Saturday, 3 June 2023

Still Believing in ANOK: Avaricious "S/t" 10'', 1999

This record was the first one - or one of the first, my short-term memory is not what it used to be and beside, isn't it a social construct too? Or something? - that I picked for Still Believing in ANOK, the new award-winning series exclusively on Terminal Sound Nuisance (I'm proud to say Vice Magazine tried to recruit me but I did not sell out to "the man"). Avaricious is a band fit for this blog. They are obscure, nobody cares about them, it is a 10'' record and they have a typical delicious anarcho sound. It ticks all the right boxes. It is a well trodden path really, just another day at the office. It will allow me to deride people who listen to what I consider "hipster hardcore" while I, as the epitome of the true punk spirit, as a pontiff of good taste, as a feared trend maker that can turn cool kids into posers in the blink of a shite pun, revel in satisfaction, complacency, self-assured that I am, by essence, right. Thanks for giving me an excuse for feeling good about myself Avaricious. 

This humble but crispy record was extremely easy to find in France twenty years ago and I would not be surprised to hear that some copies are still patiently hibernating like the European edible dormouse in some forlorn distro boxes stored in a damp attic. I don't know how well distributed it was in other countries, but French punks over 35 have definitely bumped into this geezer at some point. Whether they bothered to give it a chance despite the rather underwhelming cover is another issue. Were it not for my own proverbial brilliance and the fact that it was described as "UK anarchopunk" (you can trick me into buying anything with this catchphrase), I would have probably passed on it too. This 10'' was released on Strongly Opposed, a vinyl-only label run by Pablo from Resistance Productions and Earth Citizens (covered here), and looking at the discography I realize that most of the records could easily be found, at least in Paris, in the 2000's so I am guessing the man had some reliable contacts here. To be honest, some releases on Strongly Opposed can barely be called timeless classics (but then, how many labels can claim to have only released masterpieces?) so them being condemned to a loveless life doesn't come as too surprising (for fear of getting punched, I will not mention which ones). However Neurose Urbana's primitive raw punk, Earth Citizens's peacecrust-punk and Poundaflesh's beefy UK hardcore punk are well worth investigating. 

I don't remember where and how I grabbed this one but I may have ordered it from a distro called Punk As Fuck (yes, I know, how original) that was absolutely massive at the time with a strong emphasis on anarchopunk (I remember getting Omega Tribe or The Mob cd's but also Haywire or Resist tapes from the bloke who ran it). It did take literally months before he could be arsed to send the things though. Or was it from the React distro? He also had a big list of international DIY political hardcore and grindcore so it wouldn't be completely implausible. In any case, I have had this 10'' for a long time and played it more regularly than a lot of objectively better records that just do not have as much charm. This makes one wonder about the point of a record collection. Should you keep records you like or records that are good? I own many records that I know are not exactly world class (or not exactly tuned) but that I cannot (and I won't) help enjoying a lot. Similarly, there are "timeless classics" from "legendary bands" that I have convinced myself I should own even though I can't be bothered to actually play them. Another pivotal element lies in my own relationship with some records, especially the ones I bought when I was still a yellow belt punk trainee. A young brain is prone to love unconditionally without much discernment so that I see some of my records in much the same way as I see stuffed toys I cannot bear to part with. It would be far-fetched to characterize Avaricious' as a life-defining record but still, it's almost always been there and it is a reliable and fun listen that reminds me of a time when I did not have to make room for records. 

Avaricious were located in Sheffield but was an international band as, beside two Englishmen, some Swiss and a Greek singer were also involved (this accounts for the fact that the two rather melancholy-sounding acoustic numbers, the intro and the outro, have Greek titles). Because it was released on Strongly Opposed, I suspect people from Earth Citizens or associated bands were involved in this project, especially since it was recorded in Switzerland. I have no idea if Avaricious played many gigs in Britain as the internet is almost mute about them but I am guessing they did not. I don't think many people are even aware of the band, judging from the Discogs rates this 10'' is clearly more on the "for sale" than on the "wanted" list. And it is not a perfect record, I would be the first to admit it. But it is definitely a charming one and it includes some absolute hits that could win the heart of any anarcho-loving punks. The band had that straight-forward punky songwriting and vibe, and some diversity in terms of pace (there are some glue-sniffing UK82 anthems here as well as moodier mid-paced numbers or spoken words) and I can easily imagine young scruffy punks pogoing to the songs. The music reminds me strongly of Just an Error-era DIRT, early Faction and clearly Hagar the Womb (is "Mindless consumption" some sort of tribute to the Hags?) mixed with classically spiky UK82. But one can hear that Avaricious were also inspired by Zounds, or at least one of the guitar players was, especially with the recurrent freer, poppier bits that confer a tunefulness to the songs (assuming Steve Lake had just been listening to The Expelled all day). 

I like the half-spoken half-sung female vocals but I would not go as far as claiming that they are always perfectly in tune, although the singer does a great job at sounding like a proper British punk. In fact, with its thin, "squatty" production, if you are not aware that Avaricious were from 90's, you would probably think that the recording is a lost recording from 1984 of some Bluurg-related bands. I don't think this decidedly old-school anarcho feel was as self-aware or calculated as it would be for a band nowadays - even more so considering the relative lack of popularity the genre enjoyed at that time - and that's precisely why Avaricious sound so fresh and spontaneous and even sloppy at times, just like the bands of yore. Fans of the genre will absolutely love this. On the other hand, those who don't care too much for it, will not be converted. But that could also be because these people just suck.

