Tuesday 12 July 2016

Anarchy in the U$A: A//Political "Planting the seeds of revolution" demo tape, 1997

One band immediately sprang to my mind when I started thinking about the "Anarchy in the US of A" series: A//Political.

Of course, Aus-Rotten and Antiproduct quickly came into the picture as well, but, as I was lying ungracefully on my (one) comfy chair, immersed in my thoughts, chain-smoking myself to death and enjoying my fifth cup of coffee, A//Political were royally seated at the top of my list. Arguably, many would claim that they were never quite as accomplished a band as the five other anarchopunk bands I wrote about but they probably are my favourite of the bunch. A//Political reeked of anarchopunk on all levels and to some extent, they could be seen as the ultimate 90's anarchopunk band. On its very face, it is a bizarre statement perhaps, but looking closely at the band's existence, stance and outputs, a relevant one nonetheless. Like Aus-Rotten, Mankind?, Civil Disobedience, Brother Inferior and Antiproduct, the music of A//Political has been seldom discussed, as if the political nature of the band made a critical, analytical look at their actual work pointless or irrelevant. As I remember it, A//Political, for their acerb lyrics, were quite polemical and the term "PC" was often thrown when they were mentioned, although more out of intellectual laziness and denial than anything else. But then, I suppose that this has always happened whenever a band is critical of the punk scene and the song "Punk is dead", almost 40 years after it was written, is amazingly still misunderstood and a stable point of contention in some quarters.

In 2010, a wonderful discography of the band, wittily entitled "The greatest working Crass rip-off", was released jointly by three labels, Threat To Existence (run by someone from Against//Empire if I am correct), Rabid Records and Hell On Earth Records. Although I do prefer vinyls (yes, you may yell "neeeeeeeeeeerd"), I am also a rather pragmatic geezer and I noticed that the cd version of the discography, contrary to the vinyl one, included the 1997 demo so I bought the cd. The booklet that comes with the record is amazing, one of the best I have ever seen: 60 pages with all the lyrics, the history of the band, loads of flyers and artwork, pictures, interviews... It is clear that a lot of time and effort have been put in this and I wish all retrospective records demonstrated this level of passion, commitment and respect. If we do see punk as a valid and legitimate culture (or counterculture if you like), then it might be a good idea to deal with our cultural artifacts in a serious manner, to allow the actors to tell their story and to deliver decent-looking discographies. It is true that a band like A//Political, because of their aesthetics and their highly political dimension is adequate for such a project, but then all the bands have stories to share, old pictures or flyers. So when I see a vinyl discography without even a lyrics sheet, not only do I feel like a fool who just spent 12 euros for - literally - just the plastic record but it also feels like a tremendous lost opportunity to take part in the multi-faceted telling of punk's history. And it is a fucking shame.

But back to A//Political. Since I am a sweetheart, I scanned the band's history written by Angel (the guitar player). I see little point in retelling all of it and I strongly recommend you read it (you know, for posterity's sake and all that). A//Political (or rather A-Political as they spelt it then) started sometime in the mid-90's in Baltimore after the demise of another local band, Coexist. Apparently, the band stagnated for a while, knew a number of line-up changes but eventually stabilized in 1996 with an almost totally different crew which prompted them to change their name drastically: they became A//Political. The existence of the band was tied to that of the Crasshole Collective (they certainly loved their Crass-related puns!), a group of active people that strove to create a lively, committed, revolutionary anarchopunk scene in deprived Baltimore. This led to the creation of Crasshole Records and, a few years later, to the birth of the Anarcho Punk Federation that aimed at promoting an international anarchopunk network.

The political, revolutionary even, element that was inherent in A//Political is one aspect that certainly relates them to bands like Crass, The Apostles or Conflict that had a serious political agenda and strove to organize and develop a radical punk scene. Basically, A//P were not just applying the anarcho ethos to their band, but they endeavoured to spread them to their local scene and connect with like-minded people all over the world, they also put on fund-raisers for radical organizations and invited political speakers at their gigs. This was genuinely "act locally, think globally" and while I am aware that a lot of us love to act all jaded in 2016, full of our internet-fueled sarcasm and lazy cynicism, for all their idealism and naivety, A//P remains a band that actually believed in what they preached and were absolutely unapologetic and confrontational about it, as their communiqués (they did take themselves seriously, a tad cheesy maybe but I don't mind) inspired by anarchism and situationism show with topics ranging from prisons, revolutionary violence or the nuclear family. Thought-provoking stuff that definitely stood out among the 90's anarchopunk production. You may disagree with it but it is irrefutable that they lived and breathed by the anarchopunk philosophy.

