Monday, 29 June 2015

Policebastard / Defiance "S/t" split cd, 1995



Hatred and contempt for the police is certainly one of punk's most basic common factor. I have personally always loved outrageous anti-police songs (Hard Skin's repertoire gets a lot of playing at Terminal Sound Nuisance's headquarters) and really, who doesn't? Then you have bands taking police-bashing to the next level through the inclusion of their pig-hating sentiment in their very moniker, a game that MDC paved the way for but that Throw Bricks At Coppers are sure to win. Would I wear a Policebastard shirt in England? Probably not, since I heard some police officers now have some reading skills and I am not so fond of masochism. I sometimes wonder what the Brummie coppers thought when they passed by a PB gig poster, especially if the mention "members of Doom and Contempt" was added below the name... Probably something along the lines of "back in the day, people respected authority, Queen and country... and now look, dole-scrounging tramps taking the piss out of our glorious institution. Is it for people like this that Winston won?". If you were a policeman in Birmingham in the mid-90's and would like to share with us, please leave a comment. The author of the best comment will receive a Cracked Cop Skulls button.

If you have never heard of Policebastard, you will probably be a little upset that you have been missing on one of the very best UK crust bands of the 90's. If you have heard of PB but never really listened to them for one reason or another, let me tell you that you will be feeling like a fool soon enough. PB formed in Brum in 1993, pretty much by chance if one is to believe "Armed with anger". In the early 90's, Stu-Pid, was singing for Contempt and was meant to tour Germany with them. For some reason, other Contempt members couldn't commit, but Pid and bass player Trogg decided to still do the tour and formed another band in that prospect with none other than Jon, who used to sing in the original Doom line-up, on guitar, and drummer Clive, from the second Filthkick line-up. Now, that already looked like a solid enough punk team if you ask me. The boys rehearsed a set made up of Contempt and Doom songs and did tour Germany. Where there is a will... As for the name "Policebastard"? Well, since the band did Doom covers and had the original Doom singer on guitar and vocals, I am pretty sure it was a heavy nod to Doom's first Ep, but I don't know, this is just a very wild guess.



For those of you who have not yet identified who Pid is, he was (and still is) the singer for Sensa Yuma and also got to sing for English Dogs in the late 90's. I suppose that he was, in a quite literal sense, the punkiest punk in the band, whereas Jon and Clive were certainly more metal-oriented at the time. And that's precisely the reason why Policebastard were so brilliant, they were the perfect blend of fast and snotty UK hardcore punk and of crunchy crusty metal. Contrary to more recent bands who start off with an accurate enough idea of playing a specific brand of metal punk, I would argue that PB's sound resulted from the collusion of members who wanted to play 90's flavoured British hardcore punk and others who wanted to infuse it with extreme metal. The result could have been disastrous and disparate-sounding, but I guess the four members all coming from the same 80's punk background gave PB's its cohesiveness.

The ten PB songs on this split cd are basically the "Traumatized" Lp, minus one song. This is a totally unique album and definitely one of the best crust albums of the 90's. Contrary to bands like Extinction of Mankind or Coitus, who had a rather slimy, glutinous old-school crust sound, PB's is much colder and dryer, more modern in fact. While very metal-oriented, the guitar work looks forward in terms of influence (there are elements of industrial metal and 90's extreme metal) rather than backward. This Lp reminds me a little of Doom's "The greatest invention" in terms of songwriting, but I would argue that it takes all the good ideas of that Lp one step further. You have fast crust-punk songs as well as crushingly bleak, metallic mid-tempo numbers, all played heavily and with a rare intensity. The vocals are particularly effective here with Jon's deep growling voice complementing perfectly the furiously snotty one of Pid (it is metal AND punk even in the vocal harmony I would say). Imagine a rabid and yet focused meeting between what Doom, Deviated Instinct, Nausea and Filthkick were doing in the early 90's and the new generation of fast and aggressive punk bands that was starting to emerge then like Substandard or Hellkrusher.



Lyrically, Policebastard were genuinely angry and certainly had a lot to say about the social, political and cultural context of the early 90's that were marked with the Criminal Justice Bill and the Poll Tax Riots. Don't think that it is going to be about inept war haikus or basic anti-system rants. "Traumatized" is about our own desensitization before disturbing images of war or starvation. This song was actually a comment upon all the horrific record covers that depict such atrocities but eventually miss the point since we are no longer sensitive to such representations and rather we prefer to shut down and distance ourselves from the implications. "Dance, be happy" was a song about the growing rave culture in the UK that was becoming more and more a brainless drug culture about getting high. "Inferior" was one about the social pressures that are put upon our bodies and the rising commodification of beauty and sexuality, all in the name of profit and at the expense of self-esteem and genuine well-being... Well, as you can see, musical integrity and innovation were not PB's sole motivation and you can feel that the band really meant something politically as well, there is a distinct anger, an urgency that permeate the songs, as if the members had been waiting for such a band to exist in their life to be able to sing about these issues in that specific way.

