Sunday 30 September 2012

Naked "Go for what?" live at the Feltham Football Club 29.7.1983

Before everyone overdoses on 90's punk, here is a choice live tape recorded in 1983 from one of the most underestimated British anarchopunk band, Naked. Granted, they picked a rather shitty name for their band, but apart from this tiny mistake (after all Chumbawamba made it, didn't they?), Naked probably penned some of the best punk-rock tunes I have ever heard. While I love the noisier and thrashier end of the punk spectrum (be it UK82 or anarcho), I also have a soft spot for cracking melody and cacthy, poppier tunes in my punk-rock. Now when I say poppy, I don't mean the utter crap that is called pop-punk and mostly comes from the other side of the pond since this is to be avoided like the fucking plague. I mean harmonious, almost delicate sounding tunes that are still anthemic enough to make a good punk song. The line is thin between unbearable cheesiness and Buzzcocks genius and few bands can pull it, but Naked is definitely one of them along with other favourites like Toxik Ephex, Lost Cherrees, Passion Killers and No Choice.

Actually, Naked only did the one record, an Ep on Bluurg Records (Dick Subhumans' label) called "One step forward towards reality". This is clearly a jewel in the anarcho world and I recommend reading the enthusiastic chapter dedicated to Naked in Glasper's "The day the country died". If the early anarchopunk scene was musically pretty varied, I guess the second wave of British punk was on the whole keener on playing faster and noisier songs and that explains why Naked stands out from the crowd. Far from GBH, Chaos UK or even Crass, Naked sounded more like an angst-ridden, intense first wave punk band than an early 80's one. For clarity's sake, let's say they were probably more into the Buzzcocks, the Newtown Neurotics, Charge and Eater than Flux of Pink Indians, Discharge and Vice Squad. But they only borrowed the Buzzcocks' tunefulness and song-writing skills as Naked's lyrics are definitely rooted in the anarchopunk world with songs about war, the rise of the right (the absolutely glorious "Mid 1930's pre-war Germany"), children abuse and social alienation.

As brilliant and effective in terms of sheer melody as the riffs are, as precise, diverse and always adequate as the drumming sound, it is the singer's voice that clearly sets Naked apart. I mean, he could actually sing in tunes, which was something quite unusual I suppose. His voice is very vibrant, deep, full of anger, frustration and melancholy but it doesn't sound depressive either, it is just a beautifully angry voice. I know that just sounds cheesy but you'll know what I mean when you give it a listen.

This live set was recorded in 1983 so it is pretty much Naked at the peek of their game and was released on tape by aforementioned Bluurg Records (Bluurg 32 to be accurate and a nerd) so you know the sound is good. Apart from the second and the third song that sound like shit (I am not sure if it is my tape and if the geezer holding the tape recorder somehow passed out during these two songs before someone else took over), the sound is fairly clear, meaning that you can hear everything, and Naked were apparently as intense, tuneful and, dare I say it, musical live as in the studio. The tape has songs from the early period of the band and even actually includes some songs that don't appear on the mandatory Naked retrospective cd "One step backward" that Overground Records released in 2007 (by the way, as much as I love what the label is doing, it would be even better if the lyrics, or at least some of them, were included, but anyway, I digress...), namely "Rabid feeling", "1984", "Suicidal state", "Pressure", "Can't win" and "Good old boy" (thinking about it, it is a shame these were never given the studio treatment). The song "Policeman" is actually a sped up version of the song "Brief encounter" from the first 1979 demo and the tape ends with Naked covering the Ramones' "Do you wanna dance?".

Top notch.


Thursday 27 September 2012

Urko / Chineapple Punx split Ep 1997

I like split Ep's. I think they are a great format, especially when the two bands don't sound alike but share a common punk spirit. This record is fine example of what a good split should be about. This was Inflammable Material's fifth release and in fact I don't think this label has ever put out one bad record. Although none of the two bands included here, Urko and Chineapple Punx, marked the history of punk-rock on a global scale, they certainly illustrate the variety of the 90's British punk scene and show that musical differences don't really matter. In the end, it's all good punk-rock.

Urko were from Boston (UK not US) a city that has had a couple of great bands and zines throughout the years. They actually did a couple of other very good records and morphed into a ragingly fast and angry hardcore outfit in their later years (powerviolence anyone?). This was their first record and possibly their crustier-sounding offering too. In "Armed with anger" the band says that they were originally influenced by Deathside, Swedish crust (think Tolshock, Scumbrigade, Skitsystem) and mid-90's Doom, so you are probably already getting an idea. To my ears however, the four tracks on this Ep are more reminiscent of Disrupt and Deformed Conscience as it has that 90's US crust sound. Ian Glasper suggests Septic Death as another point of comparison and I see what he means too. Anyway, this is fast, very pissed off, crusty hardcore-punk with two singers. The songs are short and quite hectic, not quite as heavy as full-on caveman crust but still heavier than the fast hardcore bands. The sound is pretty raw which gives the songs a real punk taste, something that the nasty, angry and confrontational lyrics but confirm. "Seven ways to die" (my fave) describes seven different methods of death penalties and it adequately reflects not only how horrible death penalty but also how vicious and cruel the people who administer it are. "Fuck your shit" is about prejudices against people who look "different". "Deadstock" is an attack against the new Woodstock festival and how it is just a bloody rip-off and "Consuming apathetics" points out the consumerism and materialism of modern society and how we "seem to occupy our days thinking of the goods that we can't afford to pay . Thinking of the lifestyle that we'll never ever need. Craving new commodities our balance cannot feed". Clever stuff and I can't agree more with that. Urko is the name of a general ape in "Planet of the apes" and a lot of the band's artwork toys with, well, mean-looking apes taking over human society. It must have had something to do with Boston as a brilliant zine of the town, Gadgie, was also obsessed with our hairy enemies.

