Monday 29 June 2015

Policebastard / Defiance "S/t" split cd, 1995

Hatred and contempt for the police is certainly one of punk's most basic common factor. I have personally always loved outrageous anti-police songs (Hard Skin's repertoire gets a lot of playing at Terminal Sound Nuisance's headquarters) and really, who doesn't? Then you have bands taking police-bashing to the next level through the inclusion of their pig-hating sentiment in their very moniker, a game that MDC paved the way for but that Throw Bricks At Coppers are sure to win. Would I wear a Policebastard shirt in England? Probably not, since I heard some police officers now have some reading skills and I am not so fond of masochism. I sometimes wonder what the Brummie coppers thought when they passed by a PB gig poster, especially if the mention "members of Doom and Contempt" was added below the name... Probably something along the lines of "back in the day, people respected authority, Queen and country... and now look, dole-scrounging tramps taking the piss out of our glorious institution. Is it for people like this that Winston won?". If you were a policeman in Birmingham in the mid-90's and would like to share with us, please leave a comment. The author of the best comment will receive a Cracked Cop Skulls button.

If you have never heard of Policebastard, you will probably be a little upset that you have been missing on one of the very best UK crust bands of the 90's. If you have heard of PB but never really listened to them for one reason or another, let me tell you that you will be feeling like a fool soon enough. PB formed in Brum in 1993, pretty much by chance if one is to believe "Armed with anger". In the early 90's, Stu-Pid, was singing for Contempt and was meant to tour Germany with them. For some reason, other Contempt members couldn't commit, but Pid and bass player Trogg decided to still do the tour and formed another band in that prospect with none other than Jon, who used to sing in the original Doom line-up, on guitar, and drummer Clive, from the second Filthkick line-up. Now, that already looked like a solid enough punk team if you ask me. The boys rehearsed a set made up of Contempt and Doom songs and did tour Germany. Where there is a will... As for the name "Policebastard"? Well, since the band did Doom covers and had the original Doom singer on guitar and vocals, I am pretty sure it was a heavy nod to Doom's first Ep, but I don't know, this is just a very wild guess.

For those of you who have not yet identified who Pid is, he was (and still is) the singer for Sensa Yuma and also got to sing for English Dogs in the late 90's. I suppose that he was, in a quite literal sense, the punkiest punk in the band, whereas Jon and Clive were certainly more metal-oriented at the time. And that's precisely the reason why Policebastard were so brilliant, they were the perfect blend of fast and snotty UK hardcore punk and of crunchy crusty metal. Contrary to more recent bands who start off with an accurate enough idea of playing a specific brand of metal punk, I would argue that PB's sound resulted from the collusion of members who wanted to play 90's flavoured British hardcore punk and others who wanted to infuse it with extreme metal. The result could have been disastrous and disparate-sounding, but I guess the four members all coming from the same 80's punk background gave PB's its cohesiveness.

The ten PB songs on this split cd are basically the "Traumatized" Lp, minus one song. This is a totally unique album and definitely one of the best crust albums of the 90's. Contrary to bands like Extinction of Mankind or Coitus, who had a rather slimy, glutinous old-school crust sound, PB's is much colder and dryer, more modern in fact. While very metal-oriented, the guitar work looks forward in terms of influence (there are elements of industrial metal and 90's extreme metal) rather than backward. This Lp reminds me a little of Doom's "The greatest invention" in terms of songwriting, but I would argue that it takes all the good ideas of that Lp one step further. You have fast crust-punk songs as well as crushingly bleak, metallic mid-tempo numbers, all played heavily and with a rare intensity. The vocals are particularly effective here with Jon's deep growling voice complementing perfectly the furiously snotty one of Pid (it is metal AND punk even in the vocal harmony I would say). Imagine a rabid and yet focused meeting between what Doom, Deviated Instinct, Nausea and Filthkick were doing in the early 90's and the new generation of fast and aggressive punk bands that was starting to emerge then like Substandard or Hellkrusher.

Lyrically, Policebastard were genuinely angry and certainly had a lot to say about the social, political and cultural context of the early 90's that were marked with the Criminal Justice Bill and the Poll Tax Riots. Don't think that it is going to be about inept war haikus or basic anti-system rants. "Traumatized" is about our own desensitization before disturbing images of war or starvation. This song was actually a comment upon all the horrific record covers that depict such atrocities but eventually miss the point since we are no longer sensitive to such representations and rather we prefer to shut down and distance ourselves from the implications. "Dance, be happy" was a song about the growing rave culture in the UK that was becoming more and more a brainless drug culture about getting high. "Inferior" was one about the social pressures that are put upon our bodies and the rising commodification of beauty and sexuality, all in the name of profit and at the expense of self-esteem and genuine well-being... Well, as you can see, musical integrity and innovation were not PB's sole motivation and you can feel that the band really meant something politically as well, there is a distinct anger, an urgency that permeate the songs, as if the members had been waiting for such a band to exist in their life to be able to sing about these issues in that specific way.

