Monday 20 December 2021

UK84, the Noise Ain't Dead (part 6): Chaos UK "Just mere slaves" 12'', 1997

Like every year, Bloody Christmas is coming again and government twats loudly claim - assuming there are still people caring for what they have to say - that, in this time of distress, the country needs to celebrate merrily while respecting health safety measures. Christmas remains some sort of odd and painful traditional duty with an almost patriotic touch in our current situation, as this year you don't have to kiss your right-wing brother-in-law or your ass-grabbing great-aunt. So the pandemic is not totally without benefit, although you will still have to endure your nephew running berserk around the table and turning the living room into a battlefield. Thanks fuck no one cares for notorious punk-repellent Mariah Carey in my family, it's like garlic to us. But am I only here to whine about Christmas Eve? No indeed. For the last Terminal Sound Nuisance post of 2021, I would like to make you a present in the shape of a lossless rip of a Chaos UK classic. It is not something you will be able to put at the foot of the plastic Christmas tree because it really is a download file but I suppose that if you actually download and open it on the 25th it can count as a valid present. 

Who doesn't know Bristol's Chaos UK? And more importantly, who doesn't like Chaos UK? If you have people in your circle of friends who happen to dislike the band, then you are clearly hanging out with the wrong gang. There is no exception. Sort your life out. Chaos UK belong to this category of bands that everyone likes to some extent, or at least have a lot of respect for. I would include bands such as Discharge, The Mob or Subhumans in this category and many more but I don't want to spend time making lists of bands just to have a bitter geezer declare that, just for the sake of arguing on a monday, he never rated Why very highly nor enjoyed Mob 47. I love taking on that precise role but of course hate it when the situation is reversed. Human nature I guess. Chaos UK really are a bag of quality crisps. Some people have them on a daily basis, others just on the way home after a night-out, others on rare occasions because they want to be slim or eat healthily or whatever dieticians say, while there are also those that never allow themselves to eat crisps but secretly crave for them. Chaos UK work exactly like that. They have their devoted fans, freakish outcasts who can listen to live tapes from the mid-80's, and people who are fine with enjoying a bit of Burning Britain occasionally, on their grandmother's birthday for instance. I like to think that I belong to the first category, the one where the very best of heroes meet.

Claiming that I have a Chaos UK story to tell could be a little far-fetched. It's not like my mum revealed on my 15th birthday that she helped pen "No security" or something. But the band being something of a foundational, heuristic one for me in my teenage years, I inevitably remember well the first time I heard them and the context. It was in 1999. My school only had one real punk. There were also baggies-wearing "skatecore" types who were into Fat Wreck Chords and singers who sounded like ducks, and I know what I am talking about since I had a brief "skatecore" phase myself. But there was only one real punk. After meeting that one real punk, my life changed completely as I started to dress seriously with bleached trousers, boots and an oversized jacket with beer caps as badges. Proper class. I started to hang with the real punk and we became friends. She made real punk tapes for me with The Casualties and older British bands like Varukers, Abrasive Wheels, Cock Sparrer or GBH on it and my own conversion into a real punk was swift indeed, to the great disappointment of my parents who even started to miss my baggie trousers phase which is a saying a lot. 


The school we went to had little equipment to speak of but there was a "radio club". The name might be a little misleading though. It was a simple room with a basic hi-fi system - it had a broken turntable and an Out of Order poster for some reason which made us feel like rebels - located just at the entrance of the refectory. We could use the room once a week but he music we played was not broadcast in the whole building of course, the school was not at this level of high technology. We just installed a chair before the door of the room where we placed the speakers and played the music as loud as possible to our fellow students queuing to get into the refectory. The radio show, if you can call it that, took place during lunch breaks so that many unsuspecting, unprepared and, in most cases, unwilling students got exposed to 90's streetpunk and oi - a large portion of which was pretty shite in retrospect - as well as a tasteful assortment of 80's British punk-rock. The speakers' wire would often be removed by lads who did not enjoy our impeccable punk taste but amazingly enough we never got physically brutalized or too victimized, in spite of us playing Casualties' "For the punx" and "Riot" every week. There were threats of mob violence, pitchforks and torches, but, for once, the gods of punk seemed to be protecting us. My mate was heavily into Chaos UK's "Farmyard boogie" a song which she would play often. I did not particularly enjoy the number, although I did pretend to because I wanted to look like I knew my shit. It is after all a rather long comedy song that is difficult to understand if you are not aware of West Country's rural accent but it was my first encounter with Chaos UK and listening to that song always takes me back to the days when I considered a tartan flat cap and oversized bleached pants to be crucial parts of my identity. My friend assured me that Chaos UK were the punkest band of all and more than 20 years later I can say that she was right to some extent. 

The Chaos UK record my friend owned and off which she played "Farmyard boogie" was the 1998 Best of... Chaos UK cd. During a glorious weekend trip in London later that year I managed to find a copy of the very same cd in a record store which felt like a war medal. I had never actually heard the cd in its entirety, apart from "Farmyard boogie" that I knew by heart and "Kill your baby" because we tried to shock people with it, so that digesting the remaining 24 songs proved to be quite an experience. The selection is fine actually. You can find classic vintage Chaos UK numbers from their Riot City Years as well as songs from later records like The Morning After the Night Before (I can still along to "Little bastard with ease). Writing this review makes me realize that there is a lot of Chaos UK material from the 90's, basically the Chaos-as-singer era, that I am really not that familiar with and haven't played that much, but listening to the split Lp's with Raw Noise and Death Side while writing this piece shows me that I might have been - for once - wrong. Oh well, I shall correct the inconsistency. Let's get back to that "best of" cd, admittedly a terrible format but it was the late 90's so bear with me. On the whole, I really liked the record, the noisier hardcore songs as much as the singalong cider punk-rock ones. There was one track however that was truly horrendous and confused me to no end, a 1983 live version of "False prophets" take from Flogging the Horse. I have listened to many horrendous live recordings from the 80's since then, some of them deeply scarring, but this one may take the cake especially since it was released on a proper album by Anagram Records. As a teen, the song terrified me and the very first time I heard it I could not even make out what was happening. If you have never listened to that rubbish, give it a go if you think you are hard enough. It makes Confuse's 1984 live recording sound overproduced. It made Chaos UK even more extreme in my teenage eyes.

