Thursday, 25 February 2016

Terminal noisy bollocks: rough songs of fast British punk 81-87

Terminal Sound Nuisance has perhaps never deserved its moniker more than today (the Eat Shit post being the obvious exception).

This post is not a record review for a change, because I wanted to do something new and fresh (well, assuming "fresh" is an adequate term to qualify what I am offering here). I went through my music collection (material or digital) and selected 56 bands playing 90 minutes worth of fast, snotty, raw British punk-rock. I only picked songs from demos, live recordings or rehearsals, which account for the rough and ready quality of the compilation. Some bands are famous (Varukers, Antisect, Icons of Filth) while others are really obscure (Caustic Filth, Panik Stricken, PBA), but I always selected little-known songs or recordings. I focused on elements that are common to UK punk bands, their feel, the textures and moods, in order to achieve this, and left out crust or hardcore bands on purpose (that will be for another compilation).

The quality of the recordings (and of the files) varies greatly from a song to the other. Some bands certainly knew what to do in a decent studio, while other just made a lot of noise in their bedroom. To be blunt, some sound genuinely great, while others are just a fast sloppy mess. But well, that's the punk spirit, isn't it? All songs were recorded between 1981 and 1987.

I put all the 56 songs into one single file and tried to equalize the sound levels. It was definitely a pain in the arse but it had to be done in order to give a nice "mix tape" feel to the compilation. To that effect, I also did my best to blend the songs together.

I also decided to upload the thing unto youtube (because that is what people do these days apparently), but the mp3 version of the compilation can be found here (no flac for this one since, to be fair, a lot of the original files were mp3's, though not all obviously, so it would have been a "fake flac file" and I just didn't see much point in doing so).

Will you survive this?

1. Antisect "Aftermath", live in Nottingham, 1982
2. Plasmid "And still", demo, 1984
3. Instant Agony "Anti-police", demo, 1983
4. Disorder "Daily life", live in Nottingham, 1983
5. Heavy Disciplaine "Dead-end jobs", live in Kettering, 1986
6. PBA "Death and destruction", demo, 1984
7. Dirge "Death the fact", rehearsal, 1983
8. Warzone "Destiny", "Britain" demo, 1985
9. Victims of War "Didn't fight for you", demo, 1981
10. The Fiend "Don't let them die", demo, 1984
11. The Plague "Drop the bomb", demo, 1984
12. Legion of Parasites "Dying world", "Death watch" demo, 1983
13. SAS "Empire of destruction", "Sing along songs" demo, 1983
14. Warwound "Final nightmare", demo, 1983
15. Panik Stricken "Fuck religion", "Riot City Records" demo, 1983
16. Skumdriblurzzz "Gabba's headache", live in Nottingham, 1984
17. Asylum (Belfast) "Health warning", live at The Station in Gateshead, 1985
18. Insurrection "Human waste", "The people are starving" demo, 1987
19. Brain Damage "In the event of war", "Death to Timmy pop" demo, 1983
20. Revulsion "Insane", rehearsal, 1986
21. Asylum (England) "Is this the price?", demo, 1982
22. Chaotic Threat "Jam sarnie", demo, 1983
23. Suburban Filth "Missile base", demo, 1982
24. Gutrot "Mummy and daddy", rehearsal, 1986
25. Varukers "Never again", demo, 1981
26. Leukaemia "New years' revolution", demo, 1984
27. No Dead Meat "Noise ain't dead", demo 1984
28. The Distorted "Norma Jean", "Desecrate" demo, 1983?
29. Symbol of Freedom "Now's the time", demo, 1985
30. Social Disease "Nuclear error", "Utter nutter" demo, 1983
31. Onslaught "Overthrow of the system", live at the Station in Gateshead, 1984
32. Freeborn "Paying for the system", "Imprisonment" demo, 1983
33. Death Sentence "Points on the wall", demo, 1981
34. Picture Frame Seduction "Rebellion", demo, 1982
35. Criminal Justice "Forefathers of the crux", demo, 1985
36. Electro Hippies "Say goodbye", "Killing babies is tight" demo, 1986
37. Ted Heath "Shades of grey", "To Russia with love" compilation, 1985
38. The Uprising "Slavery", "Screaming from the inside" demo, 1986
39. Caustic Filth "Smile while you can", "Death of a melody" demo, 1986
40. Post-Mortem "Society's new way", demo, 1984
41. City Indians "Spoilsports", "Spoilsports" demo, 1986
42. Violent Uprising "System sucker", demo, 1982
43. Reprisal "Systematic slaughter", "Forgotten victims" demo, 1984
44. Urban Chaos "Tell me the truth", demo, 1983
45. The Disturbed "This is the end", demo, 1987
46. No Brain Cells "TV depression", practice tape, 1984
47. John Deathshead Formation (JDF) "Unknown", demo, 1987
48. Subnormal "Vampire", demo, 1983
49. Solvent Abuse "Vigilante", demo, 1982
50. Icons of Filth "Virus", live in London, 1984
51. Chaotic Subversion "We've had enough", "Law and order" demo, 1986
52. AOA "Who are they trying to con?", live in Cowdenbeith, 1985
53. Ad'Nauseam "Who are you?", "Bad noizeam" demo, 1986
54. Anti-System "Why should it happen?", live in Bradford, 1983
55. Atavistic "Your time's up", "From within" demo, 1986
56. Death Zone "Youth is to blame", demo, 1984

