I always have a really good time whenever I go to the 1in12 Club. I haven't been there in a few years now to be honest (the last time was to see Antisect, Cress and Hellkrusher in 2012), but each time I went was a memorable one and the 1in12 remains one of my favourite punk venues (though it is by no means only a punk venue) and I particularly like that, as a venue and as a collective, it actually means something to support the 1in12.
I am not going to dumbly rewrite the Club's wikipedia page nor its website but the idea behind the collective that started in 1981 as an extension of the Bradford's Claimants Union was to promote and work along the principles of self-management, mutual aid and solidarity and the opening of the actual building in Bradford in 1988 was a continuation of the collective's politics. Of course, because of the particular context which saw the birth of the 1in12 (meaning, Yorkshire during the 80's), the values of the collective's members meant that they quickly became connected with the anarchopunk movement (Leeds' Chumbawamba played for them countless times). Judging from the early flyers of gigs they put on, they certainly did not restrict themselves to punk however and worked with musicians that shared similar politics, were involved in activism or wanted to support a worthy cause. I am in no way qualified enough to identify with accuracy all the bands that played for the 1in12 in the early 80's but it doesn't take long to understand that the musical spectrum was wide, from folk music, indie-rock, goth to postpunk. Like New Model Army for instance, possibly the most famous rock band to ever emerge from Bradford...
Although very much rooted in local struggles, foreign bands also played for the 1in12 Collective in the early 80's like The Ex and other Dutch anarcho bands. Judging from the list of the gigs they organized on their website, the collective slowly began to book foreign hardcore bands from the mid-80's on (bands like Lärm, Die Kreuzen or BGK) but kept having non-punk acts playing for them. "Wild & Crazy Noise Merchants" was actually the sixth 1in12 Records compilation and the second one to be released after the club opened in 1988 (the first one was another double Lp compilation, "Volnitza"). Contrary to "Decade of Dissidence" that I reviewed here a couple of years ago, the line-up on this compilation is diverse and goes beyond the confines of punk-rock. Is it going to be a challenge? What do you think! Of course it makes perfect sense since the point of "Wild & Crazy Noise Merchants" was to include bands that played the 1in12 Club between July and December, 1989, and it didn't matter if they were a gruff grindcore band or a soft indie act. On a broader level, this compilation is also interesting because it captured the mood in the very last months of the 80's, this glorious and glorified decade. For the record, the last ever 80's gigs put on by the 1in12 saw Doom, Mushroom Attack, Warfear, Psycho Flowers, Pleasant Valley Children and FUAL play. Not bad, right? But let's get to it.
- Godorrhoea: incidentally, I consider the three opening songs as the real nuggets of the compilation. Godorrhoea were an obscure and short-lived Yorkshire band that was brought back to light a few years ago with the Ep "Zeitgeist" that was released on Looney Tunes and included all the band's recordings (not many of them). For a reason that I cannot quite comprehend, the Ep did not garner the band much interest. And yet, it is, by far, the best Rudimentary Peni-worshipping band I have ever heard. Peni belongs to that category of bands that are almost impossible to accurately emulate well and I cannot think of many bands that managed to pull it (Ciril did a good job but there were other things going on in their music). But Godorrhoea did it wonderfully, focusing on the savage and demented Peni sound of the first Ep's, they penned short and fast bursts of insanity-driven, asylum punk-rock. The three songs are heavily bass-driven and the lines sound like they could have been lifted from an unknown Peni practice. The most impressive achievement lies in the tense, almost uncomfortable atmosphere they recreated. It is a vision of a macabre Dantean circus produced by a madman's mind. Absolutely brilliant stuff. The lyrics are superficially non-sensical as the band played with syntax and word sonorities in order to confer meaning to their sound, not unlike in poetry: "Charlatan churlish chaplain churns out chapters of babble".
- Psycho Flowers: a Scottish anarchopunk band with a heavy, slightly metallic sound and gruff vocals that I already tackled when reviewing the "They ain't seen nothing yet" compilation Ep. Although not really spectacular, PF was a band that definitely heralded the typical UK hardcore punk sound of the 90's. "Who's the scum" was actually a rather angry diatribe about Napalm Death selling out and attested to the slow but unavoidable dislocation of the UKHC scene in the late 80's.
- Paradox UK: beefy old-school punk-rock fronted by Spike, who sang for Blitzkrieg and ran Retch Records. I like Paradox UK. They had a heavy and groovy sound with a cool Motörhead influence and Spike had a raucous, rough-hewn voice that still sounded rather tuneful and I definitely recommend the "Disenchanted land" 12'' ep from 1990. The song "Abuse of power" was originally written by Blitzkrieg.