The "Traumatized" Lp has been reissued recently along with the songs recorded during the same session that appeared on the split Lp with A38. Following the Lp, the band toured Europe with the mighty Maggot Slayer Overdrive and released the convincing and almost nu-metal-sounding "Gulf War syndrome" in 1998. A split Ep with Unkind in 99 and another Ep, without Pid, "Cursed Earth" in 2002 were supposed to be the band's last... But then, in the late 2000's, Policebastard reformed, started touring again and recorded a very good split Lp with War//Plague in 2011 for Profane Existence (there are brilliant covers of Peni and The Mob on that one). By 2013, Jon rejoined PB as well and, almost magically, the spark got re-ignited and Policebastard rose again as this monstrous crusty metal-punk machine and recorded the "Confined" album. This is easily in my Top 5 crust album of the 2010's and the first time I listened to it, I almost had troubles believing how good it was (I must admit that I didn't expect it to be THAT good). Honestly. Almost 20 years later, there is the same level of anger, focus and urgency as on "Traumatized". I guess 2013 is pretty much as shitty as 1995, right?

The next ten tracks of this cd were penned by a band that is much more famous than Policebastard today, although back in 1995, my guess is that the Doom connection could have made the opposite true, at least in Europe. Anyway... Defiance it is then. I briefly talked about the early Portland anarcho scene when I posted the 1989 Resist demo but these recordings are a bit older, between 1993 and 1995. Defiance was made up at the time of members from Resist, Deprived and Unamused. I suppose one could say that Defiance was pretty much the maximized version of those bands, keeping the anarcho ideology, the energy and the intensity and adding tunes and catchiness through the incorporation of a more obvious UK82 influence (though I doubt the term was in use then, let's say "second wave of British punk-rock). You could say that in the first half of the 90's, when you were a US anarcho band, you either went crustcore like Destroy, Disrupt or Deformed Conscience, or you picked the UK-influenced path like Defiance, A//Political or Aus-Rotten. But I would argue that Defiance succeeded more than the others thanks to their Oi-tinged mid-tempo anthems that you could  easily sing (and drink) along to. 

While undeniably catchy and skilled song-writers, Defiance slowly became more or less linked with the then growing "streetpunk" scene of bands like The Casualties, The Unseen or The Virus (they do like names starting with "The" those bands). While their lyrics were as radical and political as those they wrote for their former bands Deprived or Resist, their tunefulness and the musical references to the UK studs-and-spikes scene somehow tied them to the Punkcore bands, although I doubt it was their original intent. Anyway, one could have thought that a catchier music would appeal to a larger punk audience and thus expose them to more serious and interesting lyrics, but that's putting a lot of stock in the power of lyrics, when a lot of "punks" are just looking for a good pogo and new tips to raise their double mohawks... Oh well. 

This said, these early Defiance songs are really good. The ten songs on the cd are actually from their two first Ep's, the self-titled one from 1994, with Tony from Deprived on vocals, and the "Burn" Ep with Alaric from Unamused, you also have one comp track from the "Start a riot" Lp and one track from their European tour Ep. Of course, Defiance would reach their peak a little later, in 1996, with their fantastic "No Future No Hope" Lp, but the basis are already there: catchy Kelly-styled bass lines, shouted snotty vocals, classic chorus. It is basically the best of the Riot City bands played with a US hardcore energy.  

The lyrics of Defiance are also much smarter than you could think. Songs about the class war, voting as a con so that the system can maintain and justify itself, American interventionism, social control to pacify us... The texts are pretty long, well-written and boiling with rage.    

I bought this cd in a second-hand shop 15 years ago. Back then, I was very much into the "streetpunk" thing and I must confess that I spent a fiver on this baby just for the Defiance cover. I mean... LOOK AT THE AMOUNT OF STUDS ON THEIR JACKETS!!!!!! It's insane! In my naive teenage mind, I thought that they must be at least as punk as The Casualties so I bought the fucking thing. The Policebastard cover tended to scare me a little though... This split cd was released on Ataque Sonoro in 1995, a label I already talked about when I posted the glorious Genital Deformities/Subcaos split cd (the man sure loved his split cd's!).  

