Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Warboys / The Afternoon Gentlement split cdr 2007

Nothing is quite as unfashionable in the DIY punk scene today as a cdr. While in the 2000's, bands were perfectly happy doing demo cdr's, recent years have seen a shift in terms of medium: back to tapes. Now, I don't dislike tapes (quite the contrary), I enjoy playing tapes, old or new and my intent is not to point fingers at modern tape-releasing bands . However, this return to the tape format raises a few issues.

The punk scene is sadly very nostalgic of something that never really was (Sore Throat quote for ya!): the golden era of the 80's. Paradoxically, the older punks I know who have actually experienced that decade are much more enthusiastic about new bands and much more critical of that "golden age" than the younger generations who, deprived of the first-hand 80's punk experience, tend to idealize that period and everything that pertains to it (something I am very much guilty of myself). As a result, original records from the 80's are highly sought after and the vinyl format acts like an hyphen between the supposedly glorious past and a present that sometimes only offers backward-looking re-creations of the past (as accurate and musically potent as these re-creations might be). The consequence of such obsessions is that we no longer buy music. We only buy records. The medium, the form has effectively replaced the content - the music - in terms of importance. This largely accounts for the unpopularity of cd's, one that is inversely proportional to the popularity of vinyls, a medium that, sound quality notwithstanding, offers us a piece of "authenticity". Of course, this phenomenon only affects the punk scene, a microcosm and I love vinyls as much as the next punk nerd.

The glorious come-back of the tape is a bit more problematic to me. It is still relatively easy to find a turntable in order to play vinyls and the format certainly stands for the love of music. But what about tapes? They used to be a convenient means of music reproduction before computers. They were cheap, could be recorded on again and again and a mere tape-recorder placed at the centre of the rehearsal room was a first step toward eternity (and utter chaos). Tapes once had a significance and they played a key role in spreading punk music throughout the world, of sharing and spreading the DIY spirit. However, this role was circumscribed to a time, to a context and with file-sharing and the close disappearance of tape players, tapes have lost their role. Choosing to do tapes today can be seen as a tribute to the format, another heavy nod to the golden era, the DIY punk scene's own shibboleth, a chunk of the 80's experience by proxy. But it is also a very exclusive, if not snobbish, gesture. Indeed, the only people likely to buy punk tapes today are the ones who are already into buying punk tapes out of nostalgia and fetichism. And this is extremely problematic. Originally, tapes were meant to be easily spread and shared, that was the whole point. But now, they are the exact opposite. How many teenagers in 2013 own tapes? Just imagine a 16 year-old kid going to a punk show and really enjoying a band. He/she is going to try to get some music from the band we all did that at some point, didn't we?). And then he/she is faced with a tape which implies that he/she is going to have to find a way to play it, that he/she won't probably be able to lend it to a mate, to share it with his/her friends. In 1983, anyone had access to a tape-player. In 2013, in Western countries anyway, it is becoming more and more unusual. Before tapes were trendy again (two, three years ago?), in the late 90's and early 00's, in my area tapes were mostly seen in distros from Poland or Czech Republic (which made sense since a lot of people there didn't own a cd player at the time) and local bands did their demo on cdr's, a format that is less glamorous than the tape but that has the same DIY quality.

My point being: why not do tapes AND cdr's (or at least give a download link) of the recording? That way you can have both: music fetichism (because tapes are great objects indeed) AND you can spread your music to everyone (because that is also supposed to be the point of punk-rock). And everyone is happy!

Now that my rant is over, let's get to the record, a split cdr demo between two Leeds bands: Warboys and The Afternoon Gentlemen. Both bands recorded their songs in 2007 and have since released other things (one Ep for the Boys and a myriad of split Ep's for the Gents). Even though you will easily distinguish one band from another, the Boys and the Gents play in the same league: the Fast, Furious, Snotty and Blasting Bollocks Championship. The Boys describe their ferocious music as "Leeds ghetto powerviolence". Now, I must confess I have never really understood what power-violence actually is other than superfast hardcore with many breaks and heavier parts. The Boys sound like Siege doing a powerslam on Hellnation and the name Warboys is actually a reference to a character from a British sitcom called "One foot in the grave".

I must admit that the Gents have my preference on this split. They lie more on the grindcore side of things with a dash of aforementioned powerviolence and are absolutely manic. The vocals are completely over-the-top and mean-sounding. In spite of the metal breaks, the songs have a real punk feel to them. Think Looking For An Answer, Violent Headache, more modern-sounding bands like Nasum, more metal-oriented grinding affairs and a spinkle of cavemen blasting crustcore (also known as Massgrave).

Both bands have six songs and no lyrics are included and, let's face it, one is unlikely to understand what they are yelling about. Judging from the song titles, the Gents have a couple of songs about booze and booze-induced mayhem. I don't think "Have you got 20p?" is actually a cover of The Ejected, more like a re-writing perhaps (after all 10p in 1982 has to be at least 20p today). The titles of the Boys' songs tend to suggest a sarcastic approach to the world (they do have two songs called "Get a job").

If you are not into grindcore or powerviolence, this demo could turn into the 14 longest minutes of your life.

Boys versus Gents                

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