the Nod. Cyanide Slug.

ANTI-LIFE: I Was Supposed to Be an Abortion. A longing for nothingness that goes beyond wiping out today with drugs. A time-travel reset wish so this could've never been. There's a line like this in Dead Milkmen's Nutrition too but they're it's played for fratty laughs, here it's painful.

ANTI-LOVE. Sick Sick Sick replete with organ stabs like The Misfits's Cough/Cool or the sharp urban throatcut of Hank Wood and the Hammerheads. "I GET DRUNK, I SAY SHIT/RAZORBLADE LOVE BABY, SICK, SICK, SICK." A take on companionship as bleak as The Mountain Goats's Alpha sequence. Cülo want no part of good, or they just feel like all the hate swilling about inside them that they don't deserve it.

ANTI-NOW: Modern Depressions (plural, that's important) with its bludgeoning drums and , that tears up suburban ruts ("I'M TOO BORED TO LIVE, TOO LAZY TO DIE!" rings out this death-to-monotony screed, this take is also present in It's My Life Sentence. ("IF THIS IS FREEDOM WORK OR DIE I WAS CURSED WITH A WORKING BRAIN!") There's a sadness ramped-up into anger here, as there is on Cyanide Slug.

ANTI-ART: Your Art is Getting All Over Me on the ickiness of nice things. "It's beautiful, you can be so boring and trite." Well maybe not anti-art. Anti-beauty, definitely. Anti-cool kid cos this punk trip is some nerdy undone shit (for people with working brains they want to break), maybe echoes of New Bomb Turk's classic takedown of artistic exceptionalism, Born Toulouse-Lautrec, but without the come-together chorus of that song, just the outrage at the self-satisfied poses, shooting with a dropout buzz and burn.


But while Cülo share some of the obsessions of similarly fantastic current hardcore band Wild Child with their monomaniacal devotion to the dirty scrapings of lives lived on the wrong side of trackmarks and brains in rebellion, they don't share that bands chaotic imprecations. Cülo are fucking tight. They burn with the impetus of live Ramones with the junkfed streetcurled obsessions of dead Ramones. They're a band for whom the vast majority of their itching being can probably be traced back to non-studio versions of the song Wart Hog (or maybe the terrific kiddy deathwarble Lolita No. 18 version of it), both in speed and slurred words and in lines like "Death, death, death it's the price I pay/It's a sick world, what can I say?" and "I wanna puke, I can't sit still/Just took some dope and I feel ill/It's a sick world, sick, sick, sick/It's a hopeless life, I hate it, hate it"

There are a million bands that have been influenced by the Ramones, you can find Ramones covers from every corner of the globe, but often they stick to the poppy simplicity of I Remember You and, while I love many pop-punk bands, that sort of unchanging Ramonescore can get pretty damn tiring because the Ramones were so much more than just the goofy teenage love scenes Oh Oh I Love Her So (not to shit on Oh Oh I Love Her So, that song is one of my all-time favourites). They were so much more (they were rappers and movie-stars), they were fucking dirty and weird. They were Sol Yurick thugs singing love songs, they were poppy, they were fast, they were fucked-up dysfunctional individuals capable of writing tragic dirges, beautiful soaring dreamy daggers, and yeah, two minute punk runners that can cut through everyday problems for a second like a bomb. People who say every Ramones song sounds the same are people who've read more shitty articles about the Ramones by ill-informed narratively-limited nostalgiafucks than listened to Ramones albums.

"And yet, these DORKS who have more or less devoted their life to cluelessly ripping off the Ramones have never noticed this, and are generally hard-pressed to come up with a good reason why they're so goddamn boring. I always get the impression bands like these leave the stage muttering things like "Hmm, I THOUGHT I had the right kind of U.S. pin on the lapel of my black leather jacket! Maybe if I get a better one, we will be considered more exciting!")." - Rev. Norb, ripping apart Ramones-clones in his Rules for the 1997 Punk Touring Season. Okay, I'm taking it out of context a bit and here he was actually talking about the tight adherence to two-measure chord changes that the Ramones didn't ever do that much by these sort of bands, but the sentiment probably applies to people who make every single Ramones rip-off song they squeeze out some trite shit about talking to girls or not talking to girls, combining the sweetness of Rockaway Beach with the lyrics of I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.

Anyway The Ramones's dirt is what Cülo feeds off of, the self-destructive street Dee Dee of Chinese Rock, the hate between Johnny and Joey of The KKK Took My Baby Away, the abandonment of straight life from It's Not My Place in the 9 to 5 World, freak self-identification laments on Pinhead, looking cool while feeling burnt out in druggy need like I Wanna Be Sedated and just the fuck-it nihilism: WART HOG, the Cülo ur-text.

So while in their hardcore punk mess there are inevitable echoes of a slew of greats: D.O.A., 76% Uncertain, CIA, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, Terveet Kadet etc, you've also got real pop-punk touches, like the guitar lick of Cyanide Slug, or the closing title track, whose opening is like a viperous sharpened take on the wistful little guitar whips of fellow-Chicagoans Screeching Weasel's The Girl Next Door (or Texas ramshackle-punk Stymie's How to be an ASS). Cülo hate most things: but they love the Ramones because the Ramones are as weird and as fucked-up as they are. Cülo are pro-Ramones. Cülo are pro-some shit.

PRO-MUTANT: Radiation Mutation's sloppy Troma punk. Swampmouth speed, an overworked tongue kicking one word into another in a feverish fury, like Bad Brains at their highest ebb on How Low Can a Punk Get?  "Eins! We radiate! Zwei We mutate" snapping over each other, lyrics ruined in acidic mush until only the anger remains.