Saturday, 20 February 2016

"Meaningful consolidation" compilation Ep's, 1994

I don't know if I saved the best compilation for last, but it will certainly prove to be the most difficult one to review: an all-Japanese double Ep.

There are some familiar faces on this one and on the whole I think it is a really solid, thoroughly enjoyable compilation, but I must admit that it is still slightly out of my comfort zone. I have always had a tumultuous relationship with Japanese punk. There are days when I just cannot stand the unsubtle referentiality of it, and others when I find myself at home with it and wallow unashamedly in its deliciously blatant intertextuality. Don't get me wrong, I like Japanese punk and even love dearly some of its segments, but I sometimes feel uneasy with its spectacular, extravagant dimension. The first Japanese band I got into as a teenager was Discocks (what a terrible name in retrospect) and, even then, I realized that, in order to really get what the band was about, you needed a decent punk background (I remember that they overtly referred to The Ejected and Abrasive Wheels on their Ep). This fan-pleasing aspect was a little unsettling, not in its purpose but in its openness, and more than 15 years later, the feeling still lingers. Besides, I have this foreboding idea that if I get too much into Japanese punk, I would get completely lost in the geek netherworld and would never appear again. Really.

But that's enough cheesy reminiscing already, let's get to it. "Meaningful consolidation" was released in 1994 and was the result of a collaboration between no less than five labels: Blurred Records (a grindcore-oriented label run by a member of Senseless Apocalypse), DIY Records (run by Ryuji from Battle of Disarm), Forest Records (run by a Beyond Description dude), Icons of Crust (Iconoclast's label I guess) and Yasuo Records. The outcome is fairly impressive: seven bands from all over Japan, fifteen songs and a fine-looking booklet to boot. Judging from the line-up and from the well-respected labels involved in "MC" (apparently Datsu, Iconoclast's drummer, was the instigator of the project) I would presume that this compilation was a bit of a landmark at the time. There is quality on all levels and, as I see it, the process behind the record was as important as the record itself: bands and labels working together thus creating a "meaningful consolidation" of the scene. Or something? It would make much sense.

The opening band of the compilation is Iconoclast. Now, they don't make anyone's work easier by choosing such a moniker although, truth be told, I can't see how anyone could confuse this lot with the other punk Iconoclast (unless you have been living under a rock). Iconoclast were from Kanazawa and, as far as I can tell, their existence was fairly brief since they only recorded between 1993 and 1994. The band is probably most famous for the good "Who does the freedom and equality exist for?" Ep and the two songs included on "MC", "Warlike nations" and "Peace and blind", were recorded during the same session. The songs are fast, pummeling, distorted crusty punk, played in that distinctive Japanese fashion. Crasher crust I suppose. The boys were certainly into Gloom, although they don't sound as fuzzy or as noisepunk-oriented. They remind me of Battle of Disarm having a go at "Phonophobia"-era ENT in Confuse's practice room. As usual for the genre, the drumming is stellar (just listen to the rolls) and really upfront in the production (especially the cymbals) and the bass is distorted in a groovy way. I like the spoken part on "Peace and blind" as it gives a nice, comfortable anarcho feel. After the demise of Iconoclast, the singer Aoishi would form the excellent and prolific anarcho band Argue Damnation, while, later on, the font used by the band was recycled by Atrocious Madness from PDX.

