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

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 3): Blind Obedience "Submit to the yoke" Ep, 1998

This is a band I consistently keep forgetting about. Whenever I browse through my Ep's and see the record, I remember I already forgot about it in the past. I don't remember the actual band and music, not at all, I remember that it is not the first time I haven't remembered them. How odd, right? Even more so since, when I do play it, I realize it is a good record, unfairly unremembered, and I grumble self-righteously about the intrinsic injustice of the situation. And then I promptly forgot again. I often pride myself to have a pretty sharp memory of bands and records - as opposed to birthdays for instance - but Blind Obedience always escapes me. Go figure. So today's post will be a bit like a memorandum.

And it will probably a pretty short one since I do not know much about BO. I think I got the Ep in the early 2010's on ebay (yes you may sneer) for very cheap along with a couple of other obscure crust Ep's that nobody seemed even remotely interested in (I think Blowhard was in the lot as well). I suppose it was a distro getting rid of innocent 90's crust records which, of course, I just had to save from their impending doom, aka the dreaded 1$ bin where punk records go to die with as much dignity as they can muster. Going out of fashion is heart-breaking, really. But anyway, I had never heard of BO before and I cannot say they have become a hot topic of conversation since. What I can tell you is that they were from the quiet town of Vetlanda (that's halfway between Malmö and Stockholm according to google map) and that Submit to the Yoke, released in 1998 apparently, was their only vinyl appearance. From what I can gather, BO was formed by some ex-members of two other short-lived bands, Lopun Alku (like the Bastards' song) and Brusjävlers, that I have never listened to although they did a split tape together in 1996. The Ep was released on Hepatit D (D for Dis?), a label that was run by a member of Greenscab (assuming it rings a bell for you) and another bloke in the mid/late 90's. Hepatit D put out a couple of sweet records in its short run, notably a DS-13 split Ep, an Antabus Ep and of course the Puke 2xEp reissue. 

Despite this shortage of information, let me tell you that BO were absolutely furious. The cover is somewhat misleading actually. It looks a lot like someone decided to copy the Extinction of Mankind and Amebix fonts and frames and chose to exaggerate their slimy, hairy, ominous aspects but did not know where to stop so that it quickly escalated into a messy outcome. I mean, you have to focus to decipher some of the words, which is never a good thing in my book (though I do find unreadable band logos to be hilarious). It's like someone put the EOM logo in the fridge, forgot about it for two weeks and now it's gotten all mouldy and a bit ridiculous and unintentionally parodic. Unless it was the band's purpose to comment upon the irrelevant redundancy of crust aesthetics by emphasizing its most clichéd traits? Who knows? Regardless, such a cover indicates to the listener that it is a slab of old-school metal crust when it is really not (should it have been? You tell me. I was slightly disappointed upon the first listen).

BO were much faster and meaner, almost harsh at times. Of course, early Disrupt, Disfear, 3-Way Cum and State of Fear come to mind, especially when the band goes the pummeling dischargy beat and the typically groovy and catchy scando riffing, but on the whole the pace is faster and more akin to super fast and hard-hitting hardcore even grindcore bands like Filthy Christians. The excellent first song with its dirgeful introduction and the way it bursts into hardcore inferno reminds me of G-Anx and given the overall frantic pace, I suppose they were a major influence. I also cannot help hearing a black metal vibe, for the extremity and venomousness of the vocals, the sort of blast beats you find in metal and the moments when dark, almost demonic, epic riffs take over. Don't get me wrong, it is still very much in the gruff Swedish crustcore camp in terms of songwriting but there are songs when you distinctly a black metal touch and the cold and thin production probably enhances the feel (maybe not unlike Summon the Crows if you know what I mean). My favourite songs, "Bitter pills", "Blind obedience" and "Submit to the yoke" are pretty much all out cavemen crust anthems though. The lyrics are pretty direct, angry and political and "War is horrendous pt 100" questions the legitimacy of using the trope of war as merely another theme to sing about when actual fightings are so far away they are almost unreal (and I dig the Sore Throat reference obviously).

Submit to the Yoke is a lovely fast crust ripper and I am curious about what the members did after Blind Obedience. Surely, they must have done other bands, right? Please enlighten me.

That's just too much.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 2): Another Oppressive System / Human Waste split Ep, 2004

I have absolutely no recollection of getting this split Ep. None. I know for sure that I did not buy it at the time it came out so, I suppose, I must have found it for cheap on a distro table recently and, out of nostalgia and perhaps inebriation, decided to bring it home. And then, of course, the next morning, I completely forgot about my grand gesture and life went on. So I was pleasantly surprised to see it when I took a peak in the boxes of records during the move. 

Paradoxically, although I didn't even recall owning the thing, I know this particular record very well as we would play it very often at a mate's place when it came out in early 2004. Since he had bought it and since I used to spend a lot of time at his place, there was no need for me to buy it as well (that seemed reasonable as we all had little money for records at that time and a very limited access to the internet, so to share listening experiences was the sensible thing to do and we could always justify it with some kind of anarcho-collectivist theory). I would just bring some records along with me and we, with some other friends, would spend the afternoon listening to crust music and talk about our future band, discussing such crucially important matters as "should we include blast beats?", "are From Ashes Rise too melodic to be claimed as an actual influence?" or "do we all agree that there will be no soloing?". We were very serious and excited about it all and not jaded like everyone is or pretends to be these days. 