I am absolutely clueless as to what the members of the band did afterwards. I presume the Swiss went on to play in other bands connected to Strongly Opposed but any details is welcome. As previousl mentioned, this is an easy pick in Europe. And who doesn't like a lovely 10'' record? The same people who sucked at loving vintage anarchopunk, that's who.

Monday, 1 May 2023

Still Believing in ANOK: Capite Damnare "S/t" cd, 2008

I was a big Jurassic Park fan as a kid. Like most children, I was really into dinosaurs although I would be struggling to give an actual reason for that passion. Maybe the idea that giant extraordinary lizards once roamed the Earth sounded much more exciting than doing math homeworks I was predisposed to fail miserably or listening to my dad whining about his nemesis, Helen from accounts, being obnoxiously mean to everyone at work. What a life. So when Jurassic Park came out in 1993, it was a genuine revelation, not just because it taught me that one should bring an extra pair of underwear when watching some movies (i.e the raptor scene), but because, beside the whole dinosaur thing, it displayed the absolute wonder, the pristine awe, the purest amazement at discovering, unearthing old bones hidden in the arse end of nowhere. The archaeologists don't give damn if a little bastard tried to be funny by comparing dinos with chickens (odd that he did not end up being fed to the T-Rex), and whether the discovery is ground-breaking or banal, the excitement remains: something that makes the heart beat has been found.

The concept of such an innocent joy was one of the most potent motivations when I decided to create Terminal Sound Nuisance 11 years ago. That and the drive to become a crust influencer on Insta but, tragically, I could never get the hang of it and the few attempts at taking selfies were, to say the least, very inconclusive as my nose always looked too big and I did not want people born after 9/11 to scoff at me. That people are totally unbothered to not resemble their profile picture is a worrying sign. After all these years, I still strive to convey that sense of excitement over the punk bands that I love and to show that, whether they are consensually accepted as canonical works or just random obscure local acts, they deserve to be loved and talked about critically (isn't acriticality the major threat to culture?). The noble mission I have assigned myself today, an introduction to Capite Damnare (which translates as "condemned to death"), is arduous indeed as it proves difficult to describe objectively the overwhelming sense of marvel that I felt when I bumped into their self-titled demo in 2014 (I checked the dates). 

The first time I listened to CD, I immediately knew that I would be writing about them at some point on a special occasion. But since everyday is a good day as the poster in my mum's toilets proudly claims, why not get to it in Still Believing in ANOK? Like Enola Gay (the first band tackled in the series), including CD here is an editorial choice (significantly facilitated by the fact that I am alone at the helm and therefore fundamentally uncontradicted), as CD like the Germans were active in the late 80's at a time when the original UK anarchopunk wave was still on its last legs and crust and hardcore would soon rise in force. This said, it is difficult to gauge the influence anarchopunk had on foreign scenes and how fast it spread. The Italian punk scene in the 80's was absolutely massive and one of the strongest in the world. Traditional anarchopunk did have an influence on bands there, but the politics (the scene was very political indeed) and the aesthetics more than the music really transcribed this influence. Wretched is a case in point as they were visibly inspired by Crass and the anarcho spirit but were musically closer to Disorder and the likes. You could very well argue that a meaningful part of the Italian hardcore scene was influenced by DIY anarchopunk in terms of politics and visuals (anti-war, animal liberation, pacifism, squatting, the banners, the black clothes and so on) but that American hardcore, discharg-y bands and Bristol noise mongers far prevailed as far as music was concerned. 

As usual, there were exceptions, Bed Boys from Torino were one of the most remarkable non-British old-school anarchopunk bands of their time and the magnificent Contrazione (which we will discuss) were not far off the mark either (you could throw Rivolta Dell'Odio for the artier, goth side of the anarcho spectrum). But still, not exactly a legion of Flux fanatics. With this context in mind, CD's 1988 demo was nothing short of a miracle. Coming from Milano and Verona, information about the band itself is scarce, but judging from their thank list (I miss the ancient wisdom that those conferred and as a teen I would have given everything, including my baby brother, to appear on a cool band's thank list) CD were pretty active and connected to the then dwindling hardcore scene as they mentioned Impact, Disperazione or Infezione. The presence of Contropotere is unsurprising as there were undeniably similarities between both acts. They had a female singer at a time when there were not many girls in punk bands in Italy, they worked on the British post-anarcho sound, they had many eerie melancholy moments and heavily used pagan visuals and atmospheres.

However, while Contropotere can be rightly considered as an early crust band (though they were so difficult to categorize), CD stopped just before the crust turn. In fact, I see them as one of the very best examples of the liminal space between old-school anarchopunk and the rise of crust, between Deviated Instinct's Tip of the Iceberg and Terminal Filth Stenchcore so to speak. They were quite incredible. They had those proto-crust dirty metallic riffs but also straight-up anthemic punk moments as well as melancholy delicate anarcho parts and they managed to blend all these elements seamlessly and with a refreshing spontaneity emphasized by shouted vocals that remained tuneful and on the punky side of the spectrum instead of bearlike growls. '87 Deviated Instinct's riffing can be heard, Civilised Society? could be a good point of comparison too while The Mob and Karma Sutra are clearly invited to the party. In terms of Italian bands, beside Contropotere, Torino's Contrazione, with their inventive moody anarcho-tinged angry punk with dual male and female vocals were very close and it is not irrelevant to see CD as a "Deviated Mob" take on their sound. I cannot overstate how good this band sounds, from the thrashing anarcho anthem "Aspetti la morte" to the soft, dark number "Vivere e' stata la tua colpa" and the eight minute epic "Inseguendo un sogno" and even the dark folk a capella song "They say: it's safe", this demo is a gift from the punk gods. 