The "Traumatized" Lp has been reissued recently along with the songs recorded during the same session that appeared on the split Lp with A38. Following the Lp, the band toured Europe with the mighty Maggot Slayer Overdrive and released the convincing and almost nu-metal-sounding "Gulf War syndrome" in 1998. A split Ep with Unkind in 99 and another Ep, without Pid, "Cursed Earth" in 2002 were supposed to be the band's last... But then, in the late 2000's, Policebastard reformed, started touring again and recorded a very good split Lp with War//Plague in 2011 for Profane Existence (there are brilliant covers of Peni and The Mob on that one). By 2013, Jon rejoined PB as well and, almost magically, the spark got re-ignited and Policebastard rose again as this monstrous crusty metal-punk machine and recorded the "Confined" album. This is easily in my Top 5 crust album of the 2010's and the first time I listened to it, I almost had troubles believing how good it was (I must admit that I didn't expect it to be THAT good). Honestly. Almost 20 years later, there is the same level of anger, focus and urgency as on "Traumatized". I guess 2013 is pretty much as shitty as 1995, right?




The next ten tracks of this cd were penned by a band that is much more famous than Policebastard today, although back in 1995, my guess is that the Doom connection could have made the opposite true, at least in Europe. Anyway... Defiance it is then. I briefly talked about the early Portland anarcho scene when I posted the 1989 Resist demo but these recordings are a bit older, between 1993 and 1995. Defiance was made up at the time of members from Resist, Deprived and Unamused. I suppose one could say that Defiance was pretty much the maximized version of those bands, keeping the anarcho ideology, the energy and the intensity and adding tunes and catchiness through the incorporation of a more obvious UK82 influence (though I doubt the term was in use then, let's say "second wave of British punk-rock). You could say that in the first half of the 90's, when you were a US anarcho band, you either went crustcore like Destroy, Disrupt or Deformed Conscience, or you picked the UK-influenced path like Defiance, A//Political or Aus-Rotten. But I would argue that Defiance succeeded more than the others thanks to their Oi-tinged mid-tempo anthems that you could  easily sing (and drink) along to. 

While undeniably catchy and skilled song-writers, Defiance slowly became more or less linked with the then growing "streetpunk" scene of bands like The Casualties, The Unseen or The Virus (they do like names starting with "The" those bands). While their lyrics were as radical and political as those they wrote for their former bands Deprived or Resist, their tunefulness and the musical references to the UK studs-and-spikes scene somehow tied them to the Punkcore bands, although I doubt it was their original intent. Anyway, one could have thought that a catchier music would appeal to a larger punk audience and thus expose them to more serious and interesting lyrics, but that's putting a lot of stock in the power of lyrics, when a lot of "punks" are just looking for a good pogo and new tips to raise their double mohawks... Oh well. 




This said, these early Defiance songs are really good. The ten songs on the cd are actually from their two first Ep's, the self-titled one from 1994, with Tony from Deprived on vocals, and the "Burn" Ep with Alaric from Unamused, you also have one comp track from the "Start a riot" Lp and one track from their European tour Ep. Of course, Defiance would reach their peak a little later, in 1996, with their fantastic "No Future No Hope" Lp, but the basis are already there: catchy Kelly-styled bass lines, shouted snotty vocals, classic chorus. It is basically the best of the Riot City bands played with a US hardcore energy.  




The lyrics of Defiance are also much smarter than you could think. Songs about the class war, voting as a con so that the system can maintain and justify itself, American interventionism, social control to pacify us... The texts are pretty long, well-written and boiling with rage.    




I bought this cd in a second-hand shop 15 years ago. Back then, I was very much into the "streetpunk" thing and I must confess that I spent a fiver on this baby just for the Defiance cover. I mean... LOOK AT THE AMOUNT OF STUDS ON THEIR JACKETS!!!!!! It's insane! In my naive teenage mind, I thought that they must be at least as punk as The Casualties so I bought the fucking thing. The Policebastard cover tended to scare me a little though... This split cd was released on Ataque Sonoro in 1995, a label I already talked about when I posted the glorious Genital Deformities/Subcaos split cd (the man sure loved his split cd's!).  





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