Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 5): Kronstadt Uprising "Part of the game" Ep, 1985

To wrap up this hopefully enjoyable little series that should feed everyone's nostalgia for the coming months, let's talk about an 80's punk band that is rarely discussed among punks of the brand new age, Kronstadt Uprising. And yet, what a cracking name they picked. I mean, it may sound a little corny in 2019 but back when they went for that moniker in 1981 (they were originally, and rather enigmatically, called The Bleeding Pyles so the change was for the best), I am sure it sounded quite fresh in the punk scene and it might have enticed many teenagers to read about the actual Kronstadt uprising (me included, when I picked their cd discography in the early 00's) and dream about being a hero of the anarchist revolution or, at least, about finding as cool a name for a punk band.

I first came across KU when I bought a second-hand copy of the aforementioned cd Insurrection that Overground Records released in 2000. I had never heard of the band before but I already owned the Not so Brave Flux of Pink Indians' cd (that I incidentally got from the very same second-hand record store) and was able to identify the typically anarchopunk layout so I went for it, confident that it would be kinda similar to Flux. Of course, I was mostly wrong and a little disappointed since the KU cd could be defined as a collection of mostly rock'n'roll-sounding punk songs that sounded nothing like what a charmingly naive teenager was entitled to expect from a band marketed as "anarchopunk". I was not completely distressed though, because Insurrection still included the fantastic The Unknown Revolution Ep, released on Spiderleg (the label of Flux) in 1983 and I absolutely loved this Ep, and still do. I suppose the people who still listen to the band see that Ep as the band's defining moment, and rightly so. It is not a ground-breaking record but it certainly encapsulates the angry anarchopunk sound of the time and remains a minor classic of the genre, reminiscent of DIRT, Riot/Clone or early Conflict, with particularly raspy and pissed vocals. If you were asked to play a typical anarcho record of the period, picking The Unknown Revolution would be a relevant move, as it is neither too obscure nor too obvious and it would make you look sophisticated but not snobbish (and it just got reissued on vinyl). You basically cannot lose. Choosing their second Ep, Part of the Game, however, would not work as well and the purpose of this post is to keep you from making an insidious mistake that could cost you your reputation and the respect from your peers. Having perfect punk tastes is a constant struggle and I am glad I can help you achieve it. 

So KU were from Southend-on-Sea, in Essex (down South), like The Synix, with whom they punctually shared a few members throughout the years. Formed in 1981, they actually kept playing until 1987, although they went through a year-long hiatus and even a split and their last incarnation only included founding member and soul of the band, Steve (the drummer). The band's career is very well-documented in the booklet of the retrospective cd, in Burning Britain and even online, on the very interesting and comprehensive website about Southend Punk that you can check here (how wonderful, you won't even have to flip through actual pages), so I won't delve too much into the band's history here. 

A metaphor of the rock'n'roll circus

So why write about Part of the Game then? It sounds nothing like KU's first Ep and what modern listeners have come to associate anarchopunk with. From 1984 to their demise, the band took a decidedly rock'n'roll path that owed a lot to late 70's punk-rock and avowedly to Johnny Thunders. It is common knowledge that many early 80's punk bands tried to sound different when they reached the crucial stage of the mid/late 80's and, more often than not, it was disastrous and I don't need to name any band because that would just be a bit mean. However, I have always felt that KU's change of sound was, if not for the better, at least a very solid one. The band stuck to the DIY punk ethos of their anarchopunk roots, the songwriting was never lazy and they never went for goofy lyrics. If their new sound (and indeed, their new look) was rock'n'roll-oriented and even though some of their later songs are too much so for my own liking (we all have our limitations), there are some undeniable hits in KU's late catalogue and the two songs included on their '85 Ep, "Part of the game" and especially "The horsemen", are very strong songs. 

Backed by an energetic sound that stresses the raw aggression of the songwriting, these thick mid-paced numbers have a rather dark and gloomy vibe that make them standout from generic '77 revival punk. The vocals are tuneful of course but remain quite raucous and some bits on the drums and guitars are there to remind you that this is still a punk record. There is something threatening and almost macabre in KU's music and if the verses are quite typically rock'n'roll, the chorus have an epic and lugubrious catchiness that I find very enticing (the haunting backing chorus on "The horsemen" further emphasize that element). It sounds a bit like a blend between The Underdogs, The Damned and The Heartbreakers but recorded in a graveyard. It's not depressing by any means, but the presence of several grim reapers on the foldout cover is a good indication of the record's mood (and so is the picture of the band posing in full on rockers regalia). I suppose you could argue that Part of the Game is not far from the death-rock genre, but my expertise in this domain is too limited for me to make such a claim. The recording session also included a third song, "Live for today", that is just as good and can be found on the cd. 

Typically the kind of records that makes you want to wear shades.


Friday, 15 February 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 4): The Fits "Tears of a Nation" Ep, 1983

Last week, we saw that a band majoring in anarchopunk, No Choice, got to be released on the prime UK82 punk label, Riot City Records. Well, today will be the exact opposite, a band closely associated with the UK82 wave that had a record on a classic anarchopunk label: The Fits' Tears of a Nation released on Corpus Christi. 

It only really hit me a few years ago as I was taking a closer look at Corpus Christi's discography. For the ignoramuses among you, Corpus Christi Records was an offshoot of Crass Records, run by owner of Southern Studios, John Loder, and some members of Crass. The original idea was that, if you already had a release on Crass, you couldn't have a second one (it was one of the label's principles), but you could always go to Corpus Christi, which was the route taken by Rudimentary Peni, Lack of Knowledge, Alternative, Conflict or Omega Tribe. It also meant that you did not have to have Penny Rimbaud as a sound engineer, which gave more freedom to the recording bands (though I personally really like his work and his influence in the shaping of what has come to be known as "the typical anarchopunk sound"). Some bands on Corpus Christi, however, had never released anything on Crass Records before, which was the case for The Fits, a band that had previously been tied with labels like Beat the System!! or Rondelet Records. It is often said that there was more variety on Corpus Christi than on Crass but I tend to think that this impression has more to do with a superior flexibility and diversity in terms of production and sound (and of course, aesthetics) rather than style or songwriting strictly speaking. But I digress.

