Sunday, 22 September 2013

Kremlin - Drunk in the Gulag

"remember when John Waters and David Lynch co-hosted the Oscars? no, because life is shit & this is a dead planet coated with defeated apes." - @DrTeens247

Gritty hardcore downerpunk from Canada. Relentlessly negative, "YOU SIMPLY CANNOT WIN" on Steel Case, "LIVE FOR THEM/RUIN YOUR BONES" on Old Man, "CAN'T GET SLEEP TILL I CAN'T WAKE UP" on Why Should I, these songs speak to a world of traps, of inescapable situations, lives following Catch 22 rat races and struggling at the edges of their limits, kicking at the cellophane walls of their timesuck dead-end jobs, Scalextric lives hoping to go fast enough to fly off the tracks.

Buried frames the weight of work as a coffin. "BURIED! PANICKED!/GETTING HOTTER! CAN'T BE HEARD!" placing blame on the few who sit at the top crushing down "NO THOUGHT TO YOUR LIFE! JUST THE BOTTOM LINE!/PUT THE POOR TO WORK! LIVES WORTH LESS THAN DIRT!" No future and barely any present, as you hear the vocals yelping, as they do throughout the album, with a mixture of resentment and resignation, half-buried in the mix, trapped behind the dingy thrum, sucked away on the wind.

Fanatics has got torrents of drums and radio crackles as it appropriates the SAS slogan WHO DARES WINS in "WHO DARES KILL/WHO KILLS WIN", placing all killers, for creed, for country on the same bankrupt level. No Hope For You has got bass driven momentum, repeating it's scream of "TOMORROW'S GOT NO HOPE FOR YOU!" as the chickenwire guitar squeals up and down.

Doomed Youth grabs its title from Wilfred Owen, but Owen said 'The poetry is in the pity' and Kremlin don't have much pity in them, here it's more like the pointed rage of Owen's compatriot Siegfried Sassoon and his poems like The General or Base Details, kicking at the incompetent leadership who "speed glum heroes up the line to death", though turning its wrath in on itself at the end "WE WANT A FUTURE/THERE IS NO FUTURE/AND WE STAND FOR IT" as it fades into a sad slow backalley drone, the groaning residuum of lives extinguished sharply. It takes the Sex Pistols accusatory sneer and stabs itself in the leg with it.

Similarly, Duped, while sharply screaming at the failings of the educational systems, almost seems to come just as much at itself in anger at its own naivety, "GLUED TO CHAIRS IN LIFELONG COMAS" it bloodies with its first shot, in ugly hardcore punk, but by the end when it shouts "DON'T KNOW HOW TO FUCKING CARE/DUPED AGAIN" it seems as frustrated with its own inability to kick its way out as it is with what it's kicking against, which is a familiar emotion to anyone. You get sucked into systems, levelled with an atlas stone of debt, prodded and pushed into jobs you hate and then you sit there at your desk, stand there behind your till, thinking "I am such a fucking dumb piece of shit", not "This is a world of monsters and conmen and we are the dirt scraped their shoes and that should not be". You hate yourself before you hate the ones that make you hate yourself, they worked it that way, and they are good workers.

The music here is reflective of the lyrical concerns, the riffs dirty and ground out, as if scraped manually from the earth, and going round in these tight little circles like zoo animals, occasionally bursting with escape attempts, angrily pushing at boundaries like the stabbing guitar midway through Why Should I that shoots starwards and then collapses. These bursts flare out and fall back to the hard ground and reverberating with sadness like Doomed Youth's closing section or the little warble at the end of Buried. Like the way that that righteous outwards fury at an unjust world quickly snaps back, elasticated, into a cankerworm shitting in your head.

Maybe the closest it gets to bringing all these nihilistic punches together into something that really soars or reaffirms oneself (in the manner of the Dead Milkmen's transcendent Life Is Shit) is on Why Should I raging "DON'T LIVE RIGHT/WHY SHOULD I!?", it's not much, but the just the idea of an unsanswered question, directed out not in, is enough to raise it above the depressive filth of the rest of this album. Just the knowledge that they don't have answers just as you don't. But then that rolls into the anguished pleading of Leave Nothing Alone, pulled down again into the smothering fog, it doesn't last long.

The final song, Kremlin, takes those leaders who've been denounced and puts them in a bigger trap, the same cage, just with nicer furnishings, "SIT IN THE KREMLIN READY TO DIE! SITTING IN WASHINGTON READY TO DIE!" it cackles. "SIT IN MUMBAI READY TO DIE! SITTING IN KARACHI READY TO DIE!". There's a little joy here, the tiniest sliver, at realising that the shitheads that make your life miserable are probably as miserable as you are, that's some dark shit, but again one it's easy to swing with, suffer like us, you motherfuckers. There's no escape, just the onwards plod. Just the grit and grind and the day after day. The gulag is inside you, like faithful Ruslan. Those drunken questions thrown at the night are the closest you're getting to freedom.

"We reach another gate which is unlocked by a famously gloomy warder, continue to a steel door, swhich is slightly ajar, and while prison is about innocence and guilt and crime and punishment it is also about gates and doors and bars and endless locks and keys. It is a stop-start system that drives everyone mad, including the guards, wage slaves ground down by the monotony and oppressive atmosphere." - John King, The Prison House

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Pissbath - Can't Stop Noize!!