Thursday 18 June 2015

State Poison "S/t" demo cdr, 2007

For the most part, the recent noisepunk trend gets lost on me. Even though I do give a chance to the latest records from bands claiming to take the Confuse worship to the next level, I usually end up being politely disappointed and quickly forget what I have just listened to. Since 2008 or so, there has been a steady amount of self-proclaimed noisepunk or raw punk bands from all over doing the "drenched in distortion and reverb" thing. And why not? If 2010's noisepunk is the 90's D-beat, which is not so far-fetched a claim actually, I am afraid most of the records that stand for the genre nowadays will not make it to posterity, but then of course that has never been the point either. 

Before I was even aware that it was supposed to be called "noisepunk", back when the punk internet was still in its infancy, the genre appeared to be really quite obscure and even extreme, if not conceptual. Atrocious Madness was a totally unique band then, with brilliant aesthetics and a real identity while I saw Gloom as these crusty Japanese old-timers trying to keep the flaming noise of Confuse, Gai and Kuro alive. It was all pretty epic in my mind to be fair. Chaos UK and Disorder were never "noisepunk" to me - it would be as irrelevant as calling Discharge fucking "D-Beat" - they just embodied this distorted brand of second-wave UK punk that generated UK hardcore and crust, and as for early Japanese bands I saw them as taking the Bristol sound to create their own style, but not exactly a genre. While I certainly made the connection between Bristol and Japan sound-wise, I never thought of isolating the specifics of the sound (the distortedness, the drum-rolls, the snotty vocal delivery and so on) in order to systematize a proper genre. But the internet age makes a genre of everything and anything and tends to create punk music that is, I feel, too calculated and too referential for its own good. 

But anyway, State Poison played noisepunk back when there wasn't yet hundreds of bands having a go at it. They were from Saint-Etienne, started in 2006 (I think) and toured with noise-heroes The Wankys. Even then, it was not exactly a teenagers' band either since the drummer had played in Vömit For Breakfast and Chaos ZZZ, the American singer also played in The Holy Mountain and my good mate Alex on bass had had the honour to be part of such legendary bands as SkitYouthArmy, Expulsion and Grippe Aviaire Terror. This was their first recording from 2007, an unfashionable cdr demo (it would have come out on the much fancier and more exclusive tape format today) with 10 songs and pen writing on the cover for added punk points. Sonically, this is everything you are entitled to expect from the noisepunk agenda: it is highly energetic, fast, aggressive and punk as fuck. The drumming is really dynamic and the obligatory rolls are played and located wisely in the song-writing, the guitar is distorted but not too fuzzy, meaning you can still spot the riffs, the bass leads the way and gives substance to the songs while the vocals sound suitably pissed off and are more akin to Japcore or US Hardcore than "traditional" noisepunk, which works fine in this case. It reminds me of mid-80's Chaos UK and of Assfort. 

The lyrics are in English and in broken French as it was Brett, the singer, who wrote them which makes them the equivalent of the broken English you find in Japanese bands. A smart and geeky move! Songs about war, colonialism, armaments, chemicals and the social death-cult. Following this demo, State Poison released one lovely Ep in the same vein before taking a more Burning Spirit turn for their subsequent 2010 Lp (the year when they played in Japan, no less!) and 2013 Ep.

Punk is aaaaarrrggghhhhh                    

Sunday 14 June 2015

Earth Citizens "Complications" Lp, 2001

Earth Citizens' is unlikely to be the most popular post of the almighty Terminal Sound Nuisance. In fact, I am pretty sure they won't. And now that I think about it, it is quite probable that even when they were around, Earth Citizens were not exactly the school's coolest kid  However, for all the music's amateurism and lovable sloppiness (especially on this Lp), they stand for something that I tend to value: genuineness. If I were to name bands or labels that epitomize the purest, staunchest anarchopunk spirit, Earth Citizens and Resistance Productions/Strongly Opposed would certainly make it to the top 5. And if I were to make a ranking of anarcho's cheesiest names, they could possibly make it to the semi-final, behind all the bands, as good as they might have been, that had "Indian" in their name (yes, I am taking about you Indian Dream, City Indians and White Indians! Flux of Pink Indians are out of anyone's cheese league).

