Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bishop's Green - Pressure LP

Bishop's Green could conceivably be described as 'old man streetpunk' which is a subgenre of punk that is usually responsible for the worst shit in the world, tepid, tedious, conservative blokery, middle-aged men with strong takes about what's wrong with society which revolve more around 'disrespect' and 'wimpiness' rather than 'patriarchal capitalist white supremacy'.

Too often punk is torn up from its wild teenage anguish, this is a natural consequence of punk's age as a subculture, further away now from Sid Vicious donning a swastika than Sid Vicious was from Hitler donning it, despite it's self-renewing athanasia, its constant wave of teenagers discovering Discharge or the Dickies or the Dicks for the first time, there are many who have grown old with the same, uninterested in the punk of 2014, who couldn't give a shit for the fresh new shit bursting out of every corner of the globe, The Friday, Las Otras, No Form, Anomaly, Stranger, S.H.I.T., hundreds of other bands that keep me in a constant self-excoriating struggle to get on top of writing-wise, a hundred punk bands live every minute, and these reviews are a somewhat sisyphean attempt to try and do justice to this breathing spurting culture that sustains me so often.

But do those motherfuckers, those barpunk cunts give a solitary fuck? Nah, they're just listening to The Clash again, happy in the knowledge that this makes them radical, for many tedious old motherfuckers, just the idea that they're 'punk' is enough to justify themselves. And maybe that's inevitable, and maybe that's cool, the young need their new fresh spaces, the dismissive fuckery of old shits is just gonna give em fire, but it's still tiresome, to stumble across all those "they-don't-make-em-like-they-used-to" self-satisfied nods of people who came to awareness in a culture specifically aimed at smashing that attitude to pieces.

Why then have I listened to this oldman streetpunk album like 50 times in the past two weeks? Well, one thing is that the tunes are really fucking good. The other is probably that it's as far from self-satisfied as you can get. While it does have its choral moments, it offers picketline chants while not forgetting the picketline is a shit place to be, yes it's beautiful and communal, but you're hungry and cold, you're skint and angry. It's a place you don't choose to be, it's a place you're forced to be by circumstance and the strength you find there is in spite of your lot in the world, not because of it.

Bishops Green know bad days. They know the asphyxiating grip of labour. "Working all day, same old story. Watching the clock, I'm losing my mind." on Gross and Net. "You never had a chance to get ahead, no education/Got pushed down from the start, not many options." on Rat Race.

It turns on the wistful wryness of Cock Sparrer's Because You're Young, the battleworn hardiness of contemporary Cockney Rejects, the shit and youthful sneer and bark of Bad Man or Flares 'n' Slippers not there, but the big melodic sweep of Thin Lizzy-infused punk rock like Your Country Needs You or Back To My Roots. There is a sense of the road travelled in these songs, the nights and days spent dogtired and bonesick, beaten down by bosses, customers, aching feet, deadened minds, looking for oblivion as respite.

Those melodic basslines, those warm crunching guitars, the vocals smooth but laced with grit, the working class pride a deep needed succor not a smokescreen of shit and ignorance, unions and strength, in times of austerity, belt-tightening, downturns, whatever euphemisms given for the shit fucking state of things, the personal pains and tragedies of poverty engendered by the avarice of the city and the cowardice of the state. I mean that Rejects song Your Country Needs You, despite being utterly fuckwitted in the worst oldmanstreetpunk way possible, lyrically reading like something in the ballpark of UKIP Calypso, (sample lyric: "Stand up, beat your chest, when you hear God Save the Queen") really does kick shit with the best of them, it does get you fucking moving, and Bishops Green are much tighter, much sharper, lyrically, riding that line between drain-circling despair and forward momentum, avoiding easy moments, avoiding the angry populism of 'angry white man chants by professional musicians' that punkcritic/shitbucket Ben Weasel laid into on the song Tightrope, before he himself mutated utterly into that "I FORT PUNK WOZ SPOSED TO BE ABOUT PISSIN PEEOPLE OOFFF" caricature that live propping up the bar at shit dingy metal pubs across the country. With Bishop's Green, the reality of lines like "It's the same dance that we fight for/I'm telling you it's not enough" hit hard.

This pensiveness makes the times when it does break through, the times when it does see a light, "Cause I have walked with giants/Can't forget my past/Smash the shadows around me/There's no turning back." on Night Terror, the mantra of "Tomorrow brings us hope" repeated firmly on Tomorrow, more powerful, they're not aimless, naive, they're determined and rooted in pain, so a line like the title track's "Fucked up system/Burn it to the ground." is delivered as a soft growl of a rueful truism as much as a kick-the-doors-in rallying cry, following it not with a searing solo, but with a retreat back into quiet melancholy. It's left to sit and simmer, so you reflect on its impossibility as much as its opensky dreaming. Midtempo punk tunes, full of tense vulnerability and catchy power, full of wake singalongs, and bitter knowledge.

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