Next are Disclose, a band I hardly need to discuss since I already did that when reviewing "Crust and anguished life". Two songs recorded in april 1994 but with two different drummers for some reason. I am not enough of a Disclose buff to be assertive about it, but it looks like the band actually had two different drummers in their early years. To be honest, the variation in terms of playing is underwhelming as they beat the D exactly in the same way (and why should it be otherwise?). The sound is satisfying to my ears and I suppose the two songs aptly deliver what is expected. I tend to prefer the idea of Disclose than Disclose themselves to be honest, as I have always found Kawakami's Discharge orthodoxy absolutely fascinating and honourable. It was all about unconditional love and I certainly can relate to that (I wish I could say the same about Disclose's discography but I am not going to pretend).

The lovable CFDL follow with two songs, a Blitz cover, "45 revolution", and a live track, "Punx rules", both recorded in august 1994. The mood on these is certainly lighter than on the rest of "MC". CFDL were (and still are) a fun-loving bunch who played punk because they truly loved punk and punks if you know what I mean. The two songs see CFDL in defiant boozy punk-rock mode, sloppiness included (I am still struggling to know if it is intentional or not), and while they are definitely not the band's best materials, they work very well here as mood-lighteners. I like it.

The band closing the first part of "MC" is Anti Authorize from Kyoto and they are probably the band I am the least familiar with. As a rule of thumb, bands choosing a name with the prefix "anti" at least get my attention, so let's give this one a good listen... Well, it does sound a lot like SDS' fast songs to be honest. The production is significantly different, beefier as it doesn't have that dry-yet-groovy, thick sound that only SDS can pull out, but in terms of composition, the intent is close. I can't help noticing a Nausea influence in the riffs as well. If you are into fast and gritty Japanese crust, these two songs, "Greed and deceit" and "The past meaning" will make your day. I love the specific vocal works here, from the gratuitous shouts and screams to the singalong, first-raising chorus on "Greed and deceit", they confer a dynamic Japanese hardcore atmosphere that is welcome. Anti Authorize used aesthetics deeply rooted in anarchopunk on this one, and from what I can recall, there was some Antisect-worship on their Ep. I should definitely check it out again.

Let's get to the second Ep then, opening with one long song (well, it is technically an intro and a song) from Defiance. Just like Iconoclast, they don't make things easy for the punks, but then, Defiance PDX had really just started in 1994 so it is only retrospectively confusing, and honestly, it is a great name for a punk band. Defiance were from Osaka and remain a slightly, unfairly obscure footnote in the Grand Book of Crust, in spite of the Gloom connection (Jhonio and Habi played in the mighty Gloom and later in Defector, while guitarist Okamoto used to play in the rather noisy Asphyxia along with Jacky Crust War/Framtid... A small world Osaka is). Defiance's music is interesting in itself though, and not just because the members make for a great punk trivia. The intro reveals an old-school, metallic crust sound that was not common at the time in Japan and that could indicate two things. First, that the influence of SDS on the Japanese scene cannot be underestimated, as hard as it can be to assess things from the outside, and second, that Defiance significantly predated bands like AGE or Effigy but might have contributed to water the seeds that would bloom into that sound, although their songs on "MC" are definitely at odds with the rest of their work, which is much more Gloomy. It is not an all out old-school crust attack though, as when the song actually kicks in after the filthy metal intro, it is with a pummeling, heavy D-beat, with still a witty nod to Sacrilege in the guitar riff. The vocals are certainly not as gruff or forceful as well, more akin to 90's Swedish D-beat than Japanese crust actually. A fascinating song.

Next are Abraham Cross, who were probably the best example of a great band with a poor name. Now, AC are definitely my pint of cider: crust pants turned into music. Quite literally as well. Hailing from Tokyo, AC formed in 1992 and seemed to have been more or less active until the late 00's. The bass player, Ao, was also part of crasher-crust pioneer Collapse Society, while the stand-in guitar player for the "MC" recording session (the original one, Maki, doesn't play on this one) is actually Yutaka from Life. Chronology is a troubled notion with Abraham Cross, as their excellent "Peace can't combine" 12'' (with yet another guitarist, Itokin, although Yutaka is also credited) was released in 2002 on Crust War, but was recorded during two sessions in 1994 and 1995. Oh well, at least they did not rush it like new bands do these days. I remember reading a review of "Peace can't combine" in an issue of the sadly missed Punk Shocker fanzine, from Newcastle, that has stuck in my memory to this day. Andy wrote that "Abraham Cross sound more like Doom than Doom do". And, to some extent, he was completely right. Obviously, the sound is much more distorted, fuzzy and blown-out than on early Peaceville records, the mastery is just not the same, but, as the two songs "Bad circulate" and "In there" attest, AC are probably the best early Doom/ENT/Sore Throat-worshipping band ever. The vocals are totally over-the-top, so gruff and aggressive, the riffs are simple and effective, and the drummer even mimics Stick's playing. In terms of aesthetics, the band keeps nodding heavily to the Brummies with that lovely dark clouds (the Antisect plant design on the back of the 12'' was a definite success as well) and the lyrics mostly revolve around animal welfare.

