Thursday 31 August 2017

The Tumult of a Decad (part 9): Statement / The Apostles "Reminence of a destructive age / The other operation" split Lp, 1988

This is a bit of an odd one. 

DIY or die

The British DIY punk scene in 1988 usually conjures up images of foul-breathed crusty punx growling into unsuspecting microphones or jumping bandanaed hardcore kids who wished they were born in Boston instead of Burnley. Well, to me anyway. Little do people remember that The Apostles were still around at that time, thus being one of the last anarchopunk bands formed in the early 80's still active seven years later, a survivor status that is highly ironic - and perhaps irrelevant - considering that the band were highly critical of the anarcho scene (Andy Martin even coined the term "Flux of Punk Idiots" which, I must admit, I find very funny). As for Statement, it was a one-man anarcho project that can be justly seen as the originator of militant vegan straight-edge punk in Britain, if not in the world. If you are not familiar with this record, the idea of a "performance art group" - as The Apostles refer to themselves - teaming up with a vegan SxE solo project might sound a little baffling if seen through our pervasively judgmental 2017 lens. But then, for all their often misunderstood political and musical radicalism, The Apostles were also a self-proclaimed open-minded bunch and Rat, the creator behind Statement, was not only mate with them but also drummed on their first album, Punk obituary. And is it just me or are there hypnotic guitar leads on both sides of the Lp?

As usual with works from The Apostles, there is as much to read (if not more) as to listen to so I am not going to retrace the band's history since they provided lengthy texts that did. So let's get to Statement right away.

It is unclear when Statement exactly started, but sometime around '83 or '84 sounds like a fair guess. Prior and simultaneous to Statement, Rat played in Muted Existence (which I have never heard) and in Arrogance, whose '87 demo was reviewed five years ago (times flies...) on Terminal Sound Nuisance (here). The UK punk scene cannot be said to have been a great purveyor of one-man bands. Of course, there were solo projects, usually folk music or poetry reading (or the proverbial drunk geezer shouting at the stage), but apart from the great Man's Hate (Andy Xport's project that can only be defined as anarcho-Beat music), Statement may have been the only one. And without using a drum machine, which is an exploit in itself. Discogs tells me that Rat released nine (!) Statement tapes between 1984 and 1987 on his own Active Sound Records but I am only familiar with the first one, a 16-song effort of mostly sloppy but energetic punk-rock with plenty of different moods, from Zounds-inspired pop-punk, to fast hardcore numbers reminiscent of SAS or vintage Conflict-like anarcho music. It is a bit of a tedious demo if you listen to it in one row, but then it was also a youthful work and there were some good songwriting ideas, especially in the snake-like guitar leads that sometimes pop up in the songs and remind me of Fallout or indeed The Apostles.

In 1987, Statement released a split Ep with - you'll never guess - The Apostles with two brilliant songs, the super catchy and tuneful Bluurg-like punk-rock anthem "Who won the human race" and the epic metal-punk number "A box with no corners" that brought Anihilated or early Deviated Instinct to mind. With two songs as solid as these, you would have thought that the next record was going to confirm all the good things appearing on the Ep. But then, fate struck and while the first split sounded great, the next one was the victim of a horrendous mastering work that made the whole Statement side sound close to the harsh and rough hardcore of Medellin (the infamous punk Medallo of HPHC, Bastardos Sin Nombre or Ataque de Sonido), which was probably not Rat's intention. It sounds bad. I know I am being hyperbolic here and the Statement side is not a complete wall of proto-grind earslaughtering distortion but it is clearly noisy, distorted and pretty cheap-sounding although accidentally and unpurposely. And it is exactly why I love it. Of course, a part of me wishes for a decent sound production (and unsurprisingly Rat dismisses this record, I suppose I would still be pissed as well), but then I think these Statement songs have an unbeatable sloppy charm and end up being unique examples at the time of a blend between vintage UK anarchopunk, harsh noisy hardcore and metal punk, basically tunes, distortion and heaviness. Sometimes, great things happen by accident and I cannot think of anything even remotely similar to these Statement songs in the UK in 1988. 