After a couple of great demos, Pissbath come forth with Can't Stop Noize!!, which is fucking noise punk, man.

Piece of Shit!! (there are a lot of exclamation points in this thing, Elmore Leonard is probably spinning like a buzzsaw in his freshly dug grave) has this great pulsing bassline that the noise tumbles over, coming in waves, built of feedback squeals, banks of fuzz and echoing droning threats like ghosts hiding in the noise, swelling and receding. The drums cutting out, that bassline running onwards, like the engine throb of a pick-up rolling down a haunted highway. Hash Addicts!! is more furious, the flurries harsher, but still it's got that throughline.

It's not those entirely solid blasts, neither is it the goofy bouncy noise-punk of The Wankys or Vaginors though it does share thoses bands trick of tying this pandemonium to a central point, it's less monomaniacal than a song like Punk Rock Life, the madness wanders more, comes in and out. It's chaos dynamics, rise and fall, screaming female vocals, obviously incomprehensible, as another disorientating sound, sometimes shrieking as on No Name Sorry!!, sometimes trading stabs with the screech of the feedback, No Name Sorry!!'s shrill guitars tearing up and down, then echoing themselves in less manic pose, the various sonic weapons are hit and refracted off each other, but they don't clash in pure fury.

Noize You Can Trust!! has a fantastic sharp guitar line that explodes into another noise attack. It's all about the flux of this chaos, the rhythm beset by evil uproar, the clamor tugging at the core of the song, trying to shred and degrade it but usually failing, just failing, Nuclear End!! sticks on this Timmy the Turtle kinda bassline which gets covered up in more and more cacophonous structure, layering the din, before turning into the harshest blast of the whole EP to play it out in explosive terror.

Can't Stop Noize!! is a great fucking title, because often noise feels like a heavy immobile object, Some stuff is just so packed with feedback and torture screams that it loses all sense of movement, D-Clone for example, are fantastic, yet that shit is so intense it looms over you like a wall, it hits you like a half-bricked sock. Here there are plenty of flensing squeals and discordant rumbles, and that utterly uncompromising crash is tilted at someplaces, at the end of Nuclear End!!, in parts of Hash Addicts!!, on Incest!! (Death!!), but then on Incest Death!! it moves out of unreal roar, the choking babble, to cut loose with a quick horrorpunk solo before diving back in. Pissbath have, and never really lose, that propulsive energy, noise that carries you, rather than destroys and cripples you. Moving forward through the chaos. Can't stop, noize.

On Primitive Prison. PWYW download.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Night Birds - Born to Die in Suburbia

"Evan: My mom's diary. Listen to this:  "May 10th, 1968. Dear diary, Mark and I are gonna be very happy here.The air is clear, skies are blue, and all the houses are brand new and beautiful. They call it "suburbia" and that word's perfect because it's a combination of the words "suburb" and "utopia".
Jack: They didn't realize it would be the slum of the future." - from Suburbia

Suburbia! Home of the teen punx, where nothing ever fucking happens, home all sorts of deranged kids, engaged in the same sort of pursuits, forming skate crews with a bunch of arseholes, trekking miles to watch shows and getting stranded in the city not making it back til the sun's rising and fooling themselves into thinking shit ain't so bad for a little while, longing for escape still, staying up too late watching classic genre movies, getting way into Wes Craven, Roger Corman, John Carpenter, godfather of vulgar auteurism, whose theme to his post-apoc masterwork Escape From New York is taken from brooding synth menace to sharp punk slice in the opening track. That totally fucking raises the game in terms of punk covers. Shit, we all love a quick Doom or Dicks cover chucked in at the end of the opening bands set as a quick crowdpleaser, giving those choral communal instincts a work out, but man, in terms of constructing a punk cover as something else, into more than just a warm homage to one of those bits of our collective consciousness, or a thrashy arsehole detournement of a top 40 pop song, into something that ups the danger and retains what made the original so great, this just can't be beat, all that Carpenter ominous futurefeel, twisted and pull tight over a rusty bent punk skeleton, and then skipping to a fast beat.

The title track that follows, revels in suburbia's boredom, none of those vaulting slamdancing joy of Screeching Weasel's Hey Suburbia, just surrender to the stupefactive pressures of it all, withdrawing into a coddling cocoon. Night Birds don't give a shit about tomorrow, but they also don't give a shit about today too. This song does hint at deeper nastier things, "IF THE SKELETONS IN MY CLOSET COULD TALK YOU KNOW I'D BE LOCKED UP!"  and what those pressures are gradually revealed and torn at over the course of this album.

It's a set-up for the album a bit like Propagandhi's Natural Disasters, ("The most pristine are hiding everything." something sanitised is just a sheen laid over a bubbling lake of filth, it's an open sewer paved over, the shit is still there, deep in the core, corrupting and murderous, behind the warm smiles there are malevolent grins, the sharpness of the Night Birds sound brings the grins out.