The last four songs are live tracks from the mighty SDS, that were recorded in 1994 at Huck Finn, in Nagoya (the CFDL live song was also recorded there). I have raved about SDS on two occasion for TSN so you pretty much know what to expect. By 1994, the band was undertaking a transition from their old Antisecty crusty metal sound to the fast, relentless, rocking Japcrust madness of their later years. On that level alone, the live recording is enlightening since the band played differently two songs from their first Ep, "Distort hope" (which would be reworked on "Scum system kill") and "Hell storm", and another early one from the 1991 "I will take no orders from anyone" compilation Lp, "False freedom". The shift from old to new is still underway but you can definitely tell that SDS were in a transitional stage. The energy and the intensity of the live songs are hard to believe and the crowd appears to go nuts, which is perfectly reasonable. I left the four songs on the same track to that effect. Visually SDS was still very much in an Antisect mood as the title of their art piece, "Bloody dark century 21", suggests, although the additional "Punk is spilitual music" at the bottom could mean that they were going wiser or, likelier, weirder. "MC" also includes one of my favourite thank list ever: "Mega we love: Discharge, Anti-Sectt, Amebix, Varukers, Anti-System, Sacrilege, English Dogs, Dirt, Flux of Pink Indians and.... CROW".

Mega I love SDS.


Friday, 19 February 2016

"They ain't seen nothing yet!!!" compilation Ep, 1991

"They ain't seen nothing yet" is a prime example of a world-wide anarchopunk tradition: the benefit compilation. It works like a benefit gig, but instead of drinking too much and raving about Discharge with your mates, you get an Ep you can take home (these are not mutually exclusive obviously). 

The Poll Tax riots, along with the Falklands War and the Miner Strikes, were a defining moment in British political life and one of the most important class movements of the 20th century in the country. This tax, implemented in 1989 by Margaret Thatcher, everyone's favourite enemy, was a direct attack on the working-class and an overt present to the privileged few. I am not exactly an expert in Law but the booklet provided with the Ep offers a clear description of it. The Poll Tax was a new local taxation system on housing that dictated that what you pay was not proportional to the value of the property that you own or rent. Basically, a poor bastard living in a shithole in Burnley would pay the same amount as a Lord living in a posh mansion. The resistance was overwhelming. There were huge demonstrations that often ended in chaos and destruction of property, famously the Trafalgar Square riots, and many people just refused to pay the tax. The Poll Tax was cancelled in 1991 but not before Thatcher had to resign. On a punk level, these events certainly helped rekindle a political flame and was arguably influential on the making of a lot of early 90's bands. Even The Exploited had an anti-Poll Tax song, which says a lot about the unpopularity of the measure. 

But let's talk about the actual record. It was a benefit for the Trafalgar Square Defendant Campaign, a prisonner-support group that helped those who had been arrested and were doing time following the Trafalgar Square riots. The Ep contains a lot of information about the riots, the TSDC, the Poll Tax and class solidarity from an anticapitalistic perspective. French translations are provided, which makes sense since it was released on Nabate, an anarchopunk label from Belgium that put out marvelous records from Revulsion, One By One, Disaffect and of course the mighty Hiatus who were close to the label. Nabate did an impressive job with that Ep as it looks superb, there is plenty to read and think about and all the bands provided some neat-looking artwork. This is exactly how a politics-oriented compilation Ep should look like and I strongly recommend you take a look at the "Exclusion" compilation Lp, which was Nabate's first Lp release in 1989, as it is even more spectacular.

The first band of "TASNY" is Mushroom Attack from Groningen, a band that is mostly remembered today as being "pre-Fleas and Lice". Although this is obviously true, as three members of MA would form FAL afterwards and there are indeed similarities between both bands (just listen closely to the crunchy, energetic guitar riffing and its profusion of chords), MA definitely deserve to be seen on their own merits. The band recorded two split Lp's, with Forgotten Prophecy in 1990 and Disorder in 1992 (the gloriously-named "Masters of the glueniverse"!), that stood out the test of time. MA played fast anarchopunk with a hardcore punk influence and great male/female vocals, not unlike a more tuneful Disaffect, a crust-free Fleas And Lice or a hardcore version of Toxic Waste. I love the fact that they played intense music but still kept a sense of melody, not unlike One By One really, and the intro of their song "Fuck nazis" that is included on the Ep even reminds me of Chumbawamba in its harmonies. While the production is certainly indicative of the early 90's, bands like MA could still be regarded as being ahead of their time, as their take on tuneful and yet fast, hard-hitting anarchopunk can be heard in many late 90's/early 00's anarcho bands. A genuinely good band with a genuinely strange name. Has anyone ever been attacked by mushrooms?