The side starts off with a dirgeful, noisy introduction before unleashing the first hit, a harsh Icons of Filth-type song with some crunchy metal riffs, hypnotic guitar leads (Rat was definitely very skilled in writing them), angry gruff vocals and an incredible conclusion that can best be described as poppy noisepunk. While you could argue that the horridly thin and saturated production completely spoils any attempt at tunefulness, I would tend to think that it offers something different, dissonant and ultimately interesting, like the meeting of subtle, soft anarcho-pop harmonies and distorted Bristol punk, as if Systematic Annex were jamming with Dirge or Disorder were covering A Touch of Hysteria. You've got all out fast hardcore numbers too, which work particularly well with the wall of distortion, as well as dark punk songs that bring Fallout or even Part 1 to mind with these cracking guitar melodies that remain stuck with you for days. Reminence (I know, I know) of a Destructive Age is a very diverse work since you will also find songs that would not have been out of place on a UK82 compilation and others that fit perfectly with the metal-punk sound that prevailed at the time (there's even a funky rap song!), and all these different vibes and genres are united by the ridiculous production and the entrancing, dark catchy leads that never fail to appear and mesmerize. I ultimately leave this Statement record to your personal appreciation, since the claim that the production makes it unlistenable and denatures the artist's intent. As for me, not being averse to rough sound and sloppiness, I think it is marvelous.

As you can expect, a lot of the songs revolve around animal liberation, veganism and being drug-free and since Rat puts his money where his mouth is (probably one of the weirdest expressions of the English language), there are also a lot of documentation about hunt-sabbing, the ALF and how to support animal rights through direct action. The record itself looks lovely and I really enjoy the anarcho-pagan artwork on Statement's inserts although I have reservations about the wyvern (it is a wyvern, right?) on the cover. Following the split Lp, Statement went on to become a tight metalcore project and got into the hardline movement of the early 90's. I often picture people into the whole hardline vegan SxE thing as wearing baseball caps, ample jerseys and sports shoes, so seeing the distinctively anarchopunk aesthetics of early Statement would probably be a huge shock for the younger generations of Earth Crisis fans, despite the obvious historical ties. 

On the flipside are The Apostles, possibly the most prolific bands of the anarchopunk wave (which they were a part of and will always be remembered as being, although they might have been anti-anarchopunk and defined themselves as revolutionary socialists). To be honest, I do not agree with nor do I condone all of their political views which they stated very clearly through a text provided with the Lp that I encourage you to read. However, I definitely respect their very confrontational, polemical and sincere approach to punk and politics, which set them apart from the hippyish end of the spectrum. Even if you disagree with them, at least The Apostles make you think, react and question. As for the music... Well they certainly lose me when they go too experimental, dissonant, plain weird or avantgarde (there is six-page text about avantgarde rock provided with the Lp if you are interested). However, I love their tuneful punky songs, be they threatening class war anthems like on the Blow it up '82 Ep or '85's Smash the spectacle (who doesn't like a situationist reference in punk-rock?). The other operation, which was recorded two years before the split Lp actually came out, lies heavily on the experimental and dissonant side of things and I much prefer The Apostles when they were more direct and tense. If my rather basic tastes in music are not developed enough for me to really relate to some songs here, I really enjoy the classically catchy punk-rock number "A love that's died" and the more aggressive-sounding, pummeling "Absolution of guilt", the proper gem of the split for me, reminiscent of The Apostles' early years. Generally speaking, I am actually really into Andy Martin's voice, which sounds both determined and vulnerable (like any real revolutionary, they would probably point out). I even kinda liked the 11-long song that makes up half of their side, a quietly epic jazzy, psychedelic, free rock lyrical track with different movements and moods (yes, there is even a punk moment on "A world we never made"). Perhaps I am not that narrow-minded after all.  