Visually, CD were also fascinating. The omnipresence of celtic frames and macabre skulls is not unlike Antisect's protocrust era (which makes sense in 1988) and clearly heralds what bands like Oi Polloi or Sedition would soon look like, but you also find a Conflict-style vegetarian/animal liberation essay. This recording should be the object of cultish devotion. I remember stumbling upon it thanks to the Kalashnikov Collective website and my disbelief quickly turned into enthrallment, then enthusiasm and finally a craze for knowledge as I scouted the internet for details. The present version of the demo is a cd reissue from 2008 on two Udine labels, Lazy.punx Autoproduzioni and Fra Il Di E Il Fa AlE Di Mieç Il Mâr Autoproduzioni. The thick booklet that comes with the cd is beautiful and I cannot recommend it enough. I am sure you can still find it for cheap.              


Capite Damnare

Saturday, 29 April 2023

Still Believing in ANOK: Counter-Attack "Laments and Skulls" Lp, 1999

Counter-Attack were amazing, extraordinary, phenomenal, unique. And Belgian. To quote the mighty Brob Tilt Tapes blog (read it here), a genuine goldmine of rare DIY punk recordings and a formidable effort at documenting and preserving our common history and stories, C-A played Crass-inspired anarchopunk "in a time when everyone was into crust". And don't get me wrong, I personally loved it when everyone was into crust and Terminal Sound Nuisance is a pathetic attempt at reconverting punks to crustianity and the utter annihilation of shoegaze. Although I tragically only caught the tail end of the 90's wave, to be understood here more as a wave than mere chronological markers, in the early 00's, people still liked crust, even in such a crust-reluctant town like Paris (a bit of a paradox when you consider how bloody filthy it is), or at least liked it enough to support the touring crust bands and not give me too much shit for having far too many patches on my black jacket (most of them progressively disappeared, not unlike my hair sadly). But in this general context, taking into consideration the overall production of the global DIY punk scene in Europe, C-A can be said to stand out, not like a sore thumb (although the personal hygiene of the participants is unclear), but rather as a band that at that point in time were quite original and worked on a sound that had almost completely vanished. 

In retrospect, this disappearance can seem very odd since crust and a certain brand of DIY political hardcore punk owed a lot to 80's anarchopunk and people love the old-school anarcho bands or claimed to, and yet very few bands tried to build on that sound. It may have to do to some extent with the idea that the early 80's sound was behind us and the drive, the craving for new things in the 90's and 00's implied that the Crass-ish sonic take (like UK82's) just did not fit in with the following decades. I have always been a massive fan of the old anarchopunk sound but, despite some significant exceptions (A//Political, Stracony, Cress, Life's a Riot! for instance), contemporary bands just did not want to play that style. Beside, the whole trend of reforming had not really kicked in yet, and apart from a couple of bands like Icons of Filth or Lost Cherrees, the dinosaurs were clearly extinct and had not come back from the grave (for the better and the worse). As a result, one really had the impression that the traditional anarchopunk completely belonged in the past. The unstoppable wave of nostalgia, fueled by social media, technology and a new relation to music, had not hit us and the thought of an Alternative-worshiping band was as incongruous as wearing sandals at a Sick of it All gig or asking a Frenchman not to smoke in a closed venue. 

With my groupe of friends in the early 00's, we definitely listened to a lot of crust, of the neo and stench varieties since those were hot at the time, and we did not mind playing screamocrust bands with singers sounding like they just fell into an industrial press at 2am. I remember getting a copy of the Masters and Jesters and it deservedly got a lot of airplay. We were young, inexperienced, some of us still spotty, and we couldn't help but think that a band doing that Conflict style of punk in 2000 was a little odd (and we loved Conflict). We all agreed that C-A were the dog's bollocks and whenever I play this album, memories of us dissecting the music while drinking the cheapest lager from the off-licence instantly rush back. We did not own that many records at the time so we often ended up playing the same ones again and again. Needless to say I know Masters and Jesters by heart.

Before Laments and Skulls C-A had released a demo tape called Demonstrate or Demolition in 1996, a recording that meaningfully hinted at what they would become. While rawer, this demo is a jewel of energetic and intense snotty anarchopunk with male and female vocals (the band's original configuration) reminiscent of DIRT and especially bands such as Symbol of Freedom or Crude & Snyde (and Toxic Waste of course from whom they liberally borrow some lyrics). Top drawer, close your eyes and you're back to Thatcher's Britain. Laments and Skulls was recorded in late 1998 and it was a monumental first effort. The work keeps that punky, dynamic and urgent production while also highlighting the many details and hooks that makes the album so compelling and memorable. This was an ambitious undertaking as C-A went for a 43 minute long Lp which by today's standards is like a rock opera (for comparison purposes Bad Breeding's Exiled Lp is 32 minute long, Dogma's Lp is 28 and Subdued's only 24). However, Laments and Skulls never sounds like the band just stuffed as many songs as possible on the record, on the contrary, you can tell that a lot of thought was given to the selection, the order, the transitions, the flow and, above all, the plot. 

