Thursday 28 June 2012

Arrogance demo 1987

Back with another 75p demo tape from an old anarchopunk band called Arrogance. Now that's a good name for a band and I'm surprised it hasn't been picked again since. I don't know much about that English lot though... They were from a small town near Gloucester and judging from the ad for Apostles Lp's in the tape, it is safe to assume the bands were somewhat related. In fact, Arrogance reminds me quite a bit of Statement, an excellent band who shared an Ep and an Lp with the Apostles (edit: and indeed, it is mentioned in Armed With Anger that the bloke behind Statement also played in Arrogance. I am a genius, I know).

The lyrics are unofrtunately not included with the tape but from what I can gather Arrogance sang about your average anarcho issue: religion manipulating people (you got to love the "Bloodshed from bullshit" slogan), nuclear weapons, the rich ("Another fat rich man"), the system being unfair, animal rights and so on. The sound quality is not exactly the clearest but you can still hear every instrument and it's not a chaotic mess (well, it's still punk-rock). As aforementioned, Statement is a relevant comparison (a couple of guitar leads do point to them), there's definitely some Conflict as well and the singer's voice is sounds angry and threatening while keeping the necessary level of snottiness (not unlike Anti-System's vocals on "No laughing matter"). The distorted guitar is not really loud or heavy as the songs are driven by the bass. Overall, it is quite fast apart from a couple of Exit-Stance-ish mid-tempo numbers.

As you will be able to see, the artwork is made up of rather cheesy drawings but I suppose that's what makes them so good. The intro of the tape, a spoken-word piece, has actually been reprinted in the booklet and is a call for unity among anarchopunks. I am not sure who they were refering to, but apparently there were pretty big quarrells between punk factions, one of whom had even printed stickers criticizing the other one (now that does sound like a Conflict story, doesn't it?). Arrogance asked for the bickering to stop and for more meaningful and productive actions, which is all very honorable but slightly useless when one keeps in mind punks' love for rumours.

On the whole if you are looking for mean and angry, even dark at times, English anarchopunk, Arrogance might very well be your catch of the week. And to quote them "END THIS FARCE, BECOME A FORCE". Priceless.

Friday 22 June 2012

The Next World - Branded Ep 1988

Have you had enough of the noisier side of punk-rock? Well, I certainly haven't but for a change let's have a post-punk record today. I suppose it is somewhat amusing that post-punk, or goth-punk, or whatever MRR wants to call it this month, is now quite trendy. Just take a look at current bands like Belgrado, Spectres, Moral Hex, Horror Vacui or Lost Tribe. So I think the time is right to offer you a proper post-punk band from the grim Britain of the 1980's (also known as the Thatcher years).

The British anarchopunk world has produced marvelous pieces of dark post-punk throughout the years. I'm thinking about Internal Autonomy, Terminus, Lack of Knowledge, Awake Mankind, Political Asylum and even The Mob or Poison Girls (it has to be said that anarchopunk was a very flexible and comprehensive term at the time that encompassed all styles of music, from the Astronauts to Legion of Parasites). Like many unfortunate others, the Next World have fallen into obscurity and it's a shame because this Ep is really good.

The Next World were from Kettering, East England. Their contact address in Bradford, seems to suggest that they were also close to the mighty 1in12 club. TNW were a two-piece with a drum machine, and they played dark anarchist goth-punk. Now, when I say dark I don't mean "I'm-dressing-like-a-19th century-dandy-and-I'm-a-decadent-wanker-who-likes-drawing-spiders-and-reading-romantic-poetry kind of dark". TNW's dark music came from the gloomy, hard and rough social reality they lived in as their lyrics testify. Don't be fooled by the tuneful melancholy side of the music, TNW were an angry bunch. The first song, "Branded", deals with the idealized and oppressive beauty standards imposed on women (the artwork and short extracts taken from women magazines reflect this theme). The second song is called "Public order" and it is the core of the record.