As usual with The Apostles the artwork is excellent, from the deliciously sarcastic comic on the cover (I absolutely love those, they are often a bit harsh but clearly truthful), to the vibrant drawings inside, it looks very neat indeed. Lyrically, the standout song is undeniably "A world we never made" (granted there are more than a few instrumentals on the album), which deals with alienation, depression and the inability to relate to a social world that we inherit but do not choose. It resonates perfectly with the artwork. 

Inevitably, the band also wrote texts about their political stance about various issues, ranging from feminism, homosexuality, nationalism and - of course - the irrelevance of punk and ruffle a few feathers.  

The Apostles' views

 A "short" introduction to avantgarde rock

Hunt sabbing in 1987

ALF propaganda

Evil multinationals

A mere punk add!

Wednesday 23 August 2017

The Tumult of a Decad (part 8): Indian Dream "Well! Are you happy now!" Ep, 1987

Native Americans held a strong fascination for British anarchopunks in the 1980's. It was not in terms of cultural identification or appropriation (London is not exactly indigenous land and, to my knowledge, the Zig Zag squat never had the displeasure of having Indian-wannabe punk-rockers performing embarrassing "tribal dances", though I am not sure the same thing could be said with certainty about the Stonehenge festival...) but rather a matter of metaphor. As opposed to the modern Western lifestyle which was felt as disconnected, alienating, violent, exploitative and inherently destructive, the American Indian way of life, as portrayed in its popular (mis)conception, epitomized harmonious living, communalism, balance and respect. Of course, more than thirty years later, it all sounds very naive, idealistic, if not slightly patronizing, and the reality of Indigenous America is complex, polymorphous and impossible to encapsulate in simplistic notions, one that is bound to escape non-Indigenous persons. However, the idea of a communal lifestyle based on sharing, respect for the lives of others and peace obviously strongly resonated with punks who had been raised in the fear of a nuclear holocaust, with mass unemployment as the only perspective and ruthless, capitalistic, warmongering political leaders at the helm who thought nothing of stripping people of their dignity and livelihood, at home and abroad. Hence, an idealized vision of a peaceful but resistant way of life made sense then and great bands such as Flux of Pink Indians, Omega Tribe or The Mob referred openly to that vision, and probably also did so in opposition to the violent, nihilistic definition of punk-rock sponsored by The Exploited or ANL. Context is everything. 

Indian Dream have become regulars at Terminal Sound Nuisance, so much so that they would deserve to have their picture hung in the near legendary TSN Hall of Fame. Along with punk zine die-hard Erik from Negative Insight, we wrote a short write-up about the band two years ago entitled 8 Years Too Late: British anarchopunk with a tune between 1988 and 1992 (you can read the thing here) where you could learn that more than 100 copies of the Orca Lp ended up in the fucking bin because people (including band members) were no longer interested in that sound in the early 90's. And then last year, I raved again about ID when wrestling with the colossal 1in12 Club double Lp compilation Wild and Crazy "Noise Merchants" (here). If you need more background information about ID, I suggest you read the interview that Pablo (Resistance Productions/Earth Citizens) did with them in the late 80's (?) for his fanzine Alternative (here). 

I suppose it would make sense to see ID in the same light as the bands tackled in 8 Years Too Late, acts that had kept this tuneful anarchopunk edge that characterized the early 80's but still added "modern" influences to their sound, bands like The Next World, Dan or The Instigators. Indian Dream started in the mid-80's and their very first vinyl appearance occurred in 1985, with the inclusion of the song "Insult to injury" on Mortarhate's We won't be your fucking poor double Lp compilation that saw ID rub shoulders with some of the best anarcho bands that the pivotal time of the middle of the 1980's had to offer, such as Political Asylum, AOA or Shrapnel. To be perfectly honest (which I am usually not), this song is a not-so-convincing punk-rock number with a '77 vibe that, oddly enough, is just not melodic enough to really work and clearly shows that the band was still in its infancy at the time and had not found their own footing yet. ID's second vinyl installment was on the Splitting headache on a sunday afternoon compilation Ep released on Looney Tunes in 1986 (it was the label's very first record) which included four Scarborough bands: Active Minds, Satanic Malfunctions, Radio Freedom and of course Indian Dream. Unfortunately, I do not own this Ep (what a sad poseur, I know) so I cannot tell you much about it other that the idea of four local bands recording in the same studio on the same day is a brilliant idea and the ideal way to capture the feel of a specific time and place. 