Psycho Flowers are next and I unfortunately don't know much about them. From what I can see, they were from Scotland and were around in the late 80's/early 90's but I haven't been able to link any of the members with other bands so far. Judging from their two appearances on vinyl, Psycho Flowers walked on the anarcho side of things. Beside their contribution to "YASNY", they also appeared on a great 1in12 Club compilation ("Wild and crazy "Noise merchants"") in 1990 with an anti-Napalm Death song (them selling out was one of the topics of the day I suppose). The song on the Ep is "Disease of mankind" and is yet another anti-nazi number. Musically, PF are not far from the early 90's Northern England sound and bands like Slander, Hellkrusher or Armed Relapse, just solid, slightly metallic and crusty, pissed hardcore punk.

Next are the mighty Hiatus, one of my favourite crust bands ever. I have already raved like a lunatic about them in the past so I will do my best to be brief. This was the early incarnation of Hiatus and the last recording with the first singer Raf who also growls on the "I don't scare easily" Ep. The song on "YASNY" is "The show must go on" and it is an absolute ripper, gloriously over-the-top and utterly unself-conscious. It starts with a slow and filthy metal beat, slimy guitars and gruff vocals in true UK crust fashion, and then bursts into vintage neanderthal eurocrust with a chorus you can sing along to. Hiatus has always been an uplifting band if anything.

On the flip side, Private Jesus Detector from Belgium are opening with "Paralyze power". And before I delve deeper into the subtleties of PJD, let's have a quick word about genres. Contrary to popular beliefs, PJD were not a crust band and in fact, they rejected the term back then. They were around between 1989 and 1993 when the genre was spreading like wildfire, but contrary to all the other early crust acts, PJD never had any metal influence, which makes it problematic to characterize them as "crust" (unless you consider than anything with a D-beat and dreadlocks is "crust"). So while some lazily categorize them as "crust" because they looked "crusty" (or whatever) or just because the vocals are really rough, well, I am not one of them. PJD intended to bring back the metal-free, raw hardcore punk sound of bands like Anti-System, Subversion, Shitlickers or even early ENT. And raw it is. I am not sure if it comes from my own copy but the sound is rough like the proverbial badger's arse. Heavy, distorted raw punk with a Scandi feel and an anarcho touch (I just love the the spoken part on this one). This is absolutely brilliant and exactly what I listen to when I crave for genuinely raw, 80's-inspired hardcore. The lyrics deal with systemic manipulation and social paralysis and are far above average as well and rather long for the genre, more akin to Antisect or Anti-System than Discharge. A few years ago (well, in 2003), a highly recommendable discography Lp of PJD's recordings was released.  

The last band on the compilation is Dreadful, a grinding hardcore band whose demo I reviewed a few years ago on TSN. Dreadful were from Glasgow and played rough, sloppy but very fast hardcore with vocals more akin to cavemen grindcore than bandana-worshipping music. Very intense stuff. The song "Wind of the storm" was their sole vinyl appearance and it is a pretty clever number about uprising in the face of poverty and frustration, in a "you reap what you sow" gesture. There is actually a rather long dub interlude in the middle of the aural savagery (I know, how unlikely is that) which works surprisingly well. Who would have thought? 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

"S.I. One" compilation Ep, 1991

This compilation Ep is a rather obscure one that is perhaps more interesting for its historical relevance and for its significant snapshot of a particular time and place than for its musical content. I am not saying that the bands are bad, just that "S.I. One" is a really wonderful artifact of the second generation of OC anarchopunk despite being the only release of S.I. records.

