Wednesday 28 August 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 2): The Perukers "GBG 1992" Ep, 1993

First, let's talk a bit about etiquette. 

In a genre that relies so much on references and on dischargian knowledge to be really effective - if not enjoyable at all - it makes sense that the practice of covering either Discharge or a band influenced by Discharge is a critical one. And of course, doing it right is a complex task that has to be taken seriously. Picking too obvious a song to cover (like "Hear nothing see nothing say nothing" or "Why" or "Warmachine" or "Police bastard" for instance) does not come recommended. Older bands have already done it and better. The only situation where I can see it working would be if you are not a d-beat band and the choice of covering a Discharge song is a little unexpected. In this case, it does not really matter what song you chose. So unless you are under these specific circumstances, I would not advise picking a dis anthem that is too famous. Indeed, choosing a song that is deemed a minor classic by the-cool-kids-who-know-their-shit (you know the ones, they are usually standing at the back, arms crossed, taking mental notes about the band and examining if it plays the right kind of punk music, and they are usually not actual kids) will make you and your band look well-read and aware of the protocol and you should be able to charge a bit more for your demo (if it is on tape, a cdr will be heavily frowned upon). However, do not select too obscure a song. Covering a song that no one knows makes people feel uncomfortable and insecure about their self worth and punk knowledge and will make you look pretentious, but this time not in a good way (and it will probably indicate that you first heard it on youtube, which is unacceptable). Basically, go for Disarm instead of Total Armsvett. Another, more subtle and clever way, to pay tribute to the good d-stuff is to re-use riffs or arrangements or lyrics or visuals from classic discharge-y hardcore bands in order to notify the cool kids that you are one of them without having to literally cover a song. Again, be careful, if the nods are too easily perceived, it can work against you and make you look like you are trying too hard to look cool (which is the exact opposite of good taste). Unless the plainness is ironic and self-conscious which makes the calculated heavy nods primarily about the process of referentiality and highlight your awareness of the intertextual game. It's an endlessly tough business.

Of course, you can also choose to play it like The Perukers, not give a single fuck and record three obvious covers of Discharge, Shitlickers and The Varukers in three hours. It is probably much funnier as well.

Were The Perukers an actual band? Well, it really depends on your definition of what a punk is or should be. Since they only played one live gig ever and recorded only twice in eight years, I think we can safely say that The Perukers were more akin to an entertaining, enjoyable side project for all the members involved (who were all part of more serious and committed bands), basically something to do when they had time to kill in the studio and were craving to play simple and brutal hardcore punk. I am not completely sure as to who did what exactly in the band but it was made up of Chris, Rigo and Robert from Driller Killer - the latter playing in Anti-Cimex at the time as well - and John from Black Uniforms (apparently Cliff was also involved but his role is a bit unclear as far as this Ep is concerned). With such a lineage, one is entitled to expect beefy, hard-hitting and heavy hardcore music from experienced Swedes and of course one is not disappointed.

The name kinda sucks I suppose. Captain Obvious informed me that it is a massive nod toward The Varukers so let's stick with that. I guess you could say that the name "varukers" kinda sucks too. After all, it is a spelling alteration of "verrucas" and while I am sure it looked like a very appealing idea to their teenage selves, at the end of the day it still refers to plantar warts, we just don't think about it because The Varukers are a classic band. So The Perukers means, in Swedish, "the wigs". Pretty silly I guess, but then it might have been an inside joke between them because judging from band pictures of Driller Killer or Black Uniforms they all had really great hair at the time (in a cheesy metal way) so perhaps people wondered if they were wearing wigs or something. I know I am wondering and it was 30 years ago. But anyway, as mentioned there are three covers on GBG 1992 from The Varukers ("Protest and survive", which was the original spelling of the song on the self-titled 1981 Ep), Discharge ("Protest & survive") and Shitlickers ("Spräckta snuttskallar"). There are many enormous D-Easter eggs on the Ep, from the title referring to Shitlickers' GBG 1982, to the "thanks to no fucker!" on the backcover (if you don't know where that comes from, you must leave your Card Membership on my desk tomorrow by 9:00 am, sorry not sorry), the cover itself depicting two punx wearing studded jackets looking at a nuclear explosion that is the same as that of Mob 47's "Nuclear attack" design, the use of the Varukers font or the picture of a Shitlickers shirt on the label of the side B. The thing is ripe with references, some are grotesquely clear, others a little more subtle, but in the end you can see that the band had a lot of fun doing that and it also shows in the music. Of course it sounds a lot like early Driller Killer being drunk in the studio and still effortlessly nailing four songs before heading back to the pub. The production is quite clear for the genre (it was recorded at the metal-oriented Fredman Studio), the guitar sounds great and thrashes its way through these classic hardcore anthems, everything is highly energetic and even the sloppier parts in the vocals do not diminish the mean, aggressive intensity that The Perukers managed to unleash (the chorus on "Spräckta snuttskallar" is insanely powerful). Being a big fan of early Driller Killer's scandi hardcore style and considering the first two albums Brutalize and Total Fucking Hate as classic 90's hardcore records, of course I have fun listening to GBG 1992, and that's probably what The Perukers intended to produce, a nasty, punk as fuck tribute to some early greats with a metal punk touch. Even their own composition, "Burn out", sounds like a cover of an 80's hardcore band. 