Chineapple Punx were a much more old-school punk-rock affair who combined fun, good politics and vintage bouncy punk music. The Punx seemed to have that cheeky sense of humour typical of many British punk bands. They weren't quite ass silly as the Toy Dolls, as crazy as Doctor and the Crippens or as obnoxious as Peter and the Test Tube Babies, but the drawing of the Queen litterally shitting boneheads in her palace might give you a clue as where the laughs lie. Anyway, the band offers two songs. The first one, "Braindead" is of a mid-tempo nature, almost oi influenced really, somewhere between the Test Tubes, Uk Subs and Zero Tolerance. The second one is faster and has a Subhumans feel to it. I have to say the songs are rather lo-fi as the guitar is low in the mix but they still work thanks to added snot and tunes in the vocals that I really enjoy. The cover on Chineapple's side reflects the topics of these two songs: boneheads and aristocrats. "Braindead" is depicts how stupid and thick nazi skinheads are and I confess the line "I don't know which is uglier, your dog's arse or your face" had me laugh. "Parasite" is a priceless song encouraging to burn down the royal family's homes, also known as the parasites' nest, the Punx posing here as Rentokill employees.

Good shit indeed.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Lardarse "Armchair apathy" Ep 1997

This record is probably one of the best crust Ep to come out of Britain in the 90's. As emphatic as this statement might read, this is actually true. Unfortunately, I have little information about Lardarse (terrible name by the way...). They were from Nottingham at a time when there were quite a few good punk bands, labels and gigs. This Ep was released by Weird Records, a label usually keener on putting out snotty punk-rock (Dogshit Sandwich, Pissed Mouthy Trollops, Red Flag 77, MDM...) than heavy crust-punk. I have no idea who Lardarse were. Was it just a young juvenile band that only did the one record and vanished? Or was it a side-project of some old-timers of the anarcho scene? Although the latter seems more likely, it doesn't really matter in the end, since either way this "Armchair apathy" Ep is just fantastic.

Musically, the band is the ultimate blend of early Doom (up until "The greatest invention") and Dirt. It is not as straight up as Doom since the songs are longer and have more complex structures (relatively speaking of course), but it is much heavier and harder-hitting than Dirt. So why the comparison then? Well, Lardarse's male singer sounds just like Jon Doom and the female singer could have won a Deno Dirt imitation contest. And it works perfectly. It has the impact and raw anger of Doom coupled with the snottiness and aggression of Dirt. And it is not all out fast all the time either as the faster parts blends with crushing mid-tempo moments that are not unlike Saw Throat. On the whole, the production is quite close to early (good) Doom recordings too, the bass and guitar sound are heavy, but in a dirty and yet flowing way, so that everything really shapes a groovy and cohesive whole. Imagine a more 80's inspired Jobbykrust with gruffier male vocals, some Sarcasm and Hiatus influences and this kind of 90's European crust energy. Or don't imagine anything and just give it a listen. It might be more practical.

Lyrically and aesthetically, Lardarse was definitely a political animal. On the backcover, a long quote from Proudhon about being governed sets the stage. The songs themselves are not really articulate rants, but instead they use very direct words, slang words even, to reflect the daily frustration and anger at the system. They are followed by more sophisticated explanations providing some socio-political context and Lardarse clearly gave some actual thought about their lyrics. The first one, "Slave", is also my favourite and as it is, yes you guessed it, an anti-work song. Not only does the song call the wage labour system by its real name - modern slavery - but it also calls for sabotage, solidarity and class actions in the workplace against "directors and unions (who) don't give a toss, it's your head on the line when they make a loss". "Blank" is about alcohol consumption and how us punks use it to forget the drudgery of life. It is one thing to have some fun but quite an other being a mess all the time and therefore as harmless and confused as the sytem wants us to be. "PR 24" is about a law that gives more power to the pigs with better weaponry, technology and overall more funds to them. Finally "Doomed youth" is a war song (well it is crust punk after all) that focuses on how capitalism fuels wars and how its wars are horrendous, horrendously horrendous even.

I really enjoy Lardarse's lyrics because they are straight-forward but smart. And the band wasn't without a sense of humour either as there is also a disclaimer included that says that the members of Lardarse all "hold down prosperous and secure jobs in the city" and "when Lardarse next come to your town, don't expect a nite of anarcho mayhem, just some sound honest financial advice". On a more serious tone, the band provided an address list of worthy organizations to support like the ABC, the IWW, Reclaim the Streets or the AFA.

Seriously, what's not to love with this record?      

Friday 21 September 2012

Coitus / The Losers split Ep 1993

Like the Substandard/Nerves record I reviewed a couple of days ago, this split is a good example of  the early 90's English scene, with a heavier band on one side, Coitus from London, and a more old-school punk-rock affair on the other with the Losers from Nottingham. And like the Substandard/Nerves split record, this geezer offers two oft overlooked but very enjoyable bands. This record was released by Fluffy Bunny Records, a label that also put out the excellent Decadent Few Ep in 1992, and it has one song from Coitus and two from the Losers.