Although rigid definitions of "punk waves" in strict terms of years are usually bound to misguide, I suppose you could say that there were two waves of Southern California anarchopunk, two generations of bands that interconnected but didn't coexist. I would situate the first one between 1983 and 1987 and the second one between 1988 and 1992. I am aware that some bands overlapped and that others kept playing well beyond 1992, but for the sake of analyzing and identifying this record, I feel that conceptualizing two different waves is useful. The first wave is certainly more famous and probably punkier-sounding and corresponds to such bands as Crucifix, Body Count, Iconoclast, Diatribe, A State of Mind, Trial, Treason, Bitter End, Another Destructive System, Atrocity or Final Conflict, while the second one saw the prominent local rise of crust with bands like A//Solution, Apocalypse, Mindrot, Confrontation or Glycine Max, but also Media Children, Resist and Exist, Total Chaos (I know), Holocaust, Armistice or Autonomy. Although you could easily situate some important differences between both waves, the feeling of continuity and fluidity between them, in terms of music and aesthetics, is overwhelming and definitely validates the existence of an "OC anarcho sound" (or SoCal anarcho sound if you want to avoid geographical arguments): British anarchopunk basis infused with US hardcore and varying levels of (usually thrash) metal. This second wave can be also linked on a national level with many other places like the Squat or Rot scene in New York (Nausea, Jesus Chrust, Insurgence, Apostates...), the Minneapolis anarcho scene (Profane Existence, Destroy!, Misery...), the Portland anarcho scene (Resist, Starved and Delirious, Deprived...) and many others. Overall, it was a transitional moment, the watering of the 90's anarchocrust wave's seeds (the actual planting was done during the first SoCal wave I presume).

The first band on the compilation is Media Children, one of the most active local bands of the era. They epitomized the radical anarchopunk politics of the time, like Resist and Exist with whom they toured a lot and even shared a member then. The song "Forever scarred" is about rape, rape culture, gender violence and women's self-defense and the band did not take the subject lightly. They provided a lot of information about sexual abuse (data, statistics, advice...) which I feel is important when one tackles such a difficult, sensitive topic. Media Children were this kind of band that offered more reading than listening on their records and I am pretty sure that it was also true during their live performances. The sound on this pretty direct punk song is rough but it works fine for the genre (and for me anyway). They remind me of Symbol of Freedom jamming with Ad'Nauseam in Chaos UK's local. The high-pitched vocals of Tammy will probably be a Marmite deal: love them or hate them. I think they work well when the music kicks in as they are really expressive but not so much on the spoken parts where they tend to sound too strident and shrieking. If you have never heard Media Children, I would suggest starting with the very solid 1991 Ep "But still they ignore..." that has a better sound, dynamic male/female vocals and, of course, a lot to read. Three members of Media Children went on to form Litmus Green in the early 90's who proved to be a prolific band and one that was influential musically (if not intentionally) for the so-called "streetpunk wave" of the mid/late 90's.

The next song is "The ultimate end" from Holocaust and to be honest, they were the reason why I bought this compilation Ep in the first place. I got to listen to their brilliant 1989 demo "Our anger has turned to rage" a few years ago through the great Crucified For Your Sins blog and needless to say that I was suitably impressed. The demo was an energetic and snotty blend of Final Conflict/Crucifix hardcore punk and UK bands like Instant Agony or Death Sentence. Pretty glorious stuff. "The ultimate end" was unfortunately Holocaust's sole vinyl appearance. The song was not recorded during the same session as the demo since the composition has a different feel. There is a definite metal influence in Holocaust's song that is strongly reminiscent of local metal crust heroes Apocalypse, Glycine Max and A//Solution and also of the thrashy hardcore sound of Bitter End and Final Conflict (who were possibly the biggest influence on the band). "The ultimate end" is just glorious: crunchy, metallic, crusty punk that the second wave of SoCal anarchopunk was renowned for. I have no idea if this song was part of a longer recording session, it seems likely but it may be wishful thinking too. Apparently, after the demise of Holocaust, some members went on to play in a band called Arise (I got this information from the booklet of Resist and Exist's "Ad liberty") and I have got a feeling (also triggered by the Amebix reference, truth be told) that they played something very similar to late Holocaust. Could "The ultimate end" also be an Arise song after all? This song has huge similarities with the 1989 demo but it is also quite different in terms of intent... Who knows? And I mean this literally: WHO KNOWS?