The fact that this Ep was released on Distortion Records (it was the label's second piece of wax and the sleeve design was done by none other than the label's owner) also motivated its inclusion in the Sonatas in D Major series as the label played a major role in the 90's in the development of Discharge-loving Swedish hardcore and crust. I am too young to have known the glory years of Distortion but I was told about its significance many times by a couple of old-timers and even the briefest look at the discography (Anti-Cimex, Disfear, Wolfpack, Driller Killer, Skitsystem, the reissues of Shitlickers, Mob 47 and Moderat Likvidation, Disfornicate... ok maybe not them) can show how important it has been for a whole generation and a series about d-beat without a record from the Distortion catalogue would have been utterly preposterous (I received death threats for much less). The legend has it that Mats, founder of Distortion records, glued Why to his turntable when it came out because he loved the record so much. I have no idea if this is a true story but it is definitely a very romantic one (though it's kinda impractical) and in the end D-beat is a very romantic subgenre. The Perukers released a second Ep on Distortion in 2001 entitled Disploited with covers from GBH, Doom and The Exploited. Not quite as much fun to get into to be fair but you know what they say about sequels.  

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 1): Disfear "S/t" Ep, 1998

More than three years ago, in the spring of 2016, I fiercely battled, on this very arena, a genre I had not yet dared to really approach: d-beat. Armed with my wits and a lot of time on my hands (I was fully unemployed then and writing at length about being Discharge by proxy sounded like the best idea I ever had), I fought long and hard in order to understand and identify this inspiring passion, this fearless and devouring Discharge love that have led countless bands to proudly pay tribute to the Stoke-on-Trent instrumentalists. And, as we saw then, there are different ways to express praises to the Discharge sound, ranging from attempts at sounding just like Discharge, to embracing the whole Discharge-inspired universe as valid and self-sufficient materials (a bit like Marvel or DC), the singular Discharge cover tradition that punks still celebrate today, working on sound textures,  effects, intertextuality, referentiality and, metatextually, on reflecting on the Dis phenomenon itself. The Chronicles of Dis - that was the series' name - were about all that. The selection illustrated different aspects of Discharge love and I tried to highlight its historical roots and put forward significant practices of the mighty D that were relevant. Following this formidably demanding enterprise, I became unable to stop my fingers from playing a galloping d-beat on any wooden surface that happened to be in their vicinity. It proved to be quite awkward, especially at funerals.

Despite almost overdosing on Discharge then, I grew to feel that the work was somehow incomplete and I caught myself thinking about records that could or even should have been included. In the end, I had to face the facts: I had some unfinished business with d-beat. The time has now come for the second round with a brand new series, entitled Sonatas in D Major, which will be about Discharge love and Dis-inspired records - yet again - with twelve meaningful records that I will tackle chronologically according to the dates of recording (not necessarily the same as the release dates). I am aware that sequels usually suck but then there are always movies like Batman Returns or Gremlins 2 to give me hope. Even Jaws 2 is not that bad, right?