Those deeper nastier pressures include idiots. Modern Morons is a scathing quick scatterpunk attack on idiots, and the society they have built, shots fired at plastic surgery, bodybuilders, reality TV, politicians, stoners, drunks, consumerism in the vein of 80s hardcore shouts like 76% Uncertain's Waste Product or Attitude Adjustment's Hunger and Poverty. Brian Gorsegner snotty vocals crackle with menace and outrage, as they do throughout this album. They can sneer, they can drone, they can scream, they do all those things, and they dance with Joe Keller's (nee Erg!) backing vocals throughout. Every song on this album is good, but especially every chorus, on this song Gorsegner's voice intercuts with Keller's dry intonation of "MODERN MORONS MODERN MORONS MODERN MORONS" which run together almost to a point of semantic satiation where the meaning drops away and you're just left with the percussive point.

"Excavate a land for restless days
Contemplate a chance for future ways" - The Skids, Sweet Suburbia

These pressures include drugs. No Spoilers is a perfect pulp action/shit life mix, a 40 second, all-burn, hardcore punk snap taking the language of cinema and film fan discussions and applying it to heroin addiction. "NO SPOILERS BUT YOU GET REDUCED TO NOTHING/TAKEN OUT BY YOUR MACGUFFIN/AND YOUR STORY'S JUST A HOLLYWOOD TROPE" framing that tragic and predictable descent into the living death of junk as just another tired story, coldly cutting the romanticism of drugs down with a bored viewer's dismissiveness. "FIRST ACT'S A BLAST/NEXT ACT GOES FAST/IT ENDS WITH YOU ALL COLD AND BLUE."

Nazi Gold, creepy mid-tempo jaunt of Sven Hassel pulp and fried brains, is similar in its combination of the tack and turn of drugs played moviewise, here the drugs are not the straight-shot to oblivion seen from the outside like No Spoilers, but a numbing backstabbing friend described from within that sluggish decaying warmth. "There's a hole downstairs that leads to another hole." it intones like the Lethe-wards slips of Keats's Ode to a Nightingale as the guitars moan and ache instead of slash.

Those pressures include adverts. Ads In My Eyes, like Modern Morons, it's about the cumulative effect of modern society's absurdities moving from background noise to oppressive stamp, parasitically digging their way into you until you can't imagine life without this thing you fucking hate. Another incredible chorus, this time with a sort of factory rhythm like the blankness of cartoon worker drones. Another another drug, another pain.

Those pressures include violence. Domestic Dispute is packed with oppressive guitar shrieks like the somehow throbbing weird corners of a darkened room when you cannot sleep for fucking anything. Channeling the chaotic skittery sleep-deprivation of Vindictives Apt #2 and the wry trauma of Gay Cowboys in Bondage's Domestic Battlefield, invoking the sense of being trapped in a world of violence but not being able to bring yourself to do anything about it, deadened as you are by the narcotics, the ads, the cults, the lack of hope, the fuckwits, trapped as the song tumbles down in the chorus and then wails away into another verse.

"It already started in the city!
SUBURBIA will be just as easy!"
- FEAR, Let's Have a War

These pressures include religion. New Cults is a sarcastic scream for salvation, tossing out the dead wood of the Abrahamic faiths, in favour of the weird-ass backwoods cults, Jim Jones, David Koresh, other egregiously shitty modern day prophets, held up as avatars of a shitty violent narcissistic world. In this song, with its shivering guitar lines and its backing vocals aaaaaah-ing like a subverted church choir, the purpose of religion here is not to redeem, but to reflect, we get the idols we deserve, and maybe we can deal with a crazy world by embracing the obviously crazy, rather than aiming for obviously unreachable goals like not being a fucking cunt to everyone who thinks differently to you, the sort of airy stuff that pie-in-the-sky hippie dreamers like that Jesus bloke went for.

These pressures include family. Less The Merrier, the Christmas bummer anthem, more biting and bitter than the Ramones' mournful Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight), it's that song inverted, where no-one is fighting and you can't understand why. "EVERYONE'S PRETENDING THAT THEY'RE NOT A SELFISH PIECE OF SHIT" is the opening line of this mid-tempo slammer. Everyone's torn up and scummy inside, like Propagandhi's Natural Disasters said, so what's the point of pretending otherwise, if the Ramones song was the child's dream of peace, this song is the teenager's fury at the hypocrisy of people claiming that peace can ever exist, so torn up by this life and these drugs, the outside violence and interior stresses that push and pull, the ads, the cults, the fuckwits the lack of hope, that you can't let that warring attitude go for one single second, fully corrupted. "I DON'T WANT TO CELEBRATE/JUST SIT IN THE DARK/TELL EVERYONE TO FUCK OFF!" where the "FUCK OFF!" manages to escape from the rhythm of the song to just flame out, to hit heavy and ugly and discordant in the way that precision swearing can.

“… We only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban… novel… a cheap novel.” - Werner Herzog

The hate of this album is played like an attempt to feel something, better loathing than nothing, Villa Obscura lays it out: "CREATURE COMFORTS ARE A SUBTLE PILL/THEY'RE THE KIND THAT DULLS AND NEVER KILLS" When the songs burst with caustic sarcasm, it's like a vain attempt to draw a line between one's self and the aphotic world evoked by the sinister chops of music.

