Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 1): Disfear "S/t" Ep, 1998

More than three years ago, in the spring of 2016, I fiercely battled, on this very arena, a genre I had not yet dared to really approach: d-beat. Armed with my wits and a lot of time on my hands (I was fully unemployed then and writing at length about being Discharge by proxy sounded like the best idea I ever had), I fought long and hard in order to understand and identify this inspiring passion, this fearless and devouring Discharge love that have led countless bands to proudly pay tribute to the Stoke-on-Trent instrumentalists. And, as we saw then, there are different ways to express praises to the Discharge sound, ranging from attempts at sounding just like Discharge, to embracing the whole Discharge-inspired universe as valid and self-sufficient materials (a bit like Marvel or DC), the singular Discharge cover tradition that punks still celebrate today, working on sound textures,  effects, intertextuality, referentiality and, metatextually, on reflecting on the Dis phenomenon itself. The Chronicles of Dis - that was the series' name - were about all that. The selection illustrated different aspects of Discharge love and I tried to highlight its historical roots and put forward significant practices of the mighty D that were relevant. Following this formidably demanding enterprise, I became unable to stop my fingers from playing a galloping d-beat on any wooden surface that happened to be in their vicinity. It proved to be quite awkward, especially at funerals.

Despite almost overdosing on Discharge then, I grew to feel that the work was somehow incomplete and I caught myself thinking about records that could or even should have been included. In the end, I had to face the facts: I had some unfinished business with d-beat. The time has now come for the second round with a brand new series, entitled Sonatas in D Major, which will be about Discharge love and Dis-inspired records - yet again - with twelve meaningful records that I will tackle chronologically according to the dates of recording (not necessarily the same as the release dates). I am aware that sequels usually suck but then there are always movies like Batman Returns or Gremlins 2 to give me hope. Even Jaws 2 is not that bad, right?

And let's start with an absolute classic d-beat band: Disfear. Now, I guess everyone knows about Disfear and if you ask a passerby to name only one d-beat band, he or she is likely to reply either Disclose or Disfear, choices which could be argued to stand for the two major trends in d-beat, the distortion-loving raw Dis or the heavy, beefy, rocking Dis. I guess you could see them as two different d-beat schools essentially expressing a similar fascination for Discharge, though probably not for the same facets of the band. But after all, our likings are heavily conditioned by circumstances and by what we used to like, what we are used to like and what we have grown to expect to like, so that listening to Why for the first time is not the same experience to an Entombed, an Exploited or a Motörhead fan. Since their two albums on Relapse, Disfear have become quite well-known and celebrated in the punk/metal world, but of course the original old-fashioned hardcore die-hards will always favour "their early stuff" or even, if you are an elite-level hardcore expert, "their demo recordings". But let's take a listen to Disfear's first steps since it is actually the topic of the day.

The band actually started in Nyköping, Sverige, as Anti-Bofors in 1989. If you're wondering the word Bofors refers to a Swedish owned arms manufacturer and is now widely associated with the 40 mm anti-aircraft gun used during WWII - on both sides of the conflict. Bofors were also involved in a major corruption scandal with the government of India in the 80's which probably led a bunch of scruffy teenage Swedish punks to go for the name Anti-Bofors. The band, then as a three-piece with bass player Henke also handling the vocals, recorded one eponymous Ep in 1991 for No Records. This Ep has never been reissued on vinyl and is now highly sought-after but I suppose it is only a matter of time. After seeing the Svart Parad double lp reissue, everything is possible. Anti-Bofors, although clearly Discharge-influenced like all the Swedish hardcore bands of the time, cannot be said to be a d-beat band. Instead they were certainly trying to emulate the raw and gruff Scando hardcore sound of bands like Bombanfall, Disarm or indeed Svart Parad with amazingly hoarse vocals. A genuinely classic Ep that very much sounded like an 80's hardcore record, contrary to the first offering under the name of Disfear that marked the band's entry into the 90's sound-wise.

But first let's ask ourselves a very existential question: why did they change their name to Disfear? A reasonable hypothesis would be that the prefix "Dis" indicated more evidently the band's shift toward a more Discharge-inspired sound and songwriting and I suppose that it does make sense. I am much more perplexed about the choice of the substantive "fear". Obviously "disfear" is not a word so what does it mean? I suppose it could be the contraction of "this fear" but I personally think that it refers to the aestheticization of a particular fear (of the war, of state oppression, all the usual theme of the Discharge literature) in the form of the classic Discharge formula, as if it were the actual sound of that fear. Or maybe they looked at Dischange and thought that they too could get away with a silly Dis-name. I suppose it is somewhere in the middle.

The band had a new vocalist, Jeppe, on their self-titled Ep that originally appeared in 1992, on No Records once again (the label released a third Ep, Dispense's Nothing but the Truth before folding up) but the instrumental team is similar. Musically, only one year after the Anti-Bofors Ep, the band is much tighter and more powerful. The improvement in terms of sound was massive but then the Ep was recorded at Sunlight Studio by Tomas Skogsberg who worked on production with all the Swedish death-metal bands of the period (Entombed, Dismember, Carnage, Grave... just name any one of them, Tomas was in on it), a collaboration that also accounted for the darker, meaner vibe running though the songs. The primitive hardcore gruffness was all but gone as the band progressed and their anger became more focused and sharper, though they retained a raw hardcore vibe and were not yet quite the relentless d-beat machine they would eventually become. I really enjoy this first Disfear offering because it perfectly epitomized the transition between brutal, hard-hitting Swedish hardcore and 90's d-beat orthodoxy. You can hear that the band navigated between hardcore bands like Totalitär or No Security and full on Discharge-worship. Perhaps this middle ground was best embodied by the flow of the vocals in Swedish, sometimes close to the fast-paced, raspy, Totalitär-like school, sometimes almost similar to Cal's peculiar intonation (although the tone of Jeppe's voice on this one is higher-pitched and closer to the classic Swedish hardcore way). The five songs sound very potent, aggressive and energetic with a an urgent and tense raw sound, the vocals sound fucking pissed, the riffs are great in a sort of classic and tasteful way. In their early years, Disfear's music really sounded like an unstoppable and cruel warmachine approaching and I think it is probably best served on repeat mode in order to enjoy the repetition of repetitiveness. Know what I mean? The visuals on this Ep are stark, severe and appropriately macabre and the lyrics are in Swedish and deal with religion and war (interestingly, the shift to English lyrics on subsequent records also corresponded with the growing Discharge influence on the songwriting and singing style). This eponymous Ep paved the way for the crucial d-beat masterpieces, the mammoth Discharge-loving Ep A Brutal Sight of War, from 1993 (my favourite Disfear record and easily one of the best d-beat records ever recorded), and the absolutely relentless Soul Scars album from 1995, two records that pretty much defined what has come to be associated with Swedish d-beat, with a heavy production, crushing riffs and a vocal work that saw Jeppe really find his hoarse but distinctive style.

My copy of the Disfear is not the original from 1992 but a 1998 repress co-released by German label Rødel Records based in Berlin and responsible for a lot of grindcore/crust/fastcore records (Rot, Yacopsae, MVD or Autoritär to name a few) and Finn Records, a Swedish label specialized in quality Discore music that put out many Totalitär records, but also stuff from G-Anx, Uncurbed or the Excrement of War/Dischange split Ep (small world). And if you are into early Disfear - and do keep in mind that you should be in order to be for real - their eponymous 1992 Ep and A Brutal Sight of War 1993 Ep were finally reissued on vinyl last year by La Familia Records, Havoc Records and Disfear Records (it had been previously reissued by Feral Ward in 2004 so you know it is definitely classic stuff). You know what to do.        

