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.


1 comment:

  1. Lovely write up but not sure where the lps going in the bin comes from. I'm Noid the bassist from ID back in the day and we sold the copies we had.... In fact I sold one that I had left last week :)