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

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