I first came across The Fits the same way I did many other second-wave UK punk bands in my teenage years: through a colossal Captain Oi discography. To be honest, I did not really like them at first and for a long time I would see this Blackpool band as a bit of an average act that had a couple of good songs but wrote too many fillers. If The Fits were a wrestler, in my mind, they would have been a mid carder like the Big Boss Man or Rick Martel (to give you some perspective, Abrasive Wheels would have definitely been Bret Hart). I think this had a lot to do with the way The Fits Punk Collection was curated. Arranging the songs in chronological order is usually the best choice you can make when dealing with such 80's punk bands since they almost always start great and then progressively turn pop-rock or New Romantic or whatever. But with The Fits, it was pretty much the other way around, since their first records were pretty bad but they eventually got better. It still meant that you had to listen to their whole first Lp before reaching the good stuff and it often proved too much for me at that age, especially since there were cd's with great songs from the beginning (I am aware it sounds a little silly but that was my listening practice back then). 

But let's talk about the band a little. Formed in Blackpool in 1979, their first Ep was the very shambolic and remarkably out-of-tune You Said we'd Never Make it. Of course, these three tracks opened the aforementioned cd compilation so it is little wonder that I was left unimpressed. I suppose it is enjoyable if you are into badly played, obnoxious snotty punk. It almost sounds experimental at times, though unintentionally. This first Ep was pretty successful and even got a repress on Beat the System Records, a Blackpool-based label that released very strong UK82 records, and although it doesn't get mentioned as often as the two mammoths Riot City and No Future, Beat the System was still responsible for putting out materials from Death Sentence, External Menace, Chaotic Youth, Uproar and One Way System (and Antisocial, but they sucked). The Fits then signed to Rondelet Records in 1981, a bigger indie label that had released records for Anti-Pasti (and later on for The Membranes, Special Duties and The Threats). Their 1982 Think for Yourself Ep was much better and showed what The Fits were actually good at, intense mid-paced punk-rock songs with loud aggressive vocals. The You're Nothing, You're Nowhere Lp recorded the same year had a very cool cover (but then The Fits often had a particular visual taste) but was pretty boring. I guess they were trying to build on the previous Ep but forgot that you actually had to write good songs for the formula to work well (for some reason the Lp got reissued in 2017 which shows once again that nostalgia is directionless). After some lineup changes (members from One Way System and the cruelly overlooked Chaotic Youth joined), The Fits recorded the convincing The Last Laugh Ep in 1982 (yes, that's three records in only one year, talk about productivity). The sound may not have been perfect but the songs were very catchy and energetic and you had some lovely hooks which showed that The Fits could actually write tuneful punk music without losing their angry vibe. I think it would not be far-fetched to claim that this Ep paved the way for the band's classic Ep, Tears of a Nation.

Not even one quid!

Generally, second-wave punk bands' defining moment could be located at their second or third records, but The Fits had to wait until their fifth one to reach that point (granted, they were so prolific in so short a time that lines became a bit blurry). After a meeting with the people from Crass (a rather funny recollection of the encounter is included in Glasper's Burning Britain), The Fits got a deal for an Ep on Corpus Christi which was recorded in June, 1983. Tears of a Nation is one of the strongest Ep's of the so-called UK82 wave and it sold well for good reasons. The Fits were at the top of their game in terms of focused songwriting and the sound is perfect, heavy, with a punky rawness, dark and powerful (it was produced by Barry Sage who also did the Test Tubes' celebrated Mating Sounds Lp). The title track was a threatening, desperate-sounding slow-paced number with rather depressive lyrics and a massive chorus that embodied the social despair of the times. Heavy stuff. "Bravado" was an angry, anthemic mid-paced song while "Breaking point" was a fast hardcore-ish one which showed that The Fits could also sound good when speeding up (the previous Ep pointed in that direction I suppose). The three songs were reminiscent of vintage One Way System (I suppose comparisons with Uproar, The Underdogs or Icons of Filth are relevant too here) in terms of boisterous intensity and gloomy songwriting, but still had The Fits' imprint. I am aware that we, collectively, have created a classifying discourse revolving around specific genres and aesthetics that comforts our modern way of looking at punk-rock. Like we need hashtags and keywords in order to comprehend music, we often try to retroactively force our analytical templates on cultural moments at the expense of relevance. What I mean is that Tears of a Nation may not fit (lol) perfectly the UK82 mould that the internet age has consecrated and it may be for the best. It is just a great record of raucous 80's punk-rock and in the end, that's all that matters. Besides, I am pretty sure that bands like No Hope for the Kids and all the other so-called "dark punk" bands around have been playing The Fits a lot (maybe even before it was cool again to be into UK82... the vicissitude of punk trends...). As for the cover, it may be The Fits' least original, with brooding pictures of the boys, looking half-way between cheesy heavy metal and mid-80's postpunk (ironically, this once corny look is more fashionable than ever... oh well). Unfortunately there is no insert, which is a bit of a shame, especially for a Corpus Christi record. 

Following this gem, The Fits released a split 12'' with Peter and the Test Tube Babies (an unlikely pairing but there you go) and two more Ep's, the rather good and melodic Action and the much less inspired Fact or Fiction. To tell you the truth, the songs included on those records were all at the end of the cd and I seldom listened as far. I do like the chorus on "Action" though. Obviously, it is not the end of The Fits' story since the band reformed and released a new cd single in 2013 and a full live album in 2015, but I haven't found the courage to listen to them yet. 


Friday, 8 February 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 3): No Choice "Sadist dream" Ep, 1983

Last time, I tackled a sadly overlooked record released on Riot City Records in 1982. Today's post will be something else entirely since we will be dealing with a sadly overlooked record released on Riot City Records in 1983. You see, that is exactly where the strength of Terminal Sound Nuisance lies: variety and constant reinvention. 