"Planting the seeds of revolution" is A//Political's first demo and it was recorded in early 1997. I actually have a copy of it on tape, although it is more accurately a second generation copy (at least) that I got from Catchphraze records in 2003. There was a thick booklet that came with the original demo but it was not provided with my copy. On the tape, the sound is quite rough but it gives it a certain charm as I have the impression to listen to a great demo that has been rightly overplayed. But for clarity's sake, I have also included rips of the demo taken from the discography cd so that you can have a clear idea of what is actually going on. When I say that A//Political were the ultimate anarcho band, it was not only for their uncompromising stance, it was also about the music. The demo is an anarchopunk feast that relies heavily on referentiality but still manages to sound fresh and spontaneous in the context of 90's anarchopunk. Of course, A//P were not the only players in town in terms of overt influences and a band like Aus-Rotten, for instance, did not try to hide that they were trying to blend Conflict with Discharge via Final Conflict. But A//P were the only band at the time to blatantly use the sonorities of vintage UK anarchopunk to such an extent. The only other band that could come close on that level would be Resist And Exist in their early years, back when they penned these delicious Chumbawambesque songs. For that reason, A//P must have been a bit of an oddity at the time, because open referentiality (or geeky fanservice as it is known nowadays) was not really a thing in the 90's and the D-Beat wave was more an exception that was sometimes frowned upon rather than the rule. However, even if A//P wore their influences proudly and openly, the way they adapted them to their music is unlike 2000's bands who often used "cool" references for the sake of paying a tribute. It feels like A//P's referentiality is spontaneous and just a heartfelt means to write songs they would themselves listen to in order to spread their ideas - which was always the core principle of the band - a means to an end rather than the end itself.     

From my personal perspective, A//Political is a dream of a band that took inspiration from the original anarchopunk scene in terms of politics and ideals as much as music. The demo is replete with passionate spoken parts, tribal drum-beats, multivocal arrangements, catchy guitar leads, fast'n'snotty cider-fueled moments... It synthesizes 80's anarchopunk while keeping a genuine political motivation and a sense of context. Incredibly referential but superbly relevant in their present if you like. A//P's music took the ominous tribal rhythms of Crass, Anthrax and Flux, the ragingly fast quality of early Antisect, Legion of Parasites or Dirge (although it is unlikely they had heard of Dirge at the time), the intense and epic sense of orchestration of Conflict, the punky and sloppy "putaputaputa" vibe of UK82 bands like Disorder or Social Disease and the textures of SoCal anarcho bands like Media Children and Resist And Exist. The production on the demo is raw, for real, but it actually reinforces the sense of urgency and outrage of the music, it punkifies it. The youthful, pissed off vocals, reminiscent of Flux, Pete Boyce and Iconoclast's, are to die for and the way they flow points as much to vintage 80's UK punk as the PDX anarchopunk sound of Defiance or Deprived or even the infamous "streetpunk" wave. The riffs are simple, not perfectly executed to be fair, but played with energy and conviction. I love everything about that demo, it offers a great collection of songs that demonstrate a compelling range of different paces and moods but display a strong sense of cohesion, even more emphasized by the fact that there is no pause between some of the songs. "Planting the seeds of revolution" is also a great work because it is accessible, the music is very catchy and anthemic and, despite its obvious references, you do not need to be a punk encyclopedia to enjoy every second of it. 