But anyway, in the early 00's, Profane Existence was an important political and artistic compass for me, and I was always on the lookout for new records and new issues of the magazine. It was at about that time that the magazine changed drastically, it got thicker and more professional-looking, with a glossy cover and a compilation cd included in it. I remember it got a lot of criticism because it was obviously more expensive (and there was, horror, a barcode!) and, to be fair, I do think the content was not as political and radical as it used to be, but then PE was also a collective and I suppose the magazine reflected the stances, ambitions and prospects of the people active at that time in it and well, people and contexts do move and change too and maybe the scene itself was not as political as it used to be. I didn't dislike the new version and enjoyed reading it enough although I did find it a little too polished (I much prefer the chaotic cut'n'paste look for punk zines) but then it was meant to be better distributed, more accessible and a proper magazine about DIY political punk, a rather ambitious goal that it sadly failed to achieve. Maybe it just didn't survive the new selfie punk generation and its expectations? Maybe it was already dated and not "edgy" enough? Maybe reading a punk magazine requires more efforts and support than playing a youtube video or liking a post (and the end of MRR as a printed medium may be seen in this light as well, though I have to say was never really an MRR reader)? Was it a generational change? Is it a global epistemological change due to the absolute prevalence of social media even when it pertains to underground and supposedly subversive punk music? I remember that only 10 years ago, questions and criticisms were still being raised about the need to use sites like myspace for punk bands and there were attempts to create autonomous alternatives to corporate social media platforms (and to be fair, there still are some). Now, you would just be shouting in the wind if you formulated similar reserves and over the past few years youtube, facebook or bandcamp have become taken for granted. We (I) just got lazy and complacent. But I should cut the whining and get to the actual crust.

As I said, in the early 00's, we paid a lot of attention to Profane Existence. I was looking closely at labels like Hardcore Holocaust, Crust War, Stonehenge Records, Putrid Filth Conspiracy or Plague Bearer (I had been appointed the official nerd in my group of friends so it was my duty to watch these things closely), but it was really PE that made the link between good music and anarcho politics for us (the ace-looking dove logo almost felt like a tribal sign). None of us had heard of either Another Oppressive System nor Human Waste before though but the Ep certainly looked very crusty (it has to be said that crust covers were very formulaic then) and the limited access to punk music made a lot of bands sound a lot more exciting and better than they actually were. So let's take another good listen to this split Ep.

First, I must admit that, if the moniker "Another Oppressive System" was almost certainly a loving reference to the great old OC peacepunk band "Another Destructive System", innocent me was completely unaware of it at the time and thought that AOS was a brilliantly original name for a band. They were from Connecticut and were active between 2000 and 2005, releasing two split Ep's, with World on Welfare and the great 3-Way Cum, and one full Ep before this one. Some members of AOS also played in crust acts like Dissystema and Diallo, who then morphed into The Total End (in 2004 I think), and I guess such names inevitably carry a whiff of nostalgia for some of us. Connecticut is renowned for having produced a number of hard-hitting savage crust bands throughout the years like Deformed Conscience, Dissension, React and State of Fear, the latter being definitely the most direct influence on AOS. They played heavy, fast, furious and political US-styled cavemen crustcore with three (yes, three!) vocalists in the great tradition of Disrupt and State of Fear. The vocals sound very harsh and angry, the drums are thundering, the riffs are quite obvious - in a "I <3 scandicrust" kinda way - but work well enough and the production, raw and punchy, is just as it should be for the genre and format (I don't think it would work on a full Lp for instance). If you fancy some heavy, gruff cavemen crust with dual male/female vocals then these three songs recorded in 2002 will delight you to no end. Sadly, this particular crust exercise slowly went out of fashion in the 00's and you could argue that, musically, even AOS were already closer to being a surviving trace of the 90's anarcho/crust sound rather than a sign of what was to come, namely the so-called stenchcore revival and the neocrust trend (though the dark and melodic ending to "Desperate cry for change" is not far off with its acoustic bit). Not many bands still play that old-school style of crustcore today and it might not be a wide-spread opinion, but I miss honest, direct bands like AOS that delivered the polyphonic harcore crust savagery with a good attitude and politics. AOS might not have produced a classic record - the following split Ep with Crossing Chaos, that I bought upon its release this time, was not as powerful - like Consume did for instance and I doubt many people still listen to them, but I'd rather listen to them than to the legions of ego-driven instagram bands passing for hardcore punk that seem to pullulate these days.

On the other side are Human Waste from Östersund, a Swedish crust punk band that existed from 1998 to 2006 and must have chosen their name from that great Skitsystem song. I think I knew HW before listening to this split as I must have bought their Ett 6 Pack Folköl Antipolis compilation cd on Hardcore Holocaust in 2003. Until now, I had never really thought about the band's insane productivity in the early 00's. Mind you, between 2001 and 2004, HW recorded 6 Ep's and 5 split Ep's! I suppose the fact that the singer Joakim was also a recording engineer must have helped the band and pushed them to record a lot, but that's still impressive. I suppose they are now remembered as being Joakim's first band as he later on played in countless bands like Dödsdömd, Uncle Charles, Ambulance, Electric Funeral, Desperat and of course the very good Paranoid without mentioning he founded the excellent and of course very prolific label D-Takt & Råpunk that specializes in releasing Swedish crust and hardcore. I hadn't played HW for some years before this post so let's check them out.