Undeniably, Antisect is considered as a band that has had a big influence on many punk bands throughout the years. However, there aren't actually that many bands with a similar sound to them, especially their later metal period. Obvious answers could include early Extinction of Mankind and Nausea. Of course, SDS fit the category too but as much as I like them, I have always thought that they tried too hard and in the end failed to recreate the Antisect intensity. But Coitus made it, not through mimic (because it never really works that way), but by taking the Antisect sound in order to try it and reshape it. I like to think that if Antisect had kept playing in the 90's, they would have sounded something like Coitus and it is no coincidence that Antisect guitarist Lippy was involved with the recording of several Coitus songs. The song we have here is called "Unknown" and beside the Antisect influence, there is some heavy Celtic Frost worship as well along with a hint of early Hellbastard and Sodom. Coitus were a fantastic band that succeeded in making rocking heavy music (in a Motorhead sense)    while keeping it genuinely dirty, dark, threatening and angry, something that pretty much none of the  "Motorcrust/Motorcharged" bands can pull. Coitus epitomize what great metallic punk should be, which is punx playing filthy metal with guts and snot without being concerned with musical intertextuality, meaning it is pretty useless to try to fit references to "cool bands" into your songs.

Coitus also have a lot of personality in terms of aesthetics and lyrics. In fact, it is hard to guess what they are going to sound like if you only judge by the cover. They have a couple of cowboys/pirates-themed songs and they use the "desperados" imagery on a lot of their records. Lyrically, the songs dealt with daily life and how hard it is to cope with it, alienation, violence, and always with a touch of madness in the words. The meaning of "Unknown" is rather unclear but I think it is about the serial killer Ed Gein, who was into necrophilia, and how the media use these shock stories to excite people's baser instincts and make profit out of them. It is also about lust, this unknown, uncontrollabe drive to commit cruel acts. Not your usual antiwar rants, isn't it?

On the flip side, we have two songs from the Losers whose drummer was a German bloke who went on to play in Recharge. This is actually the only Losers' record, which is quite a shame because they did have an ear for catchy punk-rock. Far from the dark and deranged Coitus sound, the Losers play straight-up punk-rock with a heavy rhythm section and singalong chorus, not too dissimilar to what the Nerves or Sick on the Bus are doing actually. The two songs have great chorus that you are bound to remember and sing along to in no time, especially the song "Loser" which deals with, well, being a loser in everything, everywhere, all the time. The second song, "I don't wanna live", can be seen as a possible consequence of being a loser: killing yourself. Yet someone else who can't stand the pressure, the pressure of life, he's just had enough and he's sorry! Perfect tunes to wake up to or play on a friday night if you ask me.

Both bands have cd discography available. Epistrophy released the Losers discography quite a while ago but it can be found for cheap and it includes these two tracks as well as demos and lives. A double-cd discography of Coitus was released two years ago by Irish label Underground Movement. It should still be available and it is a proper mandatory record.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Substandard / Nerves split Ep 1994

I got this record for a mere 2 euros a couple of years ago. It seems the distro had had it for years and basically wanted to get rid of it. Now, record collectors are an odd bunch. They can spend insane amounts of money on any trendy Japanese or Scandinavian band that have nothing of interest to say and purposely play derivative and referential music, and yet they can completely ignore and discard a cracking record like this one. Oh well, that's more good punk-rock for me I suppose.

This split is just furious and, for lack of a more civilised term, punk as fuck. Be warned though: it's not the "punk as fuck" from fancy "raw punk" or "noisepunk" I am talking about, with all their cheesy bullet belts, studs, flatly overdone distorsions and corny references to Chaos UK/Confuse/Disorder/whatever band MRR is suddenly into now. Here we have six songs of genuinely pissed off punk-rock, Substandard being fast and whirlwind-like, while Nerves relie more on tunefulness and catchy, but still beefy, punk-rock riffs. This Ep was released on Inflammable Material, a label created by Substandard's singer, Jules and Mike from Decadent Few (another overlooked band if there is one) that would go on to offer the world other great records of Coitus, Urko, Kuru, and in later years Constant State of Terror and Permaculture.

Despite many worthy competitors, Substandard could very well be the most underrated British hardcore-punk band ever. In fact, I have just seen that the excellent German distro and label Ruin Nation, that had issued the Substandard discography in the first place, is offering aforementioned Lp for 5 euros. Anyway, enough bitterness already. Substandard were an anarchopunk band from Nottingham who were active throughout the 90's. This is actually both bands' first vinyl appearance and it is an impressive first time indeed. Substandard played fast and powerful harcore-punk influenced by Antisect, Anti-System, AOA, some Conflict and One Way System as well. The band had two different singers, just like Antisect and Anti-System (actually the arrangement of the vocals is not dissimilar to the first side of "Peace is better than a place in history" and Dirge or Insurrection), one with a lower voice, the other snottier and higher-pitched and they perfectly complement each other, especially with the inclusion of spoken parts. The fury unleashed in Substandard's three songs is just unbelievable, the pace is frantic and pummelling, there are some great guitar leads, the sound is raw but powerful and the whole band sound like they are on the edge of rioting. And more importantly, there is a definite Substandard sound, in the sense that you can't possibly confuse them with another band. Even though you can identify the bands they love, they manage to create a sound of their own. Lyrically, this is as angry as you can get. The first song "Rostock" was actually written by Bjorn from Recharge and the Losers (more on the latter in the next post) and deal with the series of criminal fires that targeted immigrants' homes in Germany, notably in Rostock (French band Heyoka also had a song about those tragic events); then "Discount" is about shopping at Aldi and eating shitty food because you can't afford any better (the title is actually a pisstake out of some of the most unoriginal d-beat bands like Disgust); finally, "Two nations - Panic stations" is a spit at the face of the Criminal Justice Bill that was aimed at political activists and implemented heavier prison sentences and overall repression. Three songs and five minutes of unadulterated rage.

