Tuesday 25 November 2014

"The boredom and the bullshit" compilation Ep, 1996

Although it is probably less true nowadays than it used to be, compilations are the most meaningful way to get to discover a scene. Of course, I am not talking here about benefit compilations that gather bands from all over for a specific cause, or label compilations that are meant to introduce innocent listeners to the tastes and circles of friends of a particular person. No, here we are dealing with local bands being released on a local label discussing the issues facing a local scene. Yes, "local" is the trope of the day.

Such compilations can be quite risky too as one is often tempted to include bands that, however local, friendly and active, can be quite terrible too. But then, I guess that's also what makes this sort of compilation memorable. After all, any given local scene at any given time has its own average band that you can't help liking because they're mates and a compilation without them would be less relevant, though maybe more bearable for those outside your locality. But awesome musicianship was never the primary aim of local compilations anyway since, as I mentioned, the point is to bring outsiders inside your own punk scene. From a diachronic perspective, it also offers a significant picture of what people were into at the time and how an area can shape a sound or, perhaps even truer, how a sound can shape an area.

Because I am an obsessional bastard, this compilation revolves around mid-90's bands mostly from the North of England. There well be familiar faces as well, as this Ep included the Nerves from Nottingham (I reviewed their glorious split with Substandard a couple of years ago), State of Filth (remember their split with Anarchy Spanky? No? Well, you should. Now, get out of here.) and some bands that also appeared on the 1in12 Club compilation "Decade of dissidence" like Stalingrad, Voorhees, Manfat and Headache.

First, and it has to be said with the utmost seriousness, this record looks fucking great. It comes in a brown paper cover, that has aged surprisingly well in the case of my copy, and includes a 16-page booklet with a word from the bloke behind it all and some artwork and lyrics from all the bands. Not only does it look brilliant but it is also an interesting, ultimately positive read. "The boredom and the bullshit". Now that may be the best name for a punk record ever. Has there ever been a punk kid that didn't feel bored to death and surrounded by bullshit? Of course not. Aren't boredom and bullshit the two main motivations behind forming up a band, or starting a zine, or just trying to meet up with like-minded people? What would punk-rock be without all the boredom and the bullshit? Well, I for one know where it would be: in an unmarked grave. Bored kids trying to resist the bullshit is what saves punk-rock (or hardcore or whatever) from oblivion. The opening text in the booklet "The boredom and the bullshit: two things that saturate our lives" is about fighting both and trying to liberate oneself from the social alienation that we have to live through and reclaim our lives (or parts of them, even small ones). It will be a losing fight but at least let's give it a good try and maybe some quality punk music will come out of it. Yes, it is a hopeful, positive message and I totally relate to it (even on tuesdays).

Music-wise, I am not going to lie, not all the bands are my cup of tea, which does not mean that they are bad at what they do. Kitchener, from Manchester play fast hardcore in the US fashion, not quite unlike Los Crudos but with slower parts that bring to mind Born Against or something. Pigpile also play US-inspired hardcore but are not as fast as they have more of an 80's feel. Marker manage to pull two songs in 50 seconds of intense and raw fast hardcore while hardcore heroes, the Voorhees, head-butt their way through with a 30 second scorcher of burning Negative Approach worship.

Now about the bands I enjoy the most. Let's start with One By One, one of the most crucial 90's English band. I am not going to rant over people's apparent lack of interest in 90's punk again (and yes, that's a preterition for you) but I find quite amazing that there is still no One By One reissue to this day. I understand that the former members may want to focus on new projects rather than old ones, but I really hope there will be a One By One discography at some point. With two former Generic members, there is undeniably a hardcore backbone to One By One's music. But where Generic favoured aggression, One By One used tunefulness and smart song-writing in order to be intense. It is a hard to find points of comparison because they were really a unique band, and Karin's vocals really took the band to a next level, but I guess a cross between energetic yet tuneful US hardcore and Potential Threat with a Chumbawamba feel for the articulate and passionate politics and some musical arrangements. Their song on the comp, a fast number called "Alternative to what?", is a slightly bitter take on the DIY punk scene and its monotony. Still crucial though.

On "The boredom and the bullshit" you will find Manfat, a band from Leeds I know little about, though I also own their Ep. Although I don't always need that kind of sound, sometimes it works perfectly. Heavy and dark music, a bit grungy with heavy riffs the sort of which create an oppressive atmosphere. It is not heaviness for heaviness' sake either as the production is rather thin, just down-tuned slow hardcore like it was done in the mid-90's. Headache is the weirdest band on the Ep and actually they may have also been the weirdest band around at the time along with Witchknot. Crazy hardcore punk with demented vocals and a lot of breaks, it sounds like Civil Disobedience on mushrooms or something. Fantastic artwork on their part as usual and a genuinely unique band with a lot of personality and probably a lot of personality disorder as well.

Stalingrad may very well take the cake on this Ep with one amazing song "Human byproduct". In 1995, the band was still in its infancy and played metallic hardcore not unlike Rorschach or 13. This is mean, angry, desperate music with teeth and an aesthetics that set them apart. I often see Stalingrad as a band that bridged the gap between US-style hardcore and the UK crust sound since, if you listen closely (and you will), you will sense a late Deviated Instinct feel and even some Hellbastard riffing to their early recordings although their vision was set to the other side of the pond.

