Saturday 28 February 2015

Plasmid "S/t" Ep, 2006

Bitterpunk: "this is raw punk before it was fashionable".

Enthusiast47: "total noisy bollocks aaaarrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!".

Streetpunk77: "this is shit. You can't hear a thing and the singer sounds like a hungover Donald Duck".

Holiernerd: "I don't buy reissues. I own the original tape".

HxCforlife: "I can't believe the Heresy guys were into that crap before. Where are their bandanas?".

Drunkcrustkid: "I think I know that riff from".

Tradskin69: "Music for crusties with dogs and a bad hygiene. Real HC is from NYC".

IndieTodd: "I'm appalled".

Mummylovesyou: "What has my son done with his life? Why is he doing this to me? sob sob".

As you can see, Plasmid's 1984 demo can have very different effects on the listener depending on his or her tastes, tolerance for the "noise not music" ethos and overall conception of life. Whether you like it or not, this (very) rough recording is undeniably a piece of UK punk history as Plasmid were the earliest incarnation of Heresy, one the most crucial British hardcore bands of the second part of the 80's alongside Ripcord and The Stupids (but I have to say that the early Heresy recordings completely take the cake for me). To put it bluntly, Plasmid existed when the blokes looked like that:

Fashion review: "great Discharge-meets-Antisect at a UK82 jubilee. Nottingham 83".

Later on, as you all know, Heresy would look like this:

Fashion review: "accurate Boston-invades-Britain look with the presence of baseball hats and trainers. The crusty on the right does look a little distressed."

These superficial considerations apart, this demo can be considered as one of the earliest examples of genuine British hardcore. Recorded in 1983 in terrible conditions (it was recorded through only one microphone), it is revealed in the Third Book of Saint Ian Glasper that, initially, the band was against the idea of tuning up their instruments. Youthful naivety or tribute to Skum Dribblurzzz, you decide. The sound on this recording (or rather, these recordings since the last song of the Ep was actually from another rehearsal) was bound to be rough. And by rough, I mean really rough. We are clearly not too far from Gutrot here and even the Dirge Lp sounds overproduced compared to this Ep. Does this mean that this is a dreadful waste of plastic? Absolutely not and for several reasons. 

First, what Plasmid lacked in music proficiency, they largely made up for with an incredible energy. Even as bad as the sound is (you can't really use the term "production" here...), you can hear this youthful power, this burning intensity, this unbreakable will to play faster and with more aggression that you will find in Heresy's demo and flexi later on. This recording IS the essence of raw punk. There is no pretense of artistry, no hesitation, no frills. This is raw hardcore punk played as fast as possible without thinking about musicianship or recording details. There is a spontaneity that you cannot fake and that you cannot recreate with fancy effects, vintage gears or a monstrous record collection. You could argue that the lack of self-reflection is what made recordings such as these possible in the early 80's. For a genre such as "raw punk" (assuming it is one at all, and not an anachronistic and random term used cluelessly) too much intentionality cannot work.

Second, we have with Plasmid one early example of British hardcore. By this term I mean that we have a blend of British Discharge-influenced bands and international hardcore-punk. It has to be said that Plasmid members themselves retrospectively claimed that their primary influences at the time were Discharge, Antisect and Anti-System, and listening to the demo one can definitely agree with that. But at the time, in a 1983 handout given with the tape, the list was much longer and not only contained a lot of anarcho bands such as The Mob, Anthrax or Flux, but also bands like Varukers, GBH or Abrasive Wheels. So on this side, Plasmid was certainly a band of its time, at the national crossroads between anarchopunk and the Discharge school.

However, it would be a mistake to restrict Plasmid's influences to Britain only. For instance, where  bands like Warwound or Violent Uprising pretty much kept to local dis-ness, Plasmid borrowed from other scenes as well. Indeed, as the Heresy chapter of "Trapped in a scene" reveals, the members of Plasmid also listened to a lot of hardcore as they traded tapes with Dig from Earache records. You can guess that they were really into Mob 47 (especially the drummer), Anti-Cimex and fast Scandinavian bands in general, but also Wretched (who had recently played in England), Siege or BGK. What made Plasmid different from influential local bands is that they also had this influence from abroad that made them thrive to play faster and faster (a common obsession apparently at the time when one also reads the Napalm Death Chapter). The result is a tornado of musical insanity that blends Antisect, Discharge, Wretched, Mob 47 and Disorder. The distinct Boston influence that Heresy is most renowned for will only come later. Here you have pummeling Mob 47-style drums with a distorted guitars playing sped-up early Antisect riffs, some Chaos UK/Disorder flavoured breaks, and a snotty singer who barks (or does he quack?) continuously albeit rather indistinctly (a Wretched influence perhaps). Even through the myst of noise, one can discern that the songs are actually solid and really energetic like the backbone to the future Heresy. 

Before discussing the lyrics and the aesthetics of Plasmid, let's have a brief yet epic word about this reissue. It is stunning. It honestly couldn't have been done better. In fact, this record is probably the best-looking, most comprehensive Ep reissue that I own. In later years, there has been a trend to reissue records exactly identical to the original, which is fine since it allows one to play the "let's-pretend-I-was-around-in-1984" game but still lacks the background information about the context of production of the band (and often the context is as crucial as the text). Here you have both, original artworks, lyrics, two inserts, liner-notes from band members now as well as how they introduced themselves then, a gatefold cover that turns into a poster in true Crass fashion. If they had included an old-looking patch, it would have been the reissue of the decade. If I had only one complaint, it would be that the cover is really not that great when compared to the amazing artwork inside the record. Indeed, if you are initially clueless about the band (and let's face it, a lot of people are), the cover is not very likely to entice you. I know, I am a picky bastard when it comes to all-important things.   