Undead's Violent Visions was Bristol label's Riot 15 while No Choice's Sadist Dream was Riot 20 and if not much time had passed between both releases, the years 1982 and 1983 were so prolific for Riot City (and many other punk labels at the time) that it is no wonder that records that did not sound exactly like the fashion of the day could have gone relatively unnoticed. As we have seen, Undead were both typical and yet quite original with their darker, gloomier take on the UK82 blueprint, No Choice however were unlike anything Riot City had released at that point and it stands as a bit of an anomaly - albeit a brilliant one - in the label's full catalogue, much more so than the label's subsequent Ep, Emergency's very Buzzcocks-influenced Points of View. No Choice, in terms of sound and lyrics, were basically an anarchopunk band (Ian Glasper was right to include them in The Day the Country Died), and you could definitely picture Sadist Dream being released on Bluurg or Spiderleg at the time. But punk-rock is full of little surprises and things are not always as clear-cut as we imagined them to be, especially from a point of view distorted by 35 years of storytelling and mythification regarding the collective fantasy that the 1980's have turned into.

But back to No Choice, a band unlucky enough to hail from Wales. Now, I have nothing against Welsh punk-rock, on the contrary, but you have to admit that many amazing 80's punk bands from Wales unfairly remain largely ignored, like Shrapnel, Soldier Dolls, Symbol of Freedom or indeed No Choice themselves. Therefore I cannot recommend Antisociety's grand 2012 compilation Bullsheep Detector (Wales is supposed to have a lot of sheep and the Google search "Wales sheep to human ratio" is apparently widespread) which offers a great and thoroughly enjoyable overview of early 80's Welsh punk music including a classic No Choice number. The band formed in Cardiff in 1982 and settled for the "No Choice" moniker in order to reflect the pervasive feeling of powerlessness inherent in the working-class life of teenagers during Thatcher's rule and the need to do something about it. I have never been a fan of band names starting with a "No" because they always remind of jumpy U$ hardcore from the 90's for some reason. To be fair, No Choice could not be further from 80's hardcore though. 

Their first demo was recorded in 1982. It was a collection of 13 songs which, despite a very raw, trebly sound and some really sloppy bits (to play in time or in tune was not always a priority), showcased what No Choice really excelled at: crafting tuneful anthemic punk songs with a strong Beat vibe. I would be lying if I claimed that this first demo was flawless. However, songs like "Wotswar", "Hard life", "Sale on" or "YOP" are instant winners blending the poppy, melancholy side of anarchopunk with gritty singalong punk-rock. A bit like a lo-fi jam between Zounds, Omega Tribe, Demob, Menace and Passion Killers. Though by no means a ground-breaking recording, it sounds very promising and fresh and after a gig with Chaos UK in Cardiff (they also got to play with local anarcho heroes Icons of Filth, Conflict and Omega Tribe), Chaos took a copy of the demo to Simon from Riot City who then offered No Choice a deal for an Ep which Sadist Dream would materialize.  

Sadist Dream is certainly not your average Riot City Ep and the cover, a mushroom cloud with the shadows of a mother and her child in the foreground (the latter weirdly resembling the creature in the movie E.T.), was already a clue that No Choice's pacifist imagery and politics were closer to those of Crass than Vice Squad's. And indeed, I can imagine how baffled some of the listeners must have been when playing the A-side of the Ep: it is an almost five minute long pensive spoken word piece - done by the band's second singer Cid - about war with melancholy melodies in the background. If I am a sucker for such anarcho cheese and therefore gladly enjoy it, one has to admit that it had much to do with Flux of Pink Indians' praxis and had no antecedent in what Riot City would usually put out. The two songs on the B-side are fantastic slices of anthemic melodic political punk-rock. "Nuclear disaster" starts out deceptively with a slow eerie, Zounds-like introduction before exploding into an intense bass-driven punk number with a dark, hypnotic guitar tune and very passionate vocals about the - then - impending threat of nuclear annihilation (not unlike Kulturkampf I guess). The second song, "Cream of the crop", is a massive working-class (and proud) hymn with a crispy Beat vibe and a chorus of the catchiest order, a bit like a mix between Demob and the Upstarts or something. On the whole, the production is still quite raw, with an organic sound that confers warmth and authenticity to the songs and even though there are a couple of sloppy bits here and there, the energy and the ambition to play non-generic catchy punk-rock are remarkable. I love Sadist Dream and I apologize for the skips on the rip but I have played that fucker a lot. 

Following the Ep, the band split up (of course they would) but reformed shortly after with a new drummer. This lineup recorded the magnificent Question Time? demo in 1984, a six song effort that was, by far, their most powerful in terms of sound and saw No Choice at the peak of their songwriting ability as they blended seamlessly catchy melodic poppy tunes and anthemic working-class punk-rock with sensible political lyrics from the heart. If you like your anarchopunk with grit and tunes, it just doesn't get much better than this demo (that no one thought of reissuing it on vinyl yet is unexplainable although Grand Theft Audio released a cd that compiled the band's 80's recordings in 2001) and four songs from it got included on two Rot Records compilations (the Have a Rotten Christmas ones). 

This was not the end of the No Choice story however. Along with Tim from Icons of Filth, three members of No Choice formed SAND in the 90's before reforming No Choice in 2001 for good. The band didn't try to live on their past and wrote a new songs with a different sound, though they did not give up on tunefulness, quite close to UK melodic hardcore like Leatherface, HDQ or Snuff. Their 2003 album on Newest Industry Records, Dry River Fishing, is very good if you are into that sound. I got to see them in 2013 and they were energetic and only played songs from their 00's albums which was both a bit of a disappointment since I wanted to sing along to "Cream of the crop" and also a sign that they did not want to be just an old reformed band from the 80's. Truly punk this lot.    


Thursday, 31 January 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 2): Undead "Violent visions" Ep, 1982

No label conjures up the UK82 wave as much as Riot City Records and No Future Records. And not just in terms of sound. To mention those labels is an evocation of a specific look, of a very short but very dense and influential time period and, in the case of Riot City, of Bristol, a town that has taken an almost biblical dimension in punk mythology. Even - and probably especially - for someone who has never visited Bristol, it immediately brings Disorder, Chaos UK, Amebix, Vice Squad, cider, glue and Riot City Records to mind. There is no exception, the punk brain just works this way, it is a scientific law. No British town has historically been tied up to punk-rock as closely as Bristol in the collective punk psyche and, in retrospect, it is difficult to gauge how objective or rational the story really is. But in the end, it doesn't really matter. After all, every subcultural group need to create their own canonical myths and the idea of a lost punk Eden (punk Bristol in the 80's here, but you can replace it with New York, Stockholm or wherever your obsessive loyalty lies) is strong, albeit not necessarily very healthy.

