Thursday, 25 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 8): PUS "The real scapeghost" Ep, 1992

It could be argued that life in our so-called modern societies are being increasingly filled with petty, meaningless trivia through the overarching presence of the internet. It could also be argued that our growingly shorter attention span is a a result of this abundance of irrelevant details and that our greed for novelties is fueled by our own fear to be outdated and cast aside. Being irrelevant or even being socially sanctioned as such has become far worse than being dead. 

Still, trivia remains the easiest way to break the ice in many social situations, especially potentially awkward ones, like punk gigs for instance. Sometimes, all your mates are here so you don't need to come up with clever things to say during conversations that will make you look suave and sophisticated (aka SAS). Your friends are already familiar with your natural awesomeness. But there are other times when you don't really know anyone at gigs and you need to make friends, and for that you need clever-sounding introductory sentences and a good piece of punk trivia is ideal. This takes me to Terminal Sound Nuisance since this very blog has been voted the best place on the internet to find proper intel and anecdotes about cool punk bands that are obscure enough to make you look knowledgeable (but not too obscure, otherwise you are going to sound all nerdy and creepy and scare people away). Who knew these humble rants of mine would bring people together in friendship and unity! And since we're at it, here is a fun piece of punk trivia for your future new best friend: did you know that PUS stood for Punx Underpants Smell, a reference to the Pax compilation Lp Punk Dead - Nah Mate, the Smell is jus Summink in yer Underpants innit? Amazing, right? I mean it makes the name PUS - already a top punk moniker - even better. If knowing that doesn't get you at least a date, I don't what will.

I suppose that, in spite of their punker than punk name, PUS will be mostly remembered by the British punks active in the 90's who got to see them live. They were from Wisbech and were active for most of the 90's, at least between 1991 and 1999, an honourable run in itself when you compare it to modern hardcore bands' lifespan (or maybe ephemeral hardcore is the new black, I dunno). Quite sadly, PUS seem to have been largely forgotten and, although they were not the best band of the decade, they wrote some solid anarchopunk songs in their day. I cannot remember exactly where or when I got The Real Scapeghost but I know the Ep was lingering in a discounted record box, a fate that many 90's and 00's records are familiar with and that even more bands from our current decade will know when the deafening hype is over and people actually listen to them. I do remember exactly when I first encountered PUS however. I got their Death from the Skies discography cd in 2003 in Leeds at an Extinction of Mankind gig. And guess what, even then the cd was in the discount section. It must be karma. Despite the rather ugly cover depicting a warplane and the fact that I had never heard of PUS, I thought that spending a few quids for a discography was a bargain and brought the record home. I have to admit that the cd was a bit of a let down at the time for two main reasons. First, I expected the band to have more of a UK hardcore sound (c'mon, there's a bloody warplane on the cover, it was a fair assumption) and second, there are 33 tracks on the cd and it is a lot to digest.

This said, with the passing of the years, I grew to really enjoy PUS. In fact, the deeper I descended into the nether regions of the 80's anarchopunk wave, the fonder of PUS I became. The band can be seen as an embodiment of one of several relevant post "classic anarchopunk" paths. You could either take anarchopunk as a spirit and a stance not essentially bound to punk music and therefore go for a totally different sound (like techno, indie, dub...) but keeping the same political perspective. Or you could consider anarchopunk as both a stance and an actual genre which, as such, could legitimately be kept alive even 10 years after it peaked. PUS - and bands like Riot/Clone, Haywire, Kismet HC, Combat Shock, Substandard... - picked the second option. The Real Scapeghost was their first Ep, recorded in 1992, and while the production is undeniably thin, it is still a throughly replayable record with a genuine snotty punk vibe. Of course, there are sloppy bits here and there, some songs would have probably benefited from some structural changes and a more focused approach, but on the whole there is a freshness and a spontaneity that contrasts sharply with current bands that claim to be influenced by 80's anarchopunk but end up sounding like they calculate everything and value referential minutiae over everything else. In this light and for all its flaws, The Real Scapeghost is an interesting listen and, for the songs "Scapeghost", "Democracy", "Eternity" and "Shadow of death" (yes, there are eight songs on the Ep!), even a great one if you are into anarchopunk or UK82 (yes, you should be taking notes). There are several paces and vibes on the Ep, ranging from the fast and snotty Bristolian school to darker mid-tempo anarcho tunes and even a reggae-ish one (probably the weakest of the bunch but the band got much better at those afterwards). I can hear a lot of influences in the early PUS sound, Subhumans and early Conflict being obvious ones but you can also add bands like Riot/Clone, Karma Sutra or The Waste to the list.