On the flipside, you have Nerves from Leicester, a town that also gave birth to the excellent Sarcasm and Wankys. From what I read in "Armed with anger" (both bands are interviewed in it), Nerves are supposed to sound like the New Bomb Turks and to be fair, I don't really know the NBT so I cannot really comment on the comparison. To my ears, Nerves played punchy and catchy punk-rock with great chorus. The rythmic section is mostly in the "fast" position, the sound is rather clear but keeps a raw edge that enhances the intensity of the songs. I really like the vocal delivery as well, angry-sounding but with some tunes you can sing along to. Though, Nerves are nothing really special in terms of originality and musicianship, they effortlessly achieve to pen three simple, powerful and anthemic punk-songs (they actually remind me a little of early Broken for that). Take some vintage UK bands like the English Dogs, Picture Frame Seduction or Abrasive Wheels, add some Poison Idea for the extra heaviness and some Slum Gang for the great tunes and you'll get an idea. Nevres did another Ep but unfortunately, it wasn't as effective as this one. Oh well, beginners' luck maybe? On the lyrical front, Nerves sing about not being able to handle the pressure of life (alcohol anyone?), people with oppressive egos and fake punks.

So if you happen to see this record in a two euro bin, please, do the right thing.

Sunday 16 September 2012

"Decade of Dissidence" Worst of the 1in12 Club Vol14/15 compilation cd 1999

Since I am currently reading the excellent "Armed with anger" about the UK punk scene of the 1990's, I think the next few posts (this one included) will be records from that time and place as well. As you may have already guessed, I have been into a long and passionate relationship with British punk-rock and if the 80's are well-documented and glorified, it seems that the 90's are often looked down upon, as if they were a mediocre decade. Hopefully, this wonderful compilation will prove 90's punk-sceptics wrong.

This compilation is the last one of the 1in12 Club comps and includes volumes 14 and 15. If you have never listened to these compilations, and I don't blame you since they are pretty hard to come by, the idea behind them was to offer one or several tracks to bands that played the 1in12 during a certain period, in our case we're dealing with the late 90's as most recordings were done in 1998. The 1in12 Club is a self-managed anarchist social center located in Bradford that has been going since 1988 (the 1in12 collective has been in existance since 1981 though). It has its own venue, a vegan café, an anarchist library, a pub (with not only Motörhead and Black Sabbath on the jukebox, but also Cress and Disaffect!) and it serves as a meeting and organizing space for political activists (I think it had its own quizz team and football at some point as well...). This is a brilliant place and probably my favourite "punk space". However, if the 1in12 does have hardcore-punk gigs, they are really open to more experimental bands and music too, which explains the variety of their compilations. Don't be too afraid though, there are a couple of, gasp, songs that don't really fit the punk mold on the record, but mostly we are in the fast and brutal noisy bollocks that we all enjoy.

This compilation cd was released by 1in12 Club records and Active Distribution from London and it was a benefit for the people of Kosova. There is an explanatory text inside the booklet explaining the reasons of the support with a brief history of the political situation of ethnic Albanians and why they need help. The text makes this ever-important clarification too: it is not a matter of charity, it is a matter of solidarity in face of political oppression (let's leave charity to fancy cocktail parties and corny pop-singers, shall we?).

Anyway, there are 22 bands on this compilation and they are a telling example of how diverse the British punk scene that gravitated around the 1in12 (bands from up North mostly) was. The first song is a strange, dark ambient song from Dawson, a hardcore band from Glasgow who played manic hardcore full of twists. Next is a great hardcore cover of Motorhead by the mighty Health Hazard (it should be pointed out that there are more than a couple of bands related to Flat Earth records on this record!), followed by a hearty and humorous anti-work slice of old-school punk-rock by Leeds anarchopunks Dog on a Rope and an experimental punk song by Witchknot, an anarcho-feminist band that reminds me of the more arty bands of the 80's anarchopunk wave (Flowers in the Dustbin, Animals and Men, Androids of Mu) mixed with some The Ex weirdness. Challenging and interesting stuff for sure.

Next are two non-British bands: Conclude from Japan offer a song of distorted and noisy crasher-punk against petshops and Glue from Poland did some Born Against-inspired hardcore with some twists. The insane Headache take over with two songs of mad and abrasive hardcore somewhere between Rudimentary Peni, Pleasant Valley Children, Civil Disobedience, Dropdead and "Yes Sir I will" (notice the beautiful artwork of the band as well). After all these deranged bursts of madness, Jimmy Saville's Wheelchair bring some fresh air with a genuinely catchy, snotty song reminiscent of folky punk like Blyth Power, some pub-rock and sailor's songs. I defy anybody to hear it without humming it.

Back to angry noise after this interlude though, as Revolt play Agathocles/early Napalm Death raw and rough grindcore. They are followed by Stalingrad, a pissed-off and intense metallic hardcore band with dark lyrics and a rocking, burning number by yet another pissed off hardcore band, Manfat. Kito then slow things down a bit with a Eyehategod/late A//Solution groovy and tense song before two songs of the great Cress and their distinctive anarchopunk music with drum machine, synth and an atmospheric, pagan aura. Things then go crust-punk: two tracks from Blood Sucking Freaks, not dissimilar to Doom (for whom BSF's frontman sang), Screaming Holocaust and Hiatus and no less than four grinding harcore songs from the energetic Sawn Off.

Crust heroes Extinction of Mankind then provide a pumelling apocalyptic old-school crust song, "Veins of hatred", probably taken from the same recording session as the split with other-side-of-the-pond crust heroes Misery. Dark and angry, the way the genre was meant to be played. Hard to Swallow then blast their way through with an eponymous "powerviolence meets Disrupt" number and Voorhees offer some confrontational American-styled hardcore. Finally, Happy Anger from France have one emocore song, Month of Birthdays' song is more akin to slightly discordant punk-rock with female vocals, John Holmes' is a mean-sounding, heavy, mid-tempo number not unlike a fist fight between Black Sabbath and His Hero Is Gone, and to conclude the compilation, a long, dirgy song, like a lighter but more deranged Neurosis from Polaris.