And let's start with an absolute classic d-beat band: Disfear. Now, I guess everyone knows about Disfear and if you ask a passerby to name only one d-beat band, he or she is likely to reply either Disclose or Disfear, choices which could be argued to stand for the two major trends in d-beat, the distortion-loving raw Dis or the heavy, beefy, rocking Dis. I guess you could see them as two different d-beat schools essentially expressing a similar fascination for Discharge, though probably not for the same facets of the band. But after all, our likings are heavily conditioned by circumstances and by what we used to like, what we are used to like and what we have grown to expect to like, so that listening to Why for the first time is not the same experience to an Entombed, an Exploited or a Motörhead fan. Since their two albums on Relapse, Disfear have become quite well-known and celebrated in the punk/metal world, but of course the original old-fashioned hardcore die-hards will always favour "their early stuff" or even, if you are an elite-level hardcore expert, "their demo recordings". But let's take a listen to Disfear's first steps since it is actually the topic of the day.

The band actually started in Nyköping, Sverige, as Anti-Bofors in 1989. If you're wondering the word Bofors refers to a Swedish owned arms manufacturer and is now widely associated with the 40 mm anti-aircraft gun used during WWII - on both sides of the conflict. Bofors were also involved in a major corruption scandal with the government of India in the 80's which probably led a bunch of scruffy teenage Swedish punks to go for the name Anti-Bofors. The band, then as a three-piece with bass player Henke also handling the vocals, recorded one eponymous Ep in 1991 for No Records. This Ep has never been reissued on vinyl and is now highly sought-after but I suppose it is only a matter of time. After seeing the Svart Parad double lp reissue, everything is possible. Anti-Bofors, although clearly Discharge-influenced like all the Swedish hardcore bands of the time, cannot be said to be a d-beat band. Instead they were certainly trying to emulate the raw and gruff Scando hardcore sound of bands like Bombanfall, Disarm or indeed Svart Parad with amazingly hoarse vocals. A genuinely classic Ep that very much sounded like an 80's hardcore record, contrary to the first offering under the name of Disfear that marked the band's entry into the 90's sound-wise.

But first let's ask ourselves a very existential question: why did they change their name to Disfear? A reasonable hypothesis would be that the prefix "Dis" indicated more evidently the band's shift toward a more Discharge-inspired sound and songwriting and I suppose that it does make sense. I am much more perplexed about the choice of the substantive "fear". Obviously "disfear" is not a word so what does it mean? I suppose it could be the contraction of "this fear" but I personally think that it refers to the aestheticization of a particular fear (of the war, of state oppression, all the usual theme of the Discharge literature) in the form of the classic Discharge formula, as if it were the actual sound of that fear. Or maybe they looked at Dischange and thought that they too could get away with a silly Dis-name. I suppose it is somewhere in the middle.

The band had a new vocalist, Jeppe, on their self-titled Ep that originally appeared in 1992, on No Records once again (the label released a third Ep, Dispense's Nothing but the Truth before folding up) but the instrumental team is similar. Musically, only one year after the Anti-Bofors Ep, the band is much tighter and more powerful. The improvement in terms of sound was massive but then the Ep was recorded at Sunlight Studio by Tomas Skogsberg who worked on production with all the Swedish death-metal bands of the period (Entombed, Dismember, Carnage, Grave... just name any one of them, Tomas was in on it), a collaboration that also accounted for the darker, meaner vibe running though the songs. The primitive hardcore gruffness was all but gone as the band progressed and their anger became more focused and sharper, though they retained a raw hardcore vibe and were not yet quite the relentless d-beat machine they would eventually become. I really enjoy this first Disfear offering because it perfectly epitomized the transition between brutal, hard-hitting Swedish hardcore and 90's d-beat orthodoxy. You can hear that the band navigated between hardcore bands like Totalitär or No Security and full on Discharge-worship. Perhaps this middle ground was best embodied by the flow of the vocals in Swedish, sometimes close to the fast-paced, raspy, Totalitär-like school, sometimes almost similar to Cal's peculiar intonation (although the tone of Jeppe's voice on this one is higher-pitched and closer to the classic Swedish hardcore way). The five songs sound very potent, aggressive and energetic with a an urgent and tense raw sound, the vocals sound fucking pissed, the riffs are great in a sort of classic and tasteful way. In their early years, Disfear's music really sounded like an unstoppable and cruel warmachine approaching and I think it is probably best served on repeat mode in order to enjoy the repetition of repetitiveness. Know what I mean? The visuals on this Ep are stark, severe and appropriately macabre and the lyrics are in Swedish and deal with religion and war (interestingly, the shift to English lyrics on subsequent records also corresponded with the growing Discharge influence on the songwriting and singing style). This eponymous Ep paved the way for the crucial d-beat masterpieces, the mammoth Discharge-loving Ep A Brutal Sight of War, from 1993 (my favourite Disfear record and easily one of the best d-beat records ever recorded), and the absolutely relentless Soul Scars album from 1995, two records that pretty much defined what has come to be associated with Swedish d-beat, with a heavy production, crushing riffs and a vocal work that saw Jeppe really find his hoarse but distinctive style.