Alright, I digress as usual. For some reason, no song from Just Mere Slaves were included on the 1998 cd. Maybe it had to with not getting the original label's - Selfish - permission or maybe the curator just decided to leave the songs out (my guess as to why is as good as yours). As a result, I was unaware of the existence of Just Mere Slaves for quite a long time, until the explosion of music blogs in the late 00's. A real shame since Just Mere Slaves has become my favourite Chaos UK recording, along with the hardcore thrash masterpiece that is Short Sharp Shock Lp. I cannot claim to be a proper Chaos UK historian but let's have some basics right. At that time Mower was on vocals, Gabba had taken on guitar duties, Chaos was still on the bass guitar of course and Chuck on the drums (EDIT: although not being able to get into Japan because of a criminal record, Age, Lunatic Fringe's drummer, replaced Chuck on this Japanese tour). The studio side of Just Mere Slaves was recorded in Japan during the band's tour in November, 1985. Along with their fellow noise-making Bristolians Disorder, Chaos UK have been massively influential on Japanese punk music. In fact, it is widely argued that it was their impact on a certain section of the Japanese scene - let's say Confuse, 白 (Kuro) or Gai and their plentiful offspring, to be brief - that subsequently spawned a punk subgenre now called "noisepunk", a once confidential and obscure cult that has persisted in secret and which the internet has made accessible and very popular among the noise-inclined punks (the name was apparently coined by The Wankys but I feel the terminology is useful and meaningful enough to be liberally applied retroactively). So I suppose that the coming of noise heroes Chaos UK to Japan must have been a massive deal at that time and the shows cannot have been anything but short sharp shocks of punk chaos.


The four songs from the first side of Just Mere Slaves were recorded during that tour which probably means that they recorded the thing on November, 12th in Tokyo since they had a day-off. I imagine the band basically entering the studio, unleashing the fucking fury, getting pissed with local punks and being done with it in just one day. The brilliant result is highly impressive. The first time I listened to Just Mere Slaves I immediately thought that it did not quite sound like a typical mid-80's Bristol recording. Of course the songwriting, the raw snotty vocals, the demented atmosphere and the pissed-and-proud vibe were unmistakably mid-80's Chaos UK manic hardcore thrash (there is a new version of "4 minute warning" to help listeners know what they are dealing with) but the frontal layers of highly distorted guitar and the piercing feedback, the extremity of it all, had that Japanese punk texture. There is something of a Japanese hardcore energy to Just Mere Slaves. The four studio songs retain that Chaos UK essence, an energy-driven, hardened, primal and mad-sounding take on the UK82 but at the same time they sound like noizy, triumphant and hyperbolic Japanese hardcore. Were Chaos UK aware of the wave of Bristol-influenced Japanese bands? It would be mere conjecture but they must have been familiar with some Japanese hardcore through the tape-trading network so could it be that they actually decided to emulate or experiment with that Japanese distorted, blown-out sound? Or was it the engineer's idea? Both? Just an epic piss-up in the studio? In any case, this circulation and circularity of influences is fascinating indeed, from Bristol to Japan, from Japan to Bristol, and Chaos UK got to play with Japanese hardcore legends like Gauze, Outo, The Execute, Lip Cream, Goul and Gastank (that is what I deduce from the thank list on the backcover, there could have been more). The studio side of Just Mere Slaves included a crazy and lightning fast rerecording of "4 minute warning" and three new songs: the loud and aggressive one-minute long hardcore scorcher "Rise from the rubble" which they will rerecord for the Chipping Sodbury Bonfire Tapes 1989 album; "City of dreams" a mid-paced wonder with hypnotic tribal drums and demented vocals and feedback; and "Just mere slaves", a fast, anthemic and emphatic song which is actually not unlike epic and direct Japanese hardcore, especially on the introduction and some of the transitions. 

I feel Just Mere Slaves is a crucial record, maybe not a masterpiece per se, but what is commonly called a minor classic. The energy and intensity level on the studio side is breathtaking and relentless. The blistering side might only be eight-minute long and make you crave for more but it does not get much better in terms of "noise ain't dead" UK punk. It was Chaos UK at their noisiest but I do think Short Sharp Shock sounded more threatening and savage and therefore groundbreaking. The other side of Just Mere Slaves is a live recording from their Osaka gig on November, 16th. The sound is surprisingly good considering the sonic chaos - it must have been taken directly from the mixing desk or something - and the daring listener will be exposed to nasty rendering of early Chaos UK classics, "Control", "Victimised", "No security", "Senseless conflict" and, of course, "Farmyard boogie", the Chaos UK song of my youth. This is punk-as-fuck as you can expect but still very much discernible (even the guitar solo is good) and enjoyable. Another live recording from the Japanese tour, from their opening Tokyo gig, can be listened to on the B side of the Stunned to Silence 1985 tape (my friend Erik from the always great Negative Insight wrote an article about this little-known tape that comes recommended, especially since everyone at the Negative Insight HQ soundly thinks that everybody loves Chaos UK). As hard to estimate as it might be, this short Chaos UK tour must have left a mark on the collective psyche of Japanese punks at the time. To this day, Chaos UK, along with Doom and of course Discharge, remain one of the most liked UK punk bands over there with still many bands working on their legacy so it is a safe bet to assume that Japanese punks really never stopped connecting with their music and attitude. And of course the band, Mower especially, helped consolidate the fashion of terminal crust pants and utility belt in Japan which are now only worn by the most elite crusties. 

The record was originally released on Selfish Records in 1986, a label that put out far too many classic mid-late 80's Japanese hardcore records to mention. My copy is however a 1997 reissue (or is it actually a bootleg? It looks like one so you tell me) from Sewage Records, a short-lived that also released Varukers Ep's. Black Konflik Records from Malaysia reissued last year Just Mere Slaves on cd so support the scene and get it.  

