Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Toxik Ephex "Punk as fuck" Ep 1986
When I think of criminally underrated bands, Toxik Ephex is often the first one that springs to mind. In fact, I firmly believe they were one of the catchiest and original anarcho-punk band of the 80's, successfully walking on the fine line between fun-loving tuneful punk-rock and serious politics. Like an anarchist Toy Dolls or a merrier Instigators. I bought this first Ep a while ago and I knew nothing about the band at all. But it was only 2 quids and the band logo on the cover reminded me of a sloppier version of Blitz' skull logo so I went for it. And it was entitled "Punk as fuck" and released on Green Vomit records, so there was little hesitation on my part. And then, my life changed. Well, not really, but I was in a state of shock at how good it was.
Toxik Ephex were from Aberdeen, Scotland, and I suppose they are best known for their split Lp with the mighty Oi Polloi. However, whereas fellow Scotts like Oi Polloi, Disturbed and AOA were noisy animals, Toxik Ephex put a strong emphasis on tunefulness and infectiously catchy song-writing. The first song of the record is an absolute anthem. It starts with a rather melancholy bass lines, not unlike what Blitz were doing just before they turned New Romantics (I always play "Why?" whenever I am reminded of this sad fact), and then post-punky guitars with proper melodies and this typical anarcho beats kick in. When the singer starts, you are already taken in, and his clear, melodic voice just merges perfectly with the instruments. The chorus is monumental, a huge singalong that instantly sticks in your head and that you will be bound to hum during your weekly shower (I actually took to bathing more regularly just to be able to sing that song more often). This song, "Fallout shelter", is basically too good to be true and in this sort of situation, one is brought to fear that the other side won't be as potent. And one is wrong! The two other songs are almost as incredible. "Always skint" is a faster, shorter number with brilliant chorus while "Nothing's permissive" is back to the mid-tempo mode. Like "Fallout shelter", these two other songs are jewels with a slightly vibrant, clear guitar sound, simple but effective riffs, a driving bass that gives the songs their energy and those vocals full of teenage angst and frustration and when the epiphanic chorus come, you know you are confronted woth sheer punk-rock genius. Toxik Ephex are not that easy to define since in terms of song-writing I always found them to be unique and a notch above the rest. They succeeded in sounding serious and angry as well as warm and fun to hang out with. Besides, especially on this record, they really stand at a crossroads between classical British anarcho-punk, post-punk and the very first wave of punk-rock. Ian Glasper saw them as a cross between Blitz and the Instigators and he's not far off the mark. Take the tunes of Demob, External Menace, No Choice, Rudi or The Threats, mix it with Flux, Dirt or Fallout anarcho beats and add a spoonful of post-punk like Paranoia or Wartoys, and you might get an idea.
Lyrically, Toxik Ephex tackled social issues like poverty, social control and police brutality with great insight but they also had funnier songs celebrating teenage tomfooleries. On "Punk as fuck" though, the tone lies more on the serious side of things. "Fallout shelter" is about someone who wants to isolate himself from society and from nuclear madness by hiding in a fallout shelter. The song really captures the paranoia and the fear of the atomic bomb that prevailed at the time (just watch the movie "Threads"). "Always skint", from what I could gather since only "Fallout shelter"'s lyrics are included, is about living on the dole and not being able to afford anything because you are poor. Classic Thatcher years. Finally, "Nothing's permissive" deals with the illusion of freedom when you are forced to go to work or when your parents want to enforce their set of values on you. "You want to make me go to work / You say it's good for the country, it's good for me / I don't want to! / Gonna get up by 7 o'clock / Five days of the fucking week / I don't want to! / Nothing's permissive / It's just a prison / That's what you tell them / But they won't listen to you!".
Finally, I would like to point out that the band has self-released a double-cd discography including all of their studio outputs as well as a live recording. It's called "Punk as 2 fucks" and I suppose it might still be available so you really should do yourself a favour and try to get a copy. Singing Toxik Ephex in the shower could very well become your new favourite hobby.
Edit : the mediafire link has been disabled, probably on demand from the band, so I am afraid you will have to listen to Toxik Ephex in some other way.
As much as I hardly use it, the songs from the Ep can be listened to on youtube: Fallout shelter, Nothing's permissive and Always skint.