Friday, 25 May 2018

Noize Not Music is a Fine Art: "Natural Crust and Punk Force Noise Making" compilation Ep, 1996

Initially, I had not considered including this compilation Ep in the Noize Not Music is a Fine Art series. The main reason for this reluctancy lied simply in my lack of familiarity with the record. After all, I bought it only recently because it included the great Mindsuck, a band whose split with Unarmed was gloriously reviewed on Terminal Sound Nuisance (here) a few months ago, and because it was nowhere to be found for download on the internet. Thankfully for me, neither Mindsuck nor Order and Mental Disease seemed to be particularly sought after since I got it for pretty cheap (not that you should care about the state of my personal financial situation but I often buy records that I think would be interesting to write about on Terminal Sound Nuisance... how heroic of me, right? Please fund me). Is this Ep a crucially brilliant work of punk? No, it is not. Don't get me wrong, it still delivers the good, but it cannot be deemed a classic Ep. And it is completely fine with me. In our day and age of constant, but paradoxically very short-lived, acritical hyperboles, a bit of objectivity does not hurt (though I must admit that it is not my forte). Besides, posting this compilation also fits with what was one of Terminal Sound Nuisance's primary missions back when it all started: reviving and archiving unavailable recordings, regardless of their standing in the current canon.

First, let's talk a little about the record itself before getting to the music. I bloody love the name of it! Natural Crust and Punk Force Noise Making. With such a title, I guess I was bound to select the geezer anyway. Karma it is. It has an almost poetical quality and summarizes very well the central topic of the series with its focus on noisy music as a chosen path and on rawness as a being the real, "natural" state of punk. The cover looks great if you are into silly, punk as fuck drawings and the visual aesthetics of the Bristol school (you all know I am). Two different types of punk kids - crust punk and spiky punk - organically united in the puerile but essential purpose of making an aural racket through the distorted sound of a "chaotic noise" telly (it all makes a lot of sense, right?). I love the face of the mother entering the teenager's bedroom and witnessing a Gremlins-like disaster. Of course, there are visual referential clues pointing at the genres represented on the Ep with the presence of the logos of Doom and Chaotic Dischord on the door. However, I think that Natural Crust and Punk Force Noise Making was probably originally meant to be a split Ep between Order and Mindsuck, since the two cans from which the snotty punx emerge respectively indicate Mindsuck and Order but there is no trace, no mention of Mental Disease... Could they have been a late addition, after the cover was already done? Strange indeed.

Anyway, this Ep can also be seen as a local compilation of - then - young bands from the Aichi prefecture since Order were, I think, from Toyohachi, Mindsuck from Nagoya and Mental Disease from Kariya. But let's start with the first band, Order. Or should I say ORdER? That's a dilemma. Apparently, the band changed the capitalization of their moniker around the time of their first (mini)album from 1999, 秩序. But since the comp was released in February, 1996 (on the ever prolific MCR Records), a few years before they switched, I will stick with Order. I already feel better now that this crucial issue has been settled. 

Punx'n'doves unite and win!

I have long been familiar with Order - if rather vaguely at first - because Disorder covered an Order song ("Trap" from the aforementioned '99 album) on their 2002 Lp We're Still Here and I actually like this album (played the cd to death when it came out as a matter of fact). Back then, the idea of Disorder covering a Disorder-influenced band called Order sounded ridiculous, in a good way, and I registered that Order were closely tied to the Disorder style of punk-rock. The song "Natural" included on the compilation appears to be the band's first vinyl appearance and I would not be surprised if it were taken from a demo. As expected, Order plays what can be called noizy punk-rock. Since the so-called "noisepunk revival" that kicked in the late 00's, the term has progressively come to designate mostly super distorted, tight, fast hardcore with a binary beat and reverb drenched vocals (as they say), and I am not dissing bands sounding like that and I can really enjoy some of it but a lot of it sounds too generic and soulless to me. Order however focused more on the catchy, punky, snotty, UK82ish aspect of it. And that's what I really enjoy in their early period (the Ep Punk Navigation is a masterclass of noizy punk-rock), they have that fun and sloppy singalong quality usually associated with Japanese pogopunk bands (like Discocks or Tom & The Bootboys for instance), but they still build on early Disorder (they used the same font at the time), Chaos UK or Ad'Nauseam and on old-school noisy Japanese hardcore like Confuse and, obviously, The Swankys (they do also have that demented aspect). The sound here is genuinely raw and spontaneous, the band didn't feel the need to use a tons of effects and for their upbeat, cider-fuled, anthemic noizy punk-rock, it works perfectly. I wish more current bands had taken that side of noisepunk instead of pointlessly hiding their boring lack of catchiness behind walls of fuzz. I suppose bands like The Wankys, Skizophrenia and Sad Boys would be into early Order. A really good song that will make you feel like you're 16. Order went on to release many records up until the early 2010's but I unfortunately have to confess that I am not knowledgable enough about their later works to talk about them properly... Any takers? 