My copy of the Disfear is not the original from 1992 but a 1998 repress co-released by German label Rødel Records based in Berlin and responsible for a lot of grindcore/crust/fastcore records (Rot, Yacopsae, MVD or Autoritär to name a few) and Finn Records, a Swedish label specialized in quality Discore music that put out many Totalitär records, but also stuff from G-Anx, Uncurbed or the Excrement of War/Dischange split Ep (small world). And if you are into early Disfear - and do keep in mind that you should be in order to be for real - their eponymous 1992 Ep and A Brutal Sight of War 1993 Ep were finally reissued on vinyl last year by La Familia Records, Havoc Records and Disfear Records (it had been previously reissued by Feral Ward in 2004 so you know it is definitely classic stuff). You know what to do.        

Austere indeed


Friday 9 August 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 10): Surrender "S/t" Ep, 2007

This is the last part of my pointless but rather fun series about those records I completely forgot I owned and I hope you enjoyed it. Of course, by nature, it was a very dispersed endeavour as my memory works in mysterious ways and I cannot really see a common artistic thread between all these Ep's. I guess my forgetting had more to with how or when I came to acquire them rather than with their merit and relevance or what they sounded like. Let me tell you that I own much worse records that I will neither be able to forget nor get rid of. How unfortunate. It is strange that I could not recall owning this Surrender Ep because I love the band. I distinctly remembered getting a subsequent one, There is no War from 2009, definitely enjoying the tunes but still thinking that it was a bit of a short - 6 minutes and 20 seconds to be accurate - and expensive one - I think I bought it for a fiver and there is no insert. I was not really disappointed or upset but I noticed the discrepancy and still remember I did. Now, ten years later, it is deemed perfectly normal to pay 6€ for 6 minutes worth of hardcore punk music, but then it hurt a little. I suppose we were still in the early stages of the technological and cultural transitional stage and although it was not that long ago, it does feel like a completely different era. But my hairline has not receded that much and in the end that's all that matters. 

But back to Surrender. Since I saw them play in Paris in May, 2009, I suppose I must have bought their first S/t Ep on that occasion. I don't think I had heard them before and the gig itself was not particularly packed. They were billed as an anarchopunk band from Berkeley but it did not necessarily imply that they were going to go for a strong 80's anarcho vibe, but just that they had radical political lyrics and were evolving in the anarchopunk spheres. For all I knew, they could have been a crust punk or a folk punk band and the anarchopunk tag on the handout would have still made sense. At the time there were very few bands openly going for the old-school Crass-ish anarcho sound anyway so chances that Surrender were going to sound like something out of the Mortarhate or Bluurg back catalogue were thin indeed. Basically, I was very unsuspecting and, in retrospect, gladly so, since Surrender surprised me with their brilliantly written, passionate peacepunk music (that is to say the Californian take on the original UK anarchopunk sound). They sounded like no other current band at the time and I loved the agitprop theatrics of the performance with the singer being literally blindfolded, the bass player wearing a mask over his mouth, the ace-looking peacepunk backdrop and all the spoken parts in the songs. It felt both fresh and referential at the time.     

Although there was certainly a renewed interest in the British anarchopunk scene from the 80's thanks to Overground's "anti compilations", to Ian Glasper's tremendous work The Day the Country Died, published in 2006, and to Lance Hahn's fascinating interviews of classic anarcho bands in MRR (at the same period), few historical anarchopunk bands had reformed yet and there was virtually no contemporary punk band doing the classic anarcho thing. I am not sure why that is. Perhaps punx were not as obsessed with nostalgia and prone to unabated 80's referentiality in the 00's (Discharge worship, or D-beat, having been already turned into an actual legitimate genre in the 90's was the obvious exception along with the Japanese punk scene, because, well, you know, Japan) or perhaps youtube had not yet opened the gates to even the most obscure hardcore bands. A band like Germ Attak, with its overt and erudite UK82 worship, was still very much a conceptual exception. This is not to say that vintage Crass-like acts were not listened to or had no influence on contemporary bands, but more often than not, political bands at the time were more likely to play neocrust - though by 2009 the trend was on its last feet - or progressive hardcore than Zounds-inspired poppy anarchopunk. To be fair, Contravene did have songs with Chumba-like moments, which is what made them quite original, but it was one influence among others and you did have some English bands with a strong Conflict vibe (like Active Slaughter for instance, or the Anthrax-ish Bug Central) but it was fairly circumscribed. Surrender, on the other hand, were all-out Chumbawamba converts and invited the little-known and rather confidential glorious Californian 80's peacepunk sound to the table.