Austere indeed


Friday, 9 August 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 10): Surrender "S/t" Ep, 2007

This is the last part of my pointless but rather fun series about those records I completely forgot I owned and I hope you enjoyed it. Of course, by nature, it was a very dispersed endeavour as my memory works in mysterious ways and I cannot really see a common artistic thread between all these Ep's. I guess my forgetting had more to with how or when I came to acquire them rather than with their merit and relevance or what they sounded like. Let me tell you that I own much worse records that I will neither be able to forget nor get rid of. How unfortunate. It is strange that I could not recall owning this Surrender Ep because I love the band. I distinctly remembered getting a subsequent one, There is no War from 2009, definitely enjoying the tunes but still thinking that it was a bit of a short - 6 minutes and 20 seconds to be accurate - and expensive one - I think I bought it for a fiver and there is no insert. I was not really disappointed or upset but I noticed the discrepancy and still remember I did. Now, ten years later, it is deemed perfectly normal to pay 6€ for 6 minutes worth of hardcore punk music, but then it hurt a little. I suppose we were still in the early stages of the technological and cultural transitional stage and although it was not that long ago, it does feel like a completely different era. But my hairline has not receded that much and in the end that's all that matters. 

But back to Surrender. Since I saw them play in Paris in May, 2009, I suppose I must have bought their first S/t Ep on that occasion. I don't think I had heard them before and the gig itself was not particularly packed. They were billed as an anarchopunk band from Berkeley but it did not necessarily imply that they were going to go for a strong 80's anarcho vibe, but just that they had radical political lyrics and were evolving in the anarchopunk spheres. For all I knew, they could have been a crust punk or a folk punk band and the anarchopunk tag on the handout would have still made sense. At the time there were very few bands openly going for the old-school Crass-ish anarcho sound anyway so chances that Surrender were going to sound like something out of the Mortarhate or Bluurg back catalogue were thin indeed. Basically, I was very unsuspecting and, in retrospect, gladly so, since Surrender surprised me with their brilliantly written, passionate peacepunk music (that is to say the Californian take on the original UK anarchopunk sound). They sounded like no other current band at the time and I loved the agitprop theatrics of the performance with the singer being literally blindfolded, the bass player wearing a mask over his mouth, the ace-looking peacepunk backdrop and all the spoken parts in the songs. It felt both fresh and referential at the time.     

Although there was certainly a renewed interest in the British anarchopunk scene from the 80's thanks to Overground's "anti compilations", to Ian Glasper's tremendous work The Day the Country Died, published in 2006, and to Lance Hahn's fascinating interviews of classic anarcho bands in MRR (at the same period), few historical anarchopunk bands had reformed yet and there was virtually no contemporary punk band doing the classic anarcho thing. I am not sure why that is. Perhaps punx were not as obsessed with nostalgia and prone to unabated 80's referentiality in the 00's (Discharge worship, or D-beat, having been already turned into an actual legitimate genre in the 90's was the obvious exception along with the Japanese punk scene, because, well, you know, Japan) or perhaps youtube had not yet opened the gates to even the most obscure hardcore bands. A band like Germ Attak, with its overt and erudite UK82 worship, was still very much a conceptual exception. This is not to say that vintage Crass-like acts were not listened to or had no influence on contemporary bands, but more often than not, political bands at the time were more likely to play neocrust - though by 2009 the trend was on its last feet - or progressive hardcore than Zounds-inspired poppy anarchopunk. To be fair, Contravene did have songs with Chumba-like moments, which is what made them quite original, but it was one influence among others and you did have some English bands with a strong Conflict vibe (like Active Slaughter for instance, or the Anthrax-ish Bug Central) but it was fairly circumscribed. Surrender, on the other hand, were all-out Chumbawamba converts and invited the little-known and rather confidential glorious Californian 80's peacepunk sound to the table.

Surrender formed in 2005 and were from Berkeley, which, when you listen to their music, feels almost pleonastic. The band had Paul Curran, formerly from Crimpshrine, on the bass which probably accounted for the decent turnout at the Paris gig. I never could get into Crimpshrine so I don't know much about them but I know a lot of people love them and the "ex-Crimpshrine" tag was helpful for Surrender I suppose. By now you have already guessed what Surrender were all about musically but let me be more accurate. I think the biggest inspirations would be Chumba and A State of Mind, at the time when the two bands shared a split Ep (reviewed on Terminal Sound Nuisance, small world) in 1986 and sounded quite alike. The songs are melodic, poppy even and deceptively upbeat, as if the tunes could barely conceal the political anger and outrage. The presence of several singers, male and female, certainly confers the same polyphonic quality that you can find in Chumba or, indeed, Crass. Rhythmically the band is versatile but always keeping this martial, tribal vibe reminiscent of mid-paced UK anarchopunk, while the bass is upfront, offering additional catchiness in the guise of brilliant lines with sometimes subtle hooks, and the guitar does not hesitate to change tones and techniques when the song needs to be enhanced. On the whole the songwriting is quite innovative and goes beyond the classic binary structure, like Chumba or Crass did, keeping a meaningful narrative quality with unexpected changes of moods and paces. The tunes are strong, sounding both sad and uplifiting, and never predictable. As for the lyrics, they are carefully written political diatribe about personal and collective resistance, conflicting feelings about the relevance of politics (and punk as a vessel for change I would assume), the need to do something about it all and the sense that it might all be a big con and we may be tricked into doing what we do, like predictably harmless rebels. This is quality anarcho music that brings to mind the classic Californian peacepunk bands such as A State of Mind, Trial (though not as postpunk), Sleeping Dogs (though not as avantgarde) or Resist and Exist, as well as the British originators like Chumba (obviously), Crass, Omega Tribe or Alternative.

After this self-released Ep, Surrender recorded the 2008 split Ep with Acts of Sedition, then the ugly-looking There is no War Ep for La Vida Es un Mus in 2009 - back when the label was much smaller - which is also excellent, a full Lp entitled Paper Thrones the same year for Thrillhouse Records and, finally, a split Ep with Finland's 1981 in 2011 for Stonehenge Records. I know some people dislike the album and I have to admit that I did not get into it as easily as I did for the Ep's, but I feel it is a very strong, more diverse work which makes sense given the demanding songwriting that the genre requires for a longer format (let's face it, even though not everyone is able to pull out a Pictures of Starving Children, you do have to pull out some serious and inspired songwriting skills if you want to make a decent chumba-esque Lp). I guess Surrender must have stopped shortly after the split with 1981. Dan on the guitar went on to play in No Sir I Won't (which kept to the same proper peacepunk path as Surrender) and later on in Brain Killer, drummer Heather joined Composite and Paul did Onion Flavored Rings. It is difficult to assess Surrender's legacy but to some extent, they prefigured the growing influence of old-school anarchopunk on the 2010's hardcore punk scene, which mainly materialized in the so-called postpunk revival. Many American postpunk bands especially (like Moral Hex or Funeral Parade for example) openly referred to the UK anarchopunk of yore, which was really nice at first, but then, as is often the case with trends, far too many bands started to play the exact same thing while also claiming the anarcho heritage. At some point, whenever you read that a band was influenced by old-school anarchopunk, it basically meant that it was some kind of dark postpunk band wearing The Mob or Peni shirts. But anyway, I digress. Bands like the mysterious Ok? quickly followed Surrender and the aforementioned 1981 have made a reputation for themselves and although they are a bit too close to happy-sounding indie rock at times, I still cannot think of a better Chumba-inspired band in today's punk scene. There were and are others now obviously, but I would argue that back when Surrender started, they were pretty much the only referential old-school peacepunk band around. Yet they never sounded gimmicky or like a parody of who they were influenced by (it sometimes happens) as you can tell by the relevance of their lyrics and the unpretentiousness of their records and of their live presence. A really solid punk band that I wish was still around.    