Like many a young punk, I was fascinated with the second wave of British punk-rock in my teenage years (it wasn't called "UK82" yet to my knowledge) and I would try to buy as many Captain Oi cd reissues as possible since they were readily available and life was very much internet-free then. More often than not, these cd's were a bit hard to swallow as they included full discographies but then it was at least comprehensive. Basic band histories were provided, rarely the lyrics, but it was difficult to get the bigger picture or the interconnections of it all and I remember not understanding why a lot of punk bands started to get a bit shit toward the end of their run (usually around '83 or '84). Still, I have kept all these cd's (out of a Proustian mindset I suppose) and apart from a couple of genuine classics, I have never felt the need to hunt for original copies. As of 2019, the vinyl format has superseded the cd (Captain Oi released very few vinyls), but the trend of reissuing second wave UK punk bands is still going strong and I am still as interested and starry-eyed as ever. Some things never change, do they?

One band's discography that Captain Oi never got around to reissue at the time was Undead's, from Bristol, which is a bit of an oddity since they released two Ep's and one full Lp and were therefore completely cd-compatible (Step-1 Music eventually did release such an object in 2007 under the very imaginative title The Riot City Years - the only years Undead ever had). For some reason, Undead seem to be largely underappreciated when they are not casually ignored, which is strange for a Bristol band that had three records on legendary Riot City. Indeed, I have often seen some of their contemporaries that weren't even half as good receive high praises. So why the discrepancy?

I suppose the name "Undead" never really helped since it is a bit corny (I am sure it already was when they formed in 1981 and the addition of a crucifix after the prefix is questionable) and there were already two bands called The Undead in the $tates at the time (one from San Francisco and the other, much more famous, with an ex-Misfits member, neither I really care about). It might not have been the most clever idea for a moniker, especially since it brings psychobilly or horror punk to mind more than spiky punk-rock, but it is not the worst idea either. Apparently, Undead did not play much outside Bristol which did not help bolster their profile amidst the dozens of bands of the time. But the great equalizer of our time (aka da internet) usually renders such very concrete, contextualized facts meaningless, so there should be as many enthusiastic fans of Undead as there are of Ultra Violent. Right? I have a feeling that lack of "punk as fuck" photo shoots at the time also plays a role in the band's status. But then, how could they have known that they were not instammagrable enough?


As I said Undead started in mid-1981 and the boys look really young on the few pictures I have seen so it is safe to say that they must have been influenced not only by the first wave, but also by the beginning of the second wave itself. The legend has it (well, I got it from Burning Britain) that they lived close to Beki's from Vice Squad who then gave their first demo (recorded in December, 1981) to Simon from Riot City (the label was also managed by Dave and Shane from Vice Squad which accounted for many of their side projects releasing records on Riot City...not always for the best). He decided to include the song "Sanctuary" on the classic Riotous Assembly compilation Lp and offered a deal to Undead which would materialize into their first Ep, It's corruption, in April, 1982. Of course that year saw the release of a tremendous amount of amazing punk records in Britain so I am not sure how it was perceived at the time (it made the Indie Charts though). It's corruption is a lovely punk-rock single with the eponymous song being a simple but really catchy number which gave a glimpse at what would be become the band's trademark, namely pounding mid-paced tribal drum beats with a dark vibe which It weren't really your typical Bristol punk style. That first record was Riot City's seventh Ep, released between The Ejected's Have you got 10p? and Abrasive Wheels' Burn'em down (two of the records that best typified the quintessential UK82 sound) which is not a bad spot at all.

Undead's second Ep, Violent visions, was released only three months after, in July. Despite the very short period of time between the two, it was a massive improvement. If It's corruption sounded a bit sloppy and raw, Violent visions was a more powerful and focused effort that kept the characteristic snotty teenage urgency of the delivery while maintaining a high level of tunefulness. A darker vibe also started to permeate the band's sound, the heavy mid-tempo tribal beats taking an almost hypnotic dimension, leading the listener into a sort of angry despair. This Ep, for its apparent simplicity, is just incredible. The chorus are remarkably catchy and roaring at the same time, uplifting and yet quite grim, and they can remain stuck in your head for days. The music has a primitive, urban feel that is authentically threatening and the vocals are brilliant, aggressive and snotty, but expressive and rather melodic in a spiky punk way. The riffs are fairly basic but work well since they rely on bleak repetitiveness (there are moody guitar leads here and there to break the monotony) and as such they convey perfectly the feeling of angry powerlessness that made the genre so potent. Violent visions can be seen as a perfect UK82 record although it was certainly darker and moodier than a lot of its contemporaries. However, it does retain that punk snottiness and singalong chorus so that it sounds both typical and atypical. Know what I mean? You shouldn't really need points of comparison but let's say that it is a near perfect blend of The Enemy, The Insane and Cult Maniax with a touch of dark punk, maybe like The Pact or Screaming Dead. The only bad thing about this Ep is the artwork. I am not sure who did it but it looks horrible and reminds me of embarrassingly cheesy heavy metal covers. This is exactly how a fantastic punk record shouldn't look like.

The best was still to come for Undead and their outstanding album The killing of reality is an unsung UK punk classic. Released on Riot City in early 1984 when the second wave already had one foot in the grave, it is one of the strongest UK82 Lp's. If the Ep format fitted the genre well, the same could not be said about the full Lp treatment. A lot of them sounded a little tedious or included forgettable fillers so that, while the wave produced many cracking Ep's, brilliant Lp's were much rarer (and actually, many bands never recorded one and many others shouldn't have). The killing of reality is a top-shelf dark UK82 punk Lp with a lot of personality and you can tell the band worked hard on their strong points and stressed the dark element of their songwriting with more martial mid-paced tribal drumming and more variety of tunes overall (they even wrote a seven minute song!). Still, it is undeniably and essentially a UK punk record back when a lot of bands were turning into mediocre postpunk/new wave parodies. This Lp got reissued by Radiation Records in 2014 so that you have got no excuse. Apparently the original version had a sticker saying "Guaranteed: no fuzz boxes" on the back cover because Bristol had more to offer indeed.