The song deals with the police and the Public Order Act that was passed in 1986 by Thatchula. Basically, this act gave the police a whole new set of powers in order to control the population and especially to break any mass-actions from the working-class. One has to remember that the huge miner strikes had only just ended and that during those strikes the police had been incredibly brutal, breaking into any homes in miners' villages, beating up elders and kids, tapping phones, opening mails and so on. In fact, whole sections of the mining regions were completely curfewed and cut from the rest of the country while the police, who often vastly outnumbered the miners, did their dirty job. I remember reading an account of the strikes from Belfast anarchists that said that the tactics used by the British police during the strikes were pretty much the same as those used in Northern Ireland. One has to love Thatcher claiming afterwards that, really "the police have been wonderful". Back to TNW record now, you'll find inside the cover a long text entitled "The police are out of control to have us all under the control" that not only describes the new repressive 1986 Public Order act, but also gives you a history of the creation of the police in Britain (Class War has a whole brochure on the subject for those interested). It is a great read and it certainly tells you where the band stood ideologically.

The last song is a bit depessing. It's called "Safe territories" and it tells the story of a bloke who will never leave the small town where he was born as he'll live there and work there all his life, in a "safe territory" of routine and exploitation. It's probably my favourite of the record though. Sonically, TNW are tough to pigeonhole. The singer has a very distinctive voice (pretty much a "love it or hate it" voice) that reminds me of Southern Death Cult, The Dark or Sisters of Mercy (only not as low). The music is bass-driven with a couple of great bass lines and the guitar has a rather warm and heavy tone, defintely not as cold as many other bands of the era. I hear some Zygote and early Amebix, a dash of the Mob maybe, with a punkier guitar, Smartpils and Terminus could also be points of comparison, but in the end TNW really had their own sound (you can thank or blame the drum machine for that) and once you've heard them you're bound to recognize instantly.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Domination Factor "Dominated till death" demo 87 + live in Brum 87

Don't let the rather crappy name fool you, Domination Factor is a crucial listen if you are into early crust music (and if you aren't, what the hell are you doing here?). Not only does this band rule, but they also deserve a seldom used adjective in the realm of punk: they are original.

If you have any serious interest in 80's British crust punk, the voice of the DF singer is bound to ring a bell and for good reason since it is the same bloke who sang afterwards for Prophecy of Doom. In fact, DM was very much a pre-POD band so it is no real surprise that DF aimed for originality as POD, beside being absolutely excellent, were a band that stood out for its distinctive sound and aesthetics. Ian Glasper, who knows his shit, describes DF as "grind-crust-reggae-ska" in "Trapped in a scene" and claims the band's short lifespan was due to its unorthodox mix of music genres (I mean reggae AND crust? Really? And that was long before Mouth Sewn Shut). I don't know if he's right but it makes sense that at a time when everyone was going more metal and was trying to play faster and heavier, DF might have picked a wrong card intending to include reggae and dub influences in their music. But 25 years later, listening to their demo know, only one thing can be said: the demo is bloody brilliant.

To be honest, there aren't that many dub moments on the demo and when they come they always fit very well with the rest and create an interesting atmosphere. While POD were very much a grinding metallic crust affair, DF were a lot punkier, definitely not as metal, more straight-forward than its gloomier successor. The vocals don't have as much effect but they still sound quite similar to POD's. It reminds me of early Deviated Instinct crossed with early Extreme Noise Terror, some anarcho bands like Exit-Stance or Anti-System and even, as strange as it may sound, One Way System's mid-tempo songs.

As if the demo wasn't enough, I have also included a whole live recording from the same year (1987). The gig was at the Mermaid in Birmingham (a venue also known as "crust valhalla") where every band of the period got to play at some point (remember that flyer with Antisect, Deviated Instinct and Hellbastard? Yes that was at the Mermaid. Or the stenchcore festival with Chaos UK, ENT, Hellbastard, Deviated Instinct and Ripcord? Mermaid again. Antisect, Sacrilege and Generic? Yep, there too. Amebix, DI, Sore Throat? Huhu.). The sound is rough but still enjoyable. All in all, I guess Domination Factor will be of great interest to Prophecy of Doom lovers and will be a potent offering to stenchcore maniacs.