DIY or die: correcting a wrong address

And now let's get to the record that interests us today, Indian Dream's first Ep, Well! Are you happy now! released in 1987 on Looney Tunes. By that time, the anarchopunk wave had mostly folded and although the article 8 Years Too Late might give the impression that there were quite a few bands pursuing in that direction albeit with different tools, the fact is that, on the whole, in terms of general cultural and social dynamics, the second part of the 80's marked the rise of hardcore and crust in Britain, extreme new sounds and bands like Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror or Doom that would change the face of punk-rock forever. This is not to say that the tuneful brand of punk-rock had vanished from the DIY punk spectrum and locally, bands like ID were certainly as relevant as Active Minds. However, a close look at Looney Tunes' early discography illustrates the change that was taking place with ID's Ep being released between Satanic Malfunctions and Generic. And in fact, if you only looked at Are you happy now!'s cover, would you be able to say it is a delightfully tuneful punk record? No, you would not. On a strictly visual level, the Ep is much closer to the aesthetics of a hardcore or a crusty record like Screaming Holocaust's (though one might say that the name "Indian Dream" gives the game away). Tuneful, punky anarcho band like ID were exceptions and the renewed interest in mid/late 80's melodic anarchopunk bands is very recent and owes a lot to the internet culture and the endless circulation of cultural texts, though they are often deprived of context (but let's not talk about that today, the sun is shining and birds are singing and all that).     

The progress between ID's earliest incarnation and that of 1987 is breathtaking. Gone is the plodding, disparate feel of "Insult to injury", and in its place lies an overwhelming, formidably upbeat punk-rock energy that builds on early anarchopunk but freshens up the recipe with the balanced inclusion of melodic US hardcore and epic postpunk (the kind that makes one's arse move awkwardly). The use of arrangements typically found in US hardcore to dynamise the old-school poppier anarcho sound was not exclusive to ID and bands like The Instigators, Dan or Joyce McKinney Experience also did it wonderfully around the same time, however few dared to also borrow the eeriness of gothy postpunk to add to the recipe (apart from the mighty Hex perhaps). It was pretty much one or the other. You either went in the vitaminized direction of Dan and The Instigators or you picked the moodier path of Internal Autonomy and The Smartpils. But on that first Ep, ID's songwriting successfully amalgamated both to great result thanks to their careful attention to details. A close listen to the four songs of the record reveals many subtle arrangements and musical intricacies that show ID definitely reflected on their music and had a sense of perspective. The superposition of two differently textured riffs in the opening of "Tense situation" or the moody interlude that explodes into the contagious chorus in the very same song; the double-tracked vocals on the catchier moments (and there are a lot of them, let me tell you); the articulate drum beats that smoothen the transitions; the guitar leads that make the punky riffs shine... It is carefully crafted, even though the production is a bit thin in places. Well! Are you happy now! is a brilliant record, a genuinely humble but incredibly effective minor classic whose catchiness can appeal to fans of The Instigators, Omega Tribe and Skeletal Family alike. Of course, the band is first and foremost grounded in the female-fronted UK anarchopunk tradition of bands like A-Heads, Lost Cherrees or Icon AD (and the lyrics about vivisection, pacifism and political schemes point in their directions as well) but the energy clearly owes to hardcore and the moodiness to goth-punk.

