Friday 26 December 2014

Potential Threat "Never again" Lp 1989

There are oddities in the punk galaxy that I find hard to explain. While some amazing bands seem to be doomed to obscurity, if not scorn, others, though sometimes quite average, are excessively praised. Punk-rock works in mysterious ways.

That Potential Threat doesn't have a spot in the anarchopunk canon is an enigma to me. They had everything, the music, the lyrics, the records on Mortarhate, the looks (it sadly does matter) and most of all a phenomenal female singer. And yet, there is not even a crappy cd discography, not even a lame bootleg with an embarrassingly pixelated cover (or is there?). You just had the odd reissue of the first Ep 6 years ago and that's fucking it. I know there are many other bands that also deserve to be properly reissued, but in the case  of Potential Threat, we are dealing with a band that existed from 1981 to 1988 (that's the same lifespan as Antisect actually), recording two Ep's, two Lp's and taking part in several worthy compilations in the process. So why the apparent indifference?

Reading the short bio of the band here, one realizes that the band never really had a stable line-up at the beginning of its existence, with Pauline and Fos being the sole remaining members, which means that they probably weren't able to tour extensively or even gig regularly in the early 80's at the peak of the anarchopunk odyssey. In fact, the band had to wait until their first Lp, "Demand an alternative" to finally know some semblance of stability member-wise. But by that time, the year was 1985: the original anarcho scene was declining and the hardcore/crust wave had not started yet so one may venture that gig turnouts were not that great. Interestingly though, Potential Threat had the opportunity to play both with Conflict and the Mortarhate roster in the first part of the 80's but also with the rising crusty scene during the second half of the decade as this handout for a gig at the Mermaid can attest:

Would I sell my soul to be able to witness a gig such as this one? Do you really need an answer?

Could poor band logistics and unlucky timing be reasons enough to explain the band's relative anonymity today? After all, they were by no means the only band in the situation of not being able to gig a lot or of being two years too late (or too early?). Their records may have suffered from poor distribution or maybe being from Blackburn didn't help either (I can't think of another Blackburn 80's punk band actually). Or could it be that their strong, almost orthodox anarcho message was seen as clichéd by the time they secured a proper line-up? Were they too serious or did they seem to be so at a time when English Dogs were having half-naked women riding dragons on the sleeves of their records? Did they look too punk at a time when metal and hardcore were all the rage? 

One thing is certain: Potential Threat sounded absolutely fantastic and they should be up there, right between your Amebix backpatch, your Discharge top and your Antisect hat. There were two different periods to Potential Threat. The first one included their two Ep's of fast and angry British-flavoured hardcore-punk that gave Anti-System, Varukers and Antisect a run for their money in terms of intensity. I personally rate "What's so great... Britain?" as high as "In defense of the realms" and that's saying a lot. The second period saw the band add a metal influence in their recipe to great effect. The more cynical among you will point out that it was the case of an awful lot of punk bands in the mid-80's which is, of course, true. But here is the thing though. Sacrilege and Antisect adopted a darker sound and look along with the metal turn, there was a change in aesthetics, but also in texture and mood. Concrete Sox or Anihilated looked lovingly toward the US thrash-metal wave and the result was an hybrid between hard-hitting anarchopunk and 80's metal. But in the case of Potential Threat, although the metal influence is undeniable, one has the feeling that there is no significant change in terms of mood and texture, as if the punk element had completely swallowed the metallic one, only to regurgitate it in the guitar riffs, miraculously turning metal into punk in the process. My blabbering may seem unclear to you now, but listen to this Lp a couple of times and you will se what I mean. And if you don't, never come back.

Basically, "Never again" is an album of politically-charged metallic anarchopunk, maybe not unlike late Anti-System, late 80's Concrete Sox or Civilised Society? The production is thick, powerful and warm like anger burning, the drums are pummeling and energetic, the guitar riffs are - almost - always relevant with a crunchy punk sound and the vocals... Well, Pauline had one of the most memorable voice of the anarchopunk scene in my opinion, warm and yet tense, raucous and yet tuneful. The words are shouted from the heart but are not yelled as you can actually understand what she is on about. I can't think of another female singer with a voice quite like hers, not that she was a particularly technical singer - it's still punk as fuck - but in the sense that there was no one singing like her at the time. If Potential Threat had had your average, but still lovable, snotty punk-rocker on vocals, they would have been really good. But with Pauline they become remarkable.  

OMG! Another Anti-System reference!