There's also an instrumental in Silver Alert, you know, like what a proper surf band would do. This album is less surfy than their previous stuff, probably cos nutso floorcrawling guitarist Mike Hunchback has been replaced by PJ Russo, but this one does play like it could fit on a fiercer version of The Volcanos' Surf Quake or something whereas most of the rest of the album retains a bit of that DK sound but is really more like Black Market Baby's perfect mixture of early 80s hardcore fury and earlier punk's cutdown rock-and-roll structures, a song like Villa Obscura could easily sit right in the middle of Senseless Offerings, and Nazi Gold is right there with something like This Year's Prophet and like Culo they balance the hardcore punk fury with songs that you hum for days. Joe Keller has long been on of the best punk bassists and the drums, well, I don't really know how to describe drums apart from saying that "Yes, there are drums" but they do that clattery thing which gives a bunch of the songs the ripping rhythm of a mug dragged against prison bars.

"There’s disobedience in the streets
In all of suburbia’s dreams
Kids are tired of the same old things
Drive in movies and football games"
- Faction, Skate Harassment

One song that's not so terrifyingly bleak in its subject is the title track of the EP that preceded this album, and despite all the great songs here, still the best thing this band has ever done: MAIMED FOR THE MASSES. What better example of suburban frustration and its undercurrent of violence than professional wrestling, the daily tedium of expectation and school-job-marriage-kids-death narratives taken out to the backyard and suplexed through a flaming table. What could be more punx than violent nerds in weird costumes engaging cheap hammy melodrama? At a recent punk festival I went to the t-shirt that I saw get by far the most props and high-fives in the sea of sweet punk shirts was not some obscure Scandi raw punk thing, but an airbrush-style early 90s Four Horsemen number. There's a sweet London punk band called Slug whose lead singer bases their entire stage persona on the Road Dogg, and it's awesome.

This is a first person song from the point-of-view of wrestler/punching bag/author/true American hero Mick Foley and his Pessoan personas Mankind, Cactus Jack and Dude Love. Blood lost in pursuit of patent falsehoods, gloried in self-destruction. A man who achieved what he did by basically being willing to get more ridiculously fucked-up than anyone else, a chubby scrappy weirdo fucking up massive cut dudes by taking more punishment and getting nasty with wire and tacks. The Night Birds gets all this cartoonish glory and skewiff tragedy right there in this song, the first verse all shithead adolescent ambition tailing out with "TEN POUNDS OF GOLD AROUND MY WAIST THAT SAYS I'M THE BEST/BUT WE ALL KNOW THAT IT WAS NOT TO BE!"

My absolute favourite Mick Foley moment is when Mankind was feuding with Triple H before the 2000 Royal Rumble and they were booked for a no holds barred street fight, then a while before it happened Triple H and some D-X dudes messed Mankind up so he comes out and says he's too fucked, he's not gonna fight, he can't fight, but the people deserve a replacement.

AND IT'S CACTUS JACK! IT'S JUST HIM TAKING HIS MASK OFF! AND THE CROWD GOES WILD! TRIPLE H LOOKS LIKE HE'S GAZED INTO THE FACE OF GOD! Man, that's everything right there. The blatant falseness and artifice of the situation entirely ignored and it all played so fucking straight, both by the people involved and the whole crowd. The starting point of: hey, this whole thing is a dumb fucking joke. Followed by: so let's buy into it wholly and completely cos it's fun and awesome. That's that Who Killed Spikey Jacket? shit right there, that Hard Skin trip.

"SOLD OUT EVERY NIGHT! LON CHANEY IN TIGHTS!" pulling a bit more of that classic pulpy imagery, that they used a lot more on their earlier stuff, it's theatrical but wild and the sort built for manic singalongs. "NOW I'M A MONSTER! MY BODY'S BEEN DESTROYED/BUT HERE I STAND! STILL GAINFULLY EMPLOYED/READY TO MAIM MYSELF FOR THE MASSES TO ENJOY/IT'S ALL IN A HARD DAY'S WORK FOR MRS FOLEY'S BABY BOY!"

It's also easily the most positive song on the album, one of dreams realised more than you ever thought they could ever be, yeah its hero ends up bleeding and beaten, but they stand resilient at the end, way fucked up but unbowed, whereas the other couple narrative songs (rather than angry rant songs) all end on complete downers, to build yourself into something worse, something disgusting that society and suburbia's thin veneer propriety of cannot countenance is the only way to live not on their terms.

In Pretty Poison the protagonist attempts to expose the corruption they've been witness to, but sucked into a dangerous vortex as ends up embracing whatever safety they can find, like in Born to Die in Suburbia, wherever they can find it, this time in a mental institution, the song darts forward in squeals and tricky punk bursts.

Golden Opportunity, the closer, is a song is from the point of view of someone about take a header off the Golden Gate Bridge, screaming from that awful fog of depression, where the only freedom, the only, choice is to close off the noise, escape once and for all from the pressures and drugs, in life, religion, narcotics etc. "I WILL NOT EXPLAIN MYSELF TO ANYONE/IT'S MY LIFE AND I CHOOSE WHEN IT'S DONE!" "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide." as Camus said, cos he was a bit of a twat. This song, and its place at the end of the album is more like the Steve Aylett line, "Suicide is a permanent solution to an ever-replenishing series of temporary problems" moving fast towards that permanence, until it smashes into itself and chops into a slower, polluted trudge, to break up into noise squeals and feedback as the album fades out like a life.

