The various D-Beat trends perhaps epitomize best the characteristics of the punk trend. For the sake of demonstration, let's settle that there have been three D-Beat trends in the past twenty years, each of them corresponding to a decade (although a band like Disclose sat comfortably at the top of the game during two of them). D-Beat is a very peculiar subgenre since it inherently focuses on one band, Discharge, and on the various recreations, reworkings or adaptations of Discharge. It is therefore a very compact genre. However, even though the roots of all D-Bands are similar, the latest D-Beat trend is also influenced by the one just before. So while 90's Dischange were influenced solely by Discharge (and probably an assortment of 80's Swedish bands as well), 00's Warcry were influenced by Discharge AND 90's D-Beat, and a10's D-Beat band (it is far too early to find the real winners now) by 90's AND 00's D-Beat. That is all pretty obvious I suppose. The real fascinating thing is that, from a generation to the other, the bands don't necessarily hear the same things or even the whole thing, although the basic material is the same. How many bands blindly focus on the beat alone and completely forget the intonation or the bass work? I am not here to be judgmental or give away good and bad points, but when bands feel that the job is done as long as the drummer can vaguely play the Discharge beat and they pick a Disname, it is little surprising that I usually am underwhelmed by the vast majority of self-proclaimed D-Beat bands (whatever decade they belong to) who miss two absolutely crucial things in Discharge love: groove and anger. And ironically, a band like MG15, the archetypal proto-D-Beat band that many quote as an influence today, didn't even actually use a "D-Beat" on some of their songs, because at the time, the sole drum beat had not been crowned as the quintessence of Discharge. Fascinating, I told you.
The 90's D-Beat wave was not really emulated in Britain and quite logically so. Not only had Disaster already set the standards very high in terms of Discharge-impersonation but when the trend reached its peak (around 1994), bands like Doom, Excrement of War or Hellkrusher had already been playing Discharge-loving punk-rock for a few years. So it seemed maybe a little pointless to have a go at the orthodox Disgame at that time (though interestingly, the Varukers reformed precisely at that time when D-Beat was all the rage and I always wondered if that was coincidental). But as usual, there was an exception: Cracked Cop Skulls.
CCS formed in 1994 as a trio and released two Ep's, "No fucking tears for the pieces of shit" in 1995 and "Why pussyfoot when you can kill?" in 1998. I am not sure if they were an active band or just a side-project but they were the only genuine D-Beat band from England during the 90's trend and, in my opinion, one of the very best too. The band was made up of old-timers from the UK hardcore/crust scene with Nick (first Sore Throat drummer and later in Ironside) on drums, Rat (from the one-man anarchovegan project Statement) and Jim (from Ripcord and Filthkick among many others), and I feel it is alway interesting to see what people involved in hardcore for years can come up with when working on such a meticulous subgenre as D-Beat. And "Why pussyfoot when you can kill?" is a genuine success for two reasons: it perfectly fits the D-Beat blueprint and yet it doesn't really sound like any other bands at the time.
While Disclose focused on sound texture and Disfear intended to intensify the Discharge recipe, CCS went for vibe and mood. The songs have an effective simplicity, the riffs sound obvious but they are all relevant in this frame. They kept a bouncy Discharge pace, much like Disaster, but didn't go for the sped-up D-Beat version like the Swedes. Actually the drummer used double-bass drums, which usually NEVER works (it is one of my unshakable deal-breaker with the subgenre) but still does in this case, as it doesn't pervert the general Discharge atmosphere or make the all-important beat unreadable. Very few bands can play a good Discharge beat with a double-bass and honestly I wouldn't recommend it. So what made the Ep so good? First, the songs are short, direct, to the point and they don't rely on sheer brutality (something Disgust obviously failed to understand) but on a feeling of urgency and actual anger that is very reminiscent of Discharge. Second, it is definitely bass-driven, with a thick groovy bottom, and some bass variations add this crucial "Why?" vibe that the songs need; the guitar's sound is heavy and powerful but doesn't feel overdone, it sounds urgent, direct and cohesive with the songwriting. Finally, the vocals are perfect, pissed but audible, shouted rather than yelled and the rhythm, tone and intonation are absolutely perfect as it does sound like an angry punk barking spontaneously, which has always been a Discharge prerequisite; besides, the idea to record two slightly out of speed layers of vocals is brilliant and gives the songs a crunchy 80's feel.
Another element that differentiated CCS from the other D-Beat bands was the lyrics. Instead of rehashing war and destruction haikus, the band tackled other subjects like class inequality, anger and frustration, repression (there is a mention of the infamous Criminal Justice Bill) and propaganda and I feel like the urgency in the music reflected a genuine need to write angry lyrics which also explains the wholeness of the songwriting. The Ep was recorded on 6th, August, 1995 ("fifty years to the day after the first atomic bomb was unleashed on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The threat has not faded with the onset of time. Safe new world?" you don't get much more symbolical than this!) but was only released in 1998 on SOA Records, from Italy (they were originally meant to be released on a Japanese compilation apparently).
Perhaps this CCS Ep is best summed up by Paolo SOA in the booklet of the triple-cd reissue of the label's Ep's: "The tracks were absolutely brilliant, if you like the D-Beat stuff without being a clone". That was the magic of CCS. While on the one hand, they were undeniably a D-Beat project (there are many Discharge nods in the songs and the name "Cracked Cop Skulls" is a reference to Shitlickers and this kind of intertextuality is so typical of the subgenre), they didn't sound like other D-Beat bands. They certainly worked on Discharge love but took it from another perspective and focused on writing simple songs that contained the essence of angry Discharge and if anything, it shows that there are different meaningful ways to D-Beat heaven.
After CCS stopped, Jim played for Dumbstruck and Nick and Rat formed Unborn. Around 1997 (I think), Jim and Rat teamed with Stick from Doom to continue the work CCS had started under the name of Squandered and the 1998 split Ep with Disclose as well as the compilation tracks on "Chaos of destruction" are highly recommendable, although not quite as brilliant as "Why pussyfoot when you can kill?".