As you can see, each band provided some artwork especially for the compilation and there are some great-looking pieces (EOM, Headache, Manfat, Dog On a Rope). It is a shame the 1in12 no longer does these compilations anymore as it shows that musical differences hardly matter when it comes to support a worthy cause and that, as varied as those bands were, they shared a common perspective on how to do things.    

Friday 14 September 2012

Depressor "Burn the illusion" demo 1995-96

After the Astronauts' psychedelic, folky weirdness, let's have so more disturbed music today but from a very different perspective. Depressor. Just with the name one can guess that it won't be very cheerful. In fact, oppressive and intense would fit the band much better.

This tape is the band's first recording. They were formed in 1992 in San Francisco and from what I understand, Depressor is very much a one-man band as the guitar player and singer is the core of the project (he was also in Charger, an excellent, crustier Depressor side-project). For all the band's qualities, they remain shrouded in mystery and their sometimes occult lyrics and artwork (the band did a double Ep that looks just like a book of magic spells with actual was and a booklet with parchment paper... crazy bastards) only increase this obscure aura (I read somewhere that they even sacrificed veggie burgers and tofu sausages as part of demonic rituals).

Anyway, Depressor played heavy, slow industrial hardcore, angry and hopeless, a hypnotic trance heralding the apocalypse (think Godflesh covering Axegrinder songs). They used a drum-machine, which in the land of the Béruriers Noirs would be perfectly normal, but in the hardcore world is quite uncommon. In this case, the machine gives the music an even more accute sense of relentlessness, of being crushed over and over. This is combined with heavy riffs and overall you an incantatory quality to the music that is even emphasized by the structure of the demo, with several long, and very noisy instrumental songs, almost ambient really, that make the listener feel insane and about to be locked away in the madhouse. No wonder, they didn't add any ska parts.

Lyrically, the band is pretty interesting as well and very analytical, if also quite mysanthropic. "FILTH" deals with masculinity and how its more brutal manifestations (the spirit of competition, mysogyny, machismo, the glorification of brutality...) are a rejection of the balance of nature as female entity and reflect the Male's contempt and hatred for Her. "Dead meat" is about the meat industry and exposes the details of animal exploitation. The song ends with a rather witty remark though, as it states that meat-eaters enjoy their steaks without thinking, just because they're pushed into it, which could be compared with a cattle-mentality. "Guiltfuck" is definitely an odd one and I am not quite sure what it is really about, but I guess it is about the disempowering notion of divine creation being the source of guilt itself (well it does have a pagan, occult undertone that later released will further develop). They also have a GISM cover, "Tear their syphilitic vaginas to pieces", which is odd given the pro-feminist stance of the band because GISM. They may have decided to cover it precisely because the song epitomizes violence against women or because GISM certainly were a deranged-sounding hardcore band (personally, I just think they sound like a bad Venom cover band who grossly misunderstood Crass lyrics but that's a whole other subject).


Wednesday 12 September 2012

The Astronauts "Restricted hours" tape 1979

I am not going lie: I used to absolutely hate the Astronauts. I thought they were just ridiculous and fell under the terrifying category of "non-punk bands". But then, we didn't really meet under the best circumstances.

In 2003, I spent a year in Manchester where I got introduced to the marvellous world of crust-punk music. I had heard of a band called Hellbastard and I soon became obsessed with finding one of their records so that I could at last listen to them. I found the website of "Acid Stings", a label that had actually put out a Hellbastard cd subtly entitled "In grind we crust". So I wrote the label an email to see if they still had it. Two months after (or something equally ridiculous by today's standards), I finally got a reply and I ordered the cd. When I received the parcel, I noticed that there was a tape accompanying the Hellbastard cd. A tape of an unknown band called "The Astronauts".

Needless to say that I overplayed the Hellbastard cd, carefully skipping the "Natural order"'s songs though, and that my obsession with UK crust was only increased by the record. So when I played the Astronauts for the first time, I was appalled. I thought it was absolute rubbish compared to the filthy and heavy sound of Hellbastard (getting both at the same time, I couldn't really help comparing them). I mean, THERE WAS NO DRUMMER!!!! What kind of punk band doesn't have a drummer?? I was almost outraged and quickly proceeded to confine the Astronauts' tape to the "shitty music I don't care about" realms.

Years later, La Vida Es Un Mus reissued the Astronauts' Lp, a name until then tied with the notion of musical nightmare. But I gave them another shot and I found myself liking the music. It must have been because by that time I had listened to a lot of early anarchopunk bands who were keen on experimenting with music (Poison Girls, The Mob, Zounds, Apostles, Flowers in the Dustbin, Chumba, The Ex, Blyth Power...).

In fact, technically, this tape is not even a proper Astronauts' recording. The two songs "Getting things done" and "Still living in a car crash" were recorded in 1979 under the name Restricted Hours, who were the Astronauts under a different name, and were originally released as a split Ep with The Syndicate on RARecords, a label that also released an Ep by the fantastic Alien Kulture. The label Acid Stings, probably an Apostles-run label which also explains the Hellbastard connection (one of HB used to play in the Apostles as unbelievable as this might sound), reissued the two songs on tape along with two other songs recorded in 1980, a live version of "Protest song" and the brilliant "Moderation is boring".

As you can see, the artwork is really beautiful and illustrates the psychedelic nature of the Astronauts. Musically, they are certainly hard to pinpoint, but experimental music of an acid-fuelled, psychedelic nature (you know, Hawkwind and all that) blended with some mid-tempo punk-rock and an anarcho perspective might be close. I must admit that I don't know many bands in the punk world who sound like them though it can be said that some bands had the same kind of ideas and drive to make unique and different music. The lyrics are smart as well and you can understand what's the singer is on about without too much effort, which is a nice change from the usual racket.