Now, I am not a great fan of the cover, I have to say, and you will notice that I didn't bother to include my own scan of it. Not that I disagree with the message, obviously, but I don't find it really pleasing to the eye (I mean, there is still a huge swastika on it). I much prefer the thick booklet with the lyrics translated into German (it was released on a German label) which was, I believe, not so common at the time. Potential Threat was very much a band of its time and place in terms of topics and it appears they were really into animal rights. The first song, "Solidarity" is strongly reminiscent of vintage anarchopunk with political talk-over passages about the situation in Northern Ireland, its sectarianism and paramilitary violence. It's the perfect introduction to a very intense album that tackles animal abuse, the need for direct action, the double-standards of the law, anti-fascism, class war, religious nutters, Thatcher being a heartless witch... My favourite song might be "This isn't punk", which is a criticism of the brainless punks bent on drugs and violence. And there is some Slayer-bashing in the song "Wishful thinking" which I find really amusing though I don't necessarily agree with the band about their view on free speech. On page 6, you will notice a drawing that should ring a bell as it is the same one that was used for Anti-System's "A look at life". How odd is that? 

This album was the band's last record and was released in 1989, after the band broke up if I understand correctly, although it was recorded in 1987. The label, Recordrom, went on to put out goodies from Dan and Internal Autonomy.


Monday 8 December 2014

Final Warning "Eyes of a child" Ep, 1994

Has it been two weeks already? Fuck me. Time really does fly and I wish it didn't. Especially since it's that time of the year again, when people are starting to get all excited about buying lame christmas gifts for people they don't really like. Pretty sickening really. Dante couldn't have seen it coming, but if there is a hell, it must be working at a toy store in december. On my way to work, there is a massive toy store that has all the colourful plastic crap a first-world kid can dream of, and the other day, although it was over thirty minutes before the opening hour, there were at least twenty people waiting before the door, looking both pissed and eager to spend money, while the employees were rushing inside, cleaning up the floor at full speed so that a herd of consumers could trample on it ruthlessly. Life: what a wonderful choice.

Anyway. If you have a kid who is into punk or if you wish to turn your young niece away from Justin Bieber, I suggest you get this wonderful Ep from Final Warning. It is a 90's record so you will be able to get if for cheap and it is a solid slice of charged hardcore-punk. In fact, I hadn't played this one for a while and I had forgotten how good it was. Not to be confused with the early hardcore band from Portland, this Final Warning were from New York and were active in the mid-90's. As I understand it, Final Warning was the follow-up of Warning although I think that Neil, the singer, was the only common member between both bands. Warning itself started after the demise of the cruelly underrated Jesus Chrust (see my post about them for more glorification) which had Neil on vocals along with Ralphy Boy, who also sang in Disassociate. And even before Jesus Chrust, Neil used to sing for Nausea, you know, that small band that everyone has patches of, before they turned crust. And of course, Neil was the brain behind Tribal War Records, a label that released music that had a tremendous influence on me and without which I probably wouldn't be half as awesome as I am today.

If Warning was a tad generic music-wise, Final Warning was a much more focused effort that deserves to be re-discovered. Metal-tinged hardcore punk in the British tradition (after all, the singer is originally from England), this Ep could have been recorded in Nottingham and released on Inflammable Materials. It doesn't really incorporate the musical element that prevailed among the mid-90's US anarcho/crusty which they were a part of. Locally, Distraught would be the closest thing sounding like Final Warning (I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they shared members actually) although the latter has more crunch and had less of a Final Conflict influence. As I said, FW sounded more at home with the mighty Hellkrusher (they even covered "Dying for who" on their live Lp) or 90's era Varukers, but with an added metal influence that came directly from the early UK crust scene or, perhaps ironically, from late Nausea. The first song, "Faith", an anti-religious haiku, is a perfect dischargey, antisecty, nauseous number with a powerful sound and perfect bass lines; "Rise" is a crusty anthem with terrific yet simple crunchy metal riffs that could have been lifted off "Guttural breath"; finally, "Eyes of a child" is a cross between both, with thrashy metal riffs, a d-beat rhythm section, vintage reverb on vocals (not unlike Cracked Cop Skulls really, even in the vocal tone) and a spoken part that screams "you're in anarchopunk territory". What makes the three tracks really stand out could be the bass work: it has a clear sound, the lines are really catchy, memorable at times even.

Only three tracks on this Ep that leave me craving for more. As mentioned, there is a Final Warning live Lp that was recorded in 1996 and that included quite few Nausea covers along with the Hellkrusher one. In 2000, a few years after the end of the band, a split Ep with Mankind? was also released on Tribal War, but that's it. A proper studio Lp would have been nice. Oh well.

As you will see, the lyrics that were initially printed inside the sleeve are almost unreadable since they are written in white with black and white pictures in the background. This mistake (don't be mean, shit happens when you do DIY punk records, I have seen much worse) accounts for the addition of a small sheet of paper with the lyrics printed on it. Finally, I found a really interesting, inspiring even, interview of Neil Robinson that you can read here in which you will find plenty of information about the 80's New York squat scene, ABC No Rio, Nausea, but also locally-sourced food.