Sunday 10 June 2012

Agonie - demo 2006

En français :

C'est avec une émotion non-dissimulée que je tiens à poster aujourd'hui la demo d'Agonie, un groupe parisien, dans lequel j'officiai au milieu des années 2000. Agonie s'est formé en 2005 et cessa d'exister en 2007. A cette époque, la scène parisienne avait en son sein des groupes sincères avec lesquels nous avions des affinités : Munda di Mierdo (le groupe le plus chaotique et sympathique du monde), Décombres (mais quelle idée de tenter le crasher-crust au pays des Bérus?), SkitYouthArmy (Paris city thrash attack) et donc Agonie (gros bordel sonore). Agonie c'était Audrey, Caro, Clément, Romain et Simon. On a eu la chance de jouer avec des chouettes groupes étrangers comme Born/Dead (excellent concert), Makiladoras (pire concert de l'histoire) ou In the Shit, et dans des lieux accueillants (Chalet, Moulin, Miroit).

Comme vous allez vous en rendre compte, Agonie n'était pas le groupe le plus doué de sa génération. Le son est aussi fauché que nous ne l'étions, et on ne peut pas dire que les qualités et aptitudes des musiciens du groupe ne ressortent spécialement de l'enregistrement (ne mentionnons même pas nos performances live...). Malgré nos évidentes limites artistiques, beaucoup d'influences se bousculaient au portillon. Il y avait les groupes @punk à chant mixte comme Disaffect, Antiproduct, Jobbykrust, Antischism ou Easpa Measa, les groupes de crust tragédiques, du crustcore à la State of Fear, mais aussi Disorder, des trucs plus metal comme Hellshock ou Nausea et quelques groupes de grindcore (le batteur avait une obsession presque inquiétante pour Yacopsae). Un gros foutoir était à prévoir. J'aimerais pouvoir affirmer qu'Agonie était une synthèse incroyable de tous ces groupes suscités mais en réécoutant la demo aujourd'hui, il est plus honnête de dire que nous étions un groupe d'anarchopunk rapide, un peu crusty, avec des chansons qui ne ressemblent pas. Au final, on pourrait avec optimisme avancer que nous étions une version crue et décomplexée d'un combat de catch alcoolisé entre Mankind?, Contropotere et Disaffect quand ils commençaient tout juste à faire trois accords. Ou alors on était juste nous-mêmes, ce qui est sans doute la meilleure chose à être. La mauvaise qualité involontaire de l'enregistrement n'est pas non plus sans rappeler certains disques actuels de groupes noisepunk qui cherchent à imiter les productions caverneuses de célèbres bristoliens. Mais ça nous venait naturellement. On arrivait même à rater les reprises de Disorder et de Doom, ce qui est rétrospectivement la chose la plus punk à faire en concert.

L'intérêt principal d'Agonie réside probablement dans nos textes. Sans vouloir trop frimer, on passait du temps sur leur élaboration et on essayait d'éviter les clichés. Pas de haïkus dischargiens (même si on kiffait Discharge), pas de bancales et obscures métaphores pseudo-païennes (étrangement Amebix ne faisait pas l'unanimité). "Démocrature" parle de l'illusion démocratique, de la capacité d'adaptation du pouvoir et de l'idée de sacrifice pour le système; "Mal(e) dominant" est un morceau sur la domination masculine et sur les rôles imposés aux femmes afin de perpétuer le système (on aimait pas le système comme vous le voyez); "SO" traite de l'attitude des services d'ordres des syndicats pendant les manifs qui n'hésitent à suppléer les keufs et les aider dans leur noble tâche; "Terre sous garantie" est la chanson écolo/apocalyptique; "Peace bomber" parle de la guerre en Irak et de la propagande militaire; "Fashion punk" est une attaque contre les punks plus concernés par leur touche que par la politique (ironiquement, je suppose, j'étais à l'époque recouvert de patchs); enfin, "Police state" est une reprise de Disorder qui nous a permis de ne pas écrire notre propre chanson anti-flics (on reprenait aussi "Police bastard" de Doom en live).