In accordance with the band's ideals there wouldn't be much point in raving about A//Political and not talk about the lyrics (the scans come from the discography). As Angel points out in the band's history: "We took a quality from all those bands from the 80's we tried so hard to emulate that so many other bands who tried the same really just glossed over. That of irony and sarcasm". That is key if you want to really appreciate the band's lyrics and understand why they stirred up so many arguments. Although some of their words were more akin to "traditional" confrontational anarchopunk rants about the state being the upper-classes' oppressive tool to control, punish and indoctrinate us all, others were directed at the global punk scene. The song "Stop thinking and pogo" was a harsh, but relevant, critique of the popular streetpunk fashion that was superficial and devoid of meaning and it mentioned The Casualties (who, I think, replied with the poorly-written song "For the punx" that basically confirmed everything A//P criticized them for...); "Obscene gestures" focused on the pathetic behaviours that "da punx" could display in terms of sexism, homophobia or pathetic rockstars attitudes; "Everything is a front" targeted famous bands that had signed on a major label but still tried to sell the idea of a revolution (RATM? Chumba?)... Controversial lyrics that, at least, aimed at making punks think and getting them out of their comfort zone. And let's face it, we need bands like A//Political.  

You may scoff at their revolutionary romanticism or find their determination deluded ("Fight back or fuck off"), but I will take that any day over a pseudo-nihilistic, directionless hardcore band with vague songs about nothing disguises as "personal lyrics". Besides, they directly refer to Antisect in the title of the song "Education is indoctrination" so I am officially and indefinitely biased. And come on, how can you not like their great-looking, Apocalypse-like logo?

Friday 8 July 2016

Anarchy in the U$A: Antiproduct "Big business and the government are both the fucking same" Ep, 1998

The punk tradition of picking band names starting with the prefix "anti" is a rich, time-honoured one. Throughout the years, it has been tied to absolutely classic bands like Antisect or Anti-Cimex, to "classic-yet-pretty-average-really-if-you-care-to-actually-listen-to-'em" ones like Anti-Pasti or Anti Nowhere League and even to abysmal outfits that common decency and my kind-hearted nature keep me from mentioning (but if anyone is interested, drop me an email and I'll give you my hit list). Is "Antiproduct" a good name for a band? Well, not really to be honest. I do like the punk cheesiness of it (just like I do Anti-System's) but the name is a bit misleading, its meaning tending to be hidden behind quick interpretations, but then, you cannot blame the band for people's urge to jump to conclusions. In the retrospective cd "The Ep's of AP" (a great name this time, with an added 100 punk points for the Rudimentary Peni reference), the band felt the need to explain what the term "Antiproduct" actually meant and I can imagine numerous conversations with that one annoyingly drunk punk starting with "so you guys are, like, against products, like?" motivating such a clarification.

"Its roots are in the notion that "machinery" manufactures a product and that when this machinery fails to construct said product correctly, the result is the antiproduct. That is to say, that somewhere in the conditioning process that manufactures status-quo people and ideals, something happens to change the outcome."

It still does not sound that great phonally but at least it is a clever, significant name. Whereas Anti-Pasti... but I digress. The Antiproduct we all know and - I assume - love formed in mid-1995 in Binghamton  (apparently a proverbial shithole in upstate New York) from two other bands that shared almost the same members, namely a first version of Antiproduct and a side-project called Conscious Minority. They recorded their first Ep, "Another day, another war" (winning 50 punk points for the Varukers reference), in 1996. The second one, "Big business and the government are both the fucking same", was recorded later that year but released in early 1998 (and not in 1997 like it is wrongly indicated on Discogs... someone hasn't done his/her homeworks). Finally, a full Lp, "The deafening silence of grinding gears" (which confirmed the band's progression as well as their love for long names), was recorded in 1999 and came out in 2000. In the aforementioned cd, the band also included a full Antiproduct biography that goes in details over their story. Now that the introduction is over, let's get to the heart of the matter, shall we?

The Genesis

If bands like Mankind?, Resist or the first incarnation of Aus-Rotten represented anarchopunk during the first half of the 90's, Antiproduct epitomized the decade's second anarcho wave, not only chronologically but also sonically. The band's two Ep's can be analyzed from the same perspective as they were both recorded in 1996 and, despite a line-up change, shared a similar compositional intent. To some extent, "Another day, another war" is the synthesis of Mankind? and Aus-Rotten. In spite of sloppy bits here and there, it has an energy and enthusiasm that are just incredible, a genuinely punk intensity that cannot be faked. It is an urgent, youthful record of fast and catchy "one-two-one-two" angry punk songs with a remarkable work on the vocals. Although I am prone to hyperboles (I am well aware of it and am currently working on that tendency with my shrink), the arrangement between the three vocalists is fantastic and, for its spontaneity, conveys a sense of dynamics that I have seldom heard elsewhere and that became a trademark for the band despite their move to dual vocals after the first Ep.