ID then progressively went the gothier road and their magnificent 1989 Lp, Orca, can be seen as a landmark in what might anachronistically be termed "anarcho-goth-punk" (sounds a bit ridiculous for a genre but I need the kids to know what I mean), despite many of its physical representations literally ending up in the trash and its cover standing up as one of the cheesiest, marine mammal-themed cover of all time (if Oi Polloi's "Whale song" was to be drawn, it would be it). Their last posthumous (I think) release was a delicious self-titled Ep in 1992, released on German Xingu Records like the album, which was poppier this time, not unlike Karma Sutra meeting up with Internal Autonomy at the convention of the Nostalgics of Early Chumbawamba. The band also contributed songs to lovely compilations such as "Our land" to the aforementioned 1in12 sampler or  "Discarded" (probably my favourite ID song) to the great Walk across America - For Mother Earth 1992 Ep, a compilation that also included Pink Turds, Hiatus or Mushroom Attack and was a benefit compilation in solidarity with political groups protesting the 500th anniversary of Colombus' "discovery". A fitting place indeed for Indian Dream.

Of course, I strongly encourage you to get the Bosstuneage discography cd that you can get for cheap. You'd be supporting a top notch hardcore punk label in the process.


Sunday 20 August 2017

The Tumult of a Decad (part 7): Paranoid Visions "The robot is running amok" Ep, 1986

"The scene in Dublin was stagnant, violent and divided. (...) Every gig was a bloodbath and seemed like the last gig ever, and would end up with the bar robbed, glasses and blood everywhere, and police riot shields and truncheons and a "barred forever" tag for the band... (...) Punk was a dangerous four-letter word, and so the scene and bands and most of the people either emigrated or burned out through lack of interest." (Trapped in a Scene, 2009)

This is the context Paranoid Visions sprang from in the early 80's. It could not be further from the cheesy image of the "Celtic tiger" so popular last decade or the rose-tinted (green-tinted would be more correct I suppose) picture that horrendously horripilating bands such as bloody Dropkick Murphy's unequivocally paint about Ireland, the Paranoid Visions's Dublin was akin to "a bleak authoritarian Catholic slum, overrun by the rich elite and the violent inbred poor". Not so romantic indeed. 

As you have guessed - perspicacious you - the seventh part of The Tumult of a Decad will deal with Paranoid Visions, from Dublin, Ireland. Now, I know I claimed that the series would be about British anarchopunk bands and the Republic of Ireland is, of course, not part of the United Kingdom. However, I chose to include them for several reasons. First, because of the band's crucial role in opening up the Dublin DIY punk scene to and creating strong ties with Belfast and England's; second, because PV, although they clearly had their own specific sound, were, in terms of genre and aesthetics, rooted in the UK anarchopunk world; and third, because I really enjoy them and I could not think of a better anarcho record released in 1986 than The robot is running amok (apart from The ungovernable force but that would have been too obvious a choice, right?). I think these are alright enough arguments and Terminal Sound Nuisance is the domain I rule over with a kind, merciful but firm hand. 

Oddly enough, I discovered PV later than most of the 80's British anarchopunk bands, during the year 2006. I am not sure why or how I could have missed them, especially considering that they were proper big at some point in Ireland, but there it is. And when I did listen to them for the time (it was the Outside in cd), I tended to confuse their moniker with Nightmare Visions (you know, that raw and punky death-metal band with an Electro Hippies member in it), a silly but barely forgivable mistake that still showed that Paranoid Visions and I did not get off on the right foot. I guess that now that they have reformed and are making music with Steve Ignorant, they must be quite well-known again but they were hardly mentioned at all in my corner of the punk scene 10 years ago. And neither were Nightmare Visions now that I think about it. The validity of this statement still stands unfortunately.