"Frank: I've walked a white line my entire life, I'm not about to screw that up.
Nada: White line's in the middle of the road, that's the worst place to drive." from - John Carpenter's They Live

Carpenter was someone who could who make thrilling low down nasty shit, but imbue it with a greater resonance, a more human take, the sense of a larger broken world beyond just one fucked-up place, or one fucked-up person (I once got shown They Live in a university seminar on the history of California in a double bill with John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath) but then similarly not let that larger context drown and overload the story, not letting the survival tension slip, not letting the shittiness of this particular situation get sidelined in a wider message, and that's how Night Birds do it, each song evoking an aspect of modern life and its mundanities that bums you the fuck out, each song part of a greater whole of an assault on a whole shithouse world that bums you the fuck out, each song coming from a place of pain and self-acknowledgement within those broken things (it's "WE NEED NEW CULTS!" not 'they' etc) rather than downwards-aiming superiority, but each song its own shape, its own specific angle of attack, its own terrific serrated riffs and catchy singalong choruses. Each jagged frustrated piece, from the trudge of Nazi Gold, to the blast of No Spoilers, to the triumph of Maimed for the Masses and the unflinching end of Golden Opportunity, tesselates into this dark, irresistible slab of punk rock anger and outrage, that combination of clattering cuthroat power and songs that get embedded in your head as deep as any advert or cult or smothering drug, to scream and sneer like a weapon against today.

"Birth and birth and birth and birth and birth
Live and live and live and live and live
Mate and mate and mate and mate and mate
Die and die and die and die and die" - The Skids, Sweet Suburbia

On Grave Mistake in the US, Taken by Surprise in Europe.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Meth Sores - 2013 demo

Two tracks, Destroy Life and Clever, released at the start of this year. Clever is a good song. Unsteady thick bass stumblings leading into noisepunk caterwaul, blender spin sonics, smatterings of recognisable guitar parts, the hellspawn vocals snapping sharp but battling with the shot-to-shit guitar whip, ugly punx shit. Destroy Life is a fucking great song. That same thick bass tone that underpins the chaos whip of Clever, but here steady, rolling forward like an earth mover seen through heavy rain, distorted so that each bass shudder feels like the horizon bounce an advancing army. It builds, it approaches, it noises up, then it drops back down into these little repetitive guitar slivers. It faces up and leers at you, backs off to gather itself, this shit is a masterwork of noise dynamics, every listen an ugly journey, a perfectly constructed path through broken glass, sometimes the guitar feeling like it's being tugged down by the lethal factory buzz, hiding, sleeping ready to crash out in wild destruction, sometimes feeling like a self-mutilating rotating structure of noise, sometimes just feeling punk as fuck. Sludgey then raging, onwards rolling. Good fucking shit.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Strong Boys - s/t EP

"'Children who need to be taught traditional moral values are being taught they have an inalienable right to be gay.' -- Margaret Thatcher, 9th October, 1987.

At the age of fifteen, two weeks from my sixteenth birthday, I was one of those children.

Let me tell you what it was like... or try to, at least. 

I don't think it's possible for me to conjure the darkness of that period, the bleak fatalism of mass unemployment, the miners' strikes, Mutual Assured Destruction, HIV. It was ten years since Johnny Rotten sang "no future," and by then even that defiant punk rage against the dying of the light was snuffed out. That fierce and glorious nihilism which had stared into the abyss of meaning, which had grinned madly as it lit its passions like molotov cocktails and hurled them into the void, shouting, "Why the fuck not?" rather than, "Why even bother?"... by then even that aggressive stance in the face of hopelessness had been warped, teen rebellion recuperated by the mechanisms of corporate media, co-opted into the cosy pseudo-darkness of Goth (about as subversive as a Hammer horror movie) or worse, into the neo-nazi fascism of Skrewdriver and their ilk. I had a friend whose big brother played guitar, used to listen to The Clash, Billy Bragg; I still remember listening to his scratchy vinyl copy of the Stiff Little Fingers "78 Revolutions Per Minute"--or "Going Underground" by The Jam. I was too young to quite get the former, but the latter I loved. But that friend's brother was gone by 87, stolen away in skinhead seduction to fucking National Front bullshit." - Hal Duncan, A Tribute to Thatcher, fucking essential reading