If Plasmid played hardcore-punk, their approach to music as conveyed throughout the topics of their songs and their visual quality was firmly ensconsed in the early anarchopunk scene. Not that there is any discrepancy in that, Antisect were as much an anarcho band as D&V, anarchopunk being supposed to be a way of doing things and a shared set of values, and not a genre. Still there are specific signs that indicate that one is entering vintage anarchopunk territory as construed by the British punks in the 80's: anti-war songs, the threat of a nuclear annihilation, animal abuse, the destructiveness of those in power and so on. The song "Lust for power" is about power-hungry politicians waging wars for their interests while discarding the very real effects of conflicts on populations (the careful geek will notice some Discharge intertextuality with the line "Lives are squandered"). Despite the Discharge nod, the lyrics to the song are rather long and more akin to an Anti-System number in terms of writing. The lyrics to two other songs are provided ("Cry of hunger" about starvation and poverty and "Immortal shadows" about victims of a nuclear fallout coming back from the dead!) but they don't appear on the demo. I guess the lyrics to the four other songs have been lost and you would be pretty lucky to understand them by just listening to them, in fact you would probably get a nobel price nomination by achieving this true feat.     

The absence of some of the lyrics doesn't, by any means, imply that you don't get much to read: as already mentioned, you have a two-page history of Plasmid written by Steve and Garn (with, as a bonus, the short review of the demo Pus did for MRR back then comparing Plasmid to fellow noise merchants Chaos UK and Asylum) as well as a text about bloodsports and fox-hunting and one text written by the band as a handout accompanying the demo. The reissue is packed with fantastic cut'n'paste artwork with top-notch drawings (the punk-skeleton doing the peace sign should have been used for a shirt... any taker?) and superb anarcho-influenced symbolism and slogans. As I said, this is possibly the loveliest Ep reissue that I have seen and one that the record label, Shortfuse records (also responsible for records from Lärm, Ripcord or Uniform Approach), must be very proud of.  

I obviously cannot recommend this enough. If you don't already own this geezer, it might very well be the best thing you can get for a fiver in 2015. 

Part Antisect, part The Mob. An anarcho wet dream.

The gatefold poster with another Antisect nod for the road.


Friday 6 February 2015

Bug Central "Money and riots" Ep, 2000

Reading news about Class War today inspired me to post this Ep. What with the successful Poor Doors protest and the current occupation of a building to resist gentrification, CW has a youthful and outrageous energy - the age of the participants notwithstanding - that I greatly enjoy. And having banners with "wankers" written under pictures of prominent members of the political class is as childish as it is wonderful, not to mention empowering and, who knows, effective. Just like a healthy slice of punk-rock, right? For some reason, while reading Ian Bone's blog, I thought that Bug Central would be the perfect soundtrack for a Class War action. It is angry, politically-charged, direct and snottier than a bus full of teenagers.

One can meaningfully associate Bug Central with the late 90's/early 00's London anarchopunk scene that saw bands like Active Slaughter or Riot/Clone at the top of their game. The band formed in 1996 and originally had a former X-Cretas member on drums. They were really active until 2002 then seemed to have taken a long break before kicking back to life in 2008. It wouldn't be inaccurate to say that Bug Central is to the UK anarchopunk sound what Zero Tolerance (assuming you read my earth-shattering post about their album) is to the UK82 one. Both bands were around at the same time, probably from the same generation and shared that genuine, sincere approach to music. Like Zero Tolerance, Bug Central was not a referential band, and although they were undeniably influenced by bands like Subhumans, Anthrax, Liberty or Riot/Clone, I would venture that they didn't really intend to sound like them, as if it were not intentional but rather something that came naturally to them because they overplayed "Religious war" or "Capitalism is cannibalism" at home or something. Anyway... Expect some nasty, tuneful mid-tempo punk-rock with distinctive vocals that definitely sets the band apart if you ask me. Just like the music, the voice sounds effortlessly angry and threatening without ever being forceful or parodic (it reminds me of one of the singers of Cress actually), a rare feat if you really think about it. The music is not spectacular or especially original but it does a perfect job at providing the listener with a slightly updated version of the early 80's anarcho sound and I like to think than it does it better than bands who purposely have that kind of agenda and, more often than not, fail because they just try too hard.

Lyrics show that the boys were not too happy with the state of things and thanks fuck for that. "Money and riots", the best track on the Ep, is about capitalism, poverty and social classes; "Smart-bombs for the nation" (I apologize for the few skips...) is about the alienating power of television; "Bank job" is an Intensive Care cover (not the 80's band, the latter one from London) and "Halo projector" is a song against religious loonies and their dangerous fear of God. The Ep also includes a short text about punks who are stuck in the past and are just a parody of themselves, wallowing in self-complacency and being self-righteous armchair critics. Next to this text, the band provided a list of contacts of worthy struggles to support such as Class War, the ALF or the AFA.

My version of this 2000 Ep is the North-American one, released on Arson Records from Canada, a label that also put out a really good live from Amebix ("Make some fucking noise") as well as Besk and Kakistocracy records. The UK version was released on BBP records, a label that was responsible for the Icons of Filth live Ep and the Nausea/Jesus Chrust/Apostates tape that I posted on the blog a while ago, as well as excellent tapes from anarcho bands like Alternative or Civilised Society? in the 80's. For some strange reason, Bug Central's first Lp had been released on Helen of Oi! just one year before, an oddity that I still can't really explain... Maybe the label was drawn to the 80's sound of the band? To the band's direct approach to politics? Maybe they didn't bother reading the lyrics? Whatever the reason is, it is a little absurd to see a Oi label releasing an anarchopunk record... Oh well, if Hard Skin were able to fool them... Maybe they couldn't read?

Money and riots