Thursday, 1 August 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 9): Socialcrime "Protest noise" Ep, 1998 (?)

I guess the more records you own, the more you tend to forget about them. That's only logical after all. No one can relate deeply to thousands of records and more often than not, I play a new acquisition once before storing in the correct alphabetical section (which is something I just love since it makes me feel like I am doing crucial archiving work). The internet has caused the punk market - for lack of a better, more comforting term that would not make me feel like a sheepish consumer of D-beat - to be constantly flooded with new bands you have to love (because they are much better than the previous ones, but still not as good as the next), new records you just need to get (and quick, copies are going fast!), new tours you should attend, new trends you have to follow if you want to keep up, so that, I feel, it has become increasingly difficult to relate on a deeper level to new punk music. I guess Zounds predicted it, in some way almost 40 years ago. Like everything in 2019, punk has become much faster, the norm being 18 months old bands with only one demo tape under their belt that are touring - and instagramming - on other continents. 

If I see millennial bashing as a sure sign of misplaced bitterness - and of getting older, but in a sad way - sometimes I do sincerely wonder how today's teens relate to punk bands, since the insane, unlimited abundance of readily available music necessarily affects how you consider a band. Do they carelessly skip from Mob 47, to GISM, Crass, Eskorbuto or Kaaos in mere minutes, without batting an eyelid, since after all it is all on youtube, and then casually choose what they prefer? I have met teenage punks who had a tremendous knowledge of obscure 80's hardcore bands, the kind of bands that only did one great tape and that nerdy collectors used to whisper about in dark corners at gigs, usually Japanese bands that I was completely unaware of when I was their age. I mean, in a way it is impressive but also a little scary. I remember perfectly the very first Japanese band I discovered, it was Hi-Standard with the Growing up album (on cd obviously) that I got on a trip in Germany, aged 14, because it was on Fat Wreck Chords and I liked NoFX. So you can imagine that bands like Sodom, State Children or Tranquilizer were very far off the picture. A few years after that, when I was getting into "real punk" - which translated into me compulsively counting mohicans, studs and beers on the record covers to assess the level of punkness - I got Dick Spikies and Discocks, two Japanese oi streetpunk bands that were quite good at what they did I suppose (funnily enough, I am pretty sure they would be more fashionable nowadays since everyone seems to be into oi-ish UK82 punk). Finally, when I discovered the politics of anarchopunk and how good-looking I was with patches on my jacket, Battle of Disarm was the first Japanese crusty band I got into along with another, much lesser known act called Socialcrime. 

If you think about it, in the context, it makes perfect sense that I grabbed a copy of a Socialcrime record since they were released on Tribal War Asia, a division of Tribal War Records, a label run by Neil from Nausea/Final Warning and therefore one that I could trust with my life and my wallet. Tribal War Asia releases were quite easy to find and fairly cheap and they looked crusty as fuck so getting Socialcrime's Statement of rage 2001 album (it is actually a cd in a Lp gatefold cover) was a safe bet and made sense in my early 00's context. Oddly, the band is never really discussed and rarely mentioned, when at all. Perhaps they were active at a time when there was too much quality bands doing a similar genre in Japan, and they went largely unnoticed. While I don't think Socialcrime were extraordinary, especially in the midst of the mid 90's/early 00's Japanese hardcore punk scene, this Ep still makes for a good listen if you are into raw hardcore punk. I do not remember when or where I got hold of a copy of Protest noise but it must have been during a record shopping spree in Osaka last year (as I told you before, I went completely berserk because of the plethora of ace records and had to be carried out of the store by the security guard). In fact, I am pretty sure that I was unaware that there even was a Socialcrime Ep, so it was a bit of a surprise and it was a cheap second-hand record so the investment was minimal and I didn't think about it twice. 

I don't know exactly when Protest noise was recorded and released. Judging from the production and the overall sound quality, it certainly predates Statement of rage, so I would say 1998 (correct me if I am wrong). Socialcrime were a three-piece from Tokyo and discogs tells me the band members did not play in other bands before or after, apart from drummer Toumiya who went on to play in The Charge. Their 1999 tape released on Malaysian label Broken Noise Records seems to compile songs taken from different recordings and since there is a live version of "Okinawa" from 1996, I suppose the band must have formed during the mid-90's. Apparently, they were close to Battle of Disarm and DIY Records since they appear on the short thank list provided on the Ep and they contributed to three compilations released on Thrash Ahoy (along with bands like BoD, Argue Damnation, Power of Idea, Fuck on the Beach or GJPB) so there could be a connection there as well, but that's about all I can guess with my magnifying glass. I remember being really into their album back in the day but then it also had a lot to do with the fact that I had much fewer records and the idea of a Japanese crusty hardcore band was still exciting and fresh (that feeling unfortunately went away a long time ago as I realized how bloody massive the Japanese scene was...). But, almost 20 years later, have Socialcrime aged well or was my listening experience distorted by youthful punk excitement? 

The Protest noise Ep is not a bad record and while I don't think I could listen to an album worth of songs with that particular production, it works perfectly on an Ep format. What strikes me is how genuinely raw it sounds. Of course, many Japanese hardcore bands crave for a raw distorted sound but in general they intentionally work on the textures to achieve it, through effects, pedals, production and other tricks, so that the rawness and crudity are more akin to well-crafted and elaborated artistic choices rather than the results of material necessities. Protest noise's rough hardcore sound could be by choice but it sounds so much like it was recoded live in their practice space (there is only one layer of guitar and the bass is too high) that artistic intentionality is very unlikely. Besides Statement of rage is a well produced powerful offering so it would not make much sense to go for a rough production on purpose on the previous record. But anyway, the Ep sounds so direct, spontaneous and just really raw that I am reminded of some Brazilian crusty hardcore bands, not so much for the songwriting but for the atmosphere. Socialcrime are not as crusty as I remembered and would probably be best qualified as raw stripped-down hardcore thrash, somewhere between Battle of Disarm, Varukers, Private Jesus Detector, Crocodileskink with a 90's anarchopunk flavour and some Burning Spirit hardcore. The pace is of the fast and relentless galloping d-beat variety with the drums being loud in the mix, the bass is very present too but the sound is probably too high-pitched and lacks groovy heaviness (but then given the overall raw production, it might have been for the best), the guitar riffs are actually good and quite catchy although the guitar is a bit buried and the vocals are shouted in Japanese and sound deliciously gruff and pissed.