On the plus side, Undead had the decency not to reform in order to make a quick buck at some overpriced festivals.     


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 1): Total Chaos "There are no Russians in Afghanistan" Ep, 1982

First, I have to tell you the truth. I was unable to find a decent pun to name this new series. Not a single one. I did try, really, but nothing came apart from uninspired, humourless dross. So I safely resorted to an ironically bookish reference that would make me look knowledgeable and save appearances and my reputation. But you could also say that such metafictional revelations have become cheap tricks to circumvent any potential questioning and conceal the absence of substance. But then, punk in 2019 is all about metafictions so I suppose I am just running with the postmodern pack. It is a tough business.

Anyway, let's forget about the constructedness of self-conscious writing for the moment and focus on the object: good punk records. This mini series will be about some second wave British punk bands (yes, again) whose productions sounded, looked and read a bit different from your typical record of the era. I have nothing against typical, highly contextualized punk records, on the contrary, I really enjoy archetypal productions that aptly capture the mood of a specific time and place. The Ep's I selected (the iconic 80's format) cannot be said to be groundbreaking masterpieces that changed the face of punk forever, but they display something unusual or surprising, something worth remembering for a punk trivia night. Therefore you could say that they both represented the typical sound of UK punk-rock from the early 80's (in the best way possible), and yet, were not that typical as records, for various reasons - some of which have a lot to do with modern expectations that were shaped retrospectively by our epoch's obsession with classifications. But that's just a lot of fancy words to state a simple truth: the series is about five cool British punk records from the 80's. That's more tweetable I guess.

Let's start with Total Chaos. Yes, Total bloody Chaos. Now, when a punk hears the name Total Chaos, there is a high chance he or she is going to think right away about the famous LA-based punk band, which makes sense since they have been playing since 1990 (with Rob as the sole original member), recorded three albums for Epitaph and seem to be playing at big punk festivals every summer. I don't dislike the band, I think their early demos are enjoyable in a (very) raw, noizy, Disorder-y way and even Pledge of Defiance has some good songs (however, the best thing about LA Total Chaos is that they used to tour with Resist and Exist and Media Children in their early days, something that "streetpunx" vastly ignore). As a moniker, "Total Chaos" definitely conveys the idea of fast, aggressive, distorted, punker than punk punk-rock for the true punx. But in this case, this preconception is proven wrong since the Total Chaos we're dealing with today were actually highly tuneful, and much closer to bands like Chron Gen or The Epileptics than Chaos UK or Disorder. It is probable that when the band formed in 1979, the term "Total Chaos" didn't have quite the same connotations as a few years afterwards when the so-called UK82 wave was at full speed and mentions of chaos in a name immediately conjured up images of studs, spikes and cider.

Total Chaos were from Gateshead (close to Newcastle, aka up north) and were active in the creation of The Garage, an important independent venue locally run by the Gateshead Gig Collective, who would open The Station a few years after, a legendary venue which hosted many great gigs and played a crucial role in the making of the punk scene in the area. The band recorded their first demo in early 1981, a rather rough seven-song tape which included primitive versions of songs that would end up on their first two Ep's. In 1982, they re-recorded two songs off the demo (their anthem "There are no Russians in Afghanistan" and "Primitive feeling") and a new one ("Revolution part 10") for their first vinyl output, There are no Russians in Afghanistan (this Cold War conflict really inspired punks it seems), released on their very own Slam records, although it would be repressed by Volume Records later on with a different backcover (that's the version posted here). The title track of this humble Ep, despite its minimal production, raw sound and limited musicianship, is an absolute winner with a contagious energy, snotty vocals and a catchy singalong chorus that only angry, angst-ridden teens can write properly. The song is rather basic in itself but the sense of tunes, the overall dynamics and the urgent delivery turn it into a genuine punk-rock hit, the very essence of punk. TC were a musically ambitious bunch in the sense that they did not want to sound too formulaic and were keen on trying different things, even on their first Ep. The second song has a darker, more melancholy mood and has a slower pace with an ominous postpunk guitar melody popping up. It still is fairly simple but, again, it works very well, probably because of the directness and spontaneity of the songwriting. They did not try to do, they just did. "Revolution part 10" is even more surprising since it is a drums and vocals number, which reminds me of D & V (though they actually came a little after). Fueled with political, anarcho-tinged lyrics, this song would have fitted just right on an anarchopunk compilation at the time  and it eventually landed on the 1982 Ep Papi, Queens, Reichkanzlers & Presidennti, a comp released on Attack Punk records from Italy that also included 5° Braccio and Kaaos (the label would become very successful with CCCP in the mid-80's).

Although often mentioned as a "UK82 band", TC appeared on the second volume of Bullshit Detector and had the "pay no more than" tag on their records. The boundaries between the anarchopunk scene and the so-called second wave of punk (often referred to as UK82 since the rise of the internet age) in the UK could evidently be quite porous according to your area. Whatever the box you want to force TC into, they believed in the value of creating a DIY punk scene for themselves and their lyrics were of a political variety, albeit always from a working-class perspective, with songs about media manipulation and distortions of facts (still very much relevant), the constant betrayals of political leaders, prisons, nuclear disarmament and so on. Their second Ep, Factory Man, was released the same year (1982) and showcased again the band's will to experiment, with two songs of catchy, energetic, tuneful punk-rock while the two others, much longer numbers, blended folk music, pop and Stiff Little Fingers (or something). It was the second release of Volume Records, a label which would become highly successful with another local band, The Toy Dolls. The band's final record would be the Fields & Bombs 12'' in 1983, a work that saw them experiment further with some new wave, glam and pop rock thrown in while keeping a catchy punk-rock backbone. It is not a great record, but it still makes for a good listen I guess.

