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.


No comments:

Post a Comment