The fact that the band decided to have lyrics in Japanese is definitely a plus as it confers additional impact to the very clear vocal delivery and you can hear - although you don't understand what he's on about - that they are very angry indeed. I would argue that this linguistic choice can be explained by the political motivation of the band which are very clear in the lyrics' translations and the explanatory texts. Protest noise is about Japan's brutal colonial past as much as it is about its neocolonial present. The major difference between both periods lies in the means to achieve domination, through military occupation before as opposed to economic invasion now. Socialcrime also have a song, "Okinawa", about the US military bases located there and how the local population are struggling under this rule, with local women being regularly assaulted and abused by American soldiers. "System Japan", my favourite of the three songs, is about the traditional sense of sacrifice in Japan and how it is used by the ruling class to have more money and more power. The translations are not perfect but you can tell that the lyrics are honest and reflect political realities in Japan which makes for a nice change. Too often bands are happy to just sing about "freedom", "truth" or "war" completely out of context but in this case Socialcrime's protest songs are clearly rooted in specific conditions which gives this humble political record of raw hardcore thrash a distinct anarchopunk coloration and makes it quite lovable.

Protest noise was released on Tribal War Asia (the sublabel run by bloke form Crocodilesking) and One Coin Record, a label responsible for the Thrash Ahoi compilations as well as records from Battle of Disarm, Screen Out or Cluster Bomb Unit. The Ep was distributed by Active Distribution in Europe (like most Tribal War materials) and Noise Arrived Music (NAM on the backcover) but I could not find anything about it so I am clueless as to what it actually is. Socialcrime then recorded a full album, also on Tribal War Asia, with a much clearer sound production, courtesy of Shoji Matsugane who also worked for Fuck On the Beach, which gave Statement of rage a lot more hardcore power and focus. There are a couple of fillers on the album but it is pretty raging nonetheless and with a sharp and angry political message. A self-titled tape is also included on the discogs page but there is no date. I guess it is a demo from the same years as the album since the four songs are also on Statement of rage.

If you want some political hardcore that is genuinely raw and angry for this summer, look no further.  


Thursday, 25 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 8): PUS "The real scapeghost" Ep, 1992

It could be argued that life in our so-called modern societies are being increasingly filled with petty, meaningless trivia through the overarching presence of the internet. It could also be argued that our growingly shorter attention span is a a result of this abundance of irrelevant details and that our greed for novelties is fueled by our own fear to be outdated and cast aside. Being irrelevant or even being socially sanctioned as such has become far worse than being dead. 

Still, trivia remains the easiest way to break the ice in many social situations, especially potentially awkward ones, like punk gigs for instance. Sometimes, all your mates are here so you don't need to come up with clever things to say during conversations that will make you look suave and sophisticated (aka SAS). Your friends are already familiar with your natural awesomeness. But there are other times when you don't really know anyone at gigs and you need to make friends, and for that you need clever-sounding introductory sentences and a good piece of punk trivia is ideal. This takes me to Terminal Sound Nuisance since this very blog has been voted the best place on the internet to find proper intel and anecdotes about cool punk bands that are obscure enough to make you look knowledgeable (but not too obscure, otherwise you are going to sound all nerdy and creepy and scare people away). Who knew these humble rants of mine would bring people together in friendship and unity! And since we're at it, here is a fun piece of punk trivia for your future new best friend: did you know that PUS stood for Punx Underpants Smell, a reference to the Pax compilation Lp Punk Dead - Nah Mate, the Smell is jus Summink in yer Underpants innit? Amazing, right? I mean it makes the name PUS - already a top punk moniker - even better. If knowing that doesn't get you at least a date, I don't what will.

I suppose that, in spite of their punker than punk name, PUS will be mostly remembered by the British punks active in the 90's who got to see them live. They were from Wisbech and were active for most of the 90's, at least between 1991 and 1999, an honourable run in itself when you compare it to modern hardcore bands' lifespan (or maybe ephemeral hardcore is the new black, I dunno). Quite sadly, PUS seem to have been largely forgotten and, although they were not the best band of the decade, they wrote some solid anarchopunk songs in their day. I cannot remember exactly where or when I got The Real Scapeghost but I know the Ep was lingering in a discounted record box, a fate that many 90's and 00's records are familiar with and that even more bands from our current decade will know when the deafening hype is over and people actually listen to them. I do remember exactly when I first encountered PUS however. I got their Death from the Skies discography cd in 2003 in Leeds at an Extinction of Mankind gig. And guess what, even then the cd was in the discount section. It must be karma. Despite the rather ugly cover depicting a warplane and the fact that I had never heard of PUS, I thought that spending a few quids for a discography was a bargain and brought the record home. I have to admit that the cd was a bit of a let down at the time for two main reasons. First, I expected the band to have more of a UK hardcore sound (c'mon, there's a bloody warplane on the cover, it was a fair assumption) and second, there are 33 tracks on the cd and it is a lot to digest.

This said, with the passing of the years, I grew to really enjoy PUS. In fact, the deeper I descended into the nether regions of the 80's anarchopunk wave, the fonder of PUS I became. The band can be seen as an embodiment of one of several relevant post "classic anarchopunk" paths. You could either take anarchopunk as a spirit and a stance not essentially bound to punk music and therefore go for a totally different sound (like techno, indie, dub...) but keeping the same political perspective. Or you could consider anarchopunk as both a stance and an actual genre which, as such, could legitimately be kept alive even 10 years after it peaked. PUS - and bands like Riot/Clone, Haywire, Kismet HC, Combat Shock, Substandard... - picked the second option. The Real Scapeghost was their first Ep, recorded in 1992, and while the production is undeniably thin, it is still a throughly replayable record with a genuine snotty punk vibe. Of course, there are sloppy bits here and there, some songs would have probably benefited from some structural changes and a more focused approach, but on the whole there is a freshness and a spontaneity that contrasts sharply with current bands that claim to be influenced by 80's anarchopunk but end up sounding like they calculate everything and value referential minutiae over everything else. In this light and for all its flaws, The Real Scapeghost is an interesting listen and, for the songs "Scapeghost", "Democracy", "Eternity" and "Shadow of death" (yes, there are eight songs on the Ep!), even a great one if you are into anarchopunk or UK82 (yes, you should be taking notes). There are several paces and vibes on the Ep, ranging from the fast and snotty Bristolian school to darker mid-tempo anarcho tunes and even a reggae-ish one (probably the weakest of the bunch but the band got much better at those afterwards). I can hear a lot of influences in the early PUS sound, Subhumans and early Conflict being obvious ones but you can also add bands like Riot/Clone, Karma Sutra or The Waste to the list.

