Thursday 22 February 2018

Tunes & Snot with a Message - The Recesses of the Anarchopunk World (part 1): For There is Light...

And now, something a little different as I think I need to take a break from the exhausting rants and lengthy comments. Let's say that I feel uninspired right now. 

As you know, I love doing compilations revolving around a specific vibe, theme and context. I think they are not only fun to listen to and didactic but can also provide an accurate sense of a particular punk sound, in this case my beloved old-school anarchopunk. 

The compilations that will make up this series are actually not the first ones dealing with anarcho bands as there are no less than five others that you can find on Terminal Sound Nuisance's youtube channel (here), three reflecting the darker, gloomier side of anarchopunk and two including exclusively female-fronted anarcho songs. 

The new compilations will keep exploring similar shores from the broader anarchopunk world, but deeper and with a punkier (but still catchy) approach. 

This is the first one, entitled For There is Light as a reference to the last song The Mob wrote in the 80's which adequately concludes the compilation. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to leave comments if you know more about these obscure bands (some of which I know virtually nothing about but would be delighted to).     

01. Left For Dead "Combat zone", from the S/t demo tape, 1985 (Heworth, England)
02. Armistice "Victim", from the 7 track demo tape, 1983 (?) (Wales)
03. The Sinyx "Bullwood hall", from the 3rd demo tape, 1985 (Southend, England)
04. The Reptiles "Six o'clock", from the Too Good to Last demo tape, 1981 (Gateshead, England)
05. Zounds "Daddy", from the 1st demo tape, 1979 (London, England)
06. The Snails "Factory", from the Shitting Bricks demo tape, 1981 (London, England)
07. Anti-State Control "Nuclear aftermath", from the S/t demo tape, 1983 (Great Dunmow, England)
08. Chaos "Hey you", from the Who? What? Why? When? Where? compilation Lp, 1984 (London, England)
09. Stalag 17 "Harmless fun", from the You are not alone! compilation Ep, 1986 (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
10. AOA "No one is laughing", from the Satisfactory Arrangement Lp, 1988 (Edinburgh, Scotland)
11. State Hate "End race hate", from the We don't want your fucking war! compilation Lp, 1984 (?)
12. Shock to the System "Beat the system", from the The Last Breathe for Humanity demo tape, 1983 (Dorchester, England)
13. Beyond Religion "Fuck politics", from the Fuck Politics coz it Fucks You! demo tape, 1986 (?)
14. After Dead "Unknown", from the S/t demo tape, 1984 (?)
15. Joust "Scream children scream", from the Escape the Maze demo tape, 1986 (England)
16. The Living Legends "Tory funerals", from the Tory Funerals demo tape, 1983 (Swansea, Wales)
17. Andy T "Dirty squatters", from the Weary of the Flesh Ep, 1982 (London, England)
18. Fallout "Them and us", from the Salami Tactics Ep, 1983 (London, England)
19. The Infected "Non existent", from the S/t demo tape, 1984 (Honley, England)
20. Side Effects "Action man", from the Value of Defiance compilation tape, 1983 (Kirkcaldy, Scotland?)
21. Requiem "Holocaust", from the Apathy Compilation vol. 1 compilation tape, 1981 (Bradford, England)
22. Protest "Hypnotic state", from the Vinyl Overload Ep, 1983 (Denton, England)
23. Warzone "No need to die", from the 2nd demo tape, 1985 (?)
24. Martial Law "Differences", from the Angry Songs demo tape, 1985 (Edinburgh, Scotland)
25. The Committee "News from nowhere", from the New From Nowhere demo tape, 1984 (Harrow, England)
26. Soft Drinks "Pepsi Cola", from The Thing from the Crypt compilation Lp, 1981 (England)
27. Subhumans "Susan", from the Time Flies...But Aeroplanes Crash 12'', 1983 (Warminster, England)
28. The Iconoclasts "Do you care?", from 1st demo tape, 1984 (Liverpool, England)
29. Pax Vobiscum "Cosmetic cruelty", from the split tape with Eyes On You, 1986 (Nottingham, England)
30. No Choice "Wotswar", from the 1st demo tape, 1982 (Cardiff, Wales)
31. Statement "A box with no corner", from the split Lp with The Apostles, 1988 (England)
32. The Mob "Lights", from the band's last (80's) gig in Doncaster on November, 19th, 1983 (Yeovil, England) 