As remembered, they played fast and crusty Swedish hardcore with very distinctive screaming vocals that sound a little porcine. Like marmite, you will either love or hate them I suppose. As for me, I can handle them for the length of an Ep but not much longer to be honest. The three songs on the split with AOS were recorded in 2003 and have more variations and tempo changes than the band's earlier material that was very straight-forward in the songwriting (not that there is anything wrong with that of course) and also a little monotonous. On this one, you will find some dark melodic riffing, some heavy mid-paced moments that are not unlike Wolfbrigade or Acursed and on the whole I am reminded of Kontrovers' great first Lp, probably the best example of a successful blend between the traditional, fast and furious crusty Swedish hardcore and the more complex, more layered, more progressive dark hardcore sound of the 00's. Although they sound very much "of their time" (meaning too many "dark melodic neocrust" riffs), I enjoy these three songs enough and I like how, despite the epic crust turn, they still sound furious and urgent and not like some boring and overproduced post-hardcore band.

To be fair, at the time we often only played the AOS side (sometimes several times in a row because it was jus three songs) and I think I still would. This solid and humble split Ep may sound a little dated when compared to how punk sounds and is produced today but it is a relevant artifact of the early 00's scene. In terms of visuals, it is also a blast from the past since the cover was drawn by Marald, a Dutch artist with a graphic style close to American comic books that did a lot of covers in the 90's and 00's for US anarchocrust bands like Destroy!, State of Fear, After the Bombs or Scorned. At the time, I remember growing a bit bored of his covers since they often portrayed the very same things (skulls, skeletons, bodies, war and shit) but then I think it had more to do with what the bands wanted and not Marald. Oh well. I guess it almost looks vintage now since no one does this type of comic book crust aesthetics anymore. And he could really draw great zombies.  

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 1): Abuso Sonoro "Revolte Se" Ep, 1997

Blimey, it has been a while. Almost three months in fact since I last wrote for Terminal Sound Nuisance. I know, I know, how unprofessional of me. The break was not really intentional though and it certainly hurt to imagine the blog - my child substitute - having to survive in the ruthless world of the internet on its own, in the dark, lonely, screaming for my return. I did check up on it from time to time, to reassure it that daddy had not cheated with an indie-rock or a shoe gaze blog hosted on a more fashionable, edgier platform, but deep down I just knew that it was barely enough and that it would take some time before I could get back to my optimal shape again (the one with proper digital abs) and get TSN running as smoothly as it used to.

The thing was that I moved out from my château a few weeks ago and, as you can imagine, I had little time to rave about these cultural items that we cherish so much, even though they unavoidably tend to gather a lot of dust because we have so many of them and just cannot listen to them all. The logistics of carrying a record collection to a new place were nightmarish, a back-breaking toil that proved to be the source of much stress. On a lighter note, it was also a good opportunity to rediscover the collection (and realize how bloody massive and burdensome it had become) and think about my (our?) own materialism, about our relationship with these artifacts that take up so much of our time, money, attention and space. Sometimes it feels a little paradoxical to hoard so many records, many that I don't really listen to for time reasons, while being so critical of capitalistic overconsumption and overproduction at the same time, records that, for the most part, hold a message that condemns materialism. In fact, the more boxes you carry, the more you ponder about the meaninglessness of it all, and then you find yourself about to take a life-changing decision by selling it all off, giving it all away, freeing yourself from the chains of collecting punk records and maybe become interested in yoga or some shit. 

But no, of course not, and instead you inadvertently browse through the collection while unpacking and then you stumble upon some records you completely forgot you owned, and it gets a bit Proustian, they are not bad records, you just forgot you had them, they are not "classics" but they are pretty solid, and you know what, it would make a perfect topic for a Terminal Sound Nuisance series. Right? Right???

So basically, this new series will not revolve around a stylistic theme, around an era or an area. The only common point between the coming ten Ep's (yes, ten) will be that I forgot I had them in my collection but they are still pretty good and do not deserve to sink into the gaps of our collective and selective punk memory that's getting shorter by the day (to be honest, there were others that I had forgotten about but it was  quite justified... it was more a matter of "I am amazed I didn't get rid of that one, who am I going to give it to?"). You can see it as a tribute to the records that you yourself forgot you owned, to the bands you forgot you knew. 

Let's start alphabetically and, therefore, with Abuso Sonoro. Now, let's be clear, I didn't forget about Abuso Sonoro at all, they are a classic 90's band, I like them and I distinctly remembered owning the first two Ep's, 1994's Jogo Sujo and 1995's Prisões, the latter being my favourite, as well as a split Ep with Autoritär. However, I had no idea I also had Revolte Se, which was released in 1997 and was a collection of compilation tracks that the band had contributed in their early years. I suppose AS don't really need an introduction. They were around for about 15 years (they formed in 1993 and stopped playing in the late 00's), I guess they were one of the best Brazilian hardcore punk bands of the 90's, released some great records, recorded some of the most intense and furious political hardcore of their time, with that distinctly insane Sao Paulo hardcore aggression, and contributed to build bridges between hardcore scenes in South America and the rest of the world. AS, for me, represent everything that was good, honest and idealistic about the political 90's hardcore punk scene and, at a time when current bands work so hard on their self-image, on their sonic referentiality, on their look and on their fake nihilism (or on their toothless liberal politics inherited from the academia), it feels fresh to hear a band that just unleashes the fucking fury and hits you in the jaw with blasts of ruthless and direct heavy hardcore punk.   