- Active Minds: a tuneful number from Scarborough's finest anarchopunks. "Take it back" is about, well, taking control of our own lives and is reminiscent of Bad Religion, albeit with that typical raw sound that Active Minds have always had.
- Slander: one of the first bands that I reviewed for Terminal Sound Nuisance with their "Politicians cause it" 1992 demo. Slander were from Hull and epitomized perfectly the 90's UK hardcore-punk sound, updating the classic sound of GBH, The Varukers or One Way System with a more modern, heavier production (which didn't alway work, let's face it). Slander remind me an awful lot of a beefed-up Mau Maus, especially the vocals. "Freedom" is a good song with a cracking heavy bass sound that carries the whole thing. It is about the fall of the Berlin Wall and how capitalism was quick to invade the newly "freed" countries, thus replicating the same system of Western exploitation. Pretty dark and angry lyrics. I like it.
- Trottel: a classic anarcho band from Budapest that is relatively famous in France (we do love experimental punk-rock over here and they play quite often). Trottel have been playing since 1985 and truly developed a sound of their own throughout the years. I am not familiar with all their records but the song included here is great. Female-fronted anarchopunk with a psychedelic postpunk feel, not unlike The Ex jamming with Contropotere and Dog-Faced Hermans at the Post-Regiment's house or something. It is really good.
- Chumbawamba: of course, they were going to be included on this. This is late 80's Chumba, very poppy, not unlike Madness I guess. This is music that would not scare off your granny. The lyrics are smart and subversive, as usual for them in the 80's, and were a tribute to Harry Goldthorpe, a sociologist from Bradford that worked on social classes and was an original "Bradford bad lad".
- Spongetunnel: a band I know virtually nothing about... They were from Chicago and released a couple of pop-punk records in the late 80's. One of the blokes, Russ Forster, also ran Underdog Records. Musically, I cannot say that it is my cuppa tea as it is too rock'n'roll-sounding for me but I can imagine people getting into it.
- M4 Alice: now we are talking. Absolutely brilliant and inspired English gothpunk. M4 Alice is a band that sank into the punk netherworld and completely escaped me until I unearthed this compilation a few weeks ago. How I could forget about such a good band will remain one of Humanity's greatest unsolved mystery. There is little information floating around about M4 Alice. I think they were from London and released two records in 1985 and 1988, the latter being distributed by Plastic Head which makes it even more unexplainable that they remain so obscure. Granted, they played a genre which had probably become unfashionable by the time they were around, but there is quality in the songwriting and had it been released on a PDX label in 2012, people would be all over it. Of course, it is reminiscent of classic bands like Sisters of Mercy or Sex Gang Children, but I also hear a strong deathrock influence, some "Cacophony"-era Peni arrangement and some of the demented psychedelics of Smartpils as well. A definite highlight of the compilation.
- Indian Dream: formidable anarchopunk from Scarborough. I already raved about Indian Dream in the article about the tuneful side of 88/92 anarchopunk but they are a band I cannot get enough of. Indian Dream had this fabulous classic UK 80's anarcho sound and aesthetics (without mentioning the cheesy, idealistic moniker), tuneful and melancholy, with strong female vocals, postpunk guitar leads and catchy choruses to die for. "Our land..." is a rather moody, poppy yet dark, song about racism and nationalism that is sadly even more relevant today than it was then. If you are looking for the perfect blend of Lost Cherrees, Omega Tribe, Karma Sutra and Skeletal Family then you are in for a proper treat. A winner.
- Telic Tribe: that is a really obscure one as Telic Tribe only recorded that one song and the internet remains silent about this lot. First, like Indian Dream (and in the spirit of City Indians, Flux of Pink Indians and Omega Tribe), a name like Telic Tribe suggestively indicates pacifist anarchopunk with tunes and second, the artwork and lyrics reminiscent of The Mob points in the same direction... Am I mistaken? What do you reckon? Telic Tribe played indeed dark, moody, if not mournful, mid-paced anarchopunk that is really quite impressive. They remind me a lot of The Next World's most melancholy songs (especially in the vocals) and of Kulturkampf. Telic Tribe were from the Channel Islands, Guernsey, which was very uncommon, and apparently had a demo that I am dying to hear.
- Pink Turds In Space: I have always loved PTIS but their name probably rates as one of the worst ever, especially when you consider that they also had quite serious political lyrics... Oh well, that was the sense of humour of Belfast punks I guess. Fast and thrashy hardcore-punk with amazing, striking raucous female vocals. PTIS were made up of ex-members of anarchopunk bands like Toxic Waste and Asylum and after the band's demise, some of them formed Bleeding Rectum in the early 90's, an equally unfortunately-named band that is still very much worthy of attention. Of course, "Teenage kicks" is a manic, punk as fuck cover of The Undertones.