I would like to dedicate this writeup to my dear friend from school who I mentioned at the beginning and who tragically passed away in 2019. Without her, I would have never discovered real punk music and gigs. It changed my life forever and more than 20 years after, I am still grateful and feel quite lucky. So may you rest in peace, in punk, in power and let's farmyard boogie. 

Just Mere Slaves             


Wednesday 15 December 2021

UK84, the Noise Ain't Dead (part 5): Solvent Abuse "Last salute" Lp, 2007

According to me - and my fine perception of punk is of the highest standard and therefore bound to get you some punk points if you abide by it - Demo Tapes has been one of the best punk labels specialized in reissues - if not the best although I also a lot of respect for Antisociety - in recent years. After checking, I realized A Touch of Hysteria's one-sided Lp - Demo Tapes' first undertaking - was actually released in 2006, which is really not that recent and some hairlines certainly receded since then, but you know what I mean by "in recnet years". I have already touched upon the label's work in my old review of the Passion Killers' Lp but I decided that the idea to write about Demo Tapes again was a marvellous one indeed that should be followed through with my customary determination - and since I haven't had that many great ideas this year, I am hoping this might make up for the inconsistency. Beside Demo Tapes' work is easy to get excited about and hopefully it will bring some joy to all the miserable bastards reading this. You're welcome.  

The past 15 years have seen an insane number of reissues, in all subgenres of the big dysfunctional family that is "the punk scene". New labels started to devote much of their efforts toward making old and classic - by which I mean almost always from the 80's - bands available to the next generations and to experienced - by which I mean almost always hoarding - record collectors, modern Sisyphuses craving to complete their collection at the expense of an adequate diet and often of a working marriage. Labels like Radiation and Vomitopunk with UK82 punk for example. Other established labels like F.O.A.D and Mad Butcher also started resurrecting vintage and rare records, with the former, whatever one thinks about the highly productive fellow, displaying a truly remarkable passion and attention to very diverse reissues (from Svart Parad, Brigada do Odio, Human Gas or Industrial Suicide to name but a few). There have been far too many punk reissues - on vinyl for the most part - since the mid noughties to even consider making an exhaustive list of them all. Let's not be silly. But had anyone predicted ten years ago that I would be able to get hold top releases of old recordings from Bed Boys, Ψύχωση, Disattack, Post Mortem or Kalashnikov, I would have diagnosed a case of severe marble-losing or registered the prophet into a rehab center for deluded punks. But here we are in 2021 and there are just too many desirable reissues of canonical bands around, so many in fact that keeping up with them has become a time-consuming, expensive and at times even fastidious, task. While at first, I was annoyingly overexcited and probably insufferably enthusiastic about reissues of once-unattainable seductive records, the novelty of affordable nostalgia on vinyl slowly started to wear out. Today, I have a hard time feeling the same eagerness for most reissues, even from bands I genuinely love. Even the Chaotic Youth Lp barely made the ole heart beat and I consider them as one of the most underrated bands under the UK82 umbrella. 


Why why why but why? I would hypothesize that this overabundance of reissues of 80's bands has a lot to do with the internet. I know it can be easy and convenient to put the blame on "the internet" but I feel the growing reliance on streaming platforms, that have now turned into near monopolies, has changed the way we listen to punk and how we reflect on old punk music. The internet and its corollary, the incentive of overconsumption of readily available cultural artifacts that are decontextualised in order to be lazily absorbed, have contributed to radically broaden our knowledge and speed up considerably the reissuing process. We all want and need a piece of history in order to feel like we belong. I do believe that this process was inevitable and is very positive in some respect. After all, knowing the culture and history of punk music is indeed important and enlightening - I remember getting quite emotional whenever I bought a Captain Oi reissue in the very early 00's, even the shit ones, so I completely relate to this idea - and the possibility for discovery is limitless with the internet. However it has also created a juicy market for nostalgia which, combined with the great equalizing effect of the internet, has profoundly changed the way we engage with the past. But then, I also think that reissuing some bands, and not only that but also the reasons why it is done and the way it is done, can be necessary and crucial. I have regularly touched upon such fascinating topics on the blog and, while it makes me look clever and scholarly (and possibly a bit boringly self-admiring), they are not really fun to read and a series called The Noise Ain't Dead has to be fun so let's bloody 'ave it. But if you long for more bitter whining, I suggest you buy my brand new book entitled Things were not quite as dreadful before: a punk's mid-life crisis in the age of Spotify


So yes, Solvent Abuse. Brilliant punk name in the context of widespread glue sniffing, an activity I would not recommend, especially when over 20. I got this Lp when it came out in 2007 (or was it really early 2008?). I had thoroughly enjoyed DT's first release, the demo of A Touch of Hysteria, and it was one of those records that got a lot of airplay at the squat I was living in at the time - golden days when a shower every fortnight was deemed acceptable - especially the song "Death cart", a miracle of tuneful darkly poppy anarchopunk. I had also acquired the second DT's production, Extended Play by The Mental (Dick Lucas' first band) but to this very day I have never really managed to get into it, connect with it, although I very much expected myself to, what with the band sounding sloppy, snotty, unashamedly punk and having a song called "God for a day" about the giro. Both Lp's were well done with accurate details about recordings but nothing out of the ordinary. Just serious enough reissues and the opportunity to discover bands I did not know the existence of so I could brag about them afterwards, just standard punk behaviour really. So it made sense to buy DT's third record as Solvent Abuse were another band that was completely unknown to me - and to anyone I knew as far as I could tell - and the cover had a circled A and a studded belt so it could clearly not disappoint. Little did I know that Last Salute would be the best Lp reissue - by a good deal - I had ever seen at that point in time. Even before playing the record, looking at the massive booklet that included so many band pictures, letters from classic labels, all original artwork, fanzine reviews, gig posters... The object in itself and the amount of work that went with it were breathtaking indeed. I had always been a sucker for records accompanied by thick booklets so it felt truly awe-inspiring and made some other records at the time - and today still - look a bit tepid and half-arsed. I am aware it might sound a little harsh, and I suppose it is. Last Salute carried an irrefutable admirableness, or, as modern bellends too lazy to form actual sentences would say, it had a "wow factor".  