Surrender formed in 2005 and were from Berkeley, which, when you listen to their music, feels almost pleonastic. The band had Paul Curran, formerly from Crimpshrine, on the bass which probably accounted for the decent turnout at the Paris gig. I never could get into Crimpshrine so I don't know much about them but I know a lot of people love them and the "ex-Crimpshrine" tag was helpful for Surrender I suppose. By now you have already guessed what Surrender were all about musically but let me be more accurate. I think the biggest inspirations would be Chumba and A State of Mind, at the time when the two bands shared a split Ep (reviewed on Terminal Sound Nuisance, small world) in 1986 and sounded quite alike. The songs are melodic, poppy even and deceptively upbeat, as if the tunes could barely conceal the political anger and outrage. The presence of several singers, male and female, certainly confers the same polyphonic quality that you can find in Chumba or, indeed, Crass. Rhythmically the band is versatile but always keeping this martial, tribal vibe reminiscent of mid-paced UK anarchopunk, while the bass is upfront, offering additional catchiness in the guise of brilliant lines with sometimes subtle hooks, and the guitar does not hesitate to change tones and techniques when the song needs to be enhanced. On the whole the songwriting is quite innovative and goes beyond the classic binary structure, like Chumba or Crass did, keeping a meaningful narrative quality with unexpected changes of moods and paces. The tunes are strong, sounding both sad and uplifiting, and never predictable. As for the lyrics, they are carefully written political diatribe about personal and collective resistance, conflicting feelings about the relevance of politics (and punk as a vessel for change I would assume), the need to do something about it all and the sense that it might all be a big con and we may be tricked into doing what we do, like predictably harmless rebels. This is quality anarcho music that brings to mind the classic Californian peacepunk bands such as A State of Mind, Trial (though not as postpunk), Sleeping Dogs (though not as avantgarde) or Resist and Exist, as well as the British originators like Chumba (obviously), Crass, Omega Tribe or Alternative.

After this self-released Ep, Surrender recorded the 2008 split Ep with Acts of Sedition, then the ugly-looking There is no War Ep for La Vida Es un Mus in 2009 - back when the label was much smaller - which is also excellent, a full Lp entitled Paper Thrones the same year for Thrillhouse Records and, finally, a split Ep with Finland's 1981 in 2011 for Stonehenge Records. I know some people dislike the album and I have to admit that I did not get into it as easily as I did for the Ep's, but I feel it is a very strong, more diverse work which makes sense given the demanding songwriting that the genre requires for a longer format (let's face it, even though not everyone is able to pull out a Pictures of Starving Children, you do have to pull out some serious and inspired songwriting skills if you want to make a decent chumba-esque Lp). I guess Surrender must have stopped shortly after the split with 1981. Dan on the guitar went on to play in No Sir I Won't (which kept to the same proper peacepunk path as Surrender) and later on in Brain Killer, drummer Heather joined Composite and Paul did Onion Flavored Rings. It is difficult to assess Surrender's legacy but to some extent, they prefigured the growing influence of old-school anarchopunk on the 2010's hardcore punk scene, which mainly materialized in the so-called postpunk revival. Many American postpunk bands especially (like Moral Hex or Funeral Parade for example) openly referred to the UK anarchopunk of yore, which was really nice at first, but then, as is often the case with trends, far too many bands started to play the exact same thing while also claiming the anarcho heritage. At some point, whenever you read that a band was influenced by old-school anarchopunk, it basically meant that it was some kind of dark postpunk band wearing The Mob or Peni shirts. But anyway, I digress. Bands like the mysterious Ok? quickly followed Surrender and the aforementioned 1981 have made a reputation for themselves and although they are a bit too close to happy-sounding indie rock at times, I still cannot think of a better Chumba-inspired band in today's punk scene. There were and are others now obviously, but I would argue that back when Surrender started, they were pretty much the only referential old-school peacepunk band around. Yet they never sounded gimmicky or like a parody of who they were influenced by (it sometimes happens) as you can tell by the relevance of their lyrics and the unpretentiousness of their records and of their live presence. A really solid punk band that I wish was still around.    