I suppose this kind of bands are quite unfashionable now. They are not old enough to be "vintage" or "authentic" and not new enough to still be cool. Who cares. I do prefer the early period of AS, when they had that dirty crust punk edge injected into their triumphant and groovy Sao Paulo hardcore thrash sound, although, truth be told, the first thing I heard from them had a much cleaner sound (the 2002 split Ep with Autoritär on Yellow Dog). The playing might be sloppy here and there, but the energy is so pervasive and the anger so hard-hitting in these six songs that such trifles don't matter. The production is - obviously - quite raw (I love the dirty bass sound) but I would argue that its thick primitiveness serves the music's purpose even better. The vocals are gruff and direct, with some shouted screams as backing vocals, the Brazilian way, aka very fucking pissed. It sounds like a 90's crust punk version of the mid 80's thrash punk powerhouse that were Ratos de Porão, especially on Descanse em Paz, and Olho Seco. I suppose the Ep Já Basta!!! from 1997 was the band's best "raw crust thrash" material (but everything they did between 1994 and 1997 is ace) before they turned to a more modern and polished fast hardcore sound that, if it still sounded as furious and angry (maybe even more so), I do not like quite as much. It still got them an Lp on Six Weeks though.

Revolte Se!!! was released on a Minneapolis based label, Sin Fronteras Records, that, as well as supporting local bands (like Calloused and Misery), specialized in political hardcore punk from Latino America and it is no surprise to see some crucial bands of this era like Dios Hastio, Execradores or Sick Terror in its discography. As I mentioned, the six songs on the Ep originally appeared on various compilations - but they were part of the same recording session from January, 1996 - namely No Fate Vol. 2 on HG Fact; Não Somos Tão Violentos Quanto Temem Nem Tão Pacíficos Quanto Desejam Lp on Grito Records, Pas Fier d'Être Français - Not Proud To Be French Ep alongside Seein Red and Battle of Disarm; and the grind oriented Sem Estilos Para Definir o Nosso Odio Lp. The lyrics on the Ep are of a libertarian-revolutionary nature and the band included a text to explain their political stance and why they believed in the idea and praxis of revolt. It also referred to the Chiapas uprising that AS certainly supported (as the cover suggests) and, more generally, a lot of their lyrics dealt with the living conditions, political climates and liberation struggles in South America. Strong, contextualized subversive hardcore punk with an angry, but positive attitude. Shortly after the release of Revolte Se, AS would also include Elaine on vocals to give their fast hardcore sound an angrier edge and a more feminist approach.

A great band that epitomized what political 90's hardcore/thrash was all about that can delight fans of Hiatus, Los Crudos and RDP alike.        

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 5): Kronstadt Uprising "Part of the game" Ep, 1985

To wrap up this hopefully enjoyable little series that should feed everyone's nostalgia for the coming months, let's talk about an 80's punk band that is rarely discussed among punks of the brand new age, Kronstadt Uprising. And yet, what a cracking name they picked. I mean, it may sound a little corny in 2019 but back when they went for that moniker in 1981 (they were originally, and rather enigmatically, called The Bleeding Pyles so the change was for the best), I am sure it sounded quite fresh in the punk scene and it might have enticed many teenagers to read about the actual Kronstadt uprising (me included, when I picked their cd discography in the early 00's) and dream about being a hero of the anarchist revolution or, at least, about finding as cool a name for a punk band.

I first came across KU when I bought a second-hand copy of the aforementioned cd Insurrection that Overground Records released in 2000. I had never heard of the band before but I already owned the Not so Brave Flux of Pink Indians' cd (that I incidentally got from the very same second-hand record store) and was able to identify the typically anarchopunk layout so I went for it, confident that it would be kinda similar to Flux. Of course, I was mostly wrong and a little disappointed since the KU cd could be defined as a collection of mostly rock'n'roll-sounding punk songs that sounded nothing like what a charmingly naive teenager was entitled to expect from a band marketed as "anarchopunk". I was not completely distressed though, because Insurrection still included the fantastic The Unknown Revolution Ep, released on Spiderleg (the label of Flux) in 1983 and I absolutely loved this Ep, and still do. I suppose the people who still listen to the band see that Ep as the band's defining moment, and rightly so. It is not a ground-breaking record but it certainly encapsulates the angry anarchopunk sound of the time and remains a minor classic of the genre, reminiscent of DIRT, Riot/Clone or early Conflict, with particularly raspy and pissed vocals. If you were asked to play a typical anarcho record of the period, picking The Unknown Revolution would be a relevant move, as it is neither too obscure nor too obvious and it would make you look sophisticated but not snobbish (and it just got reissued on vinyl). You basically cannot lose. Choosing their second Ep, Part of the Game, however, would not work as well and the purpose of this post is to keep you from making an insidious mistake that could cost you your reputation and the respect from your peers. Having perfect punk tastes is a constant struggle and I am glad I can help you achieve it. 

So KU were from Southend-on-Sea, in Essex (down South), like The Synix, with whom they punctually shared a few members throughout the years. Formed in 1981, they actually kept playing until 1987, although they went through a year-long hiatus and even a split and their last incarnation only included founding member and soul of the band, Steve (the drummer). The band's career is very well-documented in the booklet of the retrospective cd, in Burning Britain and even online, on the very interesting and comprehensive website about Southend Punk that you can check here (how wonderful, you won't even have to flip through actual pages), so I won't delve too much into the band's history here. 