I eventually got to see the reformed Astronauts a few months ago and I really enjoyed the music live, probably more so than on records (funnily enough, it is the exact opposite with Hellbastard) so give it a try, especially if you are on shrooms.

Monday 10 September 2012

Heavy Discipline "Extreme Mutilation Increases" tape 1986

I am sure you all remember the Heavy Discipline Ep I posted a while ago with its heavy anticapitalist hardcore-punk. Well, good news! Here is a tape that includes early recordings of the band with the Extreme Mutilation Increases demo recorded in January 1986, as well as a live set and a rehearsal from the same year. Quite a treat indeed.

For the unlucky who aren't in the know, HD were a fast, metallic punk band with a strong political message. Obviously, the songs are a bit rougher than on the Ep but that's the point of a demo, isn't it? Not only are they rawer, but they're also slightly faster and direct which I'm sure will delight the raw-punk fanatics. Relevant comparisons would include here GBH, Legion of Parasites or English Dogs for the rocking, thrashy side (the cover does points at the metal world), a pinch of early Chaos UK and Disorder for the distorted guitars and some drumming patterns, and Varukers, early Antisect / Anti-System or even Crucifix for the aggression. The numerous great bass-lines and the raucous vocals really make the songs stand out in my opinion. I admit that a couple of lengthy and sloppy guitar solos were probably unnecessary, but well, that's also part of the charm I suppose. There is even a mid-tempo song there with female vocals, "Never-ending fear", that is strongly reminiscent of classic early anarchopunk (think the Mad Are Sane or Post-Mortem). I really enjoy this demo and a mere look at the lyrics indicates that the band wasn't too happy about the state of things. Of course, you have fairly usual songs about nuclear war, regular war, World War Two, but the song "Dead-end jobs" is more akin to what No Future/Riot City bands sang about, what with having shitty jobs and no hope of a future. Needless to say that the band would later come to be a much more politically articulate outfit, as the Ep testifies.

The rehearsal tracks suggest the more polished sound that they band would have on the "Liberation of economics" Ep and the sound is actually pretty decent. The live set however is a chaotic affair and you can actually hear the people in the audience chatting to each other between songs (this always cracks me up). Despite the rough sound, you should be able to recognize the Discharge cover that closes the set and who doesn't like a Discharge cover as a conclusion?

Saturday 8 September 2012

Resist "United States of Apathy" demo 1989

To close my American week, today we're gonna have some Resist. Now, I am sure most of you have already heard of this band from Portland, but it is unlikely you know their very first demo "United States of Apathy". And, as usual in these sorts of situations, you can count on me to solve this. I should open a hotline or something.

I guess Resist was one of the most famous and influential American anarchopunk bands of the 90's, along with Destroy, Disrupt, Antischism, Aus-Rotten and Resist and Exist. Although they were not the catchiest, nor the fastest, heaviest band around, their great and honest political lyrics, along with some heavy touring, ensure that they enter the punk-rock canon. In fact, you still see a lot of people with Resist patches in Europe so they must have done something right. There is something I have always found a bit off about Resist. Despite them not being really special music-wise, I can hum to pretty much all of their songs and it's not like I play them that often either.

Anyway, this is early Resist we're dealing with here and the most obvious influence would be early US hardcore, a genre that I am not very familiar with to say the least. There is also definitely UK82-inspired tunes there, but they mostly sound like an angry and raw American hardcore band. You can feel that they were a pissed off bunch of angry teenagers and there is a sense of urgency that cannot be faked (and no, just having a "raw sound" is not a substitute). Most of the songs on this recording would find their way on the first eponymous Ep but "Goodbye", "Uncle Sam", "Grow up" and "Subversive action" were left off. Songs here tackle the daily shit that the government put people through: "Get ahead" is about corporate greed; "Social security" is a great song about poverty and despair among the elderly; "Think again" is about nationalism; "Uncle Sam" (that appears in a different version on their first Lp) is about the American nightmare and "Sellout" spits on bands who give up on their values and politics to join bigger labels. At the end of the demo, three live tracks were added and they epitomize well the intensity and the anger of the band on stage.

Unfortunately, my copy of the demo (the third edition apparently) hasn't been xeroxed properly so it is impossible to decipher the lyrics (I had to look at the records for that). You can still see the ugly mugs of the band members, which is always a plus.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Jesus Chrust + Apostates + Nausea - live at Gilman Street, Berkeley 01.12.1990

Let's leave Britain for a little while (well, at least for a couple of posts) and take at look at what was going on on the other side of what is called "the pond". The tape we're dealing with was released by BBP Records, a label that released no less than 94 different tapes with every classic British anarchopunk bands you can think of, but also a couple of Ep's (a live of Icons of Filth and "Money and riot" by Bug Central). However, this one tape has three bands from New York from the late 80's/early 90's playing live at a legendary venue located in Berkeley.

