Friday, 22 June 2012

The Next World - Branded Ep 1988

Have you had enough of the noisier side of punk-rock? Well, I certainly haven't but for a change let's have a post-punk record today. I suppose it is somewhat amusing that post-punk, or goth-punk, or whatever MRR wants to call it this month, is now quite trendy. Just take a look at current bands like Belgrado, Spectres, Moral Hex, Horror Vacui or Lost Tribe. So I think the time is right to offer you a proper post-punk band from the grim Britain of the 1980's (also known as the Thatcher years).

The British anarchopunk world has produced marvelous pieces of dark post-punk throughout the years. I'm thinking about Internal Autonomy, Terminus, Lack of Knowledge, Awake Mankind, Political Asylum and even The Mob or Poison Girls (it has to be said that anarchopunk was a very flexible and comprehensive term at the time that encompassed all styles of music, from the Astronauts to Legion of Parasites). Like many unfortunate others, the Next World have fallen into obscurity and it's a shame because this Ep is really good.

The Next World were from Kettering, East England. Their contact address in Bradford, seems to suggest that they were also close to the mighty 1in12 club. TNW were a two-piece with a drum machine, and they played dark anarchist goth-punk. Now, when I say dark I don't mean "I'm-dressing-like-a-19th century-dandy-and-I'm-a-decadent-wanker-who-likes-drawing-spiders-and-reading-romantic-poetry kind of dark". TNW's dark music came from the gloomy, hard and rough social reality they lived in as their lyrics testify. Don't be fooled by the tuneful melancholy side of the music, TNW were an angry bunch. The first song, "Branded", deals with the idealized and oppressive beauty standards imposed on women (the artwork and short extracts taken from women magazines reflect this theme). The second song is called "Public order" and it is the core of the record.

The song deals with the police and the Public Order Act that was passed in 1986 by Thatchula. Basically, this act gave the police a whole new set of powers in order to control the population and especially to break any mass-actions from the working-class. One has to remember that the huge miner strikes had only just ended and that during those strikes the police had been incredibly brutal, breaking into any homes in miners' villages, beating up elders and kids, tapping phones, opening mails and so on. In fact, whole sections of the mining regions were completely curfewed and cut from the rest of the country while the police, who often vastly outnumbered the miners, did their dirty job. I remember reading an account of the strikes from Belfast anarchists that said that the tactics used by the British police during the strikes were pretty much the same as those used in Northern Ireland. One has to love Thatcher claiming afterwards that, really "the police have been wonderful". Back to TNW record now, you'll find inside the cover a long text entitled "The police are out of control to have us all under the control" that not only describes the new repressive 1986 Public Order act, but also gives you a history of the creation of the police in Britain (Class War has a whole brochure on the subject for those interested). It is a great read and it certainly tells you where the band stood ideologically.

The last song is a bit depessing. It's called "Safe territories" and it tells the story of a bloke who will never leave the small town where he was born as he'll live there and work there all his life, in a "safe territory" of routine and exploitation. It's probably my favourite of the record though. Sonically, TNW are tough to pigeonhole. The singer has a very distinctive voice (pretty much a "love it or hate it" voice) that reminds me of Southern Death Cult, The Dark or Sisters of Mercy (only not as low). The music is bass-driven with a couple of great bass lines and the guitar has a rather warm and heavy tone, defintely not as cold as many other bands of the era. I hear some Zygote and early Amebix, a dash of the Mob maybe, with a punkier guitar, Smartpils and Terminus could also be points of comparison, but in the end TNW really had their own sound (you can thank or blame the drum machine for that) and once you've heard them you're bound to recognize instantly.

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