The early years of the band were fairly chaotic apparently, because of the difficult background of the time and the lack of stable lineups, but PV still managed to record three demos between 1982 and 1984. The first one, recorded in 1982 but apparently released in the following year, was Destroy the myths of musical progression (a Riot/Clone reference? How great is that!), a very captivating demo which, for all the sloppiness and the shit sound quality, still indicated that PV had some good ideas in terms of songwriting. The demo has a genuine haunted feel, almost psychotic and industrial at times, with very harsh vocals (that really remind me of Napalm Death's Hatred surge's actually), some postpunk moments and a dissonant sound. To be honest, it is all over the place but if a blend of Riot Squad, The Deformed and Exit-Stance could be your thing, I strongly recommend it. I am unfortunately not familiar with the second demo, 1984's Blood in the snow, but both demos were originally released on PV's own label, the poetically named FOAD records, and re-issued on Bluurg on one single tape. The third demo, From the womb to the bucket, released in late '84, is far more relevant to today's topic as it included two songs, "Strange girl" and "Detention", that would be reworked for inclusion on PV's first Ep, The robot is running amok.

By the time From the womb was recorded, PV had enrolled a synth player (who didn't stay for long), a female vocalist and one lad called Skinny on bass, who would leave to squat in London later on where he formed the mighty Coitus. This demo is absolutely fantastic if you care to ignore the raw sound (three of its songs were recorded live in the practice space, so be warned). This is pissed but moody anarcho-postpunk at its very best, with obsessive tribal beats, a dark and tense atmosphere and an angrily nihilistic vibe, cracking guitar tunes, polyphonic anarcho-tinged vocals and delightfully goth synth parts. It brought to mind Polemic, The Deformed, Tears of Destruction, even early Amebix, as well as the All The Madmen bands. A truly great recording that, although it does not aptly represent what PV would become and be known for, would undeniably send chills to current days' "youtube dark punk lovers". Strangely, the demo contained an anti-abortion song, "Slash the cord", that did not seem to fit and make sense with the otherwise anarchopunk lyrics and symbolism. Apparently, the band changed the words afterwards and turned it into a more conventional anti-police song, but still... Very unsettling... Anyway, this demo was also distributed through Bluurg and it coincided with the Subhumans coming to play in Ireland, a great success that would be followed by many more British DIY punk bands crossing the Irish Sea like DIRT, Poison Girls or Disorder. Through their implication in the making of the scene and their musical progress as a band, PV were certainly gaining momentum at that time and the next logical step was a vinyl output which would materialize with the grandiose The robot is running amok.

Recorded in early '86 and released six months later on FOAD as the band had staunch DIY ethics (it was licensed to All the Madmen records in England), this Ep saw PV leave the goth/postpunk sonorities behind (an unusual move at the time, you might say) and embrace whole-heartedly what they would be renown for from that point on: catchy, anthemic punk-rock displaying both a love for shock value and an emotional depth. The robot Ep has four songs, going from the fast and snarly, snotty punk scorcher, to the more introspective, melancholy mid-paced number and the epic, desperate singalong anthem. That's multilevel catchiness for you. The four songs are truly memorable but my favourite would be "Strange girl", a gloomy, poignant, heart-breaking song about Ann Lovett, a 15-year old schoolgirl who died giving birth in a field (childbirth outside marriage was still socially unacceptable then and this tragic event apparently opened up important debates about women's rights at the time). The horrid topic notwithstanding, "Strange girl" is intensely catchy, emotional even with both anger and sadness being barely contained and surfacing potently in the music. A tour de force indeed. The three other songs are of the same caliber, with "Something more", an upbeat vintage anarcho hit tackling the inhumane treatment of animals and the risk of a nuclear holocaust (two birds, one stone), "Detention", another moody, introspective and anthemic mid-tempo number about the prison system and isolation and "Paranoid", a heavy and quite pummeling but also subtle dementia-inducing song about state and physical abuse. The production is a bit thin in places but the urgency and intensity of the songs are never lost and that's what makes a record great. The presence of three singers certainly gave PV an interesting and unique edge, with Deko's threatening raucous gnarls being perfectly complemented with Aisling's high-pitched voice and Brayo's clear pissed off shouts. The polyphonic arrangements between the three undeniably enhance the music's intensity and angry nihilism but also its multilayered tunefulness. The comparison challenge feels a bit cheap when dealing with such an amazing work, but imagine a battle royal between DIRT, Polemic, The System, Chaos UK and Stiff Little Fingers taking place in a rough and dirty street of Dublin.