Like its predecessor, "Big business and the government are both the fucking same. They both shit upon freedom, peace and equality" (that's the complete title, I told you they liked them long) can be seen as an updated continuation of the 1993/94 US anarcho sound of Mankind?, this time with more composure in the songwriting (it is still adequately manic though, have no fear) and a crunchier production. However, many more things are going on on this Ep, which, if you care to listen closely, is far richer than it sounds at first. From my perspective, I also hear a distinct influence from 90's anarchopunk from the UK, and at times I am strongly reminded of an American take on the sound of Disaffect or Jobbykrust, especially in the arrangement of the breaks that are almost subtle given the genre. The superimposition of spoken words over catchy mid-paced moments are deliciously nodding towards vintage Conflict, while some beats use rolls that are quite obviously borrowed from the Disorder/Chaos UK school of (noise not) music. The vocals are, again, one of the very strong points of the record as their level of intensity and the alternation of the male and female vocals points to Antischism in epileptic - rather than psychotic - mode. Finally, and I really just noticed it as I listened to the Ep for the third time in a row while preparing this magnificent piece of writing, the riffs have a great energy and a sort of roundness that sounded familiar but yet different. And then it struck me: Mob 47. No shit, at least three songs have slightly adjusted Mob 47 riffs, they are played at a different speed but once you have realized it, it makes so much sense that Antiproduct were so energetic. Interestingly, one other band that (overtly in their case) borrowed some of Mob 47's riff greatness at the time was State of Fear but it might be far-fetched to connect both bands' inspiration. The smooth, seamless, flowing combination of all these elements produced one of the most dynamic bands of its generation and what made it work so well is the feel of fluidity that permeates the songs, they never sound like accumulations of diverse influences, they sound whole.

The punx

As you can hear in the songs, Antiproduct had a lot to say and there is a lot to read as well in the record itself. There is a text exposing the political motivations of the band and the reasons for its existence. This is definitely "music for social change" and the band was vocal about it. Beside the foldout insert, a booklet with lyrics and explanatory notes is also included. While most of the topics are rather conventional anarcho rants (and there is nothing wrong with reiterating these things as long as it comes out genuine and heartfelt and a song like "To serve and protect" is sadly even more relevant today...), one song particularly caught my attention, "Inhuman perceptions", a number about beauty standards and their impact on women's health. Antiproduct's lyrical strength and politics improved through time and really shone on their Lp, which presented clever metaphors of social control and tackled subjects, notably the link between gender and race, that were original and powerful, and I feel that this song was probably a sign of what was to come content-wise for the band. Solid anarcho politics from the heart and guts. Visually, the Ep looks great and I enjoy the hairy font that they used for their name (added crust value for sure) and the DIY cut'n'paste aesthetics. And they had a logo with a broken bomb (an additional 70 punk points for The Iconoclast's reference). "Big business" was released on Tribal War Records, a label I have already raved about which was officially one of reliable purveyors of top political punk-rock when I was younger.


Tuesday 5 July 2016

Anarchy in the U$A: Brother Inferior "Anthems for greater salvation" Lp, 1997

Even more so than Civil Disobedience's, this record almost did not make it to the already legendary Terminal Sound Nuisance US 90's anarcho series. Not that "Anthems for greater salvation" is a bad record, far from it, but, one may ask in an eyebrow-raising moment, is it really an anarchopunk one? In general, when discussing Brother Inferior, the term "political hardcore" is the one that is used and I find it perfectly adequate. It does not imply that the band was not punk or anarchist (I cannot speak for them but I would assume that they were, judging from their lyrics and enthusiasm), just that their music was firmly rooted in American hardcore and did not really fit with what is generally understood referentially as "anarchopunk". Now, I know that this might sound like a petty issue but if you see words as important carriers of meaning (like I do), it is not an irrelevant one. Many bands that are hailed as anarchopunk classics today did not see themselves as "anarchopunk bands" but through connections and context, they were still part of that scene and as imperfect as the category undeniably is (and many bands challenged this - and any - categorization), it is useful in terms of aesthetics and intent in a given context. I suppose the term "hardcore", being much broader, is more comfortable but, left alone by itself, I have always found it too vague when writing about records.