The is a proper ALBUM in the sense that it sounds like a cohesive narrative whole, it tells a specific story and literally makes sense. To be honest, without this storytelling quality, it would be near impossible to pull out a 43 minute modern anarchopunk album and not lose the listener's attention (there were no smart phones to doomscroll on in 1999 though). Here is the vegan menu: delicious guitar hooks, memorable tunes, dynamic bass lines, always smart and spicy change of paces - from the fast 1-2-1-2 UK82 beat to the Crass-like tribal one -, epic Conflict-like introductions and intense spoken words, wisely used samples and psychedelic transitions, a climactic sense of songwriting, some of the snottiest punky trade-off dual vocals you will ever hear (with such brilliant British accents that you'd think you are in Hackney) and a seriousness and an honesty that go with the style and lyrical content (this is punk for the anarchist revolution, brothers and sisters). There is even an enjoyable - and fortunately short - ska part. 

What a band, what an album. Conflict is the most pregnant influence here of course. There are more than a few nods to classic Conflict and the vocal flow and tone are close to Colin's but what Laments and Skulls do with perfection is the meaning-creating synthesis of 80's anarchopunk. I can distinctly hear Flux of Pink Indians, Crass, Alternative, Stalag 17, Anthrax, Chumbawamba, some UK82 too as C-A were a rather fast band on the whole but they used mid-paced songs, dissonant moments, samples, moody or psychedelic introductions to make the speed angry. I wouldn't change anything on this album and any self-respecting anarchopunk fan should know and revere this band. 

Members of C-A also got to play in Visions of War and Katastrophobia as well as a band called Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat and I can't help thinking what my mother would say, apart from "for fuck sake", if I came to my nephew's birthday wearing a shirt of that band. As I mentioned the band went on to record the equally good Masters and Jesters released in 2000 on Nabate Records and there was a final recording entitled Culex Pipiens (I believe) with three songs displaying a mode modern heavier production. I cannot find information about this session so perhaps the band did not do anything with it. That'd be a story for another time. Don't be a dreary arseholes and get into Counter-Attack.    

This review is respectfully dedicated to drummer Ivan, who went missing in 2016. 

Laments and skulls

Sunday, 23 April 2023

Still Believing in ANOK: Firing Squad "S/t" Ep, 1993

When I came up with the selection for the present series Still Believing in ANOK I did not realize how little-known a lot of the records I picked were. Not in the sense that they are hard to find - though some of them are - but because people forgot about them or never really cared for them in the first place. Locality matters of course and some seemingly unknown bands were actually famous in their home country (like Stracony and others we'll tackle later on) but on the whole, from a global eagle-like perspective, well, they are a bit obscure but not in a good way and it can be difficult to grab people's precious volatile attention with old unloved records that have set camp in the £1 discount boxes since 2006, proof that, not only were they never deemed "all-time classics" but that they also never deserved to be crowned retroactively. I see some of the records included in this series as "minor anarchopunk classics" - a euphemism meaning I think they are brilliant but did not sell well - and others as relevant interesting artifacts of a sound and aesthetics that were no longer popular at that time. Of course, because life, like my dad's diatribes, is made of contradictions, today's record, Firing Squad's 1993 Ep cannot reasonably be said to belong to either category thus rendering this first paragraph kinda useless. 

Firing Squad are proper obscure, even to anarchopunk platinum users. In fact, they are a bit of an enigma, and, were it not for this record having been released on Mass Media Records, I suppose they would have been totally engulfed into oblivion and most elite nerds like myself wouldn't have had the pleasure the patronize a teenage punk with sentences such as "Firing Squad were pretty big in my days, at least three people knew of them back then" or "did you know there was already a 80's hardcore band from the state of Washington called Firing Squad? Oh you don't, well that's not on Tok Tube now, is it?". I wonder why there aren't more kids at punk shows... Anyway, I don't remember when I got the Ep, definitely a long time ago, but it was the connection with Mass Media that prompted the transaction. The rather cryptic cover did not help: it depicts a lion biting a medieval representation of the sun under the watchful eyes of four shades-wearing clowns (Pierrots probably), the whole thing over a tridimensional psychedelic checkered background. Why is the sun bleeding over a globe (is it supposed to be the Earth?)? Why so much symbolism? It looks like a tarot card. The backcover is as confusing: more of the same crazy background and a two-headed dragon with the sun on the left and the moon on the right. How the hell are you supposed to know it is a punk record? Thank fuck the Mass Media logo has a circled A and some doves because otherwise I would have been far too narrow-minded to even consider looking at it. 

The visual side of the Ep aside (be careful when you unfold the cover, if you do not enjoy visual illusions, have a sick bag handy), there is no indication as to where Firing Squad came from. On the insert of the No Lip Service compilation Ep, where they appeared, also released on Mass Media, their address is located in Newbury Park, Ventura County, California. In spite of a very dynamic peacepunk and crust scene at that time in Southern California - well-documented on Terminal Sound Nuisance - with bands like Resist and Exist, Autonomy or Media Children offering a sound very much influenced by old-school anarchopunk, it would make sense to endeavour that Firing Squad belonged to that part of the punk scene but they did not really, although they crossed paths. This makes them even more mysterious, especially since you could argue that they also played old-school anarchopunk, although their take was significantly different.