The tuneful, snotty, catchy punk-rock songs that TC wrote were up there with what the second wave had the best to offer. Bands like Demob, Chron Gen, Reality or The Epileptics certainly come to mind and strangely enough there has never been a reissue of TC (yet?). Although it would be far-fetched to claim that everything they recorded was brilliant, they did pen a few unbeatable punk gems and just for that achievement, they should be properly considered. And come on, that chorus on "There are no Russians" is just punk magic and we all know it. And maybe they inspired other tune-oriented bands from the North like Reality Control, Famous Imposters or Blood Robots. I like to think so.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 6): Disgusting Lies "Pewnego dnia..." tape, 1999

Alright then, this is the last stop of my Polish punk tapes series and you could see that one as the final boss that you have to beat in order to win the game, the last man to toss over the top rope. It won't be an easy one to chew, let me tell you, and assuming you can swallow it at all, it is likely that you will need a nap afterwards and even an aspirin.

If you are familiar with crusty hardcore from the 90's, which equates in Terminal Sound Nuisance terminology to "not being a poser" (though I have been told that it wasn't a very nice thing to say to people, for some reason), you have already heard of Disgusting Lies, read the name somewhere or at least seen their records on distros. I am not quite sure that seeing them in the list of youtube suggestions really counts but, it is 2019 after all, and one has to live with one's time so I will validate it magnanimously. Truth be told, from my experience, Disgusting Lies were never - outside of their home country at least - one of the big names of Polish crust. If you went on family feuds and were asked to name five classic 90's Polish crust bands, you would have gone spontaneously for Homomilitia, Infekcja, and Sanctus Iuda (your nerdy cousin would have then glanced at you scornfully and shouted "Enough!, Monoteizm Co Existence and Anti Hostility", but then the pretentious git has always been keen on making an exhibition of himself). And that's a bit of a shame since not only did DL have a decent run of more than a decade but they also produced some very worthy records along the way. 

Quite incredibly from the perspective of our current self-obsessed decade, DL had their own website. Not just a page on the social media of the moment, but an actual website that you can read here. Granted, it has not been updated since 2003, but browsing through it, I realized how I missed when bands ran their own sites and included a biography, a download section, a list of past and future gigs and whatnot instead of dressing up and posting pictures of themselves online. If you are interested in the exact lineup evolutions of the band, I suggest you check their very comprehensive history. But basically, DL formed in 1992 in łódź (aka Lodz) and released their first demo tape, entitled Byt Określa Świadomość, in 1995 on Bialystok-based label Demonstracja. Because I am a miserable sod, stupid me did not pick that tape at the festival last summer and therefore I am unable to comment on it at all. After the demo, Yaga (who would end up later in Oi Polloi, Disorder and currently in Satanic Malfunctions) joined on second guitar and DL released their first Ep, Rich man / Poor man, on Malarie in 1996, a record I amusingly found in a 300-yen record bin at Punk and Destroy in Osaka last year (the box also contained other class records of Stracony, Argue Damnation and The Unamused if you must know). The sound is raw but the Ep is absolutely ferocious and I rate it as one of my favourite Polish crust records from the 90's. Scandicore-infused, manic eurocrust with harsh dual vocals, somewhere between Driller Killer, Extreme Noise Terror, Homomilitia and Excrement of War and the aural equivalent of HBK's superkick. I am sure you can still find that fellow for cheap so do yourself a favour, will you?

One of the vocalists left after the release of the Ep, and guitar hero Marian took on the job of second singer for the recording of DL's first - and only - full Lp, Pewnego dnia... (meaning One day...) in 1998. It would be released on tape on Nikt Nic Nie Wie and on vinyl on Malarie in 1999. To work on a Polish punk tapes special without mentioning NNNW would have been nothing short of professional misconduct. This label from Nowy Targ has been going since 1989 (back when watching Japanese animes was my raison d'être) and has been the most prolific DIY Polish punk label ever since and it was also the first one I came across with in the early 00's. With more than 200 references that include classic Polish and foreign punk bands, there are just too many cracking NNNW releases to mention. I still cannot pronounce the label's name properly though... But anyway, the tape version of DL's album is what you are getting today and let me tell you that it is a fierce hardcore punk work with angry political lyrics. In fact, it almost sounds too relentless, intense and just inflexible at times with twenty songs of pummeling, direct, frontal hardcore crust energized by angry as fuck singers that just never seem to stop roaring, as if intent on beating the hapless listener to a pulp, like being hit with a stone cold stunner three times in a row (I'm a bit in a wrestling mood today). I don't mean to sound pedantic but my only reservation about this tape is that it may be a little too long and that it would have worked better with 14 or 15 songs. The production is significantly better and heavier on this one and closer to Scandinavia in terms of unimpaired brutality. It is not as crusty as the Ep and, on the whole, closer to bands like Driller Killer or Wolfpack, with a metallic grindcore touch that reminds me a lot of Toxic Bonkers. As I mentioned, the vocalists' tag team never let you catch you breath (in a Brazilian crossover hardcore way if you know what I mean) and the variety of gruff, hoarse or screechy tones keeps the tape from being monotonous. Four songs from Pewnego dnia... would end up on a split Ep with Fact from Japan on MCR Company (in 2008, the label would release a DL cd with the Lp and Ep). 

Following the album, Yaga would move to England and after a couple of lineup changes, DL recorded the Don't ask, just listen! that would be released as a 10'' in 2002 on Agipunk and Angry Records from Italy and finally, in 2005, a split Lp with the magnificent Campus Sterminii, also on Agipunk, both records seeing the band keeping up with their brutal scandicrust sound. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 5): Monoteizm-Co-Existence "Patrz I Odczuj!" tape, 1998

It's that time of year again. On the streets, people look stuffed and exhausted while they are clumsily dragging suitcases full of meaningless gifts that they won't know what to do with in about two weeks. Books they won't read, clothes that do not fit, nasty sweets that your great-aunt bought on her last trip abroad, overcomplicated boardgames or, worse, a mainstream pop-rock album. "Happy homes destroyed and for what?" to quote a great band. 

So to make up for all the consumerist frenzy - and the awkward misery it implies - that social conventions have brought upon you on this day, here is a much more punk-appropriate present for you: a Polish crust tape from the 90's. And if you live in a country where Christmas is not celebrated, well, then that's just a regular gift because we are incredibly generous and honourable at Terminal Sound Nuisance headquarters and we would probably deserve to be selected for the Nobel Punk Prize next year. 