Wednesday 14 February 2018

California Screamin' (part 5): Resist and Exist "Ad Liberty" cd, 2010

Jurassic Park left a lasting impression on me when I first watched it as a kid in 1993. The parents of my best mate actually took the both of us to the movies in Paris for the occasion. We were 10 and overexcited at the prospect of seeing proper dinosaurs on screen. Of course, like all boys our age we loved dinos and had been playing with colourful plastic versions of these long-gone reptiles for years so the movie felt a bit like a consecration for us. We were aware that the special effects were amazing and I can still us in the queue chatting noisily and obnoxiously about how awesome it was going to be. Of course, we had seen the trailer on telly and we knew how realistic the dinosaurs were going to look. Or rather we thought we did. Jurassic Park scared me shitless and I was absolutely petrified, grabbing my seat like a sloth on its branch. I even thought of leaving the premises during the infamous kitchen scene but I was literally too afraid to move (The Grudge had the same effect on me many years later, though this time the reason why I stayed was that I was too hungover from the night before... oh well...). To this day, I still feel a little uncomfortable and nostalgic whenever I watch Jurassic Park. 

The other thing I took from the movie then was how ace it was to be an archaeologist because you got to wear a hat, be on your own and look for old things in the ground. Though I have always been too shit at biology to become a proper one, I sometimes feel like Professor Grant when I do my research for Terminal Sound Nuisance, digging endlessly to find fossilized pieces of information about punk bands from past eras, dusting them, showcasing them in this digital museum. Only I do not really see the point of wearing a hat indoors. That'd just be silly, yeah? 

This one was a piece of work. Which may seem quite strange since Resist and Exist is not like an obscure dinosaur that no one, apart from the usual bitter nerds, has heard about. They are pretty well-known and respected in the punk world for their longevity and their unwavering political commitment. I would even argue that, along with Aus-Rotten and Resist, they are the most influential US anarchopunk band from the 90's. If their mid/late 90's vinyl releases are pretty much classics, little do punx know (or care to, but that's an other matter) that R&E have had two existences, related but distinct, during the decade. Their first incarnation was rather short-lived but meaningful and relevant in the history and development of OC peacepunk at a pivotal time, what we often and wrongly see as the end of the golden punk era: the transition between the 80's and the 90's.

I have already written about R&E before (about a '03 live recording here) but I will not try not to repeat myself, pretty much because I love being redundant and raving about bands I love dearly. Besides, this post will closely focus on the band's first run and origins and how they are tied to the peacepunk scene. 

The Ad Liberty cd contains 24 songs taken from five different recordings. There is an eight-song demo recording from 1991 (it might be the very first demo but it is unclear as the Music For Social Change demo was recorded the same year and I don't know the precise month), one song from their very first gig in '91, two songs from the aforementioned Music For Social Change demo, two songs off their '92 demo entitled The Oppressors and a live set from the same year.  If you want to be thorough about early R&E (and why wouldn't you?), I strongly suggest you get the Music For Social Change cd (released on Fight For Your Mind in 2005) which includes additional songs from the demo of the same name as well different versions (mastered differently I presume) of the two songs from The Oppressors. The booklet of Ad Liberty tells the story of the band from the point of view of Chris who was, along with Jang and Cyhndi, the original singer. R&E was formed in December, 1990, when Jang offered Chris to join the band. The former had been working along with Jayd (from Media Children) on a song called "The system remains the same" (which makes it the very first R&E song I presume) and I guess they were looking for like-minded punx to form a band.