The first band on the tape is Jesus Chrust. Now I know it is a brilliant name for a punk and there were two bands with the same name at the same time, but the Jesus Chrust we're talking about here is the listenable anarchopunk one and not the crazy noisecore band. Jesus Chrust was part of the "Squat or rot" scene ("Squat or rot" was an anarchist DIY magazine turned punk label) and gravitated around the NY squatters' movement like Apostates and Nausea. They did two split Ep's (with fellow New Yorkers Social Outcasts and Würst) and appeared on a couple of compilations I have never seen or even heard. While Nausea remain a famous band among the smelly punks everywhere, it is somewhat odd that most of the other "Squat or rot" band sank into obscurity afterwards... And in the case of Jesus Chrust, it is really a shame, since listening to that live tape makes one realize that what they did was certainly ahead of their time in the sense that they heralded the whole 90's US anarchopunk/crusty explosion. The sound on the JC set is really good and you can hear the energy and the anger of the band but also their jokes between songs as they seemed to be pretty chatty and introduced the topics they are screaming about. We are deep in anarcho territory here with songs dealing with animal experimentation, the absurdities of war, apartheid, racism and so on. The band manages to keep it very spontaneous and you can just hear the motivation and honesty behind the lyrics despite them being rather unoriginal (well, for the US they may not have been so). And they appeared to have fun playing! Musically, it is fast and gruffy hardcore-punk with two vocalists, one of them being the original Nausea singer Neil, the future Final Warning singer and the founder of Tribal War Records (definitely a busy man). It is reminiscent of some of the British greats like Antisect, Anti-System, Oi Polloi or AOA as well as some Californian anarcho bands like Final Conflict, Another Destructive System, Glycine Max or Diatribe. Some songs even have a distinct crusty feel to them (read poorly executed, filthy but catchy metal riffs) and the dual vocal attack is not unlike ENT or Screaming Holocaust at times. I really, really enjoy Jesus Chrust and if you have never listened to them, this live set is actually not a bad place to start at all. As mentioned earlier, in the light of what went on after them (they must have split up in 92), it could be argued that they musically prefigured the next anarcho wave and bands like Aus-Rotten or Antiproduct. Great stuff.

Apostates are possibly even lesser-known than Jesus Chrust. They did an excellent Ep called "Burning world of hate", had a track on one of the "Squat or rot compilation" Ep but that's it. And, again, that's a real shame because if Jesus Chrust were be the American Anti-System, Apostates might very well be the yankee version of the Mob. They have that mid-paced, earthy, dark but also bizarrely warm sound that is not unlike the Mob indeed, though it must be said that Apostates are much more guitar-driven than the Mob ever were (they were all about bass guitar, weren't they?). Anyway, there are only 6 songs of Apostates on the tape, one of which is the intro and the last one is unfortunately cut right in the middle. Judging from what I can understand and the songs' titles, they were a political band as well and they had an anti-work song (they're always my favourites, go figure) not unlike APPLE's perhaps. This is really good dark and catchy punk-rock we have here not unlike The Mob, but also Terminus or Wartoys, without ever going "new-wave".

Finally, the heavyweight of the tape of course, we have Nausea. Now I love Nausea as much as the next crusty (probably more actually) but if I understood well what Jesus Chrust were saying between songs, Insurgence were also playing that night, and frankly what the world needs right now is a live of Insurgence, or their demo, but I am pretty sure it could survive another day without another live of Nausea. This said, Nausea must have been great live despite the fact that most of their live recordings, even those that made it to vinyl, don't sound that great. This one has a pretty good sound, my only complaint being that Al's vocals are too low, which is odd since Jesus Chrust and Apostates had a great sound. The band was just about to release their great "Cybergod" Ep so you can guess that the setlist is made up of songs from the "Extinction" Lp and aforementioned Ep. This is Nausea at their very best according to me, when they played that typical English crust (late Antisect, Axegrinder, Hellbastard...) but also had faster, more straight-forward dischargey songs as well. They had that superb guitar sound, great bass lines, a brilliant drummer, a male and a female singer that really meant it (well, they sounded they did anyway), amazing lyrics, amazing artwork. I mean, Nausea really had it all and that live was recorded as the band was at the top of its game. What a great gig it must have been...

So, does anyone have any live recordings of Insurgence?

Sunday 2 September 2012

Antisect & Sacrilege - Live at the Mermaid, Birmingham, 5.4.1986

If you thought I couldn't have a worse-sounding live tape than the previous post, I am about to prove you wrong. However, as I said before, don't let the sound quality put you off, especially when we are dealing today with two classical, genre-defining bands like Antisect and Sacrilege.

Sometimes, it is difficult to step back and try to describe bands one has loved for so long. If you have never heard Antisect and Sacrilege, I envy you since you'll be in for quite a discovery. If you have (as it is more likely), you'll be happy to hear live performances of both bands at the peak of their abilities and if the sound doesn't do them justice, I'm sure you understand that the recording conditions of the time and place didn't really allow for a top-quality job.

Antisect is probably my favourite band. All rational thinking goes down the drain when I think about them. The funny thing is that I loved them before I even got to listen to them. Though it's probably of no interest to anyone but me, let me tell you my Antisect story. The first time I read their name, was on a distro list I took from a record stand at a festival in Geneva in 2002. The distro was called Missing the Point and I later realized it was run by Jules from Substandard and Constant State of Terror (two very fine bands indeed). There were tons of records and bands I didn't know about on there as I was pretty much starting to get into anarcho-punk (I have always been a late bloomer). And there was a patch section. Browsing through this section I noticed a strange band-name, Antisect, but what really caught my attention was the font. It was mysterious, beautiful, dark and very intense. For some reason, I just knew that I was going to love this, not in your usual colloquial sense, but truly love the band. Antisect quickly became an obsession, I wanted to hear so badly but no one around me seemed to know about them. I finally met an older punk who had the records so I went to his place with a tape and recorded "In darkness there is no choice" and "Peace is better than a place in history". I was of course completely taken although it did take me a few years to really appreciate their metal period (the notion that punks could even listen to metal music was totally alien to me back then). Since then, I have become even more obsessed with them, a passion that the book "The day the country died" only made more intense. Finally, I got to see them three times and hang out with them a couple of months ago, and they are lovely chaps. And they like cheese pizzas.