There is the catch though. After all, you can be an anarchopunk band and play hardcore punk. But can you be a hardcore band and play anarchopunk? On the face of it, such a question sounds absurd, anarchopunk being first and foremost a way of doing things and a set of shared ideals. However, if you take the word as the signifying for specific musical aesthetics, textures and vibes related to a previously set body of works, then it can make sense. Put bluntly, I played this Lp for the first time in ten years two weeks ago and my anarchopunk radar went mental. I thought: "Fuck me, I should really include it". Of course, "Anthems for greater salvation" is a hardcore record. But (or rather, BUT) it has this undeniable 90's anarcho feel that all the other Brother Inferior's records are lacking and all things considered, it strikes me as a far better anarchist punk records than a lot of self-proclaimed anarcho's. And I am not just saying that because they have a folk song on the Lp.

I am not going to pretend that I am particularly knowledgable about Oklahoma, and even less about Tulsa (I have only vaguely heard of NOTA if you want to know the truth). I strongly recommend you read Terminal Escape's posts about Oklahoma punk if you want accurate and fun details about the 90's punk scene in this state. Apparently, Tulsa was a definite DIY punk hotspot in the 90's and one crucial place to play for touring bands. Brother Inferior's singer, Chad Malone, was particularly active in the making of the scene, running a label, Sensual Underground Ministries, and holding shows at his house (houseshows do sound like complete, but fascinating, oddities from a European perspective). BI were around for five years, between 1994 and 1999, and from what I can gather they toured a lot, which makes sense since their music, even in the studio, quintessentially sounds like it is meant to be played before an audience. The band was certainly prolific though so they must have enjoyed recording too: 4 Ep's, 2 split Ep's (with NOTA and Whorehouse of Representatives) and a full Lp. Although I do enjoy some of their Ep's, for their raw and genuine energy, Brother Inferior was never a band I was heavily into, probably because they sounded too much like "US hardcore" to me. So when I got out all my US anarchopunk records, I almost did not pick it, thinking foolishly from what I remembered (definitely not that much obviously, but for my defense, there was a time in my life when, believe it or not, I was not the most perceptive or wisest fellow...) that it was "too US hardcore". Seldom have I been so happy to be wrong (I usually convincingly deny ever being wrong) because this record genuinely feels anarchopunk, in the textures, in a lot of the composition, in its flow. The basis are heavily anchored in the US hardcore world but "Anthems for greater salvation" works perfectly as one of the great US anarchopunk albums from the 90's.

I guess you could say that BI always had an anarcho touch, at least visually and lyrically. After all, the band had a circled A and E on their first Ep's cover and rigorous anticapitalism was one of their strong points. But to my ears, it is really with this Lp that they successfully blended the US hardcore sound with that of the third wave of US anarchopunk. The production of the album certainly played an important role in establishing this well-crafted balance. The songs are much more bass-driven and allow the catchy bass hooks to shine, the guitar-sound is just right, powerful and energetic but not too heavy or overshadowing anything, the drumming is really tight and focused, fast but not too fast as the songwriting is sufficiently dynamic and the race to mindless speed would have only hindered the energy at the core of the songs. But what really makes this Lp work is its anthemic quality and its catchiness. Although the songs fit perfectly together and have a similar feel, there are enough smart hooks and tempo changes to keep the listener interested from start to finish (the only low point is the cover of "We're not gonna take it" which does not really work). The vocals are the perfect balance between snotty anger, outrage and urgency, and the singalong chorus instantly get into your head. "Anthems for greater salvation" basically takes the catchiness and intensity of hardcore and anarchopunk and seamlessly blends them. It is a bit like the sweeping rage of Antischism (without the eerie weird bits) and early Sedition mixed with the hooks of Defiance through a 90's fast hardcore blender (especially in the breaks). As such it can appeal to fans of Resist as much as fastcore freaks or 90's streetpunk nostalgics. Such an enterprise might not have worked if it were not for the undeniable motivation and conviction of the band. You can tell that they boys were for real and that they meant every single word.