A metaphor of the rock'n'roll circus

So why write about Part of the Game then? It sounds nothing like KU's first Ep and what modern listeners have come to associate anarchopunk with. From 1984 to their demise, the band took a decidedly rock'n'roll path that owed a lot to late 70's punk-rock and avowedly to Johnny Thunders. It is common knowledge that many early 80's punk bands tried to sound different when they reached the crucial stage of the mid/late 80's and, more often than not, it was disastrous and I don't need to name any band because that would just be a bit mean. However, I have always felt that KU's change of sound was, if not for the better, at least a very solid one. The band stuck to the DIY punk ethos of their anarchopunk roots, the songwriting was never lazy and they never went for goofy lyrics. If their new sound (and indeed, their new look) was rock'n'roll-oriented and even though some of their later songs are too much so for my own liking (we all have our limitations), there are some undeniable hits in KU's late catalogue and the two songs included on their '85 Ep, "Part of the game" and especially "The horsemen", are very strong songs. 

Backed by an energetic sound that stresses the raw aggression of the songwriting, these thick mid-paced numbers have a rather dark and gloomy vibe that make them standout from generic '77 revival punk. The vocals are tuneful of course but remain quite raucous and some bits on the drums and guitars are there to remind you that this is still a punk record. There is something threatening and almost macabre in KU's music and if the verses are quite typically rock'n'roll, the chorus have an epic and lugubrious catchiness that I find very enticing (the haunting backing chorus on "The horsemen" further emphasize that element). It sounds a bit like a blend between The Underdogs, The Damned and The Heartbreakers but recorded in a graveyard. It's not depressing by any means, but the presence of several grim reapers on the foldout cover is a good indication of the record's mood (and so is the picture of the band posing in full on rockers regalia). I suppose you could argue that Part of the Game is not far from the death-rock genre, but my expertise in this domain is too limited for me to make such a claim. The recording session also included a third song, "Live for today", that is just as good and can be found on the cd. 

Typically the kind of records that makes you want to wear shades.


Friday, 15 February 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 4): The Fits "Tears of a Nation" Ep, 1983

Last week, we saw that a band majoring in anarchopunk, No Choice, got to be released on the prime UK82 punk label, Riot City Records. Well, today will be the exact opposite, a band closely associated with the UK82 wave that had a record on a classic anarchopunk label: The Fits' Tears of a Nation released on Corpus Christi. 

It only really hit me a few years ago as I was taking a closer look at Corpus Christi's discography. For the ignoramuses among you, Corpus Christi Records was an offshoot of Crass Records, run by owner of Southern Studios, John Loder, and some members of Crass. The original idea was that, if you already had a release on Crass, you couldn't have a second one (it was one of the label's principles), but you could always go to Corpus Christi, which was the route taken by Rudimentary Peni, Lack of Knowledge, Alternative, Conflict or Omega Tribe. It also meant that you did not have to have Penny Rimbaud as a sound engineer, which gave more freedom to the recording bands (though I personally really like his work and his influence in the shaping of what has come to be known as "the typical anarchopunk sound"). Some bands on Corpus Christi, however, had never released anything on Crass Records before, which was the case for The Fits, a band that had previously been tied with labels like Beat the System!! or Rondelet Records. It is often said that there was more variety on Corpus Christi than on Crass but I tend to think that this impression has more to do with a superior flexibility and diversity in terms of production and sound (and of course, aesthetics) rather than style or songwriting strictly speaking. But I digress.

I first came across The Fits the same way I did many other second-wave UK punk bands in my teenage years: through a colossal Captain Oi discography. To be honest, I did not really like them at first and for a long time I would see this Blackpool band as a bit of an average act that had a couple of good songs but wrote too many fillers. If The Fits were a wrestler, in my mind, they would have been a mid carder like the Big Boss Man or Rick Martel (to give you some perspective, Abrasive Wheels would have definitely been Bret Hart). I think this had a lot to do with the way The Fits Punk Collection was curated. Arranging the songs in chronological order is usually the best choice you can make when dealing with such 80's punk bands since they almost always start great and then progressively turn pop-rock or New Romantic or whatever. But with The Fits, it was pretty much the other way around, since their first records were pretty bad but they eventually got better. It still meant that you had to listen to their whole first Lp before reaching the good stuff and it often proved too much for me at that age, especially since there were cd's with great songs from the beginning (I am aware it sounds a little silly but that was my listening practice back then). 

But let's talk about the band a little. Formed in Blackpool in 1979, their first Ep was the very shambolic and remarkably out-of-tune You Said we'd Never Make it. Of course, these three tracks opened the aforementioned cd compilation so it is little wonder that I was left unimpressed. I suppose it is enjoyable if you are into badly played, obnoxious snotty punk. It almost sounds experimental at times, though unintentionally. This first Ep was pretty successful and even got a repress on Beat the System Records, a Blackpool-based label that released very strong UK82 records, and although it doesn't get mentioned as often as the two mammoths Riot City and No Future, Beat the System was still responsible for putting out materials from Death Sentence, External Menace, Chaotic Youth, Uproar and One Way System (and Antisocial, but they sucked). The Fits then signed to Rondelet Records in 1981, a bigger indie label that had released records for Anti-Pasti (and later on for The Membranes, Special Duties and The Threats). Their 1982 Think for Yourself Ep was much better and showed what The Fits were actually good at, intense mid-paced punk-rock songs with loud aggressive vocals. The You're Nothing, You're Nowhere Lp recorded the same year had a very cool cover (but then The Fits often had a particular visual taste) but was pretty boring. I guess they were trying to build on the previous Ep but forgot that you actually had to write good songs for the formula to work well (for some reason the Lp got reissued in 2017 which shows once again that nostalgia is directionless). After some lineup changes (members from One Way System and the cruelly overlooked Chaotic Youth joined), The Fits recorded the convincing The Last Laugh Ep in 1982 (yes, that's three records in only one year, talk about productivity). The sound may not have been perfect but the songs were very catchy and energetic and you had some lovely hooks which showed that The Fits could actually write tuneful punk music without losing their angry vibe. I think it would not be far-fetched to claim that this Ep paved the way for the band's classic Ep, Tears of a Nation.