Of course, because under the patches and the extremely cool punk shirts, I am very respectful of conservative traditions and have been confirmed to be, overall, a decent, neighbourly citizen who won't hesitate to play Atrocious Madness at late hours if the situation requires it, I tried to emulate the grandiose Christmas spirit and therefore picked a band with a message of hope, togetherness, peace and interfaith dialogue. This band is Monoteizm-Co-Existence. Now, I suppose the moniker is a bit odd for a gruff metallic crust band that sounds about as friendly as a charging hippo. I am sure the band had good intentions and meant "please everyone, let's not slaughter each other in the name of imaginary friends because that's kinda unhealthy and just insane" but I cannot help being reminded of the Coexist bumper stickers that I used to see in the States. Well-meaning but really cheesy and naive. Fortunately for you, the cheesiness in Monoteizm-Co-Existence (which will be referred to as MCE from now on) did not result in them playing folk punk or alternative reggae rock. Otherwise, this post would just be another nail in the Christmasy coffin. 

I know it is becoming like a running joke but I haven't been able to discover much about the band and most of the things I am going to assert below in a scholarly fashion are really just informed guesses. MCE were active in the second part of the 90's, a decade when crust ruled over Europe with an iron fist and a smelly armpit. They were from Kolno, a small town northwest of Bialystok (that's in northeastern Poland you ignoramus) and their first demo, entitled Oblicze Prawdy, was released in 1995 on Demonstracja Tapes, a Bialystok-based tape label (I am quite the investigator) run by Martin from Sanctus Iuda. Even a quick look at the discography of Demonstracja will show you that it was responsible for tape versions of records from the likes of Doom, Meanwhile or Agathocles, as well as demos from ace Polish crust bands like Hostility, Disgusting Lies and of course Sanctus Iuda. They even released two tapes from Sarcasm and if that is not a definitive proof of good taste, I don't know what is. Oblicze Prawdy was a rather rough and brutal crust attack with dual vocals reminiscent of Embittered, Money Drug or early Disrupt. The demo tape shows a lot of energy and anger and if you are a sucker for raw eurocrust like I am, I strongly recommend it. For some reason, I did not buy it at the Ultra Chaos Picnic festival although it was available and only got the second MCE tape. I don't remember why, I probably never will and needless to say that I feel very silly for this system failure.

Some people prefer the first tape over the second one, and while I really enjoy it, my vote still goes for Patrz I Odczuj!. The band had improved since Oblicze Prawdy (I think Patrz I Odczuj! was released in 1998 but I am not completely certain) and there were some lineup changes as they welcomed a new bass player and recruited a new - female - vocalist. The sound became heavier, groovier and more metallic. Yes my faithful readers, you know where I am getting at, MCE were now playing raw metallic crust with dual male/female vocals, a common artistic practice in the 90's DIY punk scene and one I have been obsessed with since I first heard Nausea. As I mentioned the production is better in this second recording and I just love the dark, dirty heaviness of the guitar sound. It works great whether the band is in fast eurocrust mode or when they unleash their old-school crusty metal power, and overall the balance between both moods is amazing. The vocals are aggressive and raucous but not overly gruff, which gives the song a tasteful anarchopunk vibe (there are some overt anarcho musical references in a few songs). It is pretty obvious that MCE had been listening to a lot of Sanctus Iuda, Silna Wola and Homomilitia, but then I guess it is a pleonastic comment to even mention it considering the tremendous influence they had, while the crunchy metallic vibe that they injected into their crust recipe probably points to the cruelly underrated Hostility. Classic bands like Nausea and Hiatus are also major influences here and judging from the MCE's font, it is safe to say that you can add Extinction of Mankind to the list, which would account for the old-school crust streak running through their vernacular take on the genre.

That's a picture from their '97 Poznan gig with Counterblast and Scatha... What a cracking lineup! 

This is a top-shelf metallic crust tape and it is frustrating that I know so little about MCE. It was released on Malarie Records and you can still find this gem on distros for cheap (meaning for its real price). Wouldn't that make a brilliant Christmas present for 2019? 

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 4): Stupor "Prawdziwe oblicze..." demo tape 1997

I have to admit that I had never listened to, nor even heard of, Stupor before I lifted Prawdziwe oblicze... from the box that lied solitarily on the distro stall. This box only contained tapes from the 90's, mainly from Polish bands, and you could tell that they had not been looked at for a long time. In fact, they looked like they had not seen the light of day at all for a good few years and I felt like a fearless archaeologist carefully and lovingly excavating some rare artifacts in a distant land, while still remaining on the lookout for wild animals that might attack from behind. The only realistic risk was that a drunk punk would spill his beer on my classy jacket while I was browsing through the tapes, or, worse, try to engage a conversation, but I have to say that I handled the situation particularly well, the local fauna was mostly peaceful and I was unharmed. As I mentioned, I did not know Stupor but the fact that they had a good name for a punk band (not to mention one that I could understand) combined with the grim postindustrial artwork sealed the deal and I ended up with the demo tape in my bag, which I was carrying around lovingly, like a punker, but much less manly and adventurous, Indiana Jones (I always bring an umbrella at punk festivals because I don't like getting wet, which is kinda unpunk I suppose but then I get very grumpy when my socks are soaked so it is really for the best).

The thing is that I should at least have been aware of Stupor since they did a split Ep with Portland's Harum-Scarum in 2000 and I do like Harum-Scarum (especially Suppose we try actually) so I was a little upset about my own ignorance when I got back home and checked the band's discography. But you cannot know everything, even in our era of mass information, and, if anything, it demonstrated once again the vastness of the 90's Polish punk scene as well as some possible lacks about US anarchopunk on my part. But anyway, it always feels exciting to discover an old band that has flown under your radar for no apparent reason, so my enthusiasm certainly prevailed over my narcissistic injury. Judging from the cover, I was expecting some heavy metallic crust with nasty blast beats (I mean, Stupor did have a hairy logo so it made sense) but I was wrong - again - and probably for the best. Hailing from Oleśnica (not so far from Wrocław), the band formed in 1996 with two former member of Sonderkommando in its ranks and Prawdziwe oblicze... was their first recording, a demo tape recorded in May, 1997. Stupor would subsequently appear on a split Ep in 1999 with Verrecke (from Poland too I think?), a split tape with Slaughterhouse in 2000 from Spain and, of course, that same year, on the split Ep with Harum-Scarum released on Malarie. 