PRO-BEING ON HEROIN: A song about how heroin is good is pretty much indefensible on a number of levels, but in the obliterative hunger of On the Nod and Cyanide Slug there's a lot of Cülo's essential appeal. On The Nod with its closing cry of "GIMME GIMME JUNK! GIMME GIMME JUNK!" like a waygone version of the "Na-na-na-na-na I need a cigarette!" shouts that close out Fancy Pants and the Cellphones I Love Fags. Cyanide Slug: "I self-medicate because I can't get out of bed. I'm an addict, a faggot, with something wrong inside my head." might just be the key lyric on this album. A sense of otherness. A pain to dull with something. A pain to scream at someone. Drugs get done for a reason.

PRO-PUNK: Maybe that's the same as pro-mutant in Cülo's distorted world strung together from Nick Zedd movies and telling your minimum-wage boss to fuck off. The lyrics booklet is a ramshackle road-trip through the awesome truths of immaturity. Doodles that gets you sent to offices, sentient sandwiches giving birth to bits of bread, eyeballs falling out of irradiated heads, wolves with rifles, and the ultimate punk rock record insert: the arrest form for a band member, complete with the Received Clothing Receipt which read "Leather Jacket, black. Shirt, black. Jeans, black." Don't Care Part III rolls with the "I'm weird, I'm a cunt, I'm a freak, I'm a punk!" as a boast before sticking on "I'm a punk! I'm a punk! I'm a punk! I'm a punk!"

(There's also some 50s language in I Don't Care, a "Hey Daddio" probably cribbed from the Ramones' I Don't Wanna Go Down in the Basement. There's a playfulness of language in the booklet too, like the peculiarly prim: NO NINNIES, NO TWITS, copped from Devo's squawking herbert anthem Through Being Cool, which works in the same smiling way as Lumpy and the Dumpers "NITWITS!" call.)

Being a punk is what Cülo are ultimately about, and their conception of punk as outsider art. It's seems weird to talk of 'natural' punk topics, given how blatantly punk is a construct, but there they are: anti-society, anti-cop, anti-everything, anti-love, anti-most shit, pro-mutant, pro-drugs, pro-punk. All the bits of adolescent edginess that might just get rewired out of you at some later point but while they obsess you they crush and define.

I read Cülo described as 'refreshingly un-PC' by someone. What would be genuinely refreshing would to not read the phrase 'refreshingly un-PC' in a punk review ever again. I like a lot of music that is just concerned with its own obnoxiousness, but I never think that there's some sort of brave stand being made I just think the artist is expressing their self as artists are allowed to do, and that self is a bloody unfit-for-life dickhead, like a lot of artists are, like a lot of listeners are. I love Cülo, because they're angry and uncomfortable, and I've felt angry and uncomfortable a lot. But that's not a good thing, it's just a thing I can't avoid. It's not something to be praised in itself, it's something to be looked at maybe, definitely something to be struggled with. STOP TREATING PUNK MUSIC LIKE IT'S A FUCKING RICHARD LITTLEJOHN COLUMN. FUCK THOSE "TELLING IT LIKE IT IS!" SUPPORTIVE ARSEHOLE GRUNTS. It's dumb shit like this that makes me angry and uncomfortable enough to want to listen to stupid Cülo songs of unsustainable nihilism about how heroin is great.

Yes, there is a point in your life when you find yourself in a record store thinking "Yes, £5 is a great price but I really don't think I hate myself enough anymore to own a Spider Babies LP." but that sense of misfit rage, disconnection and loathing still resonates for a long time after you're moved into a headspace where you probably can't too often work up all the rage that's present on Your Art Is Getting All Over Me at shit empty art, but you still find that sort of attack to be something you can see being something you want to thrash along to. Cülo's essential appeal is that hearing people as fucked-up as you are, as fucked off as you are, torn between anger and angst in the same way that you've always been and articulating this bonedug obsession with infandous places and desires through songs equally catchy and furious is something fucking immense. It's not refreshing, it's definitely not comforting, it's just an acknowledgement of sorts of the bad bits inside you, the bad places that you're in, that can be twisted into this, twisted into something you can mosh your bedroom heart out to ignore the walls closing in. Sometimes you can't see a way out of this, and oftentimes that feels amazingly painful and upsetting and depressing, but sometimes you just don't give a fuck and it's liberating to be dumb and pain-gored and fronting like a Poison Idea badass in your untethered punxitude. You're a tormented imp but a king of punk.

"I might be getting too old to be called a problem child" is a line on My Life Sucks (And I Could Care Less), the song that plays this yellow spitting thing out. It's possibly the only sign of growth exhibited on this album (emotional growth, not cancerous growth, that shit abounds). It momentarily touches on the fuck-up poetry of a D4 or Johnny Hobo song, where everything is ruined forever. "I didn't mean to take your drugs. But I had to take your drugs." it goes in such a flatly elegiac self-hating non-apology that it would slip right into a Dead Mechanical song. The only sign here that there is consequence beyond hangovers, "I can't help but feel like It's all a waste of time/I'm waiting for a future that I know I'll never find."

And how do Cülo feel about this? Through the highs and the hate and the thrashing and the crummy stuff. Ah, fuck it. This is what they signed up for when they snorted morguechemicals off their copy of Too Tough to Die and picked a fight with a wall and started a shitty amazing punk band. Aaaaah fuck it. They could care less.

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