Now before I go on, let's point out a crucial element in the genesis of R&E, one that is made up of two words: Media Children. I have already touched upon MC previously (when writing about the S.I. One compilation Ep here) but have come across significant intel since. I suppose that MC epitomized, during their lifetime between 1988 and 1992, the third peacepunk generation in California, after the second one (basically made up of bands like The Iconoclast, Another Destructive System, A State of Mind or Diatribe) folded. They were peacepunk's third wind if you like. However, if you take a close look at the first lineup of MC, as indicated on their first 1988 demo Slaughter of the Innocent, you will realize that along with singer Tammy (one of peacepunk's most recognizable voice), the band was made up of Jang on vocals, Jayd on guitar and bass, and finally John on drums, all of whom were part of the first R&E lineup. Therefore, it would not be irrelevant to see '88 MC as some kind of precursor or sketch of what R&E would do just a few years later (or perhaps equally as the first personal experience of mates making punk music together). The first MC demo is, on the whole, not completely similar to R&E's first demos as it was a more melodic and slow-paced effort, somewhere between Atrocity, A State of Mind, Icon AD and Alternative, but then R&E also had moody, tuneful punk songs in their setlist along with their fast dischargy peacepunk sound. MC would go on with another lineup and a faster, Bristol-meets-ASOM sound, but both bands remained very close partners in crime, touring together and even sharing songs (R&E's "Anti war" and "The women song" were originally MC songs).

But back to the early R&E entity. The band played its first gig with MC (obviously) and Arise (a band with former Holocaust members that I am honestly dying to hear) and did some touring with Total Chaos, back when they were part of the OC peacepunk scene and did Antisect covers (this historical fact is known to have given a few self-proclaimed streetpunx a heart attack). In 1992, Jang left the band to form Autonomy along with (I believe) some MC members (R&E singer Cyhndi would join the band later on... I think!). But there was no hard feeling since R&E played their last gig in April, '92, with Autonomy. Of course, Jang would resurrect R&E after the demise of the latter, bringing with him songs from their first incarnation and even an Autonomy number ("Korean protest song" is basically a reworking the song of "Autonomy").  

So, after all this background information, why choosing to talk about R&E in this peacepunk series? I mean, apart from the fact that their moniker was taken from an Antisect song? I am fully aware that the time gap between my last post, which explored the Naturecore's 12'' recorded in 1986, and these recordings from 1991 and 1992 can look suspicious. Did nothing happen in this five-year period? Of course not. OC crust happened. Essential bands like Apocalypse, A//Solution, This Bitter End, Mindrot, Glycine Max and, of course, Final Conflict emerged (though the latter were never technically a peacepunk band and inbetween scenes). But although they shared the values and the politics of peacepunk and can be seen as the logical sonic and aesthetic extension and continuation of it (just like in the UK really), they also reflected the birth of something new with a different artistic perspective and as such cannot be said to represent the "classic peacepunk sound". While R&E, at that time, were THE ultimate synthesis of the preceding decade.

If you were to be asked (say, during a fancy dinner party at the embassy or something) what 80's peacepunk is then look no further and play the early R&E demos. How ironic since they are actually 90's recordings but they concentrate what 80's peacepunk is all about musically, lyrically and aesthetically. The real strength of the band is how effortlessly they managed to synthesize the two schools of peacepunk while never losing sight of the structural British influence. You will find furious dischargy hardcore punk songs that nod lovingly toward The Iconoclast, Crucifix, Body Count, Against or Final Conflict, as well as moody and catchy anarcho numbers reminiscent of Atrocity, Trial, Naturecore or A State of Mind (yes, my evil peacepunk master plan was to write about four bands that the fifth one would perfectly summarize!), and all this with the intense versatility of Another Destructive System. I know I haven't really mentioned all the faster, more hardcore-sounding side of the scene in this series (because I already have before) but of course it played a major role in the shaping of the classic OC peace sound. As I said, the UK sound and inspiration are also very much present in R&E's songwriting and early Antisect, Anti-System, Liberty, Civilised Society?, The Sears or Potential Threat are obvious points of comparison. However, I would argue that they were a band heavily influenced and primarily motivated by the local historical peacepunk, in other terms a peacepunk-influenced peacepunk band (that's a lot of peace and a lot of punk, I know) which was important in and of itself.