BI were a serious band and a lot of the songs deal with class struggle, the wage system, the oppression inherent in Work and the takeover of the economy by big corporations. Anti-capitalistic working-class hardcore punk at its best: . Religious indoctrination and alienation are also strong themes and there are a couple of feminist songs as well. I wish the lyrics sheet were a little more appealing to read (actually, the looks of the record is probably main issue with the Lp as it does not look like much contrary to most anarchopunk records of the time) but the words are worth the effort. Here is a mid-tempo number I particularly enjoy, "Poverty crime":

"There's a blanket of insecurity that keeps us locked in factories, as we're convinced that there's no alternative to this life of misery. We are shackled by our ignorance because they won't teach us a thing except the wealth that awaits a good working machine. (...) We give our occupations the best years of our lives, that they take with no remorse until the day that we all die, we sacrifice our dreams just for the money to survive as our will to live wither up and die". 

Great inspiring stuff. "Anthems for grater salvation" was released in 1997 on Chad Malone's own Sensual Underground Ministries.  Now, what's that circle pit thingy I keep hearing about?

Friday 1 July 2016

Anarchy in the U$A: Civil Disobedience "In a few hours of madness..." Ep, 1993

I thought long and hard about including Civil Disobedience in this anarchopunk series or not. I actually love this kind of dilemma since it is a good opportunity to think about a band's legacy and relevance. Can Civil Disobedience be seen as an anarchopunk band? My initial, spontaneous answer to this question would be positive. The band had radical anarchist lyrics, was part of the DIY political punk scene and borrowed traditional elements from the anarchopunk canon. On the other hand, I have never seen them being referred to as such and both their music and aesthetics (not to mention some of their lyrics) were unusual from an orthodox anarcho perspective. The point of this series is to provide a clear picture of the characteristics of the 90's US anarchopunk wave and in order to achieve this, there needs to be a significant guiding thread throughout all the records. It does not mean that they all have to sound alike but there needs to be solid common aspects to illustrate the essence of this sound. Despite the band's originality, I feel Civil D gathered enough of them for them to fit interestingly with the theme and offer a different, and even more meaningful, picture of political punk in that time and place. So, I decided to include them. And come on, they were anarchist punks, right? Who cares if they had some reggae beats!

"In a few hours of madness..." is one of the best American punk Ep's of the 90's. I know, I know, it sounds really dramatic but rest assured that I remain remarkably stoical as I am writing this (I am not even flinching). It is just the truth and anyone telling you any different has either never actually listened to it (and I do mean LISTEN not just vaguely heard) or is trying to be polemical. This Ep does not sound like a band's first record at all, it feels really mature, cohesive and the manic demented energy that was the core of Civil D's music is rendered perfectly. It has to be said that, contrary to Aus-Rotten or Mankind? who both formed in 1992/93, Civil D started a few years earlier, in late 1989, and were therefore more experienced when they entered the studio four years later which can account for such an impressive debut. The fact that Civil D was a slightly older band may also partially explain why they sounded quite different to the other punky anarcho bands of the time as they sound as much like a late 80's band then a mid-90's one. But then, if I had to find one notion that characterized the band it would be in-betweenness and I commend them for that (although it makes their music very difficult to aptly describe).