Thursday 1 August 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 9): Socialcrime "Protest noise" Ep, 1998 (?)

I guess the more records you own, the more you tend to forget about them. That's only logical after all. No one can relate deeply to thousands of records and more often than not, I play a new acquisition once before storing in the correct alphabetical section (which is something I just love since it makes me feel like I am doing crucial archiving work). The internet has caused the punk market - for lack of a better, more comforting term that would not make me feel like a sheepish consumer of D-beat - to be constantly flooded with new bands you have to love (because they are much better than the previous ones, but still not as good as the next), new records you just need to get (and quick, copies are going fast!), new tours you should attend, new trends you have to follow if you want to keep up, so that, I feel, it has become increasingly difficult to relate on a deeper level to new punk music. I guess Zounds predicted it, in some way almost 40 years ago. Like everything in 2019, punk has become much faster, the norm being 18 months old bands with only one demo tape under their belt that are touring - and instagramming - on other continents. 

If I see millennial bashing as a sure sign of misplaced bitterness - and of getting older, but in a sad way - sometimes I do sincerely wonder how today's teens relate to punk bands, since the insane, unlimited abundance of readily available music necessarily affects how you consider a band. Do they carelessly skip from Mob 47, to GISM, Crass, Eskorbuto or Kaaos in mere minutes, without batting an eyelid, since after all it is all on youtube, and then casually choose what they prefer? I have met teenage punks who had a tremendous knowledge of obscure 80's hardcore bands, the kind of bands that only did one great tape and that nerdy collectors used to whisper about in dark corners at gigs, usually Japanese bands that I was completely unaware of when I was their age. I mean, in a way it is impressive but also a little scary. I remember perfectly the very first Japanese band I discovered, it was Hi-Standard with the Growing up album (on cd obviously) that I got on a trip in Germany, aged 14, because it was on Fat Wreck Chords and I liked NoFX. So you can imagine that bands like Sodom, State Children or Tranquilizer were very far off the picture. A few years after that, when I was getting into "real punk" - which translated into me compulsively counting mohicans, studs and beers on the record covers to assess the level of punkness - I got Dick Spikies and Discocks, two Japanese oi streetpunk bands that were quite good at what they did I suppose (funnily enough, I am pretty sure they would be more fashionable nowadays since everyone seems to be into oi-ish UK82 punk). Finally, when I discovered the politics of anarchopunk and how good-looking I was with patches on my jacket, Battle of Disarm was the first Japanese crusty band I got into along with another, much lesser known act called Socialcrime. 

If you think about it, in the context, it makes perfect sense that I grabbed a copy of a Socialcrime record since they were released on Tribal War Asia, a division of Tribal War Records, a label run by Neil from Nausea/Final Warning and therefore one that I could trust with my life and my wallet. Tribal War Asia releases were quite easy to find and fairly cheap and they looked crusty as fuck so getting Socialcrime's Statement of rage 2001 album (it is actually a cd in a Lp gatefold cover) was a safe bet and made sense in my early 00's context. Oddly, the band is never really discussed and rarely mentioned, when at all. Perhaps they were active at a time when there was too much quality bands doing a similar genre in Japan, and they went largely unnoticed. While I don't think Socialcrime were extraordinary, especially in the midst of the mid 90's/early 00's Japanese hardcore punk scene, this Ep still makes for a good listen if you are into raw hardcore punk. I do not remember when or where I got hold of a copy of Protest noise but it must have been during a record shopping spree in Osaka last year (as I told you before, I went completely berserk because of the plethora of ace records and had to be carried out of the store by the security guard). In fact, I am pretty sure that I was unaware that there even was a Socialcrime Ep, so it was a bit of a surprise and it was a cheap second-hand record so the investment was minimal and I didn't think about it twice. 

