Thursday, 25 August 2016

The PDX-Files: Starved And Delirious "Unproud" Ep, 1995

Brilliant ideas come at night. So do mosquitos actually, but that's the itch talking.

For this PDX series, I had originally preselected twenty records, knowing that only eight would make it to the finals, just like in the Olympics. Among the first eight finalists was Detestation. An obvious choice, right? I mean, Detestation is one of these bands that everybody likes. Judging by the staggering number of Detestation memorabilia I have seen worn in my lifetime, it sometimes feels as if the sewing of a Detestation patch is akin to some sort of coming-of-age ritual for crusties. Or perhaps it indicates the rank of the person, I haven't quite figured it out yet. Don't get me wrong, I think Detestation were a top band and - obviously - I am pretty sure I still have a patch of them somewhere. But here is the thing though, like so many supposedly beloved bands, Detestation's actual works are seldom discussed nowadays, which made me think that 90's US anarcho bands may actually have been cursed with never being analyzed ever again. I therefore thought that taking a good look at some of the band's materials could be both fun and useful. Besides, I have grown tired of hearing people call Detestation "a crust band". I know it may sound futile, if not puerile, but this kind of intellectual laziness, especially applied to a band that everyone is supposed to be sooooooooo much into, makes me lose my temper (meaning a sharp tightening of the lips in my case).

But then, I realized that it would make me sound like a bitter man prone to bang his fist on the proverbial table for a lexical reason. So instead of a rant on Detestation being class (but not crust), I chose to write about a pre-Detestation band that no one seems to give a damn about although they are remarkably significant if you want to know where Detestation was coming from: Starved And Delirious. Still, rest assured that I will, at some point, write more thoroughly about Detestation and sound like a bitter first-banging man.

Starved And Delirious (aka SAD from now on, the name is super cool but I am not being paid for Terminal Sound Nuisance so the abbreviation seems in order, though it does read as "sad") existed for five years, between 1991 and 1996, a crucial period indeed for US anarchopunk as we have seen in the now legendary "Anarchy in the U$A" series. Apparently their career was plagued with the infamous Oi Polloi curse and quite a few members came and went from SAD with Sally (on vocals) and Adam (on the guitar) being the only two original members by the time the band split. A demo, weirdly and ironically (?) entitled "Release" was released in 1992 (Discogs says 1993 though) and the band apparently had a live tape floating around about that time as well. Their first eponymous Ep saw the light of day in 1994 in two versions, one of which was a limited numbered edition of 75 copies (was that a warp in the time-space continuum? 2016 in 1994? Your thoughts?) with the exact same drawing than the one used on the lyric sheet of Civilised Society?'s "Scrap metal" Lp (it was done by Clown, who also contributed arts for Sore Throat). This kind of fanservice immediately won my admiration. After yet again a line-up change, SAD settled with a steady line-up that would last until their demise and was the one that played on their posthumous 1997 split Ep with Svart Snö and the record we are about to deal with, the "Unproud" Ep from 1995.

Yay! Merry punx!

PDX punx love to play in many different bands at the same time and start as many projects as they humanly can. They really do and it is a tradition that has been going on for years. On "Unproud", beside survivors Sally and Adam, we find none other than good old Ty Smith on the drums (Godless and Resist were probably over when he joined SAD though) and Hopper (SAD was his first recording band, I believe, but he would go on to play in acts like Detestation, Atrocious Madness or Hellshock afterwards) on the bass guitar. Now that I am done name-dropping, let's get to the actual record. "Unproud" was the third release of Spiral Records, a label based in Berkeley that also put out records from Zero Hour, Resist And Exist or Resistant Culture throughout the years. Even with your eyes closed and one of your ears covered, you can tell that SAD was a mid-90's political band from the U$ of A and it is a good thing, because I believe bands of their time ultimately make more sense than those who crave for the past.

If I wanted to make a half-arsed job of the review, I would just say that SAD is the missing link between Resist and Detestation and leave it there, enjoy the sun outside and maybe have an ice-cream. But it is true though, listen closely to the faster riffs of Resist and those of Detestation and try to imagine some others that would fit right in the middle. Exactly, right? There is the fast UK element of Resist but also the distinct Scandi bottom of Detestation. The first song, "Aerial slaughter", is a case in point. The first riff is basically the epic one from "I don't need you" by Blitz while the second one could have been lifted from a 1992 practice tape of Anti-Cimex. This said, SAD's songwriting is fairly diverse, and even though they were nowhere as polished or tuneful as Lost World and remain a fast and pummeling hardcore-punk band, I sense a similar intent in terms of punk variety: there are crossover breaks here and there, obvious Swedish hardcore moments, some blast beats... Taken individually, not all songs work flawlessly but as a five-track Ep, I think it is pretty good job. "Unproud" is definitely of its time as I have said and as such, it is reminiscent, though probably unintentionally, of other prior or contemporary bands. For instance, the song "Separate colors of hate" reminds me of Antischism while "Chicken soup" has a strong Pink Turds feel (taken out of context, this last bit sounds horrific).

If the guitar work does point in a direction that Detestation would perfect, the female vocals of SAD deserve to be mentioned. Raspy, raucous and highly expressive, there is no denying that Sally was a strong vocalist, somewhere between Pink Turds, Disaffect, Antischism and Lost World. The production on "Unproud" is probably a bit too thin and although I love the fact that the vocals are really upfront and the clarity of the drumming, the guitar is probably too low in the mix. Like the Godless Lp, "Unproud" was recorded at Smegma Studios, in 1995. The lyrics are of a political nature and illustrates what 90's anarchopunk was about with songs about religion being a drug, hunting for pelts and homophobia and you've got a nice-looking - if a little confusing - booklet as well.

Toward the end of SAD, Hopper (switching to the guitar) and Ty formed the much more referential and focused Detestation, along with Kelly, the bass maniac of Resist and Masskontroll (both of which had split), and Saira. It was this line-up that recorded the first demo "Unheard cries" in 1996, after which Ty was replaced with Andy and... But this will be for another day. Until then, if you have a Detestation patch, shirt, button, tattoo or scarification, do yourself a favour and listen to some Starved And Delirious' songs. Thanks.

I <3 thank lists


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