Solvent Abuse - which will be referred to as SA from now on, which feels somewhat uncomfortable - were from the Nottingham area, existed for three years, from 1981 to 1984, and only enjoyed the one vinyl appearance, one song on 1983's compilation Lp (I've got those...) Demo-Lition Blues! on Insane Records, a label unsurprisingly run by members of The Insane. Apparently the band formed on the glamorous bus from Notts to Alfreton, where future members bumped into each other by chance. They were all from Watnall, a place I have never been to but sounds like a town out of The League of Gentlemen. SA played with quite a few established 80's bands at the time like The Adicts or Peter so I suppose they must have been a significant act locally, although there were so many band then that it must have been hard to get noticed at all. They are the epitome of an obscure band, pretty much known and genuinely appreciated by people who were either there or people into punk archaeology. The 2007 Lp amazingly managed to give SA a second life and spread their name around, certainly much further than when they were still around as a local band. I don't suppose they have retrospectively really become "a classic 80's band" - as the formation of this category, of the canon, has become shaky and somewhat meaningless with the hegemony of youtube. Yet the fact that a contemporary Paris band proudly covered "Heroin girls" definitely proves that the reissue achieved what it meant to: bringing SA in the conversation about UK82. And I, for one, am both thankful and grateful for that. 


But what about the music then? Last Salute is made up of SA's three demos, the first two both recorded in 1982 - in June and October respectively - and the third one in early 1984. The first five songs of Last Salute are part of the band's first endeavour into the Nottingham-based studio and illustrates what those young punks were originally all about. Before I go any further into primitive 80's UK punk territories, not unlike a hound following a scent, let me warn you that the sound is raw, if not rough, on the first demo (and on the second one as well actually) but with a series called The Noise Ain't Dead precisely dedicated to raw, fast and noisy mid-80's British punk, you are expected to know what you're in for. SA's music is interesting and worth investigating for two main reasons. First, the band had both a male and a female singer. They did not sing together, in the trade-off style for instance, as each of them had their own numbers to angrily shout to, kinda like The Violators' vocal structures. Still I would venture that SA are primarily remembered and enjoyed as a "female-fronted punk band" which is both true and incorrect, especially since only the bloke remained for the last 1984 demo. The second reason why a basic knowledge of SA might come handy during punk trivia night is that a significant number of their songs fit the early Discharge-influenced template, raw and direct proto-hardcore punk with a pure form of d-beat. "Vigilante" (top singalong chorus on this one) and "Last salute" - which ended up being picked for inclusion on the aforementioned compilation Lp Demo-Lition Blues - are great examples of the rawest kind of proto d-beat Discharge-loving anthems, like The Varukers, Anti-System or Antisect - not quite as dark and furious as the former though. The other three songs (two of which are fronted by Jar) are your classic dynamic and snotty anarchopunk songs somewhere between Action Pact and A-Heads and they work well enough. 

Hurray, acceptation letters!


The second demo certainly showed some improvements, albeit rather limited ones, with the two primitive, primal Discharge-y songs were sung (well, you know what I mean) by Jar thus making "60 seconds" and both versions of "Chant" - two were included although they sound very similar - the first examples of female-fronted proto d-beat thrash music, along with Potential Threat as we saw in the first part of the series. There should be some sort of music award for that. The remaining four songs are of the mid-paced snotty punk variety again, with a vibe reminiscent of The Defects or Picture Frame Seduction because of Shelley's vocals. The last demo saw SA develop that more rocking GBH-infused heavy and catchy punk-rock to great effect - the songs "They've got guns" is really good - thanks to a noticeable progression in terms of production and musicianship, but it does go a little beyond the Noise ain't Dead template. 

Last Salute can sound a little too long at times primarily because some of the songs could probably have been shorter and because discography often feels a bit lengthy.  The Lp is, however, a magnificent work of passion and loving dedication and, from that point on, Demo Tapes has always delivered the very best in terms of research, context development and packaging. Their records makes you feel like you get to know the bands in a meaningful fashion, almost intimately so (alright, maybe it is just me). DT is run by the very knowledgeable Sean Forbes, who used to take care of Rugger Bugger, so that you know you are going to be offered the most exhaustive and accurate details and comprehensive pieces of archaeologic evidences about unfairly little-known punk bands that reinforce that sense of punk's collective history and remembering. It could not be better. In SA's case, polite but firm - in that typical English way - rejection letters from Clay Records and Riot City Records - who must have been receiving hundreds of such requests at that time - are even included. You will also find a short article about solvent abuse and how this dangerous pastime was tied to the worsening living conditions under Maggie's rule original reviews of the band's tape and live performances. And dozens of pictures of teenage punks with spiky hair and questionable sense of fashion of course. Time-traveling to the days when punk was fresh and at its peak from your sofa. Last Salute was actually a collaboration with Pure Punk Records, an Italian label that reissued the very underrated Soldier Dolls - they too had stellar Discharge-loving numbers - and catchy Brummies Drongos For Europe. 


Demo Tapes would keep releasing top notch early obscure Discharge-y bands (like Violent Uprising or very recently Disattack) as well as amazing tuneful anarchopunk (Passion Killers and No Defences) and even some classic early crust (Pro Patria Mori), three of the things I love best in the world. They are all works of love and the process of gathering the many pieces of information and getting hold of all the original master tapes is a long one so that DT has "only" released eleven records so far, but with Asylum's Is this the Price? being just out, the serious punk who cares about legacy and being bollocked by noise just knows that quality requires time. The passion has not been killed.           