PV went on to release more excellent records afterwards, the great Schizophrenia Lp from 1987 (to be heard if only for the crucial hit "Newtownism" that makes singing in the shower such a pleasant experience) and the Autonomy Ep from 1988. Of course, a write-up about PV would feel incomplete without mentioning their war on U2 (who were recently elected "Ireland's most dreadful band") that saw them openly taking the piss out of Bono and his boys on I will wallow (though to be fair, it is as much a criticism of the mainstream americanized music industry than it is an attack on U2) which led to people cheekily painting "FOAD2U2" across many an Irish wall. 

Is there a more fitting conclusion to Paranoid Visions' tumultuous 80's career? I think not.

There are a few skips, sorry for that.

Monday 14 August 2017

The Tumult of a Decad (part 6): Disrupters "Alive in the electric chair" 12'', 1985

Sometimes, a name can sound so evocative that, even if you are unsure of its actual meaning, you just fall in love with it. Take the word "thoroughly" for instance. The first time I heard it (probably during that excruciatingly boring class about Wordsworth and Byron that I had to take), I did not know what it meant exactly. I was aware that it implied some kind of serious business since the teacher would frown with an air of utmost gravity and make an emphatic hand gesture whenever he uttered it. But more importantly, I loved the sound of the word and how the syllables fitted with each other. It brought images of intellectual sophistication to my mind and, despite the relative obscurity of its actual meaning, it made me feel pretty smart - which is what studying is all about when you think about it - now that I had a word like "thoroughly" in my bag of tricks. I henceforth used "thoroughly" carefully and parsimoniously, almost religiously, as if a bad use of the word on my part would somehow decrease its power. 

I fell for the Disrupters a bit like I did for "thoroughly". The first time I heard the name "Disrupters", it immediately clicked with me. Even before I got to hear them, I knew instinctively that I was going to love them and although the Disrupters never really conjured up images of glamour and refinement like "thoroughly" did, this superficial - and completely artificial - knowledge of the band made me feel good. Here was a band that I didn't know but was absolutely sure to love because they had such a great name. They had a dis prefix and the name sounded both punky and political. How could I not like them? 

I don't remember exactly how or when I first came across the Disrupters but I understood that they were that one anarcho band on the Punk and disorderly Lp with the song "Young offender". It was the early 00's in Paris so finding Disrupters records was near impossible and access to the internet was extremely limited for me. So I did what I always did whenever I became obsessed with a band that I just needed to hear, as if it were a crucial matter, one of life-changing proportions: I bothered older punks about it. I remember a particularly startled look upon a mate's face when I claimed that the world (meaning "me, myself and I") needed a Disrupters discography. But it was sadly to no avail, as no one really seemed to either know about the band or care enough to tape me something from them. And then, one day, in 2002, I received the distro list of Punk as Fuck, a massive distro based in France with tons of streetpunk but also some old-school anarchopunk. I almost fainted when I realized that he had a Disrupters tape, Gas the Punx (A collection 1980-1988), which was a whole discography tape, no less. So I wrote a letter to the distro with a list of what I wanted and included a check with it. I remember not hearing from the guy for months and at some point I thought the letter had got lost or that I had been ripped off. And then, out of the blue, I had a phone call one day with the distro guy asking me if I still wanted the records (there were the cd discographies of The Mob and Zounds as well, two bands that had been on my list for some time, and the order would prove to be a life-changing move). Finally, the parcel came and, at last, I was able to listen to the Disrupters wholly. And of course, I loved them and the tape, released on Pablo's Resistance Productions, came with a massive booklet full of lyrics and cool drawings (which my mum accidentally threw away, but that's another story entirely).

Welcome to 1985: three mullets and one moustache.