L'artwork a été fait à la main, avec des collages et des montages et a été le fruit de nombreuses heures de travail, de lecture de textes situationnistes et de roulage de joints. La demo était à prix libre et les sous allaient à une caisse de soutien pour les prisonniers. On était clairement pas le groupe le plus doué de l'époque (la palme revient sans contestation possible à Munda di Mierdo), toutefois Agonie était un groupe honnête, pas poseur, croyant en une démarche DIY radicale. Avec des tripes, du coeur et une âme. Et quelques gueules de bois.

Up the punx.

In English:

It is with undisguised pleasure that I am posting the Agonie demo today, a Parisian band I served in during the mid 2000’s. Agonie formed in 2005 and called it a day in 2007. In those days, the Paris punk scene had genuine bands with whom we shared a lot like Munda di Mierdo (the world’s friendliest and most chaotic bunch), Décombres (what were they thinking trying to play crasher crust in Bérus country ?), SkitYouthArmy (Paris city thrash attack) and then Agonie (massive sound nuisance). Agonie were Audrey, Caro, Clément, Romain and Simon. We had the privilege to share the stage with good foreign bands such as Born/Dead (our best show), Makiladoras (our worst show) or In the Shit and we got to play in cool venues as well (Chalet, Moulin, Miroit).

As you are about to hear, Agonie were hardly the most gifted band of their generation. The sound of the recording is as crappy as we were broke, and our musical skills don’t really shine through the demo (let’s not mention our legendary gigging abilities…). Despite obvious artistic limitations, we were driven by many, rather ambitious, musical influences : fast anarchopunk with male/female vocals like Disaffect, Antiproduct, Jobbykrust, Antischism or Easpa Measa, Tragic crust, State of Fear type crustcore, but also noisy bollocks like Disorder, metallic bands like Nausea or Hellshock and even some grindcore bands (our drummer had an almost unhealthy obsession with Yacopsae). A huge mess was to be foreseen. I would love to tell you that Agonie were an amazing mix of all the aforementioned bands but listening to the demo today for the first time in years, it would be more honest to say that we were just a fast and sloppy crusty anarchopunk band with songs that don’t actually sound alike. In the end, one could optimistically venture that Agonie was the equivalent of a shamelessly raw and drunken wrestling fight between Mankind ?, Contropotere and Disaffect when they were just starting to play their instruments. Or we were just ourselves, which is probably the best thing to be. The very raw sound quality of the recording isn’t unlike what current noisepunk bands are trying to emulate when they aim for famous Bristolians’ worship. But it came to us effortlessly. We even managed to butcher our Disorder and Doom covers, which is retrospectively the punkest thing to do live.

The main interest about Agonie probably lies in our lyrics. Without bragging too much, we spent time on the writing and tried to avoid clichés. No dischargy haikus (though we loved Discharge), no cheesy and obscure pseud-pagan metaphors (surprisingly enough, we didn’t unanimously love Amebix). « Démocrature » is about how democracy is an illusion, how power is able to adapt and force the idea of sacrifice upon us ; « Mal(e) dominant » tackles male dominance and the gender roles imposed on women in order to perpetuate the system (we weren’t big on the system as you can see) ; « SO » deals with the behaviour of unions’ security boys during demos where they don’t mind doing the cops’ dirty work and helping in their noble enterprise ; « Terre sous garantie » is the eco/apocalyptic song ; « Peace bomber » is about the war on Iraq and military propaganda ; « Fashion punk » is an attack against punks who are more concerned with their looks than with politics (ironically, my clothes were quite litterally covered with bands’ patches at the time) ; last but not least, « Police state » is a Disorder song we covered so that we didn’t have to write our own anti-police song (we also covered Doom’s « Police bastard » live).

The artwork was hand-made, in a cut-and-paste fashion, and was the result of long hours of labour, what with reading situationist texts while rolling spliffs. You could get the demo for a donation and the benefits, as small as they were, went to a prisoner support fund. We clearly weren’t the most talented band of our time (this highly-coveted title goes undeniably to Munda di Mierdo), but we were a genuine, down-to-earth band with strong radical DIY ethics. With guts, heart and soul. And a couple of nasty hangovers.

Up the punx.