                                                                         Solvent Abuse

Sunday 5 December 2021

UK84, the Noise Ain't Dead (part 4): Leukaemia "Demo 1984" Ep, 2016

Originally, I expected this piece to be a difficult one to pull out. First, let me apologize, with humility. I incidentally inserted the wrong download link on the previous write-up about Legion of Parasites. Basically, I pasted the Leukaemia link instead of the Undesirable Guests one but then I presume the heedful readers of Terminal Sound Nuisance - yes, like yourself for example - will have noticed this unusual blunder and realized that this was no LoP and another band entirely and I am grateful to the benevolent soul for quickly spotting my faux-pas and calling for its prompt correction. So I salute your vigilance my noise-loving Comrade. But my gaffe is not the reason why I thought this post might prove to be quite hard as I have never been one to be in any way hindered by loss of face. The main concern I had was that there is not much information about Leukaemia and that therefore there was an alarming chance that I might not be able to show off my usual breathtaking knowledge about punk-rock with accurate details and insight about the life and death of the band and what they did music-wise after the demise of Leukaemia and their favourite brand of cider. 

Unfortunately, this 2016 reissue does not include any particulars about Leukaemia which, I think, is a bit of a missed opportunity. Quite austere really. I am one to support any effort aimed at offering a new life and exposure to little-known, obscure bands and recordings and this is where the record's intentions point to: allowing unsuspecting punks, and potentially a new generation, to discover what Leukaemia were all about. The Ep still is the only way to hear and enjoy the songs with a decent sound and, if, I feel, constructive criticism is necessary, I was not the one heroically getting through the long and sometimes laborious process of releasing it so that I am, first and foremost, thankful, even if a little frustrated too because everybody's looking for a little bit more, innit?


So Leukaemia, right? Clearly not the most famous band of the era and I suppose that, if you are familiar with them at all, you either saw them "back in the day" and probably forgot much of their live performances because you were still in your teens, got plastered at all gigs then but not so drunk that you did not pick a demo tape; or you downloaded the demo from the colossal blog that has been uploading an insane amount of punk recordings from all decades and countries since 2008, a prehistoric time when there was neither Instagram nor Snapchat and Twitter was still only a small twat farm. The blog is very much a database in which you can lose any sense of time and priority and slowly starve yourself to death because you are too busy downloading 80's Czech punk-rock. There are worse deaths than that and the blog is shoegaze-free so that it is very much a safe space for all. However I did not personally become familiar with Leukaemia through any of these two ways (the first one can be eliminated straight away as I was much too busy baby crawling in 1984). 

Sometime in 2009, I downloaded a tape compilation called To Russia With Love from a blog, out of curiosity, a trait that I consider to be the greatest quality only as far as punk music is considered (I am no melomane and others genre leave me cold). I sadly cannot remember the name of the blog, at all, and could not find any trace of it on the web so if you were the one behind the uploading, I wish to thank you solemnly. At that time there were a lot of fine, praiseworthy punk blogs and, well, my memory is failing me right now. To Russia With Love looked a little mysterious and, as a consequence, alluring to my thirsty for knowledge self. Being a lifelong fan of British punk music, the compilation tape's lineup appeared exciting indeed as it included some UK bands I had absolutely never heard about. While some bands on the tape were already mates (like Liberty, The Deformed or Symbol of Freedom), others were merely passing acquaintances (I only knew the one song from Anathema) and a significant number were total strangers that eventually proved to be brilliant. Elating indeed. Schutzhaft were a snotty and direct catchy classic Mortarhate-ish anarcho band with a brilliant guitar sound; Co Exist were a tuneful Alternative-like act; Ted Heath were a strange mix of progressive rock introduction and hard-hitting raw UK hardcore punk Last Rites. But the band that really caught my attention was Leukaemia.


To Russia With Love - the title is actually completed with "Piss Off to Russia Yourself" in case you were wondering about some sort of worrying James Bond worship - was released in 1985 on LOL Tapes, a label I did not know when I first heard the comp but was very meaningful locally (and yes, the name has not exactly aged well but no one knew at the time what would become of the acronym "lol"). Based in Surrey, LOL Tapes - meaning Love Of Life - was run by Lorenzo from Anathema and existed from 1984 to 1987. Beside releasing Anathema demos, including one shared with the amazing Systematic Annex, and tapes from bands like The Apostles, Martial Law or Post-Mortem, LOL put out many homemade tape compilations that exemplified the staunch autonomous DIY spirit, the radical politics and sense of togetherness of the anarchopunk scene at that time. Discogs tells me that there were eleven of these compilation tapes (there were three volumes of Persons Unknown) which usually included smaller bands that often did not have vinyl releases. Seeing the lineups in 2021 might give the wrong ideas about the level of popularity of the bands but I would assume that, in 1984, bands like Passion Killers, Onslaught, Kulturkampf or Dirge - who all enjoyed proper vinyl reissues in the last decade or so and have become rather known about - were not exactly headlining festivals and very much local bands (though I could be wrong, in 1985 I was still babbling, and not about Discharge, so what do I know). Many other bands have remained locked in obscurity and unfortunately, so far I have only been able to hear To Russia With Love and Somewhere Over the Rainbow There's a Better World (the latter wan the award of "Cheesiest Name for Punk Mixtape" in 1985) and although many of the songs from the compilations are now available elsewhere, I would love for someone to upload them properly. They are pieces of our common history and provide a look at a particular time, place and stance and are therefore significant.


To get back to Leukaemia, their two songs appearing on To Russia With Love, "3rd World annihilation" and "Pain and suffering", were previously included on another LOL tape, the split demo tape shared with the aforementioned excellent Schutzhaft for which Leukaemia had recorded a total of seven songs, which make up the 2016 Ep. Leukaemia were from Peterborough (like Schutzhaft) and Stamford and were part of a thriving local scene in the mid-80's with established bands like Destructors or English Dogs and certainly dozens of other local bands that I am unaware of. Leukaemia can rightly be said to be one of those "underestimated bands" that punks regularly debate about. Sometimes such verbal jousts can be endless - they obey to the typical "the pettier, the longer" theorem - but I can safely claim that Leukaemia is a hidden UK hardcore gem and maybe the best band of that category that you have never heard of. The demo was recorded (live in the studio I assume) in November, 1984, in a studio in Peterborough (although the singer says "Cheers goodnight" at the end of the song "Roman conquest" so it is a little confusing, perhaps it was just in jest) and you'd be very wrong to expect Leukaemia to unleash the kind of chaotic noise-loving Bristol-styled (like Dead Meat for instance) that UK punk is oft associated to. 