This strong old-school anarchopunk vibe can also be seen in the lovely antiwar cover of The Real Scapeghost as well as in the backcover which depicts a logo comprised of a nuclear mushroom, a peace symbol and a crucifix (the ole 3 in 1 anarchopunk bargain pack). Lyrics deal with the atrocities of war, pollution, state control and of course animal rights, a theme that PUS tackled a lot as they included in the insert a list of useful addresses as well as some information about the ongoing exploitation of animals, pretty typical of political punk bands in the 90's and something that I always found great and indeed inspiring. After that humble snotty punk Ep the band recruited a second singer and meaningfully polished their sound into a powerful and tuneful blend of dual male/female vocals anarchopunk reminiscent of early Civilised Society?, late DIRT, PAIN and Toxic Waste that can be heard on their subsequent Ep's on Know Records, '96 A Life in Fear and the  '97 split with Omobna. PUS also appeared on a number of compilations throughout the years that you may even own since some of them were put out by labels like Panx, Loony Tunes, DIY Records, Discrete Records and Resistance Productions. As mentioned earlier, the best way to discover the band would be to get hold of a copy of the Death from the Skies cd, released on Bomb Factory Records (a label that put out some great 90's anarcho music by the likes of Contempt and Riot/Clone). This should not be too difficult considering PUS' current popularity. So if you see it gathering dust on a distro, you know what to do. Finally, I am not sure what the members did after the band split up apart from drummer Sonny, who also played in Combat Shock at the time, who would join Constant State of Terror and more recently Flowers in the Dustbin.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 7): Protess "Positiveness" Ep, 2001

Ace epic cover

Once again, this is a record that keeps slipping through the cracks and yet one that I never intended to neglect. Although I can never quite remember how it sounds like, I know full well who I got it from. It was during an online record sale organized by Profane Existence about ten years ago. Money was needed to cover some debts (I think) and parts of record collections had to be sold away to that effect. I was an active member of the message board at the time so got the full list early and managed to grab a copy of Legion of Parasites' Lp, The Prison of Life. Needless to say that I was ecstatic to finally get hold of such a classic and although I realize that to still boast about it to this day is a tad embarrassing, I can't really help it. Yes indeed, the deal was pretty good. In the list there were a couple of records from bands I had never heard of but looked interesting judging from the short descriptions that accompanied them. So, upon reflection, I wisely added two Ep's to my shopping list, one being Jesusexercise's fantastic Ep, while the other was Positiveness by Protess, which was said to be a female-fronted anarcho hardcore band from Japan (or something along these lines). 

Protess formed in 1998 in Sapporo, hometown of Slang, a major player in the Japanese hardcore game (u feel me?) and as a matter of fact they may still be playing, as I have seen live videos from 2015 so it is possible. If it seems to have been singer Yumi's first band (correct me if I'm wrong), the other members were already playing in bands when Protess started. Guitar player Koyuru was in the furious Japanese grinding hardcore band Knuckle Head, along with bass player Takeharu and drummer Taketora who were also playing in Barricade, who were more of a distorted noizy hardcore unit. I am clueless about the actual origin of the name but I came up with three theories:

1. During a drunken band meeting in a bar, after much deliberation, everyone agreed on Protest and went on to celebrate the newly born band. However, a glass was spilled on the sheet of paper where the name had been written down. The next day, no one could actually remember which name they had settled for but fortunately the sheet was found. However the last letter of Protest was blurred and unreadable and the "t" became an "s", hence Protess instead of Protest.

2. The band had a very good friend called Tess and was originally conceived as a pro-Tess act.

3. It was a spelling nod toward the classic female-fronted Japanese punk band Gomess.

Anyway, I suppose Protess are best remembered nowadays for their 2008 split Ep with melodic punk band Signal Lost from Austin that was released on Prank Records, but even that would actually be a rather optimistic assumption (I mean, who still listens to records from the late 00's?). The band's first demo, recorded in 1998, was a raw but meaningful endeavour which set the tone for what was to come in terms of inspiration and songwriting for Protess. Although there was certainly a traditional Japcore vibe on the demo - especially in the faster bits and in the typical backing chorus - Protess did not aim primarily for that sound and were more progressive and versatile, "modern"-sounding if you wish, trying to blend different beats and genres in order to create a passionate whole. Of course, many bands were trying the same thing worldwide and you could argue that this artistic drive and desire to innovate was very much contextualised and even characteristic of the late 90's and early 00's. The 1999 split Ep with Noise Pollution on MCR showed the band in a much tighter mode with a very clean production that highlighted the band's emotional aspect (arguably a bit too much) but it was Positiveness, thanks to a potent and crunchy sound production from one Koji who had already recorded materials from Crude and Mustang, from that really summarized what Protess were all about.

I cannot claim to be a massive fan of the type of hardcore sound Protess were going for in 2001, however the song on the first side of the Ep, "心に花を", is undeniably a hit. It manages to be heavy, epic and triumphant in a Japanese hardcore way, diverse but coherent without ever losing the listener in spite of its length (almost 6 minutes) and above all intense and passionate. The song is mostly a dark, mid-paced number that reminds me of Scatha, Debris and Unhinged, with punishing and heavy tribal beats (the drumming is fantastic all around), but there's also an actual melodic emocore moment toward the end that gives Anomie a run for their money as well as a genuine and epic burning spirit abrasive moment. The vocalist Yumi sounds very ardent, both indignant and hopeful, and the fact that the words are in Japanese confers even more intensity to the prosody and therefore the song. On the whole, "心に花を" works very well and never sounds disparate, on the contrary, its circular structure of echoes maintains its narrative quality, which is something you always need to have if you are going for epic moody hardcore. The second song is not bad by any means and sounds quite similar to the first one, but it just is not as inspired and catchy to ears and it didn't grab my attention.

As mentioned above, a band such as Unhinged (who are cruelly underrated if you ask me) must have been a major influence, especially with the female vocals and the emotional but heavy and angry music, and I can definitely picture a Protess recording for Nabate. Beside them, I suppose the tentacular destructive power of His Hero Is Gone must have played a role in influencing the band as well as UK tribal hardcore bands like Scatha and Sedition (the visuals of the Ep certainly point in that direction), maybe some Antisect and Anti-System and obviously other progressive emotional hardcore bands that were contemporaries but that I know nothing about (but then, I decline omniscience). I don't really listen to that type of music anymore but I really enjoyed playing Positiveness. Of course, it is quite dated and the last decade was overrun with hardcore bands who wanted to be heavy, epic and melodic (cough neocrust cough), but Protess sound and look first and foremost as a genuine punk band who played hardcore with passion and in the end that's exactly what you need to have for an Ep to be solid. This one was released on Sprout Records, a label run by Tsuyoshi (who went to be sing in the MG15 fanboy band Desperdicio) that also released materials from Sacrifice and Youth Strike Chord. I just love the manga-like drawing of the band on the cover (I am a sucker for those) but haven't been able to find other pieces from the artist, so if you are aware of some, please let me know. 

Incidentally, the copy of the Ep contained two photographs from Protess playing live somewhere in 1999. I have no idea who took them but they are pretty cool so here they are.

There's even a bloody sticker!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 6): Positive Negative "Throughout the holocaust" Ep, 1999

Few countries can pride themselves on having an 80's punk scene as classic as Finland's. Vintage Finnish hardcore (I have bumped into the phrase "finncore" or "finn-core" on a couple of occasions but it sounds too cheesy, even for me) is the stuff of legend. That a dedicated bunch of Japanese punks have been trying very hard to reproduce that sound - as well as learn some basic skills in Suomi and wear the Bristolian headlace kinda gracefully - is no coincidence and proves that this brand of hardcore is not only a genuine style but also a tasteful one. I mean, you wouldn't see that with French punk, although now that French oi music has become fashionable I wouldn't be that surprised to hear about a Tokyo-based Komintern Sect cover band. What a world we live in. 