EC were from Zürich, Switzerland, and formed in 1990. Despite their brief existence (they split in 1992), they managed to release one tape album, "To a nation of party lovers", which would be re-issued as an Lp in 2001, and one Ep, "No god, no leaders, no state, no religion", with one of my favourite Ep covers of the 90's, and even toured Europe, all of the above being achieved in genuine DIY fashion. Several members of EC were really active in the then flourishing Zürich's political squat scene and involved with the label Resistance Productions. The band rose from the ashes of Orange World, but Pablo at least was involved in other bands earlier on like The Decay (Shit Fi material if there has ever been any) or Brains of Humans, and after EC, in Avaricious (an England-based anarchopunk project that could have had an Ep on Bluurg if they had been around then), Protest (very raw punk) and Total Control (based in the Parisian southern suburbs, one member of which would form Garage Lopez later on).

It is difficult to separate EC and the bands that it emerged from and merged into from Resistance Productions and its continuation, Strongly Opposed, as both labels released the totality of the bands' discographies. Resistance Productions was, from 1985 to 1990, a tape label mostly, that released tape compilations, recordings from local bands such as Brains of Humans as well as tape-reissues of bands like Political Asylum, Embittered or even Snuff. They then started to release some proper vinyls, the Earth Citizens and Suicidal Supermarket Trolleys Ep's for instance, but it largely remained a tape label. In 1998, when Strongly Opposed was founded however, it became a vinyl-only operation. This "Complications" Lp was released on the aforementioned label in 2001 and it gathers four songs from the Ep as well as many tracks that originally appeared on compilations (the very crusty-sounding "Questioning" was included on a Profane Existence double-Ep comp in 1993). The sound-quality on the Lp is quite rough as some songs were basically recorded in a squat's practice space, but even the songs that were recorded in a studio have that raw and spontaneous quality that often characterized European anarcho bands in the early 90's. This is unintentionally sloppy and distorted, squat-proof, no bullshit anarchopunk music as a way of life.

Stylistically, Earth Citizens were not a one-trick pony, and although the cynical among you would say that none of their tricks were really that good, the band at least did not fall in the cheap d-beat simplicity (since, let's get real for a minute, very few bands can actually pull it properly in the long run). There are undeniably some crustcore elements, and some songs reminds me of Doom's demos or Private Jesus Detector (gruffcore's roughest side), but also some more traditional fast anarchopunk with dual-vocals from the heart and lungs, not dissimilar to early Bad Influence, Oi Polloi or early Antisect, and you'll even hear some catchy mid-tempo punky songs with a female singer that could have been lifted from an early Toxic Waste practice. The music is very energetic and even intense, urgent in the midst of the general shamble and you can feel that the band cared deeply about what they were singing about. "Punk is not a fashion, it's a fight!" the band states in the booklet, and as idealistic as it sounds, they certainly believed deeply in it. Songs about consumerism, the need to fight back, question the shit we're being fed and to offer positive alternatives. The artwork is totally on par with the ideas expressed and, for its crudity, with the music some might say... If anything, give a real chance to this Lp for the song "System slaves", a heavy and raw mid-tempo old-school crust anthem reminiscent of Sarcasm's slowest moments that is an absolute crusher.

Punk love on the barricades

I just bloody love that band.        

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Kleister from Skuld Releases is no more...

I have just learnt that Kleister, founder of the highly-respected German anarchopunk label Skuld Releases passed away.

In this type of situation, it is always difficult to find appropriate words, and although I had never met him, Skuld Releases has been a life-changing label for me (as several posts on Terminal Sound Nuisance can show). For what it's worth, I offer my sincere condolences to his family and his friends (I have a special thought for Stevie from Ruin Nation).

When I started buying crust and anarcho records in 2001 and I didn't really know anything apart from the odd Crass or Subhumans mixtapes, I would always trust Skuld Releases records on distros, even when I didn't have a clue about the bands. It would be too long to list all the fantastic bands that I got to know thanks to Skuld records, bands like Extinction of Mankind, Misery, Bad Influence, Contropotere, The System, Aus-Rotten, Counterblast...

I know there are all just records, it is all just music in the end and there are more important things. But still, it was all life-changing to me, for the better, and I am sure that there are many people that feel the same.

This is a sad day.