First, the band's recording is really tight, especially considering that it was only a first demo and that the deliciously raw production indicates that there probably were not many takes or tracks. Second, Leukaemia were more diverse than your average punk band and I see them, not unlike Legion of Parasites, as an early example of a UK punk band being influenced by American hardcore. They do not really sound like a US hardcore act though. The chorus clearly have that British sensibility, the themes, occasional dual vocals and spoken bits and anarchopunk topics also point to a national tradition. But still, the demo hinted at what was to come: the rapid spread of non-British punk influences, which was, for such an insular place, not to be taken for granted. Leukaemia manage to combine a punky singalong vibe and catchy UK punk arrangements with more subtle guitar parts, thought-out bass lines and some vocal work and energy typical of early American hardcore. If the band was rather fast, they always kept a tuneful, hummably memorable side, unlike the more Discharge-oriented bands of the period and on that level they do remind me of a cross between bands like Potential Threat and Legion of Parasites, other mid-80's punk-as-fuck proto-hardcore bands like Last Rites, The Fiend and Criminal Justice, some US hardcore of course and even Conflict for the threateningness. The guitar has a distortion but does not sound heavy in the mix and the clear sound of the bass drives the thing. The pissed vocals are high in the mix and you can understand everything they are saying which makes the songs even more aggressive. I personally love how the drums sound like, primitive and energetic (and there is some solid drumming on the demo), and I feel that, for this kind of raw punk hardcore, this recording is quite ideal. 


Someone mentioned in the comment below the youtube upload of the demo that Leukaemia were influenced by The Stranglers, Rudimentary Peni, Discharge and American hardcore and who am I to say that a cocktail of these four wouldn't sound like them? If you are looking for genuinely raw dynamic fast punk music, the 1984 Leukaemia demo will delight you. My favourite song has to be "Reactor disaster" with its dual vocal work and opening spoken part it basically pushed all the right buttons. I am an easy man to please. The band did not record anything else, which is a shame, since the demo definitely displayed potential and one can only dream about what the boys could have achieved in a proper studio and with a proper vinyl release. Some of the songs are actual hits and, had they been given the power the band probably craved for, the world could have been a very different place. Or at least I would doubtlessly own one more record. 

This Ep was reissued by Pro-Anti Records, a label based in Switzerland and run by one Grant Dow, who previously played in The Desecrators, an epic local crossover act that also had Gizz Butt - from English Dogs and yes, Prodigy - on the guitar. So I suppose Grant Dow lived at some point in Peterborough and moved operations to Switzerland. I have no idea what or if the members of Leukaemia did afterwards band-wise so you may enlighten me.   

Monday 29 November 2021

UK84, the Noise Ain't Dead (part 3): Legion of Parasites "Undesirable guests" 12'' Ep, 1984

Legion of Parasites is one of my favourite band names ever. Sure, it might sound like a bit of a mouthful at first, especially for non-English speakers - witnessing your average French punk even trying to pronounce it is a once in a lifetime experience - but LOP is a name that works superbly, both metaphorically and literally, and it always retains a majestic punk-as-fuck connotation regardless of the meaning you see in it. I first came across this truly exquisite name on Ebay, of all places, which is, I'm well aware, something of an anticlimactic and unromantic revelation that could have cost me some punk points back then but - in a world where (dis)liking a youtube link is the most common acceptable way to engage with new music - sounds almost charmingly innocent 16 years later. I wish I could say I first heard of LOP from a vintage 80's mixtape that a benevolent older punk gave me as a sign of acknowledgement and gang recognition or upon finding out that my mom had had an affair with the bass player when she visited England in the early 80's, but reality is often trivial and disappointing and still we have to live with it as best we can as my wellbeing coach would say. 

A guy on Ebay - he would later on create the very exhaustive UK punk-oriented Nation on Fire blog - was selling homemade cdr's with many - and I do mean many - rare and obscure recordings from UK punk bands that I had never heard of. It was the mid-noughties, I was not the stinking rich bastard I have now become and my Dickensian lifestyle meant I did not have an internet connection at home and could not download anything from soulseek. Therefore, once you got past your reluctance to sell your soul to the evil speculating, commodifying machine that was - and still is - Ebay, getting cheap DIY cdr's full of old-school punk goodness was a good solution and allowed me to become familiar with dozens of incredible anarcho and UK82 bands (A-Heads, Fallout, Potential Threat, Death Zone...) that I had never heard of and I could not find anywhere else. It was a time of excitement, wonder, discovery, celibate and also of waiting since the cdr's did not just instantly appear on your doorstep. Now I check new bands by clicking on a Google-sponsored youtube link and then complain about it on a Google-sponsored blog so that ordering cdr's on Ebay may almost sound deliciously quaint which is already saying a lot about the prevalence of nostalgia.

 You've got to love the tiny shield and the determined facial expression

Reading the name "Legion of Parasites" on that cdr list made me giggle like a schoolboy upon hearing a fart. Now, that was a name I certainly could relate to. In those years dominated by the pompous neocrust lexicon, the name sounded rather puerile, irreverent and fresh and evoked music you could eat your bogies to. Most of those cdr's came with a cheap xeroxed cover of some original artwork and I was looking forward to seeing how the band had transcribed the notion of the legion of parasites pictorially. The name was highly significant after all. Did it refer to how the State treated the young and the unemployed as social parasites to be crushed and tamed? Or did it mean that, in the face of state capitalism, you should resist and become a so-called parasite, live on the dole, on the fringes, squat buildings, shoplift and shower as little as possible (this last one is not compulsory but still recommended)? Perhaps it met both definitions as it would have sounded more relevant politically? Perhaps it was a comment on capitalism' s parasitic nature? And then it could also be adequately used by a spikes'n'studs unit getting smashed in front of a derelict brick wall they just happened to walk by? And being "a legion of parasites" could mean all of that at the same time! With such a moniker, I thought, you just could not go wrong. In spite of the many hypotheses I silently pondered on upon waiting for the parcel of cdr's - it was best to buy them in bulk - not once did I imagine that the visual accompanying the cd would be that literal. 