Although these days, we are quick in calling "classic" any short-lived band that vaguely recorded a demo in 1983, there is no denying that Finland produced its fair share of absolute classic bands. Back when I decided to educate myself about the world of hardcore, I used to make list of bands that, apparently, judging from what older and wiser punks said in fanzines, were "classic hardcore". Internet and downloading - without even mentioning streaming obviously - were still very much out of the picture at that time so, on a small budget, I had to target the good stuff and started to make lists of crucial foreign hardcore bands organized by country. I came up with a short list of Finnish punk bands that, if I understood well, I just needed to know if I did not want to be a poser, and since I was really worried that I might be called one at the time (yes, I know it sounds incredible in this age of social media but posing and wearing patches of bands you don't actually know was once frowned upon) I promptly bought some records. Of course, I could only find what was available (and affordable) at the time and I suppose I should have asked some old-timers to compile a mixtape for me instead, but that is how you learn. I remember ordering the Brazilian cd reissue of Rattus' Finnish Hardcore originally on BCT tape (not the greatest Rattus release to be honest and the whole thing's actually hard to digest as a first encounter with the band) and Terveet Kädet's Deep Wound cd (not a good one and it kept me away from TK for years) which I was not really happy with. However, I was lucky enough to find cheap vinyl copies of the amazing - bootleg - compilation Killed by Finnish Hardcore (the ideal comprehensive introduction to the genre) and two Höhnie Records reissues of classic Finnish hardcore, Riistetyt's As a Prisoner of State Lp and Kaaos' Totaalinen Kaaos Lp (basically the 1982 recordings of the band). The latter two completely won me over and the internet age even further consecrated the cult status that we collectively awarded these Tampere bands and the typical Tampere sound. I don't think I have ever met someone who dislikes early Kaaos. It is this kind of consensual band that is unanimously loved and really, I don't see how anyone could resist the insane teenage energy and snotty aggression that permeate their early works. Why am I talking about all this? Well, Positive Negative had two original members of Kaaos in its ranks.

I have absolutely no recollection of buying or being given the Ep so I am going to skip this part. If you lent me this record years ago and never gave it back, please leave a message. This is the only Positive Negative record in my collection and I am not really familiar with the rest of their discography. I don't think the band existed for that long but they sure were very active during their short run with four PN records being released between 1997 and 1999 (one of them was a split with Detestation). The members already had juicy resumes and the lineup was closely tied with the Kaaos story with Nappi on the bass (original Kaaos bass player who also played in Riistetyt in the 80's and Absurd Attitude and Ensam among other bands) and Jakke (original Kaaos singer) on the vocals, both of whom sadly passed away 2011 and 2007 respectively. On the drums you could find the first Janne who was also behind the kit in 00's-era Kaaos and Ensam, on the guitars you had another Janne (from Olotila and Diaspora) and Vege (from 00's-era Riistetyt and Vapaus) and on second vocals was Purtsi, who also sang in Absurd Attitude and Pause as well as playing the bass in 00's Kaaos. Some would call the 90's Tampere scene as a close-knit hardcore family, others would just say incestuous, I would just say that it is typical of the way punk scenes have always been working and it is always fun to make connections that you had never thought of before.

Throughout the Holocaust is a wonderful record and I don't understand why I haven't played more often. If you expect vintage Tampere hardcore revival, you will be disappointed, since the global trend crowning the minutious reconstructions of golden era hardcore music (and costuming, some people like to dress up as knights during the weekend, others choose 80's Finnish punks) only really started ten years after. PN definitely sounds like a 90's band in the best way possible. Of course, there is a solid mid-80's Finnish hardcore influence as PN could be defined - broadly - as a Scandi-thrash punk band. The aggressive thrashing hardcore riffs are there, the beats are fast and punishing and the presence of two guitars adds thickness to the sound. The dual trade-off vocals definitely point in the anarcho-crust tradition that was prominent in Europe however and, notwithstanding the fact I am an absolute sucker for this kind of vocalisation, it gives the songs a mean yet welcome crusty edge (I am reminded of Counterblast and Policebastard in the vocals' tones and structures). The Ep has a genuine narrative quality as all the songs either blend into each other or are connected with samples or quotes. In fact, the opening of side B is the same as the ending of side A, so you can see that PN were trying to tell a complete story and saw Throughout the Holocaust as a whole and not just a bunch of songs, something that the absence of song titles confirms. I am not saying that it is perfectly executed but it makes the EP more interesting and it allowed the band to include gloomy and melodic mid-paced moments with anarcho-tinged spoken parts that fit well into the work's structure as a whole. You could say that it is a well-balanced 90's blend of crusty anarcho-thrash bands like Disaffect or Homomilitia, of aggressive Finnish hardcore, with a dash of Brazilian crossover and some Bad Influence's anarcho weirdness. It certainly bears similarities with Kaaos' excellent 2001 record, Ismit and Riistetyt's best 00's materials and although it would be far-fetched to claim that PN was transitional in that respect, it is not completely absurd either. Lyrically, the band was in the anarcho tradition with antiwar and antiracist words and a foldout poster with a slogan that made me giggle: "The system is like a fart; you can not see it but it stinks". What's not to like about a crusty anarcho-thrash punk band that still adds a fart-related joke on a poster?     

Throughout the Holocaust was released on Fight Records, which will not surprise anyone, in 1999, like PN's second and third record, and it certainly holds up with the best releases of this quality Tampere hardcore label and since no one seems to really give a damn about this kind of sound, you should be able to blag a copy for cheap.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 5): Red Flag 77 / PMT "Demolition Derby" split Ep, 1995

Before I start the new episode of my foolish series about personal memory lapses as they pertain to my record collection (potentially awkward stuff), I would like you to relax and close your eyes and follow my voice (I am aware you do not know my voice just imagine how it sounds like and if nothing comes, let's just say I sound like a wrestling announcer). Don't be so tense and try to release these flows of bad energies, these bad vibes, the ones that prevent you from liking top bands like Blyth Power and The Astronauts, you know what I mean. Now try to empty your mind and go back to the origins of the Self, of Meaning, of Life itself. Travel deep inside your roughed up psyche and unravel what you find at its core. That's right, it is a massive safety pin and it symbolizes bloody  old-school punk-rock, the class of 1977, the one that started all this nonsense. 

Since I am prone to panic attacks whenever I am being told to relax and especially when I hear the combination of the words "yoga" and "meditation", I am grateful I didn't have to reach into my inner self to see the '77 light and just had to browse through my Ep's. I am not the biggest fan of 70's punk music and while I do enjoy some of it, I tend to prefer the second wave, the one that was influenced by the original wave, basically punk-rock influenced by punk-rock. Of course, the huge success and popularity of bands like The Clash, the Pistols, The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers or X-Ray Spex implies that they have had, to this day, a lasting effect on punk music and aesthetics. In fact, '77 punk has become a punk subgenre throughout the years, a bit like UK82 but with a bigger claim to being "the original punk sound" (some people do treasure that notion to an unhealthy extent). If anything, this constant process of turning a specific, contextualized sound into an actual genre, this cementing "genre-ification", shows that we - us punks - have a very limited understanding of the diachroneity and fluidity of music. We love categories. On the other hand, it has also spawned a lot of discrete punk subgenres which, in spite of their inherent systematization and an archipelago structure, account for the diversity of punk music. And besides, I love the botanical approach that emerges from this somewhat unified fragmentation and I guess there would be no Terminal Sound Nuisance if it were not for it.

