Sunday, 21 October 2012
Bad Influence "Wake up" Ep 1992
Unique bands are probably what keeps punk-rock music alive. Certain bands seem to defy easy musical categorization but remain punk however far from punk-rock conventions they may have drifted. They are also Marmite bands: you either love or hate them (but at least they provoke a reaction, nothing is worse than indifference I suppose). Saying all this I would like to clarify that bands experimenting for the sake of music avant-gardism usually don't interest me. While I like bands bringing new things to the table, when they do so self-consciously in order to "break rules" or "express their artistic selves", they always lose me in the process. Novelty for novelty's sake is a Terminal Sound Nuisance's repellent.
I would argue that Bad Influence is one of these unique bands that are so hard to classify. In fact, I often see them in the same light as Contropotere, not because they sound alike, they don't, but because they created their own sound in an unpretentious fashion and you can't possibly mistake Bad Influence or Contropotere with any other bands. As I wrote in a previous about Coitus, I have the greatest interest in bands drawing influences from the mighty Antisect and it is undeniable that Bad Influence fit the part musically and aesthetically. They actually started as a straight-up anarchopunk band in the mid 80's and played raw hardcore punk in the tradition of UK anarcho bands like Potential Threat, Symbol of Freedom and usual suspects like Anti-System/Antisect/AOA and early Swedish hardcore. This first incarnation had male and female vocals and often reminds me of a less crusty but equally raw and sloppy version of another excellent Belgian band, Private Jesus Detector. Bad Influence recorded a demo at this period (you can find it on the great Terminal Escape blog) in which you can find an early version of a song, "Wake up", that would appear later on the Ep we are interested in today.
In the early and mid 1990's, the Ep was recorded in 1992, Bad Influence was really prolific as just in 1992 they had an Lp and a split Ep out as well. The peak of creativity indeed. On the "Wake up"Ep, the band didn't leave their UK influences, but they explored another side of them. The two songs on the Ep are mostly mid-paced and are not dissimilar to Antisect, Anti-System or Icons of Filth's mid-tempo numbers. However, the production is definitely not as heavy as Bad Influence also took influences from post-punk bands like the Smartpils, Zygote (they shared a member with Bad Influence at some point) or Crow People as there is a strange-sounding, smoky, psychedelic feel to the songs. On paper, blending heavy Antisect with psychedelic Smartpils would make me suspicious but Bad Influence pulls it off perfectly. The songs sound both dark and hopeful with an earthy feel, they are quite heavy but not crushing, they just seem to flow. It is pretty unique but the mix does make sense: after all in the Stonehenge festivals you had punk bands as well as psychedelic rock bands. The vocals are very clear, it is sung more than shouted. The tone of the singer's voice actually reminds me of a little of Omega Tribe.
The artwork confirms that the band is definitely anchored in the anarchopunk tradition. They even used circular Japanese plant logos as a heavy nod to Antisect.
The front cover revolves thematically around Indigenous cultures: the first frieze is probably Aztec, the second one could be Lakota and there are also Celtic motifs for the third frieze. In the center of the cover, you have the same face of a Native elder replicated thrice with only his hair changing. The third version represents him with punky charged hair so there might a be a Flux of Pink Indians, City Indians or Indian Dream tribute going on here.
The backcover is much darker as it has a painting called "The creation of woman" which shows a woman either kneeling with her head down. It is a very dark image as you cannot see her face hidden in shadows which the painting a sort of hopelessness.
The booklet is more classic crusty punk imagery: you have two skulls on each side vomiting rows of soldiers. On the right side, a drawing of an eye with a face of a starving child in the pupil reflects Western apathy before starvation in "far away" countries. All in all, it is not very joyful and the whole artwork confers a sense of madness, sadness, hysteria but also of beauty to the object. Regardless of its meaning, the graphic side of "Wake up" is definitely a success.
Lyrically, Bad Influence tackled rather usuall anarcho topics, though it has to be said that on later recordings like "New age witch-hunt" or "Afterbirth", the band would grow to use metaphors and poetry to convey meaning and their feelings of alienation. "Wake up" is about the nuclear threat and nuclear arms and the danger they stand for. "Unacceptable" is a long text about the many sides of animal exploitation, be it in the food or fur industry. This Ep was released by German labels 42 Records and Skuld Releases. The latter was extremely prolific in the 90's and the "Wake up" Ep was its 7.5th release (I know, it is weird).
I can't praise Bad Influence enough. They are still going strong and a new album was released this year so you know what you should do.