In The Day the Country Died, guitar played Sean said about the striking choice of name that "we - everybody - were just this legion of parasites on the face of the Earth really. (...) We knew we were parasites as well, but we were trying to change that, trying to put something positive back in..." which points to the people-as-parasites-under-the-capitalist-system theory and makes sense. However, the first visual of LOP I saw did not exactly reflect it. The early discography cdr displayed the front artwork of Undesirable Guests as the cover which shows a rather crude - I have seen better technique from middle-schoolers - drawing of a body louse dressed as a Roman legionnaire. Was it some sort of postmodern situationist statement about the performativity of our radical political projections onto art or was it just a matter of "wouldn't it be funny if we had a louse legionnaire on the cover"? The insect parasite trope was further developed on the backcover through a drawing - quite accurate this time - of a flea (or is it a lice? Because of Fleas and Lice I can never tell) which seems to indicate that LOP were quite serious about the literal parasite-as-organism visual theme and the title Undesirable Guests seem to suggest that those body lice may have settled, uninvited and unwanted but clearly determined, in a comfortable and warm locale of the nether region. No more shall be said on the subject. Rather surprisingly when comparing with Undesirable Guests', their first demos' artwork, Another Disaster and Death Watch, displayed typical 80's anarchopunk imagery of blurry warships and sloppy drunk-looking grim reaper so that the choice of going body lice on their first vinyl could appear somewhat of a bold decision. Unsurprisingly and for the best, LOP did not use that fascination for parasitic insects on their next work. Still, for all the oddity of the cover, I would claim that the cover of this 12'' Ep might be the most relevant visual representation of the "noise ain't dead" series: unpredictable, punk-as-fuck and chaotic. And I love it.

LOP can be said to be a classic early UK hardcore band so details about them are rather easy to find now. But still, let me brief you a bit. The band formed in Bedford more or less officially around 1982 and recorded their first demo the same. Another Disaster was a primitive and quite discordant thoroughly enjoyable twelve-song effort if you are, like myself, into raw and energetic snotty anarchopunk, a bit like a cross between early Flux of Pink Indians, Disorder or early Anti-System, with some songs pointing at the fast noisy hardcore unit they would soon become although a significant portion of the demo was still traditional mid-paced anarcho music. The next recordings, Death Watch and Party Time, both recorded in 1983 and released on a single tape emphatically illustrated that LOP were the fastest band in the land, especially with Death Watch. Relentless and absolutely furious hardcore punk with a proper rawness that made most of the competition sound a little tame, the songs making up the demo opened the cdr I ordered - which covered LOP's punk years, from 1983 to 1985 - and I remember falling in love instantly. 


To be fair, the recording might possibly be a little rough for some but I would argue that this typical fast 80's hardcore vibe with the angry and snotty vocal delivery of Cian - guitarist Sean's brother - and the anthemic singalongs actually has to sound raw. Mob 47 with too good a production would have not have sounded half as good. As mentioned, LOP were one of the fastest bands around (with 1982 Antisect just a little behind) and one of the first British bands to incorporate a US hardcore influence into their recipe while keeping a distinct UK touch at that point in time (they would little by little turn into a US-sounding crossover hardcore thrash act). Let's say that in 1983, the band sounded like a boisterous piss-up with early Antisect and Anti-System, Perdition's Disorder, Void and Neos as guests. Something like this. The demo was so good that Marcus from Pax Records included two songs lifted off Death Watch on the Bushell-bashing Bollocks to the Gonads 1983 compilation Lp that included bands from the anarchopunk world like Anti-System or Instigators, UK82 acts like Riot Squad and Xtract but also foreign hardcore punk bands like Crude SS or Subversion which, for the very insular Britain, was something of a novelty. 

The next logical step was of course for LOP to record a proper debut which materialized in February, 1984 in Rocksnake studios (fellow Bedford band Government Lies also recorded there). Undesirable Guests can be seen as a perfect record once you get used to the so-bad-that-it's-good artwork. Like the previous demo, LOP's 1984 12'' without a doubt delivered a severe blow of anarcho hardcore thrash and, as could be expected, the sound on the record is clearer and cleaner but still rooted in the raw punk tradition. In 1984, they were not the only band delivering goods of that sort in the world of hardcore, although you could claim that few others delivered goods of that caliber. But what made LOP stand out was how genuinely catchy and anthemic their songs sounded like. While most fast bands of the era were perfectly happy to inflict six equal slices of all out bollocking hardcore to the eager listener - and I for one am perfectly happy to be inflicted such an pleasurable hardcore punishment - LOP's songs offered some significant variations in terms of tunes and speed. In fact, on the record, LOP make me think of a hardcore thrash version of Subhumans. Of course, there is a vocal closeness but there are also a lot of clever guitar leads and inventive technical drum beats highly reminiscent, probably unintentionally, of the anarchopunk classic and it has to be said that, just like Subhumans, LOP were a tight and proficient lot by 1984. 

