Sunday, 1 March 2015

Vanity - Vain in Life LP

Oi! influences have been sliding their way into hardcore for a hot minute now and Vanity just drop all the pretenses. A straight-up Oi! album from a bunch of people from hardcore bands like Creem and The Rival Mob that draws from a bunch of early streetpunk/late pubrock, though probably most prominently and noticably, All Skrewed Up-era Skrewdriver.

The Skrewdriver question is, like stagediving, one of punk's spiralling athanastic debates, the sort of thing where you could drop out of punk for 15 years and walk right back in to find people reiterating the same points. All Skrewed Up is an album of catchy nihilistic punk rock that, probably more than any other album of the time, hews closer to the more distant R'n'B origins of the genre, exhibiting a greater truth in the cliche of punk as supercharged rock and roll, which obviously lends a dreadful irony the swerve they took into vile haterock. It also inevitably probably owes a chunk of its popularity for its place as a straight down-the-line punk album made by one of the most notorious  bands of all time, a safe way of flirting with the titillation of the taboo, the same proximity to the macabre that gives the hint of the forbidden to Death in June or NSBM, a similar impulse to ghoulish adolescent fascinations with serial killers, Faces of Death videos and the yawning horrors of history. So with that Rocket 88 shake and and 14/88 morbidity, All Skrewed Up occupies its own special acrid little spot in the punk pantheon. Personally, having heard all the hype, I opted to forego listening to it for years, only to find myself at a party where someone put on a super-catchy punk song and I had a conversation that went something like "This is pretty sick. Who is it?" "Skrewdriver." "Ah."

Though since Rock Against Communism and its fellows bloomed out of the insecure turbulence of troglodytic white rage of the late 70s/early 80s, plenty of bands have tilted at ripping Oi! back from its nationalistic posturing, to wipe it clean of its heinous racist taint, the circular inanities of politicised apolitics like Discharger, a phalanx of SHARPies and commie skinheads (bizarrely but somewhat predictably claiming the name 'redskins') like Malaysia's A.C.A.B., Catalonia's Inadaptats, the UK's Blaggers ITA and countless others armed with similar shoutalong anthems and about 8 million songs called R.A.S.H. or Good Night White Pride, just as dozens of bands like Iskra, Iprit, Torture Garden, PunaTerrori etc have sought to lace blackmetal with hardleft and anarcho perspectives.

Those proceeding paragraphs right there are the kind of de rigeur exegesis that springs forth anytime every time the name Skrewdriver pops up. Vanity drive with that swaggering streetrock chomp, that rollicking rhythm and vocals that switch between a bloody rasp and more soulful half-croon, not R.A.S.H. types, but moving with a counterfactual vigour from a world where Ian Stuart's fatal car crash happened 12 years earlier than it really did.

On the louche bluster and shunt of Can't Be Bothered, the rattling gusto of Ya Don't Know? and The King Drinks, the bludgeon brassy fuck-right-off of Fuck Right Off, the slick midtempo fightmusic of Might Trumps Thought they succeed, crafting anthems as catchy as anything, cock-of-the-walk pubrock, pugilistic and powerful, packed with lines that read like a litany of unwise bar confrontations, adrenaline rising and eyes whiskey-wild, "You ain't got no fuckin bite, no" on No Bite, "Glass in hand and cowardice don't mix" on The King Drinks, less convincing are moments like the glammed up twang of Bal Des Ardents, the slow run into closer New York City, I do find myself flagging in the back half of the album, but there are a couple of tracks when it does live that dream of forging carefree cutthroat singalong rippers, guiltfree gutpunches and silly stompers, the "This is pretty sick" without the "Ah.", punk songs that may be kinda dumb-as-fuck, but certainly don't require two rambling explanatory paragraphs when you put them on, just two movin feet and a voice to burn.