As you can expect from demo recordings, the sound quality is not exactly crystal clear. It is raw punk with a sense of youthful urgency and spontaneity and that's precisely how it should sound. The presence of three singers gives the song a polyphonic vibe that conveys the collective identity of the band as well as a cracking vintage anarcho feel. The fast and furious hardcore numbers are brilliant and their ferocity is actually reinforced with the catchy and moodier, darker punk songs that Cyhndi's haunting voice make so poignant. Through these songs (as well as the inclusion of some poems), the band expressed a wider ranger of emotions, like melancholy on "Self destruct" or "When we meet again" or dignified outrage on "The oppressors" (perhaps one of the most uplifting anarchopunk songs of the period with fantastic male/female vocals and a terrific singalong chorus). The song "The system remains the same" (that the band would turn into "Movement" in the late 90's) may be my favourite with its tribal Crass-like beat and layered vocals and its deliciously melodic and poppy Chumbawamba conclusion. Genuine anarcho magics here. The live set (without Jang) is pretty rough but you can tell how receptive the audience is to the band's message and music and they cover BGK and Crass for good measure. The low point of the cd is the absence of lyrics (apart from the reggae-tinged "Ad liberty") which is a bit of a missed opportunity, especially with such a political band with a positive anarchist message. 

This was released on Mass Media Records, an OC-based record label with an ace dove logo that was close to the peacepunk scene of the early 90's (they shared the same address as Media Children actually) that released Ep's from Autonomy, Social Outcasts, Dan and of course Media Children before going on a hiatus for 15 years. Ad Liberty appeared to mark the return of MMR in 2010 (or is 2009?) since the label went on to release top shelf anarcho deathrock and postpunk in the following years with very convincing records from bands like Masses, Moral Hex or Silent Scream. By the way, this cd is still available, so you know what to do.

Since there were annoying gaps between tracks on the cd I did my best to blend songs when necessary (for the live set mostly as the gaps were too distracting). /And before wrapping it up, I strongly suggest you take a good look at Jang's youtube channel (here) if you want to learn more about these peacepunk years.


Thursday 8 February 2018

California Screamin' (part 4): Naturecore "With love..." 12'', 1988

I do not remember exactly when and where I first read about Naturecore (or is it Nature Core? I dunno for sure but let's reasonably stick with Naturecore). But what I do distinctly remember however is that they were referred to and characterized as a "pre Vegan Reich band", a mention that instantly made them look suspicious to me. I had never met someone into Vegan Reich (and come to think about it, I still have to meet one to this day but perhaps the band has completely gone out of fashion after their Jihad nonsense and has become one of these bands people are unlikely to claim to like) and, to be perfectly honest, at that time, I had never even listened to them and was only familiar with their political message and what they stood for and that was enough for me to discard them. Now that I am older and (kinda) wiser and that I actually listened to Vegan Reich, I guess they are alright if you enjoy metalcore, politically confused ideology and "lookin' hard and livin' healthy" (which I don't). I don't get the appeal of their message and of their mosh parts, and I would not feel too comfortable at a Hardline gig (and vice versa), but then the global punk scene is baffling at times. 

And baffled I was upon reading that an obscure peacepunk band called Naturecore was somehow connected to Vegan Reich, so much so in fact that I buried the information somewhere in my brain and promptly forgot about Naturecore's existence. And then, last year, as I was tediously organizing my music files, I came across With Love... in the 80's US anarchopunk folder. "Oh yeah, that pre-Vegan Reich band. I can't remember what they sound like, so let's play it, just for kicks, they're probably terrible anyway". And of course, listening to the songs, I instantly felt very silly because not only is the record very good but it is undeniably rooted in the mid-80's peacepunk sound I love so much. So much for selective blindness... I had to investigate.