Firing Squad's music is original. The Ep is not a note-perfect masterclass but it has an undeniable charm that makes it quite compelling. The first song is an emotional (it was the 90's after all) and tuneful mid-paced number with an underlying moodiness and snotty angry vocals that go surprisingly well with the music. Just imagine a depressive jam between Chumbawamba and Conflict with a bit of an emocore vibe, or let's just say that Nabate would have been well into this. The other side is even more challenging as "Declare civil war" is basically a reggae song. Yes, a reggae song. Now, when I was getting into serious music - also known as my "how many patches can I fit on this black denim jacket?" phase - listening to reggae was akin to ordering tap water on a date for me: have some self-respect and run for your life and quick. But then, I grew a bit softer, stopped trying and got really into the British anarcho dub punk bands like PAIN or AOS3 and that's exactly the vibe I am getting from this song, only with a bit of flanger oddness. After a couple of minutes, it turns into a straight-up raucous punk anthem with great singalongs that would not have sounded out of place on the Resist/Deprived split Ep. 

No idea what that is

The song they contributed to the aforementioned Not Lip Service Ep was equally fresh, angry yet catchy, maybe a bit angrier too, and it goes to show that this inventive band had a great potential and possibly a genuinely classic album in them. The band used some clever sound effects on their sound and with the production being quite raw and direct, it confers a very organic spontaneous vibe to the songs which makes me go back to the Ep's atmosphere quite often. It is, as much as I hate the term, a "grower". Instead of looking at the 80's sound, it might be more relevant to see Firing Squad as a definite 90's one. A moodier weirder version of One By One, AOS3 or Civil Disobedience? A depressed prelude to A//Political? 

Just listen to the record I guess.      

That's a definite no

Firing Squad

Sunday, 16 April 2023

Still believing in ANOK: Life's a Riot! "S/t" Ep, 2001

Our flat is small. Housing is a very relative concept depending on where you live. A small flat on the outskirts of Paris is not the same as a small flat in Berlin, Dublin or Acapulco (I can only assume, I have never set foot there). When I started Terminal Sound Nuisance in 2012 I lived in a 9m2 room - the word "flat" sounds a bit like a hyperbole in that case - with a shared "bathroom" - a bathless room, in the broad sense of the term - in the corridor. Once, I found actual shit on the bog's wall, not the most pleasant discovery on a Monday morning especially since I was pretty certain it was not mine. I have always suspected it was the girl's next door, she looked very tidy and wore far too much perfume but I could sense she despised me a great deal, probably because there were times when I blasted Atrocious Madness a bit late at night. But like the size of flats, late Atrocious Madness is relative. Then I miraculously got a full-time job which allowed me to move to a palace-size flat of 11m2. I still did not have my own bathroom and there was clearly fart maniacs using the thing too but I never found any shit on the walls. I did uncover a filthy pair of knickers though. And a proper bum sleeping in the shower. The poor bastard was cold and I just did not have the heart to kick him out. To be fair, while he was at it, he could have actually used the shower because his feet stank like a dead hamster. 

A few years later, finally, my partner and I moved to a staggering 22m2 flat with our own bathroom (to this day I still like a bourgeois for just being able to take a dump without having a knobhead waiting and sighing loudly in front of the cubicle while playing Candy Crush on his phone, pure evil that). But I am not here to talk about my dull housing adventures. I am just running out of space for new records. I am well aware that it is basically a first-world problem but still, it means that I have to get rid of records I don't need (but how do you even define this notion?) or just don't listen to (again, does listening to a single-sided once four years ago counts as "not listen to"?). And I have to admit that Life's a Riot!'s Ep usually ends up in the "records-I-will-probably-store-in-our-tiny-and-already-packed-basement-but-still-might-play-once-before-just-to-make-sure" and each time I play it again, I realize how good it is and blame myself for even considering banishing it to that dreadful spider-infested place. I still have to make room and it breaks my heart so that I end up buying new records just to feel better about the loss. First-world problem, I told you. Did I mention I also own an offshore record collection?

The story behind the acquisition is both sad and heroic in that it makes me look like a saviour of unloved punk. Ages ago, a friend of mine was getting rid of some Ep's he no longer wanted (records he had himself been given if I remember correctly) and being a kind-hearted charitable fellow, I agreed to take the records under my wing. I think we can safely say that I am Paris punk's answer to Gandhi, the main difference being that I still have (some) hair. The internet is rather quiet about them but here is what I have been able to gather. Life's a Riot! (a reference to Billy Bragg I presume?) were a Finnish band active in the early 00's and I think it might have been some sort of side project from the people from Diaspora (Joakim, Mari and Jossu also played in that band). In any case it was made up of people involved in many local bands ranging from Alakulttuurin Kusipäät, Pax Americana, Scumbrigade (Joakim was from Sweden) and even Tampere SS and Kuolleet Kukat (for the drummer Juha who sadly passed away in 2004) which accounts for the band clearly knowing what they are doing.