Whenever I take the train up from Croydon to London Bridge I go past a piece of graffiti on the top of a building that reads "THE WITCH IS DEAD BUT THE SPELL REMAINS" which gives me weird feelings. I mean, I obviously agree with the sentiment that Thatcher's toxic effluence emanates from her corpse like a particularly noxious gas to form a choking cloud of callousness and self-righteous moralistic damnation that sits over this country like an Independence Day alien ship ready to beam down its mighty laser of hate and wipe away what little progress this dead fucking island has had wrung out of its old hateful bones, but I could do without the inherent misogyny of casting her as a witch, but then she's so strongly identified with that imagery now that just mentioning 'THE WITCH' would stick blue power suits and starving miners into most heads, something more neutral like "THE PIECE OF SHIT IS FLUSHED BUT THE STINK LINGERS" could be talking about any piece of shit person, not just this particular piece of shit who attempted to drag the country back into the ignorant vindictivestone age of of her grey grey dreams throughout the 1980s, a person so loathed that I got a text from my buddy when it happened and immediately assumed it was some cruel prank to raise my hopes, and then on finding out it was true spent the whole day listening to Crass and The goddamn Exploited in order to gets my excitable thoughts right (although the first song I posted on facebook was Tag Team's Whoomp (There It Is)), and THATCHER'S TOXIC EFFLUENCE EMANATES FROM HER CORPSE LIKE A PARTICULARLY NOXIOUS GAS TO FORM A CHOKING CLOUD OF CALLOUSNESS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS MORALISTIC DAMNATION THAT SITS OVER THIS COUNTRY LIKE AN INDEPENDENCE DAY ALIEN SHIP READY TO BEAM DOWN ITS MIGHTY LASTER OF HATE AND WIPE AWAY WHAT LITTLE PROGRESS THIS DEAD FUCKING ISLAND HAS HAD WRUNG FROM ITS OLD HATEFUL BONES is way too unwieldy for the purposes of graffiti, you would totally get arrested writing that, and get thrown in jail for about a million years by Thatcher's ugly mewling shitsuited spawn and you wouldn't even get to become a cause celebre cos you're not an inane Banksian 'provocateuuuurgh'. (Sorry, had to bail on that word in that context, even when sticking it in inverted commas.) There was no magic to Thatcher's evil, she was just a nasty person who did not like people, and pandered to the basest instincts of mean frightened backwards little people (basest instincts which they fucking chose, you get to cultivate the roots of yourself, xenophobia and homophobia and all their cowardly brethren don't make up my basest instincts, or that of my  friends, pretty sure my basest instincts are to climb trees and sing Dear Landlord songs from the top of them, my friend Tommy's are to watch old wrestling matches and weird people out within 5 seconds of meeting them, my fiancee's are to pet cats and buy cute dresses and get in fights at metal shows, my friend Alex's are to... well, I won't say that, I don't wanna be a snitch).

So back on the train, thankfully on the other side of the tracks a couple minutes later there's a big fuck-off ACAB slapped sloppily up on an office building in ten foot high letters so you can cleanse all that complex intersectional worries with a perfectly reasonable and well-articulated thought that no one could ever disagree with. After all, everyone knows that All Charles Are Bronsons.

Anyway, Thatcher's TOXIC INDEPENDENCE DAY SHIP CLOUD of hate that lingers over us all in this country, and something like it, though springing from another similar source probably hangs over most the countries and people in the world, including Strong Boys who are not from the UK at all so really that was kind of a dumbass anglo-centric way to start writing this shit. Well whatever. The vile homophobia that streamed from her downstairs was not, and is not, confined to this country. That corrosive hate lives everywhere, and Ireland has had it as bad as anywhere, being a country where homosexuality was only decriminalised in fucking 1993, and Ireland is where Strong Boys come from, a raging queercore band ready to stare down the divisive malevolence of priests and politicians, ready to beat it to death with a sweet fucking hardcore riff.

That crushing oppressive atmosphere that Hal Duncan describes so terrifyingly is the place they blast their way out of on Can't Take It Back, the opener of this seven inch, starting with a squeal and a guitar twinge over thudding drums, before properly stomping on down with arrival of the vocals. "WE'RE STILL HERE AND WE'RE STILL QUEER!" is the opening line and while that iconic pride chant might bring to mind images of solidarity and mutual support, here's it's not framed that way though, not delivered in sunny chorus, but barked sharp and guard dog fierce, here's it's less a communal affirmation, more a robust threat, a kind of FEE-FI-FUM incantation, ready to grind the bones of every "RELIGIOUS FUCK AFRAID OF BEING GAY" who ever dared to shit on a dream. "WE'RE STILL HERE AND WE'RE STILL QUEER! AND WE WON'T LET YOU SPREAD THE FEAR!" A line drawn in the sand with anger and crunching guitars, that in 40 seconds metamorphises twice, from that mellower opening into the pounding hardcore throb and then from that into a burly Articles of Faith velocity killer, no mollifying Same Love platitudes frontloaded with no-homo verses here.

In the tradition of awesome queercore bands like Pansy Division and Limp Wrist, Strong Boys are capable of mixing the fury at an unjust shitstain of a world, with goofier sillier songs about gay life delivered with the same intensity. Cocktheft is about catfish penises, Grindr liars faking their trouser attributes. No Choice is packed with the unrepentant lusting glee of something like Brooke Candy's I Wanna Fuck Right Now as it thunders "COCKS ARE IN MY GENES/I'LL TELL YOU WHAT IT MEANS/WAS BORN THIS WAY/I'LL ALWAYS BE GAY/AND I'LL ALWAYS WANT BEARS IN JEANS" (hairy naked dudes are all over this seven inch and its liner notes). Though here again it's framed as much as an attack on those that condemn as much as it is a joyous celebration of self "YOU'VE GOT SOME FUCKING NERVE/WITH YOUR NEEDLESS 'WHAT IF' PITY!" Noise thick and muddy, degraded SS Decontrol hauntings.

