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.

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