The first Civil D recording was their 1992 demo entitled "Political prisoners". The band was still living in their hometown of Saginaw (Michigan) at that time although they relocated to Detroit after the release of the Ep and then to Minneapolis a few years later. In spite of several flaws related to the number of songs on the demo (writing 13 top songs for a first demo in no easy feat), "Political prisoners" is great but utterly confusing. On the one hand, it can be seen as a collection of straight-forward, angry, fast punk songs and it works perfectly in that respect: it is full of anthemic chorus, punk as fuck singalongs, snotty vocals, effective riffs and the youthful angst is just infectious. But on the other hand, and despite how accessible it can be, it is also a very dense work, a polyphony of different influences, a genuine royal rumble of punk subgenres. You can hear the typical 90's US anarcho sound obviously, basically a dynamised, US-hardcore infused blend of UK anarchopunk and UK82 but it is also much more than this. I can spot a real thrash influence in the vocals and some guitar breaks, not unlike Concrete Sox or Legion of Parasites, but also an Italian hardcore influence for the level of fury, like Raw Power and Negazione. And then there are typical UK82 chorus that heavily nod to Uproar, Skeptix or External Menace, followed by some mean, demented US hardcore sound like Void or Filth. And then, when you think you have wrapped it up, some Rudi Peni weirdness pops up, quickly followed by classic Deutschpunk leads like The Targets or Razzia and a couple of vintage UK anarcho spoken parts concluded with some bass-driven reggae. And that's just the demo... To be fair, Civil D were a six-piece so it is not far-fetched to assume that they had some musical ambitions and it really shows. Of course, the production is a bit rough and the composition is not deprived of sloppiness, but from the start you can tell that the band aimed for more than fast'n'spiky punk music, although they were also that. Confusing, I told you.

The Ep was recorded the following year and saw Civil D coming back as a tighter, more focused unit. The band had dropped some of their influences (the UK82 and Deutschpunk elements have been toned down) and seriously focused on the songwriting in order to create four songs that highlighted their strengths and their incredible intensity. It is hard to tell if the band did that on purpose, but it really feels as if they had picked the very best ideas from the demos and reworked them on the Ep. Again, in the way the vocals are arranged, in the way they flow, you can definitely tell that this is a US punk band from the 90's and I suppose you could say that their structure is not unlike Defiance's. But when the Portland band's vocal textures remained rooted in classically pissed punk-rock, Civil D's are more akin to the screams of a demented man out to destroy private property. Even more so than on "Political prisoners", the dual vocals work incredibly well on "In a few hours of madness" and give the impression of two angry, obnoxious, impertinent lunatics giving a conference about capitalism, thus conferring a genuine theatrical quality to the music, as if Negazione and Antischism's singers were trying to do karaoke over Toy Dolls in Rudimentary Peni's practice room. This is punker than punk. The energy and intensity of the vocals only emphasize that of the music. The production is very clear and allows the band's musicianship and creativity to shine. Although definitely bass-driven, it emphasizes the clever and complementary work of the rhythmic and lead guitars. The reggae influence (if you can call it an influence...) is probably more prevalent than on the demo but, in spite of my relative distrust as far as bands mixing punk and ska/reggae are concerned, the band uses it wisely, with narrative intent and they are just so intense that it sounds like the Ruts in a funk mood played at 78. This Ep is epic and dramatic, overwhelming the listener with a genuine, atavistic punk feel. It has the energy of Italian hardcore, the snot of UK punk, the anger of US anarchopunk, the "in-your-face" vibe of US hardcore and the weirdness of Peni (Godorrhoea are a rather relevant point of comparison to some extent). "In a few hours of madness" is a genuine US anarchopunk classic that, ironically, does not sound totally like a US anarchopunk record. Although it also does. Confusing, I told you.

Lyrically, Civil D were also above the rest. If the topics were rather usual for the time, the band always picked a perspective and narrative techniques that made the critiques fresh and thought-provoking. Sometimes with a sarcastic voice, sometimes with elements of oral speech, Civil D construed their words as reflections of the madness that would inevitably descend upon us. In that respect, in a metatextual move, I would argue that the dementia pervading the music is also a means to reinforce the lyrics that focus on the insanity of conforming and religious masochism. Through joint images of lifeless faith and physical pain, the band describes an inner wasteland fueled by frustration, manipulation, willful obedience and blind faith. Very good lyrics that never read as elitist or pompous, they are rude and angry enough for "da punx".  Visually, the Ep looks great as well and the visuals have a brilliantly deranged anarcho feel to them.

"In a few hours of madness" is a proper classic and I am not surprised in the least that seven pressings (!) were done throughout the years which means that you can get it for cheap. It was released on Havoc Records in 1993 (the label's second record) and distributed through Profane Existence.