How's that for a romantic introduction, right?

But back to what pertains to today's post. Both sets were recorded on 5th of April, 1986 (a time when I was still learning colours and shapes and when my favourite occupation was eating my own bogeys when mommy wasn't looking. Happy days) at an infamous pub in Brum called the Mermaid (a funny name considering most of the audience must have looked like pirates). I have already talked briefly about this place where pretty much all the English punk bands playing heavy and fast music got to play at some point. On that particular night, the audience had the pleasure to see Antisect, Sacrilege, Generic and Decadence Within. Antisect were then in their metal-punk shape, the probable result of a tag-team match that saw Discharge and their "In darkness" era wrestle Motorhead and Venom. The music is intense and hard-hitting, the guitar sound is fantastic, filthy and powerful, and the solos never distract you and bring an almost ominous presence tone to the music. If an angry nuclear mutant living in a slimy sewer started playing the guitar, I'm sure the noise he'd make wouldn't be dissimilar. The bass is groovy and rocking and the drumming style is varied but always right, but what makes Antisect so good is the song-writing. There are no fillers, each song is catchy and tells a good story. The setlist is the same as the "Live in Leeds 86" that was recorded just three days before this one (a live recording that is far superior and whose Lp version is packed with interviews and amazing artwork, if you haven't got it yet, then there's something wrong with you and you should see as soon as possible).

In true Antisect fashion, there are no gaps between songs which makes the set even more intense and unrelenting. So after a really epic-sounding, long and building intro you have: Out from the void II / They came / Behind the lines / New dark ages / Bedlam / Out from the void I / In darkness / Into the flames / Ritual. Sadly, I only know the lyrics of the two "Out from the void" and "In darkness", but I can still grasp some sentences here and there from the other songs. Lyrics are, of course, also one of Antisect's strongest point. While always remaining of a political nature, they often embrace a more metaphysical ("Heresy") or metaphorical ("Out from the void") approach to the struggle of the alienated individual lost in the madhouse of destruction that we call life. They are very often songs of empowerment as well, making us aware of our potentials for rebellion and creation ("Freedom is here / In each and everyone of us"). If they can be described as being dark and sometimes desperate representations, the words are also means for questioning and finding the inner strength necessary for acting upon the outer world. Dark yet warm, desperate yet hopeful, that's what I hear there. A pessimism that fights back. The always striking artwork plays a big part in bringing forth the meaning of Antisect as well and you could say that music, lyrics and artwork are closely interwoven and that the links between these three aspects create the meaningfulness of the band. The cover of this tape is a piece of "Out from the void"'s (are these trolls? Gobelins? They sure look like the monsters in "The Descent") which was itself only a part of a much bigger drawing depicting a really apocalyptic landscape full of horrid creatures killing each other even though they are already dead (I am not quite sure about the interpretation yet). You can look at the entire picture on the back cover of the second edition of the "Live in Leeds" Lp.

And for those who haven't seen them since the reformation and have doubts (and I can't really blame them as we have all seen reformed bands that were just so embarassing to watch), I can assure you that they are a powerhouse live and one of the most intense bands I have ever seen play.            

On the other side of the tape is a live set of Sacrilege, when they were still great. The gig took place between Sacrilege's two Lp's (well, there is a third Lp but I usually pretend it doesn't exist) so basically, you have a couple of songs from "Within the prophecy" ("Sight of the wise and "The captive" namely) but played with the aggression and power of "Behind the realms of madness" whose songs make the majority of the set ("The closing irony", "A violation of something sacred", "At death's door" and "Life line"). I always thought the songs on that second album were quite good but the sound really puts me off as it makes the record sound like a full on thrash metal album in terms of production and atmosphere. Maybe that's what the band was going for at the time, a cleaner, more polished sound. After all, Sacrilege can be seen as the most metal of the all the punk bands of their time (they really could play, which helps). But to me, few records can match the intensity and the sound of their first Lp, with that typical guitar sound that makes me go ape-shit and the raucousness of the female vocals, with just enough reverb, that sounded angry and outraged (an anger that seemed to have disappeared by "Within the prophecy"). Just like the Antisect set, the sound is pretty shit. You can still understand what's going on, but you will have to make an effort to get into these recordings.

There were many punk bands at the time that went for an almost complete metal sound: English Dogs obviously (I always saw Broken Bones as being inherently a punk-sounding), Anihilated and the most spectacular instance, Onslaught, who went as far as having a bloke pretending to speak like Satan on the intro of "Power from Hell" (but with a title like that, what is one to expect?). But if Sacrilege had taken a metal path in terms of aesthetics from "Behind the realms of madness" on, the sound they managed to create on that album, heavy and powerful but keeping that paramount punk urgency and filthiness, makes the album one of the best hybrid ever. Take the harder-hitting British punk bands of the early 80's (like the Varukers, of course, since two Sacrilege members were former Varukers, just listen to "One struggle one fight" and you'll know what I mean, or Discharge, Antisect, Anti-System, One Way System, Icons of Filth...) and mix them up with energetic and mean thrash-metal (Sodom, Kreator, Metallica...). And despite a reference to Mordor, the lyrics on that first Lp are still rooted in protest punk. "Life line" is about social alienation and the consequences of materialism, "At death's door" is about starvation and poverty, "A violation" deals with the brutality and the bigotry of those in power, and even "Shadow from Mordor" had a political content as it metaphorically criticizes the greed of the capitalists and the desperate fear and apathy of the masses. Songs about dragons only came after. If you're looking for a better sounding live of Sacrilege, I would recommend you get the double-cd called "Reaping the demo(n)s". It has demos and a good live recording taken from a gig in Leeds just one month after this one.

Now, where is that bogey I had saved.