Next up are two songs from the gruff crust heroes Mindsuck, from Nagoya, that I have already covered quite extensively in the past. To sum it up, Mindsuck was a short-lived pre-Reality Crisis band active in the mid-90's and they were going for a sound that they defined as "Rags noise crust". The two tracks on Natural Crust and Punk Force Noise Making are "Blind and dominion" and "Hypocrite is piss!" and I think they were recorded before the songs the band contributed to the split Ep with Unarmed that was released later in 1996 (MCR-092 against MCR-104). But to be honest, the difference between both sessions is pretty slim (there is even a song in common!). There is more fuzz and generally more care given to the guitar texture on the split with the Swedes but that's about it. As you are entitled to expect, Mindsuck unleash two top quality, monomaniacal and delightfully repetitive, noizy cavemen crust songs heavily influenced by Doom, Macrofarge, Sore Throat and Abraham Cross with a thunderous bass sound, a pure Scandi beat and a highly distorted, fuzzy Collapse Society-ish guitar sound. The vocal work is amazing and qualifies as one of the best Jon Doom impersonations I have ever heard (the World Championship in that peculiar punk discipline alway takes place in Japan and attracts many foreign tourists each year). More please. 

The third and last band on the Ep is Mental Disease and, like Order and Mindsuck, it was their first appearance on a proper record, so the idea behind this Ep may have been to offer a medium for young noizy punk bands from the Aichi area. Despite a rather honourable discography (one Ep and three albums), the band can hardly be said to have left a deep mark on Japanese crust history. And I am not sure why that is. The Get the Knowledge. Free your Mind Ep is a very solid crust punk record and compares well with similar works from the 90's crust era. Maybe Mental Disease got lost in the abundance of quality bands or maybe they are still remembered fondly in Japan but went unnoticed elsewhere. But then, it is not particularly surprising, the history of punk is replete with such instances after all.

As I mentioned on numerous occasions, Japanese crusty bands have always had an acute sense of details and referentiality. Mental Disease were no exception. If Disclose cosmically worshiped Discharge and SDS cherished Antisect and Abraham Cross honeymooned with Doom, Mental Disease wholeheartedly married Nausea. From the use of the exact same hairy font, to the circled (F) and (E) in the logo, to the crunchy riffs, to the over-the-top Amy-like intonations of the female singer, the band's late 90's period was stamped with a Nausea branding iron. And you know what? I am a huge sucker for Nausea and I have often wondered why there weren't more crusty bands openly working on their amazing legacy (a similar statement could apply to Misery). The song "Human lost" is a raw metallic crust number that sounds like early 90's Nausea were invited to a garden party held at the SDS house, with Iconoclast handling the buffet and LIFE taking care of the drinks. Or something like that. To be honest, the sound is a bit thin and the drummer experiences some awkward moments but it does not impair the listening pleasure. The song kicks off with a crunchy, mid-paced Sacrilege-meets-Effigy metal riff, then bursts into orthodoxally fast, dark and epic crust punk with aggressive dual male/female vocals, then there is an eerie break with the return of the opening metal part, and finally the song closes with a groovy stenchcore bit and accentuated trade-off vocals. I'm into it. Regardless of the production, there is a healthy Nausea feel to the song but still completely sounds like the intense Japanese crust of the time. I also like the fact that MD were the (sole) national instance of a typical 90's punk speciality: heavy crust with dual male/female vocals. The aforementioned Ep, release on MCR in November, 1996, saw the band polish their Nausea crust style and can be said to be a minor classic in terms of crust-with-male-female-vox. MD also recorded a full Lp, Sometimes Like Flowers, for MCR in 1999 which contained the band's best, most powerful crust materials with some ace songwriting but also what can be diplomatically called "artistic mistakes" (there are some uncomfortable and unfortunate rap/fusion numbers on the Lp too...), which makes listening to the full album a rather ambivalent experience. The two following recordings of MD were released on Discrete Records during the first half of the noughties but I have sadly never heard them.

To wrap it up, Natural Crust and Punk Force Noise Making is an unpretentious but highly enjoyable compilation Ep with three bands who were being offered their first vinyl appearance to proclaim their love for Disorder, Doom and Nausea and who would go on to pen some solid records afterwards (in Mindsuck's case, they did it under the Reality Crisis name but it counts, right?). And let's face it, how could you not love a record that has a two-dove logo on its backcover?      

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