Social Insecurity are next (not the 00's heavy hardcore punk band from Scotland obviously). Information about them is scarce and I have sadly never heard their 1992 Ep, although I know it came with a great-looking newsprint lyric sheet and cracking anarcho artwork. I know just one other song from SI, that is not dissimilar to Media Children actually, that appeared on the "No lip service" compilation Ep that was released on Mass Media records in the early 90's (1993?). MM was possibly the label that was the most connected with the second wave of SoCal anarchopunk during the first half of the 90's (it was responsible for records from Media Children, Autonomy, Firing Squad and even Dan) and after a long period of silence, it looks like it has been back in business since 2010 or so, with a more postpunk/new-wave approach, and has released some convincing records from Moral Hex, Vivid Sekt or Cemetery. But back to Social Insecurity. The song "Fuck all powers" is about, well, resisting the powers that be. It is a sloppy and fast punk-rock number with a very rough and ready production and an early Disorder influence. A full Lp of it would make for a long listen but it does just fine on a compilation Ep. Social Insecurity records (aka S.I. records) was the band's label and I suppose it was created for the release of this compilation.

The final song is "Constant struggle" from Unauthorized, a band from Pasadena that also recorded a full Ep, 1991's "Cheated". While I like the sentiments behind the lyrics ("Constant struggle" is a positive song about anarchy), I guess it sounds a bit too much like a "proper" US hardcore band for me, especially the vocals, but the fast-paced music makes up for it and after all, it gives more variety to the compilation.

The object itself looks stunning: a huge fold-out poster sleeve with plenty of lyrics, arts and political writings in the grand anarchopunk tradition. I must admit that I have some troubles folding it out and up but then I am not the handiest man. More than a genuinely great record, "S.I. One" is a loveable testament to a particular scene and that is what makes it relevant and worth examining. And of course, it has that terrific Holocaust song...  

  SI One

Thursday, 11 February 2016

"More songs about plants and trees" compilation Ep, 1991

Today's post feels a little peculiar. On the one hand, I will be raving about classic bands that I have loved for years (which is pretty much what Terminal Sound Nuisance is all about I suppose), and on the other, I will be talking about classic bands that I am not familiar with at all, thus finding myself out of my comfort zone. But we all need a bit of a challenge sometimes, right?

"More songs about plants and trees" is objectively a good compilation. It gathered bands located at very different points on the punk spectrum around a common, worthy political cause. I love the idea because it illustrates the diversity in punk-rock but also the shared values, and in a time when we all cling to petty subgenres and artificial sub-scenes, it seems important to remember it. Besides, and even if it applies more to Lp's than Ep's, I like a little variety in my compilations. I often see them like punk festivals. I personally don't really enjoy monolithic festivals that only have one or two genres represented. As much as I love crust music, it quickly gets a bit tedious, if not boring, when the fifth Doom-like band starts playing. I much prefer festivals that display some variety in their programmes. It makes for a more diverse crowd and plenty of different punk expressions are celebrated. Granted, I may not watch the whole set of the Youth Crew band but at least it conveys the idea that, despite our aesthetic differences, we are on the same boat. Obviously, there also has to be a common political ground, otherwise any relevance is lost.

But back to this Ep that highlights diversity. It was the third release on Allied Recordings, John Yates' label. Although I am not a fan of everything he put out, one has to be impressed with the sheer variety of AR's discography (from Neurosis to J-Church, Political Asylum, Nausea, Wat Tyler, Buzzoven or Noam Chomsky!) and by his work as a visual artist throughout the years (a lot of Alternative Tentacles-related work of course but the full list of his contributions is truly stunning). You could say that the political meaning of punk has always driven John Yates' artistic choices and this early Allied Recordings Ep attests to that. The central theme of the compilation is the ongoing destruction of the rainforest for capitalistic gain and the the songs of the four bands included on the Ep deal with ecology.

Let's start with the challenging bit: the "melodic side". Now, I am a sucker for tuneful, anthemic punk-rock but let's say that I usually stick to the UK, Europe or even Latin America when I am craving for some, and hardly ever look to North America. Maybe the whole Californian punk-rock explosion of the mid-90's has left me wary of and prejudiced about the notion of "US melodic punk-rock". So let's try to give an honest look at the two bands of side A: Cringer and The Lookouts. I remember having a little argument (a misunderstanding really) with an American friend on a message board about the term "pop-punk" a few years ago. It was quite uneventful and amicable really, but we had very different notions of what "pop-punk" was meant to sound like. To me, it refers to Buzzcocks-influenced punk-rock, to the traditional Ulster punk sound or even to some of the 80's mod revival, basically bands that built on the pop tunefulness of 77 punk. I never really saw what was so poppy about Californian punk-rock, though it is melodic, but then, I never really dug deep into it.