But what exactly were they doing then? Helsinki's Life's a Riot played energetic anarchopunk with male and female vocals blending the classic UK sound of bands like Alternative, Hagar the Womb or The Sears, the more modern approach of Harum-Scarum, Mankind? or Jobbykrust and I can also hear a touch of Californian peacepunk like early Resist and Exist or Media Children. The opening number is a case in point with its Zounds-like introduction followed by overlapping vocals (anarcho spoken words over angrily shouted slogan) and then a fast and pissed phase. I love how the vocal polyphony and variety of flows and textures work within the songs, it never sounds forced (even the accents sound pretty British) and it confers a delicious catchiness that really makes the Ep stand out. It is, objectively, a strong record so that it feels very odd to see the ridiculously low price of the Ep on discogs. I realize the belief that discogs reflects the quality of a record is about as delusional as believing you could become a Tik Tok influencer while you're already 43. If anything, discogs reflects the popularity of a record at a given time which does not equate the substantial quality (although it can) and in this light it is needless to point out that Life's a Riot! can be said to have been almost completely forgotten and that their tuneful, dynamic brand of old-school anarchopunk did not really fit with the punk's trends of the early 00's. Rejoice, you can get the thing for the price of a bag of crisps (and not even the fancy organic middle-class brand, just the regular one you can eat remorselessly at 1am after the gig). 

Had Life's a Riot! been around later they would have probably been a popular band - maybe playing K-Town and being offered records on fashionable labels - as there was a renewed interest in the old-school anarchopunk sound (which must be seen in parallel with the UK82 revival I reckon) from the late 00's on, possibly caused and encouraged by Ian Glasper's work, the Overground anarcho compilations and the works of labels like Demo Tapes. 00's bands like Surrender or OK? and 2010's ones like Vivid Sekt, Dogma or fellow Finns 1981, in their early days, are not dissimilar to what Life's a Riot! were doing (the same could be said about Stracony, which we tackled last time). 

The Ep's cover displays the old picture of a dog wearing a gas mask (it was quite the thing during WWI) but I have always thought it looked like a chameleon or some kind of weird lizards. The record has a foldout cover and the lyrics are about the grey zone, Big Brother and Buenaventura Durrutti. It was released on Witchhunt Records - the band's own label that put out records from Diaspora, Mushroom Attack or Unkind - and Les Nains Aussi, a label from Grenoble, that cryptically translates as "dwarves too", that must be saluted for still being very much active.

Don't be a poser and grab the Ep, yeah?

Life's a Riot!    

Wednesday, 5 April 2023

Still believing in ANOK: Stracony "Love and friendship" Ep, 1998 (?)

Sometimes I feel the 90's often get a bad name unfairly, and I do not just mean the old age with adult diapers and Alzheimer, but also the decade's musical production. Being a man prone to right wrongs, even when I have actually been proven wrong, Terminal Sound Nuisance has often been a safe space for 90's punk records that are ignored or discarded to the £2 record bin, the pits of Hell for a record. This common dismissal of an objectively very rich decade is somewhat curious and maybe revealing of our modern mood. I am the first to admit that some 90's bands (it was also, after all, the explosion of emocore) did manage to seek new heights of musical atrocities, no mean feat considering the 80's birthed the New Romantics trend. Of course, the 80's always get a free pass, even the shite music recorded during this decade (cough cough Grave New World) can now be ironically enjoyed but the 90's are judged harshly. Perhaps the period needs its Stranger Things to be appealing again? 

90's punk was an intensely creative period and literally dozens of subgenres solidified meaningfully or popped up during that time period. A lot of the DIY network we still deal with today was originally built in the 90's and taken care of afterwards. The decade was also the last days of pre-internet punk - what I love to refer as the Prelapsarian Era - and by the mid-00's the unstoppable march of social media on our listening and creative practices began for real, like an epic hog taking a dump on your mum's favourite flower bed. Absolute 80's worship was not as common and generic yet (except for Discharge worship obviously), and a lot of bands claimed that they wanted to do something new, which was perhaps a little paradoxical when one considers the amount of similar-sounding eurocrust or Swedish d-beat bands, but then you did have some genuinely free punk music. Nothing should be idealized but nothing should be overlooked. The 90's remain too undocumented or unloved and this series, like many before, is also about showing some appreciation to bands that toyed with the original anarcho sounds and took it into a new decade 

Enter Stracony from Kołobrzeg on the Baltic sea, one of the best bands that took a classic 80's UK anarcho variation and used it to create their own sound. If you are a cynical, perpetually angry bastard, you could say that the band suffered from the Portland Syndrome, a condition that implied that if you were from a cool punk city (usually from the U$ of A or Japan) you would get much more acknowledgement than if you happen to be from the arse-end of the world (aka a poor country), even if you played exactly the same music. Nothing to do with Portland per se but at the time I brilliantly synthesized this theorem, Portland was all the shit and anything coming out of there was applauded. It can easily be replaced with New York, London or Paris nowadays - assuming your sole musical ambition is to play a Fred Perry fashion show - and the place can be a record label too. But then, some 25 years later, what does it matter? Punk has always been made up of trends, fashions and is ruled by the cult of hype and instant fame like all aspects of cultural life. One just has to be curious and keep in mind that punk is an international movement and not just a showcase for egos and if people want to miss good music because it does not come from the right place, so be it. 

Stracony were quite popular in Poland and the distribution of their Uważajcie - Bomby Wiszą Nad Waszymi Głowami album was good since it was released on Tribal War Records in 2000, the label being based in Portland at the time (lol I know right!). The Tribal War connection definitely made me buy the album. I was closely following the label's production and always loved the releases, and still do for the most part, and the striking cover left little doubt as to the band's sonic stance and politics. It was also a time when I realized the international quality of the punk scene and completely embraced it. Polish punk was massive and it made sense to give it a go for that reason as well. To this day, I still believe that this work is one of the best anarcho albums of the 90's and an unsung classic, like most old-school anarchopunk records of this era (with some exceptions which we will see).