Not even one quid!

Generally, second-wave punk bands' defining moment could be located at their second or third records, but The Fits had to wait until their fifth one to reach that point (granted, they were so prolific in so short a time that lines became a bit blurry). After a meeting with the people from Crass (a rather funny recollection of the encounter is included in Glasper's Burning Britain), The Fits got a deal for an Ep on Corpus Christi which was recorded in June, 1983. Tears of a Nation is one of the strongest Ep's of the so-called UK82 wave and it sold well for good reasons. The Fits were at the top of their game in terms of focused songwriting and the sound is perfect, heavy, with a punky rawness, dark and powerful (it was produced by Barry Sage who also did the Test Tubes' celebrated Mating Sounds Lp). The title track was a threatening, desperate-sounding slow-paced number with rather depressive lyrics and a massive chorus that embodied the social despair of the times. Heavy stuff. "Bravado" was an angry, anthemic mid-paced song while "Breaking point" was a fast hardcore-ish one which showed that The Fits could also sound good when speeding up (the previous Ep pointed in that direction I suppose). The three songs were reminiscent of vintage One Way System (I suppose comparisons with Uproar, The Underdogs or Icons of Filth are relevant too here) in terms of boisterous intensity and gloomy songwriting, but still had The Fits' imprint. I am aware that we, collectively, have created a classifying discourse revolving around specific genres and aesthetics that comforts our modern way of looking at punk-rock. Like we need hashtags and keywords in order to comprehend music, we often try to retroactively force our analytical templates on cultural moments at the expense of relevance. What I mean is that Tears of a Nation may not fit (lol) perfectly the UK82 mould that the internet age has consecrated and it may be for the best. It is just a great record of raucous 80's punk-rock and in the end, that's all that matters. Besides, I am pretty sure that bands like No Hope for the Kids and all the other so-called "dark punk" bands around have been playing The Fits a lot (maybe even before it was cool again to be into UK82... the vicissitude of punk trends...). As for the cover, it may be The Fits' least original, with brooding pictures of the boys, looking half-way between cheesy heavy metal and mid-80's postpunk (ironically, this once corny look is more fashionable than ever... oh well). Unfortunately there is no insert, which is a bit of a shame, especially for a Corpus Christi record. 

Following this gem, The Fits released a split 12'' with Peter and the Test Tube Babies (an unlikely pairing but there you go) and two more Ep's, the rather good and melodic Action and the much less inspired Fact or Fiction. To tell you the truth, the songs included on those records were all at the end of the cd and I seldom listened as far. I do like the chorus on "Action" though. Obviously, it is not the end of The Fits' story since the band reformed and released a new cd single in 2013 and a full live album in 2015, but I haven't found the courage to listen to them yet. 


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.    


Thursday, 31 January 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 2): Undead "Violent visions" Ep, 1982

No label conjures up the UK82 wave as much as Riot City Records and No Future Records. And not just in terms of sound. To mention those labels is an evocation of a specific look, of a very short but very dense and influential time period and, in the case of Riot City, of Bristol, a town that has taken an almost biblical dimension in punk mythology. Even - and probably especially - for someone who has never visited Bristol, it immediately brings Disorder, Chaos UK, Amebix, Vice Squad, cider, glue and Riot City Records to mind. There is no exception, the punk brain just works this way, it is a scientific law. No British town has historically been tied up to punk-rock as closely as Bristol in the collective punk psyche and, in retrospect, it is difficult to gauge how objective or rational the story really is. But in the end, it doesn't really matter. After all, every subcultural group need to create their own canonical myths and the idea of a lost punk Eden (punk Bristol in the 80's here, but you can replace it with New York, Stockholm or wherever your obsessive loyalty lies) is strong, albeit not necessarily very healthy.

Like many a young punk, I was fascinated with the second wave of British punk-rock in my teenage years (it wasn't called "UK82" yet to my knowledge) and I would try to buy as many Captain Oi cd reissues as possible since they were readily available and life was very much internet-free then. More often than not, these cd's were a bit hard to swallow as they included full discographies but then it was at least comprehensive. Basic band histories were provided, rarely the lyrics, but it was difficult to get the bigger picture or the interconnections of it all and I remember not understanding why a lot of punk bands started to get a bit shit toward the end of their run (usually around '83 or '84). Still, I have kept all these cd's (out of a Proustian mindset I suppose) and apart from a couple of genuine classics, I have never felt the need to hunt for original copies. As of 2019, the vinyl format has superseded the cd (Captain Oi released very few vinyls), but the trend of reissuing second wave UK punk bands is still going strong and I am still as interested and starry-eyed as ever. Some things never change, do they?

One band's discography that Captain Oi never got around to reissue at the time was Undead's, from Bristol, which is a bit of an oddity since they released two Ep's and one full Lp and were therefore completely cd-compatible (Step-1 Music eventually did release such an object in 2007 under the very imaginative title The Riot City Years - the only years Undead ever had). For some reason, Undead seem to be largely underappreciated when they are not casually ignored, which is strange for a Bristol band that had three records on legendary Riot City. Indeed, I have often seen some of their contemporaries that weren't even half as good receive high praises. So why the discrepancy?