Rainbow Recall is a straight up-and-down number, hardcore punk tear at people who appropriate the iconography of gay rights without having led the life that spawned that fight, led the life that Hal Duncan talks of, "NOT GONNA! NOT GONNA! GIVE IT BACK!". Big Man is about fucking cunts who talk shit and has an awesome manic guitar solo that eats itself in skittering panic.

The final song World Goin' Sour is the biggest song on the album, pulling together all the anger of the rest of the EP into a final assault on the whole world climate which seems constructed in order to force people into these narrow little sexuality and gender categories and leave anyone outside of those norms to struggle and often die. Like Can't Take It Back, it starts slow, but quickly steams into a choppy hardcore torrent, "WORLD GONE SOUR WORLD GONE SOUR/GOTTA STAND GOTTA FIGHT!" before falling back into a fuzzing plugging pace, with guitar licks digging and twisting in the grainy scene, like something like The Dicks Rich Daddy but fuller and dirtier. that throaty snarl of the vocals getting higher, more frantic and desperate as it screams "GOTTA STAND GOTTA FIGHT/DON'T BACK DOWN MAKE IT RIGHT/LIVING IN A WORLD WHERE MORONS HAVE THE POWER" at those mean frightened backwards little people whose arrogance and blindness is not innocent, whose unthinking hatred will kill until it is killed. GOTTA FIGHT. Got to. It's not a choice, just as who you love ain't a choice. You can't fall into the trick of believing that the shittiness is how it's supposed to be, of just living with it. You can't fall to the awful deadening depressive narcotic of that shithead spell. The spell, of religion, of bigots, of fear, remains until you click the heels of your boots, strap on your guitar and thrash it into a smear.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

V/A - Welcome to 2013

"For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice." - T.S. Eliot

"Punks not dead" - Wattie Buchan

From Not Normal Tapes, a fucking excellent ranging piece of punk curation, pulling together bands from across this shithole rock spinning through a good-as-endless void in an effort to make you believe that 1) you are not a useless insignificant speck on a shithole rock spinning through that yadayadayada 2) PUNX NOT DEAD. Of course me and you and all the other cool kids know punx is not dead because 1) Guitar Wolf are still a band and 2) palpably abstract cultural concepts are not beholden to mortality dummies, but it's nice to have such a convenient collection of some of today's finest punk ragers to throw in the face of people who have, in the old boring way, accidentally conflated their own lifespan and interests with the entire span of human existence. FUCK NOSTALGIA FOREVER.

Like all great comps, Welcome to 2013 is a bunch of bands that I love/like and as well as a bunch of bands I've never checked out that will shortly be bands that I love/like. There are a lot of sweet bands here. Which I review mostly out of order because I'm an arsehole.

Basque country Hondartzako Hondakinak open with the song Nihilismo, a nice catchy punk bit that burns out with a scream and crashes into faster thrashier bloodier punk speed, a sweet fucking fakeout in the best way. This comp represents a bunch of styles, but it skews fairly heavily hardcore. Most bands contribute two songs (a few just one and Adjustment to Society three PV length explosions).

Adjustment to Society, who have, in the finest tradition of great punk bands, already broken up, contribute three brief blasts, brawny female vocals buried in the murk of hardcore-punk. The third song, Hipster, seems to come from a different recording session, as it sounds less shitty. Negative Degree and Bored Straight both come in with a brace apiece of similarly brief direct rants.
Brown Sugar's Another Perfect Song is as short as Negative Degree's shit, but isn't just a straight thrasher like that band's offerings, starting fast, throwing some carnival swirl into the punk, twisting about behind the vocals, dropping into a more mid-tempo kick with a catchy lead guitar line intoning "I KNOW WHAT YOU SMELL LIKE AND I KNOW WHAT YOU TASTE LIKE" ending on some weird-ass caveman "OOH! AAH! OOH! AAH!" chant. Awesome shit.

Good Throb have more of their chill/thrash/chill with Toner Loner but on You Ain't Never they sound a little different, replacing that cutting splenetic with much less prominent bass that sort of squeaky Poly Styrene (or Honey Bane) haughty outrage "You ain't never gonna fuck me in my arse!" it reproaches, bass less prominent here than on the simpler grooves of Toner Loner and the Culture Vulture 7"

I'm not too into Big Crux's take on Nomeansno-style bassdriven punk-funk. That styles hard as shit to pull off without bringing to mind the awful spectre of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and while they mostly manage to avoid that it still goes on a little bit too long and doesn't have either Nomeansno's apoco-surreal adrenaline confidence (though you know that's probably a somewhat unfair criticism considering Nomeansno are TIER ONE UNTOUCHABLE PUNX GENYUSSES) or the shithead wit of a Dead Milkmen number. The song gets better when it gets more relaxed and less funky and more scratchily drawn out towards the end and has something of the oddball threat of Abi Yoyos in it but I'm still not to into it.