Fun fact: the first time I met my future wife in 2017, we actually talked about Stracony. Her being Polish and very knowledgeable about the scene, we started chatting up about Polish punk bands and I did my best to impress her with my astounding expertise. Little did I realize that my appalling pronunciation led to some misunderstanding and at times she stared at me like I was just making up bands with strange names. One of the bands I could not pronounce the name of properly was Stracony (the gold medal in my terrifying attempts went to Insekty Na Jajach). Later on, after I described the Lp's cover, she finally understood my mumbo jumbo, and confirmed that the band was very popular and pretty much a classic. Ironically "stracony" means "lost". You cannot make that up. 

But let's get back to the record. I found the Love and friendship Ep in the ¥300 record bin at the Punk and Destroy record store in Osaka (it was originally the record's actual price). It might seem like an odd location to find a Polish anarchopunk record but the Ep was released on Peace Punk Records, a short-lived Japanese label from Tokyo that released materials from Social Genocide, Dios Hastio and Peaceful Protest (could there be a connection?), so the presence of Stracony was not extraordinary. The production on the Ep is much rawer than on the very clean-sounding latter album and it confers to the songs a very old-school youthful vibe, so that if you don't know the band you could very well believe the year was 1985. The influences are quite obvious early Chumbawamba (especially in the changes of danceable beats and the versatility) and Alternative (in the positive punk energy) immediately comes to mind. Crass is not completely out of the picture but in terms of comparison Stracony would be a dynamic, spontaneous and a shambolic teenage take on this music monument, which, from my perspective, is a massive compliment. I just love the impetuous genuine energy of the music, of the snotty angry male/female vocals and the catchy hooks in the songwriting (yes, even the reggae part) are irresistible. It just sounds fresh and unself-conscious. You can sense the band just believed in what they were doing and you cannot fake that. No recording date is included but the six songs of the Ep actually appeared previously on a tape entitled Nowy System and released in 1997 on Qrva Sistema, a prolific tape label in the 90's. There is no release date either for Love and friendship but my best guess would be 1998 but correct me if I am wrong. 

At that point in their "career", Stracony were sonically not far at all from another Polish band that also worked on that Chumba-meets-Crass-Records sound called Kanada. This band's run was short (from 1989 to 1991 I think) and they were apparently not very well-known so that it would be difficult to assess that Stracony had been in some way influenced or inspired by an older band with a similar music (old-school UK anarchopunk with mixed vocals in Polish, a bit moodier maybe), but whatever the answer is, the fact is rather fascinating. The last number of the Ep is an instrumental with some trumpets, an instrument that I generally avoid at all costs in punk music but actually works (it would be used a lot more on the Lp) and, well, Armia and their horns were also brilliant so maybe Polish punks are just good at arsing around with them. The Ep comes in a DIY foldout cover with the lyrics about religion, revolutionary violence, the traditional Polish family or NATO being translated into English and Japanese.

This is a little jewel of sincere and bouncy old-school anarchopunk and should be a part of any decent collection if you are into that sound.    

Love and friendship                 

Wednesday, 29 March 2023

Still believing in ANOK: Enola Gay "Censored Bodies - Human Fission" Ep, 1990

Fuck me, it has been a while. Just sitting on my arse thinking about Terminal Sound Nuisance right now makes me feel like I have just come back from long holidays and I have to go back to work, except work in this case is actually pleasant and something I like to think I am pretty decent at. I know I have been threatening to be more concise in the past without ever actually shutting up but things have changed. Just to be serious for a second, I have a new job (gasp) that I have to adjust to - and not just by groveling with servility whenever I meet my boss - so that a lack of time is not completely unimaginable. Ideally, I should try to be more straight-forward or, as my mum used to tell me when I was a teenager, just cut the crap. Either this or I won't do the blog as often as I used to which sounds just sad. Tough shit. Does it mean that I am not looking for anything serious right now? Does it fuck. If anything, writing shorter writeups - or "grandiose articles" as my numerous fans like to call them - means that they will be packed with action and almost devoid of transitions with little to no time to reflect on anything, not unlike a Marvel movie with Deviated Instinct replacing Captain America and shoegaze replacing whoever the new vilain is. 

So... Still believing in ANOK is a series that I have designed, with my proverbial craft, to take a breather from the endless crust series I previously embarked upon. Don't get me wrong, I love crust to death but right now I'd rather run away to Colorado to become a Tantric nail artist or open a vape shop in Slough than write about how great Nightfeeder (and they are great indeed). So I'm definitely pulling a sickie on crust music for a couple of months. What will Still believing in ANOK be about beside sounding like a poor attempt at reconciling The Exploited and Crass in one unspectacular pun? Well, I picked about a dozen works recorded and/or released between 1987 and 2001 - a period that could be broadly described as "pre-internet" because the digital revolution was yet to come and had not yet had the formidable impact it would soon have on punk as a whole. And the recordings I chose all built on the so-called traditional anarcho sound of the original wave. Of course, the 90's were replete with politically-motivated anarchopunk bands all around the world, but in this series I will be focusing on the bands that did not go full on hardcore or crust or thrashcore or whatevercore but kept that distinctive old-school edge and flew with it. Basically, form (genre in this case) will prevail over content and concept (the politics and the DIY spirit). So yeah, expect a lot of Conflict worship.