I suppose the name "Undead" never really helped since it is a bit corny (I am sure it already was when they formed in 1981 and the addition of a crucifix after the prefix is questionable) and there were already two bands called The Undead in the $tates at the time (one from San Francisco and the other, much more famous, with an ex-Misfits member, neither I really care about). It might not have been the most clever idea for a moniker, especially since it brings psychobilly or horror punk to mind more than spiky punk-rock, but it is not the worst idea either. Apparently, Undead did not play much outside Bristol which did not help bolster their profile amidst the dozens of bands of the time. But the great equalizer of our time (aka da internet) usually renders such very concrete, contextualized facts meaningless, so there should be as many enthusiastic fans of Undead as there are of Ultra Violent. Right? I have a feeling that lack of "punk as fuck" photo shoots at the time also plays a role in the band's status. But then, how could they have known that they were not instammagrable enough?


As I said Undead started in mid-1981 and the boys look really young on the few pictures I have seen so it is safe to say that they must have been influenced not only by the first wave, but also by the beginning of the second wave itself. The legend has it (well, I got it from Burning Britain) that they lived close to Beki's from Vice Squad who then gave their first demo (recorded in December, 1981) to Simon from Riot City (the label was also managed by Dave and Shane from Vice Squad which accounted for many of their side projects releasing records on Riot City...not always for the best). He decided to include the song "Sanctuary" on the classic Riotous Assembly compilation Lp and offered a deal to Undead which would materialize into their first Ep, It's corruption, in April, 1982. Of course that year saw the release of a tremendous amount of amazing punk records in Britain so I am not sure how it was perceived at the time (it made the Indie Charts though). It's corruption is a lovely punk-rock single with the eponymous song being a simple but really catchy number which gave a glimpse at what would be become the band's trademark, namely pounding mid-paced tribal drum beats with a dark vibe which It weren't really your typical Bristol punk style. That first record was Riot City's seventh Ep, released between The Ejected's Have you got 10p? and Abrasive Wheels' Burn'em down (two of the records that best typified the quintessential UK82 sound) which is not a bad spot at all.

Undead's second Ep, Violent visions, was released only three months after, in July. Despite the very short period of time between the two, it was a massive improvement. If It's corruption sounded a bit sloppy and raw, Violent visions was a more powerful and focused effort that kept the characteristic snotty teenage urgency of the delivery while maintaining a high level of tunefulness. A darker vibe also started to permeate the band's sound, the heavy mid-tempo tribal beats taking an almost hypnotic dimension, leading the listener into a sort of angry despair. This Ep, for its apparent simplicity, is just incredible. The chorus are remarkably catchy and roaring at the same time, uplifting and yet quite grim, and they can remain stuck in your head for days. The music has a primitive, urban feel that is authentically threatening and the vocals are brilliant, aggressive and snotty, but expressive and rather melodic in a spiky punk way. The riffs are fairly basic but work well since they rely on bleak repetitiveness (there are moody guitar leads here and there to break the monotony) and as such they convey perfectly the feeling of angry powerlessness that made the genre so potent. Violent visions can be seen as a perfect UK82 record although it was certainly darker and moodier than a lot of its contemporaries. However, it does retain that punk snottiness and singalong chorus so that it sounds both typical and atypical. Know what I mean? You shouldn't really need points of comparison but let's say that it is a near perfect blend of The Enemy, The Insane and Cult Maniax with a touch of dark punk, maybe like The Pact or Screaming Dead. The only bad thing about this Ep is the artwork. I am not sure who did it but it looks horrible and reminds me of embarrassingly cheesy heavy metal covers. This is exactly how a fantastic punk record shouldn't look like.

The best was still to come for Undead and their outstanding album The killing of reality is an unsung UK punk classic. Released on Riot City in early 1984 when the second wave already had one foot in the grave, it is one of the strongest UK82 Lp's. If the Ep format fitted the genre well, the same could not be said about the full Lp treatment. A lot of them sounded a little tedious or included forgettable fillers so that, while the wave produced many cracking Ep's, brilliant Lp's were much rarer (and actually, many bands never recorded one and many others shouldn't have). The killing of reality is a top-shelf dark UK82 punk Lp with a lot of personality and you can tell the band worked hard on their strong points and stressed the dark element of their songwriting with more martial mid-paced tribal drumming and more variety of tunes overall (they even wrote a seven minute song!). Still, it is undeniably and essentially a UK punk record back when a lot of bands were turning into mediocre postpunk/new wave parodies. This Lp got reissued by Radiation Records in 2014 so that you have got no excuse. Apparently the original version had a sticker saying "Guaranteed: no fuzz boxes" on the back cover because Bristol had more to offer indeed.

On the plus side, Undead had the decency not to reform in order to make a quick buck at some overpriced festivals.     


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Who Needs Wacky Titles Anyways!?! (part 1): Total Chaos "There are no Russians in Afghanistan" Ep, 1982

First, I have to tell you the truth. I was unable to find a decent pun to name this new series. Not a single one. I did try, really, but nothing came apart from uninspired, humourless dross. So I safely resorted to an ironically bookish reference that would make me look knowledgeable and save appearances and my reputation. But you could also say that such metafictional revelations have become cheap tricks to circumvent any potential questioning and conceal the absence of substance. But then, punk in 2019 is all about metafictions so I suppose I am just running with the postmodern pack. It is a tough business.