Today still I have a soft spot for the Disrupters, probably as much for the memory of my youthful obsession with them as for the actual music and stance. And I still think they picked a top name. Now that I am older and that my spectrum of obsessions has considerably broadened, I think it is a fair statement to say that Disrupters are one of the many 80's anarchopunk bands that are cruelly underrated. Contrary to a lot of other bands from that scene, they played for eight years (with a one-year hiatus though) and were rather prolific (perhaps too much so in hindsight), with two full albums, three Ep's and one 12''. They had their own record label, Radical Change, which released some classic anarcho records from Self-Abuse, Icon AD or Revulsion (the latter, being also from Norwich, were regular touring partners of the Disrupters), were politically active and greatly helped in the making of the Norwich DIY punk scene, for instance including a song from a then young local band called Deviated Instinct on Radical Change's compilation Words Worth Shouting, whose cover was also drawn by young Mid (the backcover was actually done by a Parisian, a good friend of mine, who used to follow Haine Brigade on tour in the 80's... small punk world, innit?). Nowadays, although the band reformed a few years ago, the Disrupters' legacy is seldom discussed or examined. So it was only a matter of time before I dealt with this Norwich bunch.

Forming in 1980, the Disrupters were part of the second wave of British anarchopunk, the one that emerged in the very early 80's. Their first Ep, from 1981, Young Offender, was a gloriously sloppy, snotty, teenage angst-fueled, punky offering, a genuine two-chords wonder that, for all its simplicity, managed to sound catchy and spontaneous, somewhere between The Epileptics and The Synix. The second Ep, 1982's Shelters for the Rich, was perhaps moodier and better produced (or just produced, really) and it is my favourite early Disrupters record. It retained that lovable punk urgency and amateurism but catchier riffs and a more brooding atmosphere made it a stronger effort. The first album, Unrehearsed Wrongs, from 1983, also comes recommended as it displayed some heavier moments while keeping the tuneful hooks. But to me, the band's real crowning glory was their last record, Alive in the Electric Chair. 

Released in 1985 and recorded during two sessions (you can hear the difference if you focus), it is, by far, the band's most mature and best written work, one that epitomizes what the Disrupters did best: raucous, simple but catchy punk-rock anthems with a dark undertone. The vocals always played an important role in making the band remarkable, as they sound warm and raucous but also threatening, able to convey a very real sense of frustration. The Disrupters were possibly punkier than a lot of their anarcho colleagues, and this unashamedly rock'n'roll aspect does shine through on this 12'', especially in the record's singalong quality. I am reminded of mid-80's Kronstadt Uprising on that level, but also of bands like Blitz, The Underdogs, One Way System or The Defects who, if you care to feel the music instead of just hearing it, all had a dark and desperate tone permeating their anthemic boisterous songwriting and that is exactly where the Disrupters succeeded on their last record, in the balance between the two. Darkness and frustration are always lurking. On the surface of the very rocky riff of "Give me a rush", behind the hauntingly spiteful screams of "Rot in Hell" (arguably the band's best song) and the desperate chorus of "I'm still here", in the melancholy reggae-tinged "Tearing apart"... Alive in the Electric Chair is a magnificent punk-rock record, simultaneously inhabited with a dark, heavy simplicity and a catchy, uplifting raucousness. The very upfront bass-lines work well here with the rather clear sound of the guitar and its smart leads, the drums are reminiscent of the cold tribal beats of Crass and I cannot imagine a better singer for these six songs as he adds a proper intensity and sincerity to the music. 

The lyrics are pretty direct and tackle different subjects, from the nihilistic use of drugs, to the weak liberal politics of the CND, vengeance, depression and the prison system. And as a bonus, you even have a short comic entitled PC Porker goes undercover which always makes me giggle and the traditional runout groove etching with "Tell us about the money Johnny" on side one and "Come back Ian, I'm pregnant" on the other. I do hope Johnny was able to pay his debt and that Ian was a good dad.