This strong old-school anarchopunk vibe can also be seen in the lovely antiwar cover of The Real Scapeghost as well as in the backcover which depicts a logo comprised of a nuclear mushroom, a peace symbol and a crucifix (the ole 3 in 1 anarchopunk bargain pack). Lyrics deal with the atrocities of war, pollution, state control and of course animal rights, a theme that PUS tackled a lot as they included in the insert a list of useful addresses as well as some information about the ongoing exploitation of animals, pretty typical of political punk bands in the 90's and something that I always found great and indeed inspiring. After that humble snotty punk Ep the band recruited a second singer and meaningfully polished their sound into a powerful and tuneful blend of dual male/female vocals anarchopunk reminiscent of early Civilised Society?, late DIRT, PAIN and Toxic Waste that can be heard on their subsequent Ep's on Know Records, '96 A Life in Fear and the  '97 split with Omobna. PUS also appeared on a number of compilations throughout the years that you may even own since some of them were put out by labels like Panx, Loony Tunes, DIY Records, Discrete Records and Resistance Productions. As mentioned earlier, the best way to discover the band would be to get hold of a copy of the Death from the Skies cd, released on Bomb Factory Records (a label that put out some great 90's anarcho music by the likes of Contempt and Riot/Clone). This should not be too difficult considering PUS' current popularity. So if you see it gathering dust on a distro, you know what to do. Finally, I am not sure what the members did after the band split up apart from drummer Sonny, who also played in Combat Shock at the time, who would join Constant State of Terror and more recently Flowers in the Dustbin.


  1. I somehow missed this post when it came out. I picked up the 'A Life In Fear' EP when it came out. I have no idea when or where or why, though most likely I read a review and got it from a travelling distro coming through Pittsburgh or at some random fest.
    I've always really liked that one, though it was never in top rotation for some reason. I came across it last night while reorganizing my 7"s and it was still a blast to listen to. The (to me) over-the-top leads running through every song really added something slightly fresh to the semi-generic (traditional?) anarchopunk on the record.
    I never heard this EP and I was very excited to see this post on here and confused as to how I missed it previously. Thanks for posting this and for the great work as always!

    1. You're very welcome!
      I have a soft spot for PUS and agree with the statement that they were both a bit generic and yet somehow fresh-sounding. I even enjoy their mellower Chumba-like, early CS? punk tunes.

  2. Hi its Nik the PUS bass player here just wanna say thanks for the review you pretty much hit the nail on the head there really enjoyed reading it
    so cheers. we were just getting going really with the new line up of Ness Gary and Tom done some storming gigs then unfortunatley we lost our best friend and guitarist Gary in a road accident which just knocked the wind out of our sails such a good bloke and when he joined the band hed never picked a guitar up before and he practised all the time and got to be really good. we are looking at tne moment to getting our 1st studio demo Environmental Homicide demo released on vinyl with all the samples in between the songs which set it off,
    anyhow cheers matey Nik
    p,s you wanna put any of our other releases up for download feel free

    1. Hello Nick. Thanks for the details. And let me know when you reissue that first demo as I would be very much interested in hearing it (I don't think I have!).

    2. Hello Nik,
      I find this tape "Environmental Homicide" some years ago. On side A, after the demo, this is a recording live in mono at Queens Hall, Wisbech from '92 and on side B, a DIY demo "Vivisectionist die".
      I dont have any titles except for "Environmental Homicide" demo, if you want a direct rippe from the tape, contact me via discogs.