Exhaustivity, like perfect shaped abs, is a chimera. Still, the focus will be international and, as much as possible, the bands tackled will aptly and meaningfully reflect the whole range of the foundational anarcho sound, or rather sounds indeed as there was a lot of variety originally. Even though we have come to identify a specific, if rather wide-spread at the time, take (let's say Flux meets The System and The Mob for example) as "the classic anarchopunk sound" and even though there was such a thing as generic, average anarchopunk bands in 1983, there was still variety enough, from Poison Girls to Antisect, Zounds to Stalag 17. One of my goals will be to highlight that this variety in speed, songwriting, influences, tones and so on did survive, even though, of course, there was such a thing as "the classic 90's anarcho sound" that was different and very common and epitomised by bands like Aus-Rotten for example. Bloody cycles. There will be some obvious choices and hopefully some bands you will have never heard of. There will be tunes, there will be anger, there will be passion, there will be some inept pieces of songwriting, strange solos, anarchoer-than-thou lyrics, Crasser-than-thou artwork and fake English accents.  

Let's start with a band from Germany. We don't often do classic punk from Germany on Terminal Sound Nuisance, not just because the country perversely birthed the notion that it is fine to have a mullet, a mustache and listen to heavy metal, but because I have never been a massive fan of deutschpunk. Yes Chaos Z, Vorkriegsphase or L'Attentat were great but I was always under the impression that 80's German punk-rock sounded a bit distasteful, not as much as French punk-rock - few countries can boast bands as embarrassing as ours - but still not generating enough enthusiasm. A bit like second-hand sweatpants. Just not that exciting. Enola Gay were clearly not your typical 1-2-1-2 drunken mowing that young punks like to pogo to. Information about Enola Gay are scarce to say the least. In fact, amazingly, only three songs of their 1986 Lp White Control Means Bloody Murder are on youtube, a failing that is the modern equivalent of barely getting a fiver after busking on a rainy wednesday afternoon. 

The band was from Hannover and openly borrowed from the anarchopunk and peacepunk aesthetics, the Lp focusing a lot on the anti-Apartheid struggle, but google is unusually quiet about this lot. Sonically, although it would not be entirely true to qualify the album as a typical anarcho recording - there are hints of European hardcore punk - the spoken words, some of the moodier bits and songs are certainly reminiscent of Anti-System, Civilised Society or Conflict. This heavily UK-oriented sound could also be found in another 80's German band called Anti Heroes from Oberhausen (they were more of a mid-paced affair though) who had a song on a compilation called The ALF is watching and there's no place to hide... where you could also find Naturecore, Oi Polloi or Chumba. But, where Anti Heroes were just enjoyable, Enola Gay were arguably a very good band, a great one even when you consider their Ep Censored Bodies - Human Fission.

Recorded in 1987 only one year after the release of the album, but released in 1990 when Enola Gay were no more, the Ep would totally fit in the "classic records that no one knows" category, which I'm aware is something of an oxymoron since a record becomes a classic through the acclaim of a significant portion, and not just three nerds who are still constantly connected to soulseek in 2023. Maybe the band shot itself in the foot by taking a name that I suppose would have already been taken by the Danish Enola Gay, a band that is undeniably much better-known now than their German counterparts, although it is difficult to assess their popularity "back in the days" outside of Denmark. Our Enola Gay did appear on a tape released as early as 1984 that included live recordings of bands that played the Ajz venue in Bielefeld (you also have established bands like Neurotic Arseholes, Upright Citizens and even Wretched) so timing may not have been of the essence. There have been quite a few Enola Gays afterwards too so that homonymy may also have impaired the band's status, even more so with France's best 90's crust band having the same name. As a result, these German peace punks have remained a footnote, a cruel fate when one considers that many would be into their sound.

In any case, you can thank me whole-heartedly because if you are a fan of 80's anarchopunk then Hannover's Enola Gay are for you. With such a piece of knowledge, I guarantee you will be able to quizz and surpass rivals in order to ascertain your total domination over the local punk scene. Sure, the band was a little late to the 80's anarcho party but close your eyes, play the record, listen to the songwriting, the lyrics and you will have the impression, no the absolute certainty, that you have just unearthed an unreleased Mortarhate record from 1985. On this recording session, Enola Gay also have a female singer thus further reinforcing that classic UK anarcho touch. The first number, a feminist song, is reminiscent of The Sears and Civilised Society? while the next songs lovingly point in the direction of early Anti-System and Conflict for the first one and Icons of Filth and, well, Conflict again for the second (unsurprisingly the infamous Londoners were a major influence at the time). The last one, my favourite, is a deliciously fast and anthemic punk number with dual vocals not unlike Iconoclast and Potential Threat covering Toxic Waste's songs. Energetic punk at its very best. If this had been released in 1984 on Spiderleg or Mortarhate, we'd all be wearing Enola Gay shirts today, and by "all" I mean the same three nerds that are constantly connected on soulseek. 

I am absolutely clueless about what the members became afterwards and to be honest, I don't really remember how I initially came across Enola Gay (through a blog I assume but I have not been able to track it). Censore Bodies - Human Fission was released on Enola Records (the band's own entity) and Double A Records (a label that was also responsible for Stengte Dorer, Sons of Sadism or the Attack is Now Suicide Lp). This Ep does not go for obscene prices on discogs so if you bump into it, you know what to do. 

Enola Gay