From what I understand Cringer was a pre-J-Church band that was around in the second half of the 80's and formed in Hawaii before relocating to Los Angeles. Being a total stranger to both bands, I can't judge if "Burn down the forest" is a good Cringer song, especially since they have a consistent discography. What I hear is a tuneful and bouncy punk-rock song that is a little sloppily played but still works as a whole. It reminds me of Eastfield for the very upbeat tone and the vocals that are neither really sung nor spoken and borrow from American hardcore on that level.

I had vaguely heard of The Lookouts before listening to their song as this band that was related to Lookout Records and therefore to Green Day (yes, that Green Day). In fact, I realized that GD's drummer also played in The Lookouts, that The Lookouts' guitar player actually ran Lookout Records and that the song "Once upon a time" included on this Ep had a "special guest appearance by Billie Joe Armstrong". I never thought I would be talking about Green Day on Terminal Sound Nuisance but the punk world is a small interconnected one. I don't dislike Green Day to be honest, I have always thought that they had some brilliant tunes and proved to be smart songwriters, but that overall it wasn't bass-driven enough for me. The Lookouts' song is a mid-paced number, almost a punk ballad actually, that is not unpleasant, I like some of the ideas, but I feel the singing doesn't quite fit with the music. My own soundscape tells me that it is not unlike late Instigators, but I am sure there are more relevant points of comparison.

On the flip side are two of my all-time favourite US bands: Antischism and Nausea. "More songs about plans and trees" is a bit of a "Two rooms, two atmospheres" kind of pub. The fact that they are such classic bands don't make them any easier to describe, quite the contrary. As a matter of fact, I got my first Antischism and Nausea cd's (the Prank collection and the "Punk terrorist anthology vol 1" respectively) on the very same day, in 2003 (Discogs says 2004 for Nausea but they are wrong). I don't remember whom I ordered them from but I can still feel the excitement when I unwrap them. I knew next to nothing about both bands other than they were supposed to be "cult bands" that were often mentioned in the review sections of fanzines I was reading at the time. The only thing I actually knew from Nausea was the first minute of "Here today" that you could listen somewhere on the internet (it was the cd's first song and, ironically, also the one that appeared on our present compilation). I must have listened to this mere minute of music at least a dozen times in a row. Pure, unbeatable magic. As for Antischism, apart from the "classic band" tag, I picked them because the name really appealed to me since it was basically synonymous with "Antisect", a metaphor of unity and harmony. Cheesy, I know. I don't know if "antischism" was meant to be a reference to "antisect" but the meaning behind the monikers remains the same.

Antischism's song is "Greedy bastards" and it was recorded in september 1990 (another version of the song with Lyz singing appeared on the Lp). Recording dates are a bit blurry (there is no indication on the original records) but I would say that this song was recorded shortly after the "End of time" Ep. Antischism was a unique-sounding anarchopunk band with a very specific songwriting. The peculiar sound of the guitar and bass creates a fierce sonic landscape that blends surprisingly well with their brand of high-energy hardcore. The crucial factors of their music are urgency and intensity. The fast, manic drumming style combined with the breathless, desperate vocals gives the impression that the band's life was literally at stake (and even more impressive is the fact that the male vocals and the drumming were both done by Scott). There is an honesty, a genuine anger permeating the band's work that cannot be faked. Antischism remain difficult to aptly describe. I can hear some of Rudimentary Peni's demented sense of composition, the furious desperation of Italian hardcore like Negazione, possibly an influence from the Californian anarcho scene and bands like Crucifix or Final Conflict, and from a diachronic perspective, there is a definite hint of the rise of the super fast hardcore thrash of Hellnation and Dropdead. Truly breath-taking.

The final song of the compilation is "Here today" by the mighty Nausea. Much has been written about them and I suppose that most punks are at least partially familiar with the band's work. Again, I cannot be totally sure about the exact date the song was recorded, but my best bet is october 1990, probably during the same session as the "Cybergod" Ep. It was Nausea at their finest and I would not change a single thing to "Here today". The guitar is thick, powerful but keeps that filthy, rocking vibe; the distorted bass is groovier than a 70's disco party; the drumming is energetic, omnipresent but never distracting; and the vocals, foaming with rage, work perfectly together. Nausea at that time felt like a cohesive, unbreakable unit. "Here today" is a rocking anthem that takes the best of Discharge's bass lines, adds the smart riffing of late Antisect, Sacrilege and Hellbastard and tops it with genre-defining, dual male/female vocals. Genuinely, crushingly heavy but absolutely energetic and triumphant as well. I sometimes feel like the line "once fertile land now barren crust" can be read in a different way...

What an exhaustingly great side B this is...