- Sofa Head: yet another band that was tackled in the article about the 88/92 era of anarchopunk. Sofa Head was very much the continuation of the amazing Dan with a new singer and Lainey from HDQ and Leatherface on the drums. They played female-fronted tuneful hardcore-punk influenced as much by the UK scene as the US one. The guitar leads are crispy and melodic and I cannot help thinking that a band like Sofa Head must have been an important influence on bands like Harum-Scarum or Mankind? The song "Invitation" was recorded live and sounds much angrier than the studio version.
- Nitro Puppy: a band totally unknown to me from Brighton. This is sadly not my thing at all. Grungy garage punk that still might appeal to some I presume.
- Incest Bros: aka Incest Brothers from Leeds, a fun-loving, silly hardcore band that always puts a smile on my face (after all they did headline the "Totally Crap Festival" with Skum Dribblurzzz in 1985 and had a demo entitled "Ugly but proud"). However, Incest Bros were much more tuneful than their name suggests and played fast and anthemic US-flavoured hardcore-punk with some great bass lines as the song on this compilation shows.
- FUAL: probably one of the best punk bands ever to come out of the Belfast scene. FUAL was made up of people who had been involved in bands like Stalag 17, Toxic Waste or Crude and Snyde during the early days of the Ulster anarcho scene. This was a really innovative band that could play fast hardcore music, dark and moody punk-rock or upbeat poppy punk. The vocals of Louanne were incredibly powerful and strong, neither really sung nor shouted but still able to convey a whole range of conflicting emotions. It is difficult to find points of comparison when dealing with such a unique band but I guess that FUAL would have been comfortable sitting with Leatherface, Stalag 17 and Potential Threat. "20 years on" (here in a live version) was a song about the political situation in Northern Ireland and a criticism of the idealistic and dogmatic vision of Chumba about this issue that they expressed on their "Revolution" Ep. FUAL were compelling and possibly one of the very best anarchopunk bands of the late 80's. Top shelf.
- Warfear: of course, there had to be at least one song of utter aural savagery on a late 80's compilation from Northern England and Warfear proudly took this coveted spot. Most people who weren't there at the time (and even if they were, Warfear was pretty much a local band) must have discovered the band through the Crust War Lp reissue of their various demos from 2007 but Warfear actually did manage to appear once on a proper record in their lifetime: "Wild & Crazy Noise Merchants". Warfear was made up of Rich from Sore Throat on the guitar, Bri Doom on the drums, Chris (who would play in Health Hazard and Doom later on) on the bass and one James on vocals. As you can expect from such a line-up, Warfear played blown-out, fast and brutal crusty hardcore that, of course, brought bands like ENT or Chaos UK to mind, but was also very much influenced by noisy Japanese bands like Gai or Kuro. "Dig your own grave" is a raw, aggressive, groovy, pummeling number with undecipherable barking vocals. Just fantastic.
- Chris Halliwell & Mary Johnston: oh boy... How am I supposed to review this? This is a folk song with a distinct Americana feel but I know nothing about this genre so I am not going to delve too much into it. I like the voice of Mary though.
- Greenhouse: well, this is indie rock music with a punk vibe. I never thought I would have to write an indie band but here it is. Greenhouse appeared to have had some sort of success as you can find proper music videos of their songs on youtube and they released quite a few records. It is pretty catchy and uplifting and I must admit that it can work on sunny days.
- The Wonderful Thing Called Tiddles: what an albatross of a name... But it is actually much better than I remembered it to be. Dark cold-wave with a drum machine and winding guitar leads that is aptly depressing, sad, ethereal and urban. I wish I knew the genre better It must work very well on rainy days.
- The Clearing: this is... postpunk music with a strong poppy feel. Pretty catchy as well, this could definitely have achieved some kind of mainstream success. The mood of the song is rather light and uplifting but there is a dark undertone to it that makes it quite memorable and I can definitely imagine myself dancing to its great tunes at an after-party. Apparently The Clearing only appeared on this compilation.
- Wild Willi Beckett & Jont: a local Bradford duo that played weird folky and dark experimental music with dark ominous music. I unexpectedly like it actually. Both Jont and Beckett also played in the Psycho Surgeons, an insanity-driven postpunk/goth-rock band that used theatrics and sounded like a mix of New Model Army, Sisters of Mercy and Southern Death Cult. Not a bad way at all to end the compilation actually.
And I will leave you with the own words of 1in12 Records:
"We are not party to the record industry which exists to make personal profit, to supplement the state system & to perpetuate the myths in society! Noise of the revolution."