After some researches, I realized that the dread-inducing Vegan Reich tie was pretty thin indeed and the fact that it was this element that was put forward in introducing Naturecore has more to do with internet's click bait culture and unhealthy love for controversies than serious contextual work. What made Naturecore a "pre Vegan Reich band" was the inclusion of a Vegan Reich song, "Stop talking, start revenging", on the 1987 The ALF is Watching and There's no Place to Hide... compilation Lp. This was the very first song under the VR name, and apparently, singer and guru Sean Muttaqi had asked members of Naturecore to be his backing band for that purpose (there would be no other occasion as far as I know). I suppose they knew each other because of their common location and their involvement in animal rights activism and probably through the label No Master's Voice who released the aforementioned compilation and, one year later, the With Love... 12''. An anecdotal, if quite interesting, story all in all. Does it make Naturecore a pre Vegan Reich band? Not really and the song in question sounds a lot more like Naturecore than like subsequent Vegan Reich recordings.

But enough about that already. The band's contact address on the 12'' is the same as the label's, in Laguna Beach, so it is safe to assume that Naturecore must have been active in this specific area, not far from Orange County. I did not find much intel about the band other than their drummer Aaron also played in Armistice (not the 90's band but one that was active around 1984 apparently) and that the singer played in Black Apple Forest afterwards. Naturecore formed in 1984 and recorded With Love... in 1986, although it was to be released in 1988, and they also had a song on that ALF compilation. The thank list tells us that the band was in touch with some British anarchopunk bands like Dan, Chumbawamba and Karma Sutra (which is not very surprising given their sound and politics), fellow peacepunx A State of Mind and even Glycine Max (who must have been in their earliest stage at that point). 

There are five songs on the 12'', the last one of which actually pertains to sloppy folk music (a clear sign of anarcho-influenced music). On the whole, I would suggest that A State of Mind and their brand of versatile anarchopunk with male/female vocals and their focus on animal rights and personal liberation were probably a major influence and a source of inspiration for Naturecore. In addition to this basis, there is also a distinct crossover vibe to the songs (especially "The box", which opens the record, with its guitar solos and drum beat), not so much in terms of sound production but in the songwriting that uses typical crossover structures and riffs (you can even spot some clear-sounding funky bass lines). Yet, Naturecore did not really aim for heaviness and did not have a metal sound but more of a raw hardcore one, full of punk urgency. Some guitar leads and vocal parts (especially the flow) borrow from classic US hardcore and MDC come to mind. Although clearly embedded in the peacepunk tradition (the song "Employment and you" is an unsung anarcho hit) and inspired by the nascent crossover sound (remember the recording is from '86), Naturecore were far from generic, the beats are quite diverse and the writing not linear. I am reminded of a Californian version of Dan, Civilised Society? or, more accurately, of Decadence Within's early period, back when they were meaningfully inbetween dual vocal anarchopunk and crossover hardcore (namely the Speed Hippy Ep and the Shall we Dance? Lp). Or perhaps you could contextually read the band as a peacepunk version of Final Conflict, a transition? It could also be argued that, to some retrospective extent, Naturecore heralded the early sound of Nausea, Antischism or Mankind? although it is difficult to assess how well-known they were at the time outside of their locality.

Lyrically, Naturecore were strong and focused with songs about the brainwashing influence of television, employment as a disempowering tool, the unjust treatment of Native Americans at the end and the exploitation of tribal lands by the government and animal exploitation (quite obviously). Solid stuff. As a bonus, there is a message etched on the run-off groove area (I have always loved these) that says: "If our current system is working...I'de (sic) hate to see it when it's not!".

I managed to find an interview with singer Tammy from 2009 on a website run by Jang from Resist and Exist and Autonomy in which she touches upon her political activities at the time of Naturecore (interview). Though the page has not been updated for a while, a book about the peacepunk scene was apparently in the works at some point. How grand would that be...