Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Decadent Few "They shoot children..." Ep 199?

Sometimes, bands are remembered for a particular guitar sound or for a specific drumming pattern (you know what I mean). But Decadent Few will be remembered for the quality and the uniqueness of the vocals (assuming they will be remembered at all!). My obsession for British anarchopunk has been paralleled by a certain fondness for female-fronted punk bands, which makes sense when one considers the large number of anarcho bands that had one or several female vocalists. In fact, I cannot really think of another punk genre with such a strong female presence (except the Riot Grrrls movement obviously). You could find a whole range of vocal styles among the singers as well, from high-pitched rather tuneless screams (Dirt, Honey Bane), tuneful poppy voices (Hagar the Womb, Lost Cherrees), haunting dirges (Hysteria, The Dead), to angry shouts (Sacrilege, Potential Threat). But Decadent Few's singer, Kay, may have had the most unique voice of all.

First, she can actually sing. She is really a great singer. The comparison might not be totally relevant since the vocal styles are not the same, but Decadent Few is the same kind of band as APPLE: tuneful punk-rock with a lot of personality, driven by powerful vocals. Decadent Few started in 1984 after Youth In Asia disbanded. While Youth In Asia didn't record much during their time, Decadent Few went on to record an Lp in 1991, two tape albums in 1987 and 1988, and of course, this Ep. I cannot be sure when this was released and recorded, but I am under the impression that it could have been recorded in the late 80's (the songs are from two different recording sessions) then released in the early 90's. The fact that the two labels responsible for the Ep, Fluffy Bunny and Inflammable Materials, were active in the early/mid 90's tends to confirm this hypothesis (Mick from Inflammable Materials also played in Decadent Few and Youth In Asia).

If Decadent Few can be seen as the follow-up of Youth In Asia, were it not for Kay's voice, the two bands would probably not be put in the same esthetic bag. Youth In Asia was a bouncy punk-rock affair whereas Decadent Few has a darker, more haunting style reminiscent of post-punk bands. "They shoot children, don't they?" is a catchy, mid-paced song not dissimilar to Paralisis Permanente, with a Siouxsie-like chorus, only with much lower, deeper vocals. On the other side, "Heaven to hell", the real hit of the record, blends Killing Joke/early Amebix drumming with Smartpils' creepiness and Rubella Ballet's power into a song that is dark and moving and yet very lively and energetic. The lyrics are very serious, "They shoot children" deals with the situation in Belfast and the military occupation. It is a story told from the point of view of a young girl whose sister was shot by British soldiers with their supposedly "non-lethal" plastic bullets. "Heaven to hell" is a rape story, a tale of gender violence, the kind that takes place everyday, everywhere. Heavy topics but you can feel the words come from the heart and when it comes to punk-rock, that's all that matters.

The artwork relevantly reflects the two undercurrents flowing through the band: the front cover wouldn't be out of place in a goth-rock record store, while the inside cover is a sloppy punk-as-fuck drawing that any fan of Chaos UK would hang above his bed and the back-cover is a picture of war planes. I recently read that Decadent Few were pretty much back again and that they were in the process of re-recording some songs. That is great news indeed and I think that, given the strength of all their materials, they should really make some sort of discography cd.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, post-punk - but goth-punk might be more correct - is back in style and there are a couple of worthy female-fronted bands tackling the genre like Belgrado, Dekoder or Moral Hex. I have lit several candles in hope that one of them might cover a Decadent Few song one day but no avail so far. C'est la vie...


  1. That's what it says on Discogs but I have doubts since Inflammable Materials and Fluffy Bunny were not around yet by 1989... However, it would make sense that the recording sessions took place at that date.

  2. I found out about Decadent Few back in 1985/86 through my pen pal John from Blackburn. He did a fanzine called "React." We used to tape/vinyl trade and he sent me a tape of Decadent Few and I loved it. I find it very complimentary that you say "Decadent Few is the same kind of band as APPLE: tuneful punk-rock with a lot of personality, driven by powerful vocals." I started APPLE when I was 15 in 1984 in NYC. There weren't many female punk vocalists at that time doing the type of anarcho/peace punk music that we were. When I heard D.F. I not only liked the music but Kay's vocals really stood out. I really dig her strong, powerful, and unique voice. I thought back then that our voices were similar in that regard and to read it now in your review is great. Thanks for the great review of D.F. and for mentioning me in it! Cheers!

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for sharing the recollection. I totally agree that Kay's vocals were (and still are actually, I don't know if you have checked the videos of recent Dec Few gigs but she still sings brilliantly) one of a kind. Possibly my favourite female punk vocalist from that UK scene (along with Louise Hysteria Ward and Vi Subversa was in a league of her own of course). And I am a big APPLE fan and the parallel between both bands made sense to me although you have a very different vocal style.