Friday, 8 February 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 3): No Choice "Sadist dream" Ep, 1983

Last time, I tackled a sadly overlooked record released on Riot City Records in 1982. Today's post will be something else entirely since we will be dealing with a sadly overlooked record released on Riot City Records in 1983. You see, that is exactly where the strength of Terminal Sound Nuisance lies: variety and constant reinvention. 

Undead's Violent Visions was Bristol label's Riot 15 while No Choice's Sadist Dream was Riot 20 and if not much time had passed between both releases, the years 1982 and 1983 were so prolific for Riot City (and many other punk labels at the time) that it is no wonder that records that did not sound exactly like the fashion of the day could have gone relatively unnoticed. As we have seen, Undead were both typical and yet quite original with their darker, gloomier take on the UK82 blueprint, No Choice however were unlike anything Riot City had released at that point and it stands as a bit of an anomaly - albeit a brilliant one - in the label's full catalogue, much more so than the label's subsequent Ep, Emergency's very Buzzcocks-influenced Points of View. No Choice, in terms of sound and lyrics, were basically an anarchopunk band (Ian Glasper was right to include them in The Day the Country Died), and you could definitely picture Sadist Dream being released on Bluurg or Spiderleg at the time. But punk-rock is full of little surprises and things are not always as clear-cut as we imagined them to be, especially from a point of view distorted by 35 years of storytelling and mythification regarding the collective fantasy that the 1980's have turned into.

But back to No Choice, a band unlucky enough to hail from Wales. Now, I have nothing against Welsh punk-rock, on the contrary, but you have to admit that many amazing 80's punk bands from Wales unfairly remain largely ignored, like Shrapnel, Soldier Dolls, Symbol of Freedom or indeed No Choice themselves. Therefore I cannot recommend Antisociety's grand 2012 compilation Bullsheep Detector (Wales is supposed to have a lot of sheep and the Google search "Wales sheep to human ratio" is apparently widespread) which offers a great and thoroughly enjoyable overview of early 80's Welsh punk music including a classic No Choice number. The band formed in Cardiff in 1982 and settled for the "No Choice" moniker in order to reflect the pervasive feeling of powerlessness inherent in the working-class life of teenagers during Thatcher's rule and the need to do something about it. I have never been a fan of band names starting with a "No" because they always remind of jumpy U$ hardcore from the 90's for some reason. To be fair, No Choice could not be further from 80's hardcore though. 

Their first demo was recorded in 1982. It was a collection of 13 songs which, despite a very raw, trebly sound and some really sloppy bits (to play in time or in tune was not always a priority), showcased what No Choice really excelled at: crafting tuneful anthemic punk songs with a strong Beat vibe. I would be lying if I claimed that this first demo was flawless. However, songs like "Wotswar", "Hard life", "Sale on" or "YOP" are instant winners blending the poppy, melancholy side of anarchopunk with gritty singalong punk-rock. A bit like a lo-fi jam between Zounds, Omega Tribe, Demob, Menace and Passion Killers. Though by no means a ground-breaking recording, it sounds very promising and fresh and after a gig with Chaos UK in Cardiff (they also got to play with local anarcho heroes Icons of Filth, Conflict and Omega Tribe), Chaos took a copy of the demo to Simon from Riot City who then offered No Choice a deal for an Ep which Sadist Dream would materialize.  

Sadist Dream is certainly not your average Riot City Ep and the cover, a mushroom cloud with the shadows of a mother and her child in the foreground (the latter weirdly resembling the creature in the movie E.T.), was already a clue that No Choice's pacifist imagery and politics were closer to those of Crass than Vice Squad's. And indeed, I can imagine how baffled some of the listeners must have been when playing the A-side of the Ep: it is an almost five minute long pensive spoken word piece - done by the band's second singer Cid - about war with melancholy melodies in the background. If I am a sucker for such anarcho cheese and therefore gladly enjoy it, one has to admit that it had much to do with Flux of Pink Indians' praxis and had no antecedent in what Riot City would usually put out. The two songs on the B-side are fantastic slices of anthemic melodic political punk-rock. "Nuclear disaster" starts out deceptively with a slow eerie, Zounds-like introduction before exploding into an intense bass-driven punk number with a dark, hypnotic guitar tune and very passionate vocals about the - then - impending threat of nuclear annihilation (not unlike Kulturkampf I guess). The second song, "Cream of the crop", is a massive working-class (and proud) hymn with a crispy Beat vibe and a chorus of the catchiest order, a bit like a mix between Demob and the Upstarts or something. On the whole, the production is still quite raw, with an organic sound that confers warmth and authenticity to the songs and even though there are a couple of sloppy bits here and there, the energy and the ambition to play non-generic catchy punk-rock are remarkable. I love Sadist Dream and I apologize for the skips on the rip but I have played that fucker a lot. 

Following the Ep, the band split up (of course they would) but reformed shortly after with a new drummer. This lineup recorded the magnificent Question Time? demo in 1984, a six song effort that was, by far, their most powerful in terms of sound and saw No Choice at the peak of their songwriting ability as they blended seamlessly catchy melodic poppy tunes and anthemic working-class punk-rock with sensible political lyrics from the heart. If you like your anarchopunk with grit and tunes, it just doesn't get much better than this demo (that no one thought of reissuing it on vinyl yet is unexplainable although Grand Theft Audio released a cd that compiled the band's 80's recordings in 2001) and four songs from it got included on two Rot Records compilations (the Have a Rotten Christmas ones). 

This was not the end of the No Choice story however. Along with Tim from Icons of Filth, three members of No Choice formed SAND in the 90's before reforming No Choice in 2001 for good. The band didn't try to live on their past and wrote a new songs with a different sound, though they did not give up on tunefulness, quite close to UK melodic hardcore like Leatherface, HDQ or Snuff. Their 2003 album on Newest Industry Records, Dry River Fishing, is very good if you are into that sound. I got to see them in 2013 and they were energetic and only played songs from their 00's albums which was both a bit of a disappointment since I wanted to sing along to "Cream of the crop" and also a sign that they did not want to be just an old reformed band from the 80's. Truly punk this lot.    


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