Thursday, 7 April 2016
The chronicles of Dis (part 3): "Discharged: from home front to war front" compilation Ep ,1991
As promised this is the second Discharge tribute: the "Discharged: from home front to war front" Ep, released on Allied Recordings in 1991. Since it was compiled and released about the same time as the "Discharged" album, I am not going to spend too much time about context here.
Still, a few things should be pointed out. If the "Discharged" 1992 album emerged from a British context (even though the line-up was international), this one is specifically rooted in the US one, hence four out of five bands are American and I am guessing John Yates compiled it himself. Discharge had a very different impact on the US punk scene as it did at home and in Europe. I am unfortunately not enough of an American hardcore connoisseur to tell if Discharge had any influence on Boston, DC or LA hardcore, but I cannot hear it. There was however one US scene that was heavily influenced by Stoke-on-Trent's most successful export: the SoCal anarchopunk scene. I have already written extensively about it in the past, but bands like Crucifix, Iconoclast, Diatribe, Final Conflict and so on were quite obviously heavily into them musically, lyrically and aesthetically.
On that level, the presence of Final Conflict on this Ep makes perfect sense and it remains one of my favourite Discharge covers ever. First, the band picked a great song, "A look at tomorrow", an early mid-tempo, anger-driven number. The choice is relevant because Final Conflict's sound always relied on groovy bass-lines and heavy riffing and this Discharge song allowed them to perfectly exploit these abilities. What I like in this instance is that it doesn't sound at all like Discharge, it is undeniably Final Conflict turning a Discharge song into a Final Conflict one. Not all bands can pull it off but the gnarly, threatening voice of Ron Martinez and the sharp, metallic punk sound of Jeff Harp's guitar make this song the winner of "Discharged" in my opinion. This sounds really pissed.
The Ep opens with two songs (well technically, it is one intro and then two songs) from Nausea. The Squat or Rot scene was another hotspot of American Discharge love and the idea of Nausea covering Discharge to great effect is almost a pleonasm. Their take on "Hear nothing" was already included on the "Discharged" album that I last reviewed, but on this Ep, you will also find an amazing cover of "Ain't no feeble bastard" which shows how much the band had fun doing it. It has a great Motörhead rocking feel with super slick bass lines, crunchy double-bass drums and this thick guitar sound that I love so much. It is definitely a winner although I am usually extremely suspicious whenever I hear the term "rocking D-Beat" or about a band supposedly blending Motörhead and Discharge. I can think of just one other band able to cover "Ain't feeble bastard" as well as Nausea, with the same intent but a much more English feel: Extinction of Mankind. You've gotta be crust enough to do it I guess.
The other highlight of "Discharged" is Neurosis having a go at "Hear nothing see nothing say nothing". I like Neurosis, I am not all over them but they always appealed to me. This was recorded with the same line-up as "The word as law" and I am guessing that the connection between Allied Recordings and Lookout Records played a role in them being included. And I must say it is a very successful cover. The incredible musicianship of Neurosis allowed them to create a wall of guitars that sounds almost unreal, because it feels both heavy and yet ethereal. A bit like a riff waterfall or something. They turned Discharge into some otherworldly, powerful thing and although I certainly miss the very raw force and anger of the song, I still feel Neurosis did a great job at adapting "Hear nothing" to their own worldview. And the bass is to die for on this one.
I have no idea who 411 are to be honest and their cover of "State violence state control" doesn't really do it for me. It is neither a good adaptation nor a good recreation. It is not terrible but it doesn't work on either level, so I am going to pass on this one.
The final song is Extreme Noise Terror (again) noisily destroying "You take part in creating this system". I already discussed ENT's Discharge covers in the previous post but it is exactly what you can expect, insane dual vocals crustcore. I wish the sound were a little more powerful and aggressive but the excessive vocals manage to win me over.
Just like for the "Discharged" album, there is no sadly no booklet and no information about Discharge or the bands covering them... There are only two mentions of Discharge. A visual one (the famous picture of the dead dove) and, in lieu of a serious description, an inadequate referential gesture: "Discharge were noise not music". This, I really don't get at all. I love the cheesy use of such slogans in general, but only when they complement other sources of information. And were Discharge really "noise not music"? To some extent they were, but then why not write a text the appeal of such a concept then? I must admit that I like the cover, it is a sound nod to Discharge's meaningful aesthetics, but why the laziness in terms of content?
Just a final word in relation to the comments that were left on the previous posts and that made me think (which is great actually, that is what the blog is all about). So this is the result of my D-Beat insomnia (I AM an obsessive geezer). I guess you could say that the shift was the following. Up until 1993 (roughly) you had bands that were influenced musically by Discharge and although they sounded similar to an extent, there was no intent to sound "just like them" (there were two exceptions to this: Discard and Disaster). So, when covering Discharge, it made sense that these Discharge-influenced bands tried to play Discharge songs from their own Discharge-influenced perspective, the result couldn't be and was not meant to be an accurate Discharge copy. From 1993 on, the intent to sound "just like" Discharge and improve on their very specific formula arose. Of course, none of the D-Beat bands actually sounded "just like" Discharge (and Disclose, ironically the most famous of them all, never actually sounded like them) but they worked on the exact same song structures. The crucial difference therefore is the following: D-Beat bands worked on sound and not so much on songwriting (which had already been done by Discharge), they aimed at improving and working on the texture of the formula, but not its structure. This is the reason why the 90's D-Beat wave didn't do that many Discharge covers: it would have been completely pointless and uninteresting both for them and the listener. And this is why I am much more interested and stimulated in Concrete Sox or CFUDL's Discharge covers than on Meanwhile or Disfear's. However, if I am in the mood for utter Discharge worship, I am not going to play covers but rather the best imitators (and I am not using the term in a derogatory fashion). Is it adapting Discharge to one's sound against adapting one's sound to Discharge?
I am still thinking...