State of Filth's number on this Ep will probably surprise those of you who enjoyed their split with Anarchy Spanky. This is a different line-up that didn't include Wayne yet and it is not the grinding crustcore tornado that it would become. It is, however, still very much worth your while: fast, raw, shambolic, political hardcore punk strongly reminiscent of Electro Hippies. What else does one really need? Finally the Nerves from Notts fly the "studs ans spikes" flag high and proud on this one with their usual fast, anthemic punk-rock that is really an updated version of the UK82 sound keeping the snottiness but hitting harder. There were a lot of bands at the time trying to do it but few pulled it as well as the Nerves.

"The boredom and the bullshit" is a sincere record with a top-notch message that reeks of DIY punk ethos and a relevant document of what the hardcore scene in Northern England looked like. It was released on Refusenik records, a sadly short-lived label that also did the Ep's of Underclass, Kitchener and Ebola. As usual you should be able to get a copy in a 1£ record bin. To be listened to while reading "Armed with anger".

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Rabid "The bloody road to glory" Ep 1982

Back when we lived in an internet-free world, another epoch when the very notion of taking pictures of your lunch would have seemed utterly preposterous, I used to muse upon those bands I only knew the name of. I would make romantic assumptions about what they sounded like and, more often than not, I would imagine terrific songs that were sadly out of grasp (now that I can listen to anything I want, I have prematurely become a sad bastard, so there you go technology). For some reason, Rabid was one of those bands. In fact, in the record store I used to hang out at in my teenage years, there was an original copy of that Rabid Ep, along with Mayhem's "Gentle murder". I would touch the cover, sighing, my hands shaking with frustrated excitement because I couldn't afford it. Buying recent, decently priced records was still quite an adventure then and I would spend whole afternoons at the store listening to dozens of records before I could decide which one (since more than one of them was unreasonable) I would pick. Buying an album was a long and painful process as I could just buy the one and I didn't want to mess up. But there were these two vintage Ep's that I would always return to, thinking that one day, although immensely expensive (it was like 8 euros each or something, almost the price of new Ep's on some distros nowadays...) I would get the fuckers. And when I got my first paycheck, I bloody did. Call me a sentimental fool, but this record, as average as it might sound to many, is something of an amulet to me, protecting me - and there fore you as well - against shit music.

If I wanted to write a short review, I would say "this is your average UK82 band: they were British, it was recorded in 1982, they had charged hair, they sang about war and the police. Ain't life great?". But then, you know I won't.

This Rabid Ep is perfect in the sense that it is everything you are entitled to expect from a Leicester punk band from the early 80's. It won't surprise you, it won't change your world but that's not the point. Matters of originality and uniqueness are out of the picture here. If anything, Rabid is comforting, heart-warming because their record is predictable and does the job well. If you are looking for some lesser-known but still decent, snot-fueled, angry second-wave British punk-rock on a bleak tuesday night, then look no further. They were not the most talented nor the fastest, the noisiest band and the boys' musicianship is not of a flamboyant nature either, but they did pen some solid tunes as this first Ep attests. Basically they did their bit and I challenge you not to sing along to the chorus of "Police victim" (it is a brilliantly easy one that goes "You're... only a police... victim" and the punk magic makes it so bloody catchy).

Rabid was definitely a band of its time. "Police victim" is a catchy mid-tempo number reminiscent of early Chaos UK; "Jubilee" (a song about the chief parasite of the British realms) could have been lifted from a Destructors' Lp; while "Glory of war" and "Crisis 82" were sloppy and highly lovable attempt at doing the dischargy thing while still trying to keep some tunes (I'll leave it to your judgement if you think they succeeded). The lyrics are not included but song titles will give you a rather accurate idea of the topics and "Crisis 82" would make a great name for a band doing UK82 covers (who's into it? I can vaguely play the bass guitar and I know some Abrasive Wheels and Instant Agony). I like the fact that you can pretty much understand what they are on about as the vocals are quite clear, half-way between The Enemy and Patrol or something. The production is genuinely raw and utterly appropriate for the genre: yes, there is some distortion but the songs remain rather tuneful. I understand the songs were originally part of a demo from which the band selected the four best ones in order to release the Ep themselves, which they actually did in true DIY fashion. This version however is the Fallout Records reissue from the same year. Apparently, the band was not too happy with the label (some money issues probably) but I am sure that looking back they must be pretty proud to have a release on a label that also did Broken Bones, Action Pact and The Enemy. Besides, Fallout Records is a brilliant name for a punk label and I'd seriously consider it for a dog's name as well.

After that Ep and also in 1982 (an inspiring year if there ever were any), Rabid recorded a 12" for Fallout Records, again. Although it is a bit tighter with proper feedback on the vocals and a crunchy guitar sound, it sort of lacks the energy of this Ep. Apparently, Rabid reformed last year and have released a new album that I have not dared listen to yet. I am not the bravest of men when it comes to such matters.