Saturday, 17 November 2012
Upheaval / Yan Tree split Ep 1989
Was playing bass guitar prohibited in Scarborough in the 80's? What if the absence of bass in Active Minds was not an accident but the result of a law against bass players? And were bands there forbidden to have more than two members? What makes me wonder is that Upheaval, from Scarborough, didn't have a bass player and were a duo, just like Active Minds (I guess Satanic Malfunctions must have been acquainted with influential people on the Town Council since the rules didn't seem to apply to them).
Anyway, Upheaval were a dynamic duo from Scarborough who played tuneful political hardcore punk, not unlike Active Minds' melodic moments, Visions of Change or Cold Vietnam. In fact, if The Next World hadn't been a moody post-punk band and had played direct, fast and catchy punk-rock, they would have come pretty close to Upheaval as the singer can really sing and his voice has quite a wide range of tone as well. The absence of a bass section confers to the song a spontatenity, a freshness that is very pleasant. The sound is very decent although you will hear that the record hasn't aged too well and there are scratches here and there.
Upheaval have four songs on their side, though I should probably say three songs, since the track "Aye" is a two-second long burst of noise (a tuneful Sore Throat? Really?). The first song is called "Inject to kill" and it is an anti-drug song depicting the dangers of substance abuse. Upheaval may have been straight-edge or they may have lost someone close to drugs or Scarborough may have been badly hit by drug problems at the time, but either way I find their stance on the issue a bit too radical and even harsh as they don't really consider the social factors that lead precisely to using drugs. The next song, "Skooldaze", is more to my liking as it questions the education system and the brainwashing it implies. After all, school is the first social place where you are taught to listen and obey. Finally "The end" is a quiet and melancholy folk song, a bit like that Karma Sutra song really, about poverty, evictions and the greed and selfishness of the government.
On the other side is Yan Tree, a folk-punk one-man band (is it even a band then?) from Leeds (well he used to live there at the time). From what I understand, he was part of the blooming 80's squat scene in Leeds, a scene that gave birth to bands like Passion Killers and, of course, Chumbawamba. Listen to Yan Tree's music, you can definitely see that he was into Chumba, a band notorious for mixing genres in general and having a folk influence in particular. While I am extremely suspicious of modern folk-punk (I know you already know), I usually really enjoy acoustic anarchopunk songs from that time and place.
The former owner of this record must have adored Yan Tree's first song, especially its first half as it sounds like it has been played to death, hence a rather rough and crackling sound. Fortunately, the rest of the songs sounds alright. Unfortunately, there are a couple of scratches, so I did my best getting rid of them but the result isn't exactly stellar. But, that's punk, innit?
Yan Tree's first song is entitled "Ain't no" and it was actually written in 1982. It is structured around the repetition of the phrase "Ain't no" which serves as a sort of incantation and gives the song a poetic quality. The text could be divided into two parts, dystopia and utopia, from dark till dawn basically, as it paints shows a bleak, hopeless, lifeless picture of modern society before imagining a world free from oppressions. The second one, "Martyrdom called slavery", is more complex and more elaborate. It is written with a flux of consciousness point of view and is about political prisoners and their treatment, the Apartheid regime, violence and criminality. It may sound quite dark but it is really a song about peace and freedom and I find quite clever the parallel between the notions of martyrdom and slavery - don't we all sacrifice our lives like martyrs on the altar of Work?
The record's artwork is excellent too on both sides, Upheaval going for a collage of cartoons reflecting the schyzophrenia and superficiality of modern life. Yan Tree uses pagan, celtic imagery that would have looked just fine on a Sedition or Oi Polloi record for the lyrics and the ring, and his side of the cover is a Blinko-influenced graphic metaphor representing a door or a pathway.