I don't know exactly when Protest noise was recorded and released. Judging from the production and the overall sound quality, it certainly predates Statement of rage, so I would say 1998 (correct me if I am wrong). Socialcrime were a three-piece from Tokyo and discogs tells me the band members did not play in other bands before or after, apart from drummer Toumiya who went on to play in The Charge. Their 1999 tape released on Malaysian label Broken Noise Records seems to compile songs taken from different recordings and since there is a live version of "Okinawa" from 1996, I suppose the band must have formed during the mid-90's. Apparently, they were close to Battle of Disarm and DIY Records since they appear on the short thank list provided on the Ep and they contributed to three compilations released on Thrash Ahoy (along with bands like BoD, Argue Damnation, Power of Idea, Fuck on the Beach or GJPB) so there could be a connection there as well, but that's about all I can guess with my magnifying glass. I remember being really into their album back in the day but then it also had a lot to do with the fact that I had much fewer records and the idea of a Japanese crusty hardcore band was still exciting and fresh (that feeling unfortunately went away a long time ago as I realized how bloody massive the Japanese scene was...). But, almost 20 years later, have Socialcrime aged well or was my listening experience distorted by youthful punk excitement? 

The Protest noise Ep is not a bad record and while I don't think I could listen to an album worth of songs with that particular production, it works perfectly on an Ep format. What strikes me is how genuinely raw it sounds. Of course, many Japanese hardcore bands crave for a raw distorted sound but in general they intentionally work on the textures to achieve it, through effects, pedals, production and other tricks, so that the rawness and crudity are more akin to well-crafted and elaborated artistic choices rather than the results of material necessities. Protest noise's rough hardcore sound could be by choice but it sounds so much like it was recoded live in their practice space (there is only one layer of guitar and the bass is too high) that artistic intentionality is very unlikely. Besides Statement of rage is a well produced powerful offering so it would not make much sense to go for a rough production on purpose on the previous record. But anyway, the Ep sounds so direct, spontaneous and just really raw that I am reminded of some Brazilian crusty hardcore bands, not so much for the songwriting but for the atmosphere. Socialcrime are not as crusty as I remembered and would probably be best qualified as raw stripped-down hardcore thrash, somewhere between Battle of Disarm, Varukers, Private Jesus Detector, Crocodileskink with a 90's anarchopunk flavour and some Burning Spirit hardcore. The pace is of the fast and relentless galloping d-beat variety with the drums being loud in the mix, the bass is very present too but the sound is probably too high-pitched and lacks groovy heaviness (but then given the overall raw production, it might have been for the best), the guitar riffs are actually good and quite catchy although the guitar is a bit buried and the vocals are shouted in Japanese and sound deliciously gruff and pissed.

The fact that the band decided to have lyrics in Japanese is definitely a plus as it confers additional impact to the very clear vocal delivery and you can hear - although you don't understand what he's on about - that they are very angry indeed. I would argue that this linguistic choice can be explained by the political motivation of the band which are very clear in the lyrics' translations and the explanatory texts. Protest noise is about Japan's brutal colonial past as much as it is about its neocolonial present. The major difference between both periods lies in the means to achieve domination, through military occupation before as opposed to economic invasion now. Socialcrime also have a song, "Okinawa", about the US military bases located there and how the local population are struggling under this rule, with local women being regularly assaulted and abused by American soldiers. "System Japan", my favourite of the three songs, is about the traditional sense of sacrifice in Japan and how it is used by the ruling class to have more money and more power. The translations are not perfect but you can tell that the lyrics are honest and reflect political realities in Japan which makes for a nice change. Too often bands are happy to just sing about "freedom", "truth" or "war" completely out of context but in this case Socialcrime's protest songs are clearly rooted in specific conditions which gives this humble political record of raw hardcore thrash a distinct anarchopunk coloration and makes it quite lovable.

Protest noise was released on Tribal War Asia (the sublabel run by bloke form Crocodilesking) and One Coin Record, a label responsible for the Thrash Ahoi compilations as well as records from Battle of Disarm, Screen Out or Cluster Bomb Unit. The Ep was distributed by Active Distribution in Europe (like most Tribal War materials) and Noise Arrived Music (NAM on the backcover) but I could not find anything about it so I am clueless as to what it actually is. Socialcrime then recorded a full album, also on Tribal War Asia, with a much clearer sound production, courtesy of Shoji Matsugane who also worked for Fuck On the Beach, which gave Statement of rage a lot more hardcore power and focus. There are a couple of fillers on the album but it is pretty raging nonetheless and with a sharp and angry political message. A self-titled tape is also included on the discogs page but there is no date. I guess it is a demo from the same years as the album since the four songs are also on Statement of rage.

If you want some political hardcore that is genuinely raw and angry for this summer, look no further.