As for the music, you can tell in a heartbeat that, stylistically, Stupor were a 90's band since they adopted a punk cultural practice that this decade consecrated: fast anarchopunk with dual male and female vocals. The sound of my copy of the tape is trebly and unstable in places but that is what you get. And after all, the blog is also about sharing experiences and making you feel as if you were right here, with me, listening to the same tape while enjoying tremendously my witty insights, being inspired by my unrivalled analysis not to mention awed by my charisma. But then, if you have a better rip of the tape, I'm not against it. The production is pretty raw and a bit thin but the energy certainly makes up for the lack of heaviness. There is a strong thrash influence in the songwriting, especially in the guitar parts, but the raw and angry vibe of the music makes it sound really punky, upbeat and passionate. I am reminded of early Disaffect, Jobbykrust, Mushroom Attack, or even Fleas and Lice, or indeed of a thrashy blend of Harum-Scarum and 105 Lux (a fantastic early 90's female-fronted Polish band). While the songs are mostly fast and direct, there are also some metallic mid-paced moments to give some variety and on the whole the eleven songs make for a great listen if you are into that kind of sound (and if you have read that far, I suppose you are). The two vocalist complement one another very well, the female singer sounding more tuneful with a warmer, but still aggressive, tone while the bloke goes for the gritty, throaty shouts. I cannot really tell you anything about the lyrics but I am sure that they were of a serious political nature (it is pretty much a prerequisite of the genre, right?). The tape could be described as a promising and great-looking demo with a lovely foldout insert - as Polish tapes often had - and the split Ep with Harum-Scarum (I haven't been able to find the other recordings) confirmed Stupor's potential thanks to a better production that highlighted their proper 90's anarchopunk sound.

Prawdziwe oblicze... was released on N.I.C., a label and distro operated by singer Kudłaty (who now plays in a band called The Axe) that is still very much active to this day (even more so maybe) and has been running since 1994 with releases from bands like Aferra, Evil and Amen.

Now, for real, does anyone has a spare copy of the Stupor/Harum-Scarum split Ep?   

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 3): Earth Movement "S/t" tape, 1997

This band takes me back to the early days of Terminal Sound Nuisance. 6 years ago, in October of 2012 to be accurate, I reviewed and posted Earth Movement's Ep, W Sprawie Ocalenia. It was a very different time, an age of innocence when I could write fourteen entries for the blog in a single month (the novelty effect made me feel unstoppable and imbued with a dignified sense of purpose, though some would call it self-importance), and yet still struggled to find my voice in this virtual jungle and offer contents I was truly pleased with. And here I am, six years later, a bit older but still in pretty good shape despite a receding hairline, still writing about forgotten punk bands with dodgy musical abilities or foggy monikers (they are not mutually exclusive obviously). So when I found the tape this summer on a distro, unjustly covered with the dust of indifference, I got a bit sentimental and instantly grabbed it, like an unexpected Proustian madeleine.    

The one thing that really has not changed is Earth Movement's status as the band seems to remain inextricably shrouded in mystery. I haven't been able to learn more about them and no one really seems to know much about this lot twenty years later. It is pretty sad that you can find easily all sorts of nonsensical frivolous bollocks on the internet (sometimes without really intending to) while relevant intel about solid Polish hardcore punk bands from the 90's are hard to come by. Unfair, yeah? I am not even completely sure about the release date on that tape. It could be 1998 (like the aforementioned Ep) for all I know, but the rawer sound made me think that it had to be a previous recording and since the label had already put out, at least, two tapes in 1997, I went for that year. But do correct me if I am mistaken.

EM were from Suwalki, in northeastern Poland, not far from the borders with Lithuania and Belarus, and were, I suppose, active in the late 90's. This self-titled tape was recorded at Salman Studio in Białystok, a recording space also used by the likes of Sanctus Iuda (who were actually from Białystok), Disgusting Lies or Piekło Kobiet as well as quite a few grindcore bands. I can definitely hear similarities in terms of sound and songwriting between EM and Sanctus Iuda actually, though the former were not as crusty. EM played powerful, energetic, fast, riff-driven anarcho hardcore punk with a crusty touch (it was the 90's after all). The eleven songs included on the tape flow and fit very well together and in spite of a raw(er) sound, the musicianship sounds pretty strong and focused. There are enough tempo changes to keep everyone interested, the vocals are passionate, pissed but with some tuneful hooks, the riffs are epic and catchy and when EM go into full on pummeling crusty hardcore mode, they sound relentless. There is even a punky reggae number, something which, in another context, would make me very dismissive (alternative reggae rock bands have been plaguing the French scene for the past three decades), but works very well here with its almost cold and moody vibe (it has to be said that reggae has been a very popular style in Poland and a lot punk bands have been toying with it, usually with admittedly good results). I can also hear a definite anarchopunk influence reminiscent of Conflict and, of course, of Włochaty and Guernica y Luno (two extremely influential bands at the time). Add a bit of the hardcore sound of Mushroom Attack and Anger of Bacterias with a crusty spoonful of Hiatus, Sanctus Iuda and Stradoom Terror (it was the 90's after all) and it made for a very promising first recording that the Ep certainly confirmed. EM had potential, were able to write good, potent, aggressive punk songs and, well, who knows what happened next. They may have got lost in the crowd of good bands at that time.

The tape was released on Qrwa Sistema (get it?) a tape label based in Slupsk that released some strong works from Silna Wola, Stracony as well as Swedish bands like Society Gang Rape or the delicate Dissober. I don't really know what EM sang about but judging from the Sedition/Oi Polloi pagan ecopunk imagery, without mentioning the abstruse name Earth Movement, I would endeavour that they were into radical ecology, nature and nudism. 

This is a great, unpretentious tape and I love it.