Rest In Punk  

Joyce McKinney Experience "Cuddle this" 12'', 1990

I sometimes wonder if unconventional band names and graphic identities are actually meant to test us and challenge our prejudices (as unprejudiced we like to think we all are as punks). Each punk trend creates its own codes and norms, so that when a band stands out people either tend to discard it (consciously or not) or, on the contrary they can be drawn to it (if only for the sake of boasting a position of "nonconformist"). Rubella Ballet was a prime example of a band with a genuine personality that set them apart aesthetically from their peers while at the same time completely embracing the anarchopunk values. It nevertheless took me some years to get used to their colourfulness and their outrageous use of day-glo and I still blink when I look at the cover of "If" and "Arctic Flowers".

Along with Dan and their colourful cat-themed artworks, Joyce McKinney Experience used to be a band I was suspicious about although they were part of this mid-80's British hardcore punk scene I love so much. The fact that their name referred to an American girl (Joyce McKinney) who abducted, chained to a bed and raped a Mormon priest in the 70's almost overshadowed the absence of skulls, wastelands and grim reapers from their record covers. JME were from Leamington Spa, hometown of The Varukers, but also of Depraved/Visions of Change and Bad Beach, two bands JME shared a very close connection with. So close in fact that at some point not only did Visions of Change and JME share two members, which obviously must have made it easier to go on tour, but Sharon from JME and Ian from Visions of Change were even married at some point. Talk about a close-knit scene.

JME formed in 1986 (I guess) and managed to hold it together until 1992. In the midst of a UK scene then roaming with speed freaks or fetid post-apocalyptic madness, JME were a breath of fresh, if cider-flavoured, air. Saying this, it was not all doom and gloom music-wise during that time, especially in Leamington where Depraved perfectly embodied the powerful British version of US hardcore and then, as Visions of Change, pioneered organ-led (yes, organ, like in the strictly-prohibited-instruments-in-punk) positive hardcore punk and Bad Beach worked their own original brand of heavy weirdo hardcore. But I feel JME were the best of the lot and I dare say that they were probably the catchiest band in the Kingdom at their peak. Their music was upbeat and tuneful but also really energetic and snotty. Certainly enhanced by the presence of two great female singers, JME borrowed the energy and the guitar hooks of American hardcore and blended it with that specific brand of female-fronted anarchopunk. If Lost Cherrees, Rubella Ballet or A-Heads had been into Bad Brains, it would have sounded something like JME.

Prior to this 12'' released in 1990, JME had already had out a few records out. They appeared in 1987 on a brilliant 4-way split Lp along with Incest Brothers (crazy and fast hardcore), Decadence Within (with top songs from their classic anarcho period) and the sadly underrated Nox Mortis (moody anarchopunk at its best) entitled "Shall we dance?" and released on Meantime Records, one of the most remarkable record label of this period, founded by Dan's bass player, that also released their Lp, "Joyce offspring", in 1988. The following year, a JME Ep, "Boring rock", saw the light of day. "Cuddle this" was therefore JME's last record although the band did record two subsequent demos in 1992 when they briefly reformed. However, as catchy as they might sound, those last recordings definitely belonged to the dreaded realms of "pop-rock" and had more to do with a sunday night spent eating ice-cream on your own than a sweaty and boozy hardcore all-dayer if you know what I mean. "Cuddle this" happens to be my favourite JME's release as it saw the band at its catchiest and most melodic. While I understand Glasper when he says in Trapped in a Scene that it somehow lacks the grit of the Lp, I personally feel that "Cuddle this" was JME's crowning record. The vocals are perfect, not as snotty as before, but a bit moodier (or even poppier really) perhaps, and yet the music lost none of its contagious energy. This is quality punk music that everyone can enjoy, though probably not for the same reasons.

It is always difficult to evaluate in retrospect the influence that bands have had. The first time I heard JME (that was through the highly recommendable Boss Tuneage double-cd discography from 2006), they instantly reminded me of Harum-Scarum's second Lp, "Suppose we try". In fact, I am quite sure that they must have listened to quite a bit of JME when they wrote the songs for that Lp in 2001. More generally, I feel that these late 80's female-fronted UK bands, that were tuneful, energetic and intense, such as JME, Dan or Sofahead, may have had a significant influence on the female-fronted anarchopunk bands of the 90's that were aggressive and yet with good tunes, like the aforementioned Harum-Scarum, Mankind?, Burning Kitchen, maybe even Post-Regiment or La Fraction, or in more recent years bands like Signal Lost, and the important Meantime Records connection (and, in Dan's case, the Profane Existence one as well) could have played a role in spreading the word. Or maybe it's complete bollocks and all these bands had never heard of JME and I'm a deluded bastard and it is all a matter of common artistic sensibility.

Or could there be some time-traveling involved????????  

Cuddle this!!!!!!!!!!!!