That song does collocate kinda nicely in the middle of the album though with Ooze's Da Big Toenail in Da Sky which gets stuck into an aggressively monotonous eejit blues walk for a minute or so before a flailing 1-2-3-4 bursts out of it and tosses the song into a short shot of furious snotty hardcore. That moment fifty-eight seconds into Da Big Toenail in Da Sky just feels like such a cathartic "FUCK IT!" squeal of "Ah shit that's enough slow bloody respite shit!" thrashing out back into the hardcore.

Culo show off two of their most bitten off tracks, in Radiation Mutation and I Don't Wanna Be A Big Shot, hardcore punk attack, less of their catchiness. You know the drill. Self-hate, smash and grab. Great songs.

I saw Mexico's Inservibles (in addition to a couple other of these bands) at Chaos in Tejas and while I like the band, they just seemed to hit at the wrong time of night, when everyone was too knackered from what came before and hadn't yet been invigorated by the prospect of the night's final sets from S.H.I.T. and Sad Boys so I didn't get to into them. Here they're great though, hardcore filtered through evil echoey noise, like a nastier Atoxxxico, snapping little demon vox that needle and pull and at the end of El Dano with the song speeding into its end reverberate out of existence like they're beaming down to some hellplanet. Viva La Muerte burps its way through some fairly chilled yet splatty hardcore, where everything has spiky edges.

NASA Space Universe's twangy hardcore botching is great, Dollar Bill with a rhythm sort of approaching a DK sort of gallop and bounce, but way messier, guitars like electric sparks, dangerous and flickering, unable of settling into any sort of groove, sometimes used for noise and feedback, sometimes squealing uncomfortably over the relentless speed of the bass, obliterated vocals screamed and shot headfirst into a wall.

Aspirina Infantil from Spain's first track Policia is just a spoken word track laid over ominous noise, drums and screams intercutting, kinda weird doing what is basically an intro track on a comp, but it does set up their solid-as hardcore song Ciudad II well and sets them apart from the straighter hardcore efforts which risk getting ignored.

Which is kinda what happens to Porkeria. They don't do too much amazingly musically, but I like their use of shittily strained backing vocals and a good hardcore punk bass part like the simple bit in Domesticados is always a sweet way to break-up a song. Not mindblowing though, and they (as well as Bored Straight and Haute Couture, though again the Haute song is pretty damn good, opening strong and brittle and punchy but not following through perfectly) kind of get lost in the mix on such a long album (forty minutes of barely broken hardcore punch can really fuck you up, speed and fury is hard to sustain over a over twice as long as Circle Jerks' Group Sex)

Standing out in style significantly, Tenement have a great pop-punk jam, a band that could fit in on a way poppier comp than this with the little country licks in the guitar and sweet background vox echoes, but move forward with enough reckles  that something like the glistening fadeout that could read as cheesy if it wasn't engaged it such a constant uneasy struggle with its own degradation, Tenement always maintain just enough sonic fog to keep their in the realm of that shitty little curbgrazed region rock, seeping blood and pus from the infected cuts in their pop songs. This band always feel like they could be pop-rock millionaires if they wanted to, but are way too stubborn arseholes to tidy the dirt from the corner of the room.

Broken Prayer follow that great punk institution of putting what is probably the best Broken Prayer song I've heard thus far on a comp, a bomb amongst bombs. They know that when you come to this sort of game, so many good bands all thrown together, you gotta piss like there's no wall high enough to stop you, killing it like Nicki Minaj guest verse or James Gandolfini drunkenly ripping a movie out from Brad Pitt in Killing Me Softly with total scumbag insouciance. Shivering and stuttering with catchy synthlines and surging background fuzz, and the depressively choked vocals. "I DON'T LIKE ANY OF YOU/I DON'T HAVE TO!" I liked their s/t but this seems like a whole greater beast. Probably my favourite song on this this thing. The danger of such a great track on a comp is that if the song does what it is put together and pulled apart to do, to get you to check in on their other shit, then the other stuff runs the risk of disappointment. Many-a-time have I excitedly purchased an album based on a comp or sampler song only to find the album without the same level of charm and fury that that first song seemed to possess in its dark and needling spaces.

Thee Nodes end the comp. They rule. Listen to them. Fucking yelping weirdos to the core. Garage punk (the THEE should've tipped you off) in the vein of Archie and the Pukes more fuzzed out, simple songs squeezed out fast and seething. I'm tired of writing right now.

Welcome to 2013 could never be something comprehensive, stylistically or geographically, and it's not aiming to be. It's just a stained and water-damaged snapshot of some bands that are making noise at the same time. While it does extend its span across the globe, it'd be pretty cool with slightly less North American bands (I mean Culo fucking rule so hard but does anyone who would be into this shit not know them at this point, maybe their presence is as something of a 'big' name to draw in more people) and some more scenes represented, but the shit here is undeniably tight throughout. The thing of giving bands two songs worked great as it allowed for some odder moments like that Aspirina Infantil song or that Good Throb one which maybe wouldn't fit with their other sort of stuff on their own releases. Broken Prayer, Brown Sugar, Thee Nodes, Honda Honda, Ooze and NASA Space Universe all went in. Everything was angry and nothing sucked. Bands from all about, all raging to preserve a couple ideas, 1) John Peel's maxim about this year being the best year for music is as true as it ever was and 2) up the punx.