But anyway, I don't listen to many original '77 punk bands (although it is always fun to play some classics once in a while and Ulster bands are ace) and even less to the '77-styled bands that came after. With some meaningful exceptions of course, otherwise I wouldn't be sweating like a pig in front of a computer screen. I fucking love Red Flag 77. There I said it. I am still not sure how I could forget that I owned this split Ep but I think I got this one in Osaka last year during a record shopping frenzy when I blitzed a 300 yen record box. There were many casualties and it may have been one of them. Although I don't really know what records I have from them, RF77 hold a special place in my heart. Their gig in 2001 in a Parisian squat was not only insanely good but also one of my first "real" punk gigs (before that it was pretty just terrible ska-punk gigs in my sleepy suburbia) with proper punks with studs, spiky hair and shit. I was 17 and they played an absolute blinder with a cracking cover of "What's my name?". They were energetic and their brand of snotty old-school punk-rock with singalong tunes really spoke to me then and I am relieved to say upon listening to them again today, it still speaks to me now.

RF77 formed in 1990 in Ipswich, hometown of Extreme Noise Terror who were still going strong at the time. Although RF77 didn't sound in the least like crust punk or hardcore punk (on that level they were certainly oddities in the UK punk soundscape of the time), they still had Pete from ENT as a guitarist during their early years and two members of Screaming Holocaust, Malcum on the drums and Les - briefly - on the bass. Another great example of punk's porosity and incestuousness I guess. The band did their first gig - under a different name that was quite terrible - with Chaos UK, ENT and Filthkick and got to release a couple of cover songs for the 1991 Punk's not Dread compilation Lp (the punker than punk fellow on the famous cover being actually RD77's singer Rikki!). After that, they recorded a demo tape and then, in 1995, thanks to a stable lineup (something that the band never really enjoyed until then), the two songs appearing on their side of Demolition Derby, "The Martians" and "Nervous system". These numbers are perfect examples of what old-school punk-rock should sound like. They have the obnoxious snottiness, the catchy chorus, the direct energy, simple and clear guitar riffs. Of course, they are not reinventing the wheel but given the templates of the style, I cannot think of another 90's band doing it better. The genre can be pretty tricky to play and I have seen many bands trying far too hard to recreate the '77 vibe and ending up sounding (and looking...) corny and a little pathetic. RF77 have this spontaneity for them, and even though it is easy to hear that they are going for the sound of the UK Subs, Menace, The Clash or SLF, the tunes sound fresh and the band authentic. Old-school punk-rock for the punks. I can't help but hearing a Toy Dolls influence on the chorus of "The Martians" and the simple but wicked guitar lead on "Nervous system" turns a rather typical punk-rock song into a genuine hit. And of course, Rikki has got just the right voice for the style, rough but with some melodies.

I strongly recommend their first album A Short Cut to a Better World that was released in 1998 (with a vinyl version only in 2000 for some reason). As I said, it is not easy to play that overdone style well, especially on a whole album and on this one RF77 basically gave a lesson on how to make it sound both classic and fresh, snotty and catchy. A genuine 90's punk-rock classic. At a time when many bands are happy to release albums with only 8 songs, RF77 delivered 19 songs at the time and believe me when I say that, despite the relative length for a punk Lp, it never bores. I have to admit that I haven't really kept up with what the band did afterwards but I'm sure it's still quality.

On the other side of the split Ep are the mighty PMT, initials that did not stand for Pre Menstrual Tension but for Pissed Mouthy Trollops, a name that adequately summed up what the band was all about. PMT formed in Norwich in 1992 and they were and always have been despite numerous epic lineup changes an all-girl punk band. This was not so common in the UK punk scene in the 90's and although the 80's anarchopunk wave saw many girls playing in punk bands like Androids of MU, Hagar the Womb, Lost Cherrees and Rubella Ballet to name some of the most remarkable, the same could not be said a decade later. Of course, the riot grrrl movement was contemporary with PMT but it was essentially a North American phenomenon - though it spread afterwards - and its artier aspects, without mentioning its sonic proximity to the exploding US grunge rock scene, do not really fit with Norwich's female punk gang. According to the chapter devoted to the band Armed in Anger, PMT's career was an eventful, epic, drunken one with some stories that would be worthy of inclusion in a telenovela and while the band did tackle the issue of sexism in the scene (among other serious subjects), it was also very much about fun and fury (I mean, they had a song entitled "Cider slags"). The early lineup of the band recorded the Pretty Mental demo tape in 1992 and Tunes from the Womb in 1993 before Jenny P and Ella (on the sax and drums respectively) left to form another all-female garage punk band Compact Pussycat (they were replaced by Jenny D and Elaine). PMT finally released a third tape in 1994, In Tomato Sauce, before recording the two songs that would end up on the split with RF77 in 1995.

Before reading Armed with Anger I don't think I had heard of PMT before. I knew their brilliant cover of Crass, "Heart-throb of the mortuary", not an easy one to pull out, that appeared on Ruptured Ambitions' You've Heard it all Before compilation Lp, but I didn't bother checking out the band (and I never noticed their records on distro tables). So seeing that there was a whole section about them in the book was a bit of a surprise and I did get to discover a new band. I have to confess that I was also slightly upset that I did not know them before but the pleasure of the discovery exceeded the injured ego, albeit barely. Not unlike RF77, PMT had a raw old-school vibe to them although I would argue that they sounded closer to the second wave than the first one (in spite of their professed love the Subs and SLF) and even the saxophone, which would normally instantly bring to mind X-Ray Spex strongly reminded me of French anarchopunk bands like Psycho Squat or Kochise who also loved sax, a somewhat problematic instrument that I can find interesting in some punk bands but that I am usually prone to discard like all other wind instruments (since it is not too distracting in PMT's music and that I like the band, they get a free pass). Musically I suppose you could describe PMT as a punk as fuck, pissed, mouthy cross between The Expelled, Dan, Suicidal Supermarket Trolleys and the aforementioned Psycho Squat. The faster UK82 song "Ex punk" is the definite winner here with its catchy chorus and pogo-inducing beat and flow. It would not have been out of place in a Riot City sampler. "Anti fash" is a more of a mid-paced number with more prominent sax parts and unfortunately quite a lot of skips (it is a second-hand copy after all). If they were around today - and Instagram-compatible - I am sure they could be rather popular since this kind of 1-2-1-2 raw punk-rock is fairly popular. They went on to record a full Ep, Hazard!, in 1999 with a different lineup (bass player Clara left for Hackney and played in Zero Tolerance) that is better produced and more solid (although I have my own reservations about covering "I will survive") and will probably end up on Terminal Sound Nuisance one day as I certainly did not forget owning that geezer. PMT apparently reformed a few years ago since discogs lists a split with The Destructors from 2012.

Demolition Derby was released in 1995 on Weird Records, a label that was really active in the 90's and early 00's and was responsible for putting out records from the Varukers, Road Rage, Kismet HC and the superb Dogshit Sandwich (oh yes).

Now spike yer hair and polish your studs, it's time to dust off your Clash and Spex records, punk!