Anyway, let's forget about the constructedness of self-conscious writing for the moment and focus on the object: good punk records. This mini series will be about some second wave British punk bands (yes, again) whose productions sounded, looked and read a bit different from your typical record of the era. I have nothing against typical, highly contextualized punk records, on the contrary, I really enjoy archetypal productions that aptly capture the mood of a specific time and place. The Ep's I selected (the iconic 80's format) cannot be said to be groundbreaking masterpieces that changed the face of punk forever, but they display something unusual or surprising, something worth remembering for a punk trivia night. Therefore you could say that they both represented the typical sound of UK punk-rock from the early 80's (in the best way possible), and yet, were not that typical as records, for various reasons - some of which have a lot to do with modern expectations that were shaped retrospectively by our epoch's obsession with classifications. But that's just a lot of fancy words to state a simple truth: the series is about five cool British punk records from the 80's. That's more tweetable I guess.

Let's start with Total Chaos. Yes, Total bloody Chaos. Now, when a punk hears the name Total Chaos, there is a high chance he or she is going to think right away about the famous LA-based punk band, which makes sense since they have been playing since 1990 (with Rob as the sole original member), recorded three albums for Epitaph and seem to be playing at big punk festivals every summer. I don't dislike the band, I think their early demos are enjoyable in a (very) raw, noizy, Disorder-y way and even Pledge of Defiance has some good songs (however, the best thing about LA Total Chaos is that they used to tour with Resist and Exist and Media Children in their early days, something that "streetpunx" vastly ignore). As a moniker, "Total Chaos" definitely conveys the idea of fast, aggressive, distorted, punker than punk punk-rock for the true punx. But in this case, this preconception is proven wrong since the Total Chaos we're dealing with today were actually highly tuneful, and much closer to bands like Chron Gen or The Epileptics than Chaos UK or Disorder. It is probable that when the band formed in 1979, the term "Total Chaos" didn't have quite the same connotations as a few years afterwards when the so-called UK82 wave was at full speed and mentions of chaos in a name immediately conjured up images of studs, spikes and cider.

Total Chaos were from Gateshead (close to Newcastle, aka up north) and were active in the creation of The Garage, an important independent venue locally run by the Gateshead Gig Collective, who would open The Station a few years after, a legendary venue which hosted many great gigs and played a crucial role in the making of the punk scene in the area. The band recorded their first demo in early 1981, a rather rough seven-song tape which included primitive versions of songs that would end up on their first two Ep's. In 1982, they re-recorded two songs off the demo (their anthem "There are no Russians in Afghanistan" and "Primitive feeling") and a new one ("Revolution part 10") for their first vinyl output, There are no Russians in Afghanistan (this Cold War conflict really inspired punks it seems), released on their very own Slam records, although it would be repressed by Volume Records later on with a different backcover (that's the version posted here). The title track of this humble Ep, despite its minimal production, raw sound and limited musicianship, is an absolute winner with a contagious energy, snotty vocals and a catchy singalong chorus that only angry, angst-ridden teens can write properly. The song is rather basic in itself but the sense of tunes, the overall dynamics and the urgent delivery turn it into a genuine punk-rock hit, the very essence of punk. TC were a musically ambitious bunch in the sense that they did not want to sound too formulaic and were keen on trying different things, even on their first Ep. The second song has a darker, more melancholy mood and has a slower pace with an ominous postpunk guitar melody popping up. It still is fairly simple but, again, it works very well, probably because of the directness and spontaneity of the songwriting. They did not try to do, they just did. "Revolution part 10" is even more surprising since it is a drums and vocals number, which reminds me of D & V (though they actually came a little after). Fueled with political, anarcho-tinged lyrics, this song would have fitted just right on an anarchopunk compilation at the time  and it eventually landed on the 1982 Ep Papi, Queens, Reichkanzlers & Presidennti, a comp released on Attack Punk records from Italy that also included 5° Braccio and Kaaos (the label would become very successful with CCCP in the mid-80's).

Although often mentioned as a "UK82 band", TC appeared on the second volume of Bullshit Detector and had the "pay no more than" tag on their records. The boundaries between the anarchopunk scene and the so-called second wave of punk (often referred to as UK82 since the rise of the internet age) in the UK could evidently be quite porous according to your area. Whatever the box you want to force TC into, they believed in the value of creating a DIY punk scene for themselves and their lyrics were of a political variety, albeit always from a working-class perspective, with songs about media manipulation and distortions of facts (still very much relevant), the constant betrayals of political leaders, prisons, nuclear disarmament and so on. Their second Ep, Factory Man, was released the same year (1982) and showcased again the band's will to experiment, with two songs of catchy, energetic, tuneful punk-rock while the two others, much longer numbers, blended folk music, pop and Stiff Little Fingers (or something). It was the second release of Volume Records, a label which would become highly successful with another local band, The Toy Dolls. The band's final record would be the Fields & Bombs 12'' in 1983, a work that saw them experiment further with some new wave, glam and pop rock thrown in while keeping a catchy punk-rock backbone. It is not a great record, but it still makes for a good listen I guess.

The tuneful, snotty, catchy punk-rock songs that TC wrote were up there with what the second wave had the best to offer. Bands like Demob, Chron Gen, Reality or The Epileptics certainly come to mind and strangely enough there has never been a reissue of TC (yet?). Although it would be far-fetched to claim that everything they recorded was brilliant, they did pen a few unbeatable punk gems and just for that achievement, they should be properly considered. And come on, that chorus on "There are no Russians" is just punk magic and we all know it. And maybe they inspired other tune-oriented bands from the North like Reality Control, Famous Imposters or Blood Robots. I like to think so.