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 4): Discontrol / Demisor "Neanderthal Crust - the Primitive Way / End the Conception" split Ep, 1999

That is another one I completely forgot about although seeing it again, lost in the Dis section, instantly brought a childish smile to my face.

I was aware I had one or two Demisor records so was not too surprised with their presence on one side of the split Ep, but I have to say I didn't really remember how they sounded like here. When I looked at the Discontrol side, on the other hand, the name itself did not really ring any bell (they could just as well have been called Hellcontrol, Diswarning or any other clumsy assemblages of teenage Discharge worship), but accurate memories of their sound quickly came back to my rusting brain, thanks to the rather glorious title they picked for their side, Neanderthal Crust - the Primitive Way, one that I remember finding particularly enjoyable and humorous and still actually do. 

Crust is often said to be a pretty grim and dark punk subgenre, and for good reasons, since, after all, most of the songs deal with war, decay, the end of the world and a large array of gruesome injustices and depressing facts of life, so that, although you can always find numbers about obnoxious boozing and teh subsequent partying, even they will often be seen as palliative or self-destructive ("Relief" being the prime example). But still, the fun-loving element in crust cannot be denied and I think Discontrol are genuinely funny. Of course, if you are not into crust or d-beat to begin with, you will think that they suck on many levels and that there is nothing even remotely amusing to their music and their philosophy. Humour is highly cultural and relies on a web of collective references. Getting the proper cultural references involved will make a joke funny, or at least intelligible, while not getting the references means that one is not even aware that the joke refers to a particular cultural datum and, therefore, not only does the joke inevitably fall flat but it becomes deprived of its joke status by the non-initiated. Nothing is funny out of context. It's like trying to laugh with Thisclose when you have never heard Discharge. It just cannot work.

I am not completely sure of the story of this split Ep and how it landed in my collection. I have a mate who often gives me obscure and improbably rough and mean crusty grindcore records he has spare copies of (you know, that kind of friend) so that I often end up with bands I know little about. The records are usually from the late 90's and early 00's, the bands have terrible names and the covers are atrociously pixelated because at that time, and for a good few years, people apparently thought that pixels did not really matter or that no one would notice or pay attention or that even the most primitive digital imaging would age better than old-fashioned drawings or cut'n'paste. Of course, history proved that it was a very wrong and flawed way of thinking (like skacore for example), but I personally think that such overpixelated covers are unintentionally funny and almost touching (and from an archeologist perspective it makes the dating of a punk artifact easier to gauge). The Discontrol/Demisor split Ep is such a late 90's record: it looks ugly but sounds lovable. Let's start with my favourite and smile-inducing side: Discontrol from Sweden.

Pixels? What pixels?

Discontrol is the humourous band of the record. Now, trying to be funny with punk can be a very tricky endeavour, arguably now more than ever. I generally do not like "joke bands" and never got bands like that use intentionally crude, offensive humour just for the sake of "pissing people off". I suppose it is fine if you're 16 and it is your first band but quickly becomes embarrassing when you're a balding wanker in your forties. From my perspective punk and a sense of humour can match when it is done out of passion, a snotty sense of irony and as a tribute and I feel Discontrol do it well. Of course, your tummy will not be aching with laughter but if it does not get a few giggle from you then you are possibly on the wrong blog.

The band could have been nominated in the "Most Unoriginal Dis Moniker of the Year" category with a name such as Discontrol but then it was the 90's after all (there were dozens of Disbands in Sweden) and I suppose that it fits them well in the end. They were from Ockelbo, a small town north of Uppsala, and unsurprisingly played unabashed raw, fast and loud Swedish mangel that nods heavily towards the local greats from the 80's. The band was active between 1994 and 1999, a time when D-beat and dischargey hardcore was very strong and prevailed in Scandinavia, and this split was their only vinyl appearance as well as their last recording. A Discontrol tape entitled 1998-1995 and released on ALP Tapes (a small tape label responsible for the great Attack! scandicore mixtapes and a Mob 47 tribute) tells clever me that they also had some practice or demo recordings hanging about). There are not many pieces of information floating around about the band but apparently the drummer went on to play in Usurpress and Panikattack. But let's talk about the music. Discontrol were - very - heavily into Shitlickers. Not only did they cover "Leader of the fucking arseholes" on the split but they also did their best to mimic the Shitlickers' nihilistic, and aggressive lyrics, a drive which led to such amazing poetic creations as "Weak escape" ("Sick off shit so you fuck off / What a weak escape") and "Fucking arse" ("Your state of mind is fucked / Arsehole fucking arse"). As I said earlier, if you don't know Shitlickers, you will find the lyrics and the music silly and exaggeratedly negative, if not cryptically dumb. If you do, I guess you will get it and enjoy the playfulness.

Twenty years after this recording, there are far more bands doing the Shitlickers worship than there used to be. The internet made turned the band into a punk reference while I think it is safe to say they were mostly an obscure classic for hardcore diehards before. When a current band goes for that sound, it will usually rely on pedals, effects and as much pose as possible in order to re-create. Discontrol's music however was simple, direct, mean, tuneless, raw, deprived of any sonic sophistication (or originality), and somehow managed to capture the threatening simplicity and basic, vile, relentless aggression of the Shitlickers sound. I'm not saying the textures are exactly the same but the vibe is here, the simple but mean scando riffs are played like there's no tomorrow and you can tell that it was recorded fast and loud. The vocals are particularly hoarse and gruff and utterly deserve the "Neanderthal crust" tag that aptly conjures up images of primitive, rough, heavy hardcore played by soap-dodging punks, nightmarish visions that should be enough to send hardcore posers home. In spite of the title, there is technically not much crust in Discontrol - though I can imagine them loving the impact of Doom and finding Sore Throat structurally inspirational - as they were into the dirtiest and most direct form of aggressive Swedish hardcore like the aforementioned Shitlickers, Crudity, Svart Parad, Bombanfall or Anti-Bofors. 6 songs in 5 minutes. This is the most primitive, barest hardcore punk music you'll be hearing this month, I can tell you that.

On the other side are Demisor, a rather cult grindcore band from Singapore that has been going since 1987 and is still very much active to this day. I cannot pretend to be an expert in grindcore and I am not that familiar with Demisor. Fortunately, they don't fall in the modern technical grind category (a subgenre that always blasts me to sleep) or the metal grind one (who needs lengthy grindcore numbers???) and, in fact, they sound delightfully crusty on this record. The tempos are diverse and even if the songs mostly revolve around the time-approved and honourable "blast beats followed by a fast pummeling d-beat" binary structure, there are some crunchy mid-paced moments and even one gloomy melodic intro to show you that Demisor are not into monotonous grindcore. One things that works particularly well here is the polyphonic element. There is of course a prevailing growling voice but it is adequately balanced with screaming vocals and even some shouted female ones on "End the conception". The production is pretty raw but then overproduced grinding punk is not something I usually look forward to and the whole sounds very energetic and angry. I would describe the songs as lying somewhere between Disrupt and Unholy Grave which is an excellent thing. Quality crusty grindcore for sure.

Glue the grind

This split Ep was released on the short-lived Swedish label Ubble-Gubble and, in true DIY fashion, there was an unfortunate mishap as the covers were glued together so that you couldn't see what was on the inside. Well, shit happens and if anything I suppose it further adds to the charm of this humble record of genuinely raw hardcore punk music.

The official apology