Keeping in mind that pervading Subhumans creativity, the first song "Promises" offers a solid rocking metallic blend of Broken Bones, Skeptix and Anti-System; the second one, "Savages" is a gloriously memorable almost oi-ish UK82 mid-paced anthem with a threatening singalong chorus that goes "We are savages"; "Party time" takes you back to a much faster intense thrash attack with highly snotty Disorder vocals and amazing drumming; on the other side, the catchiness continues with the speedy Neos-meet-Dirge "Eroded freedom" and its simple but effective chorus "No, no, no, no"; afterwards "Hypocrites" sounds like Sketpix on speed; and finally "Condemned to live in fear", arguably the best and most intense, relentless of the fast songs of the record and one of my favourite raw hardcore punk of all time, the prosody, accentuation and intonation on that song are pure magic, assuming that, like me, you see magic as something a spiky punk can actually pull out thanks to frustration, passion and a couple of cans. The energy permeating Undesirable Guests is incredible thanks to the very impressive and energetic drumming style and to the typically British defiant and juvenile vocal delivery that clearly marks LOP as a real PUNK band and, combined with the top notch hooks, singalongs and overall songwriting, makes Undesirable Guests one of the strongest UK hardcore punk record of the 80's that can easily please any punk subgroup, although for different reasons. This slice of greatness was released on Fight Back records, a sublabel of Mortarhate, that also released absolute anarchopunk classics by Exit-Stance and Vex, and it has become a very expensive item because of unscrupulous sellers and too many drunk people impulse buying on Discogs. What a shame that it has not been reissued yet.   


Undesirable Guests


EDIT: being a bit messy I originally inserted the wrong download link. In fact I inserted the link for the next post so that I have spoiled the surprise. Just don't open it right now, yeah? Here is the correct link to LOP's 12". Sorry for the mistake. 

Monday 22 November 2021

UK84, the Noise Ain't Dead (part 2): Dead Meat "Demo 1984" Ep, 2011

To be perfectly honest with you, finding titles for the full series I have been inflicting on the punk scene for five years now is becoming harder and harder. When I initially started Terminal Sound Nuisance in 2012, the thought of undertaking proper series structured coherently around specific tropes and prism (subgenres, areas, eras or random personal fancies) had not struck me as being particularly relevant to a blog. Of course, I was wrong - I rarely am but I don't mind admitting shortcomings when I reluctantly have to - series are more relevant indeed and about five years ago I realized that, not only does the series format allows me to develop my analysis further and progressively, but it also provides a framework reflecting global collective dynamics in punk rock rather than isolated items just happening to gravitate together. Beside, everyone is pissing about watching actual series on Shitflix so that it made sense to jump on the bandwagon and write eight, ten or twelve part online conferences to reach out to the Gen Z. I haven't quite caught up to the famous platform and tragically had to let some of TSN staff go, some genuinely deserving loyal workers had to be put down in order to avoid dishonour, but I remain quite optimistic about the future. Netflix, if you're reading me, you know what to do.

There are significant drawbacks, of course, to series format. You actually have to make relevant selections that highlight both the binding similarities and the diversity of context and content (or on the contrary, the significance of non-diversity like in the case of "just-like Discharge" d-beat) and this process involves more thinking and reflection. A series literally has to make more sense. And you have to plan a precise writing schedule in advance so that you do not end up leaving long gaps between the entries which, because of our narrowing attention span, would lose my modern fellow sapients always eager for novelties. One of the drawbacks I had not predicted at all has to do with titles. I have often prided myself on my skill to easily find top punk puns that make me look both knowledgeable, witty and self-aware, which might be akin to being a punchable twat in some illiterate quarters but is a sensible stance given the polishedness of my readership. A series' title has to sound good, otherwise the modern sapient will not even bother to click on the link and hours of hard work will just be swiped away like the average selfie of a vaguely attractive and muscular wanker. We sadly live in a world where one has to bait innocent punks into reading, as opposed to heary a bloody podcast, what could be a revelation, a redemption, a way out of shoegaze or Casualties cosplay. I am like a missionary promoting Anarcho Crustianity. But for conversions to work, you need a good pun that grabs the readers' fragile attention and sometimes I feel I have run out of them. It's not like I am going to test my jokes on random passersby because I don't think they would quite understand why "let's not discard Discard" is side-splittinh. So if I don't at least giggle at my own jokes, it means they are rubbish and do not make the cut. Simple as that. For this series however I just chose the name of a Dead Meat song for the title. 


As I immersed myself into 1984/1985 British hardcore punk for the series, I listened to many raw recordings, drank a lot of white cider and sniffed some glue - an organic brand, I'm not an animal - to get myself in the right mood. When I finally got to Dead Meat and played the demo, I immediately knew upon hearing the first song that the title of this series would have to be "Noise ain't dead". Dead Meat was one of the bands I was almost certain to include in the series as they ideally reflected the core principle of the series: typically British mid-80's raw and noisy hardcore punk. Not necessarily the harshest or meanest bands, just recordings illustrating what was being done and created with the Discharge and Bristol sound - which I call early UK hardcore punk in the context of that series - at that time and place. And to me Dead Meat were a great example of that and because they do not get much attention nowadays - which I have always found odd especially since the UK82 resurgence in the past decade led everyone and their mum to be superficially conversant in obscure acts without even mentioning that No Dead Meat (the continuation of Dead Meat) were actually briefly tackled in Glasper's Burning Britain in the chapter about Septic Psychos - it felt like a noble task to write about them.


Let's have a bit of context first. Though it is not completely clear, this being a demo recorded in 1984 and given the rather rudimentary musicianship of the band - not a criticism, it is exactly how that style should sound like - I guess DM started out sometime in early 1984 in the Chesterfield area (Derbyshire). As it is pointed out in Burning Britain and alluded to on the insert coming with the Ep, the members of the band had already played in other punk bands prior to the noise not being dead. Vocalist Chiz used to sing in Septic Psychos, a band that also had his twin brother Mick who would eventually join the No Dead Meat version of the band. If you have never heard Septic Psychos and are able to go past or learn to appreciate the silly moniker, which you should, they were a primal and raw UK82 band with angry snotty vocals that had two songs (recorded at Stockport's legendary Hologram Studios) on Pax compilation Lp Punk Dead - Nah Mate the Smell is jus Summink in yer Underpants innit in 1983 (how did they tell their parents the name of that record they were included on remains a mystery) and will have you shout "No you're not wanted!" in no time. DM's guitar player John and original bass player Rich used to play in Society's Victims (hallowed be Discharge's name), a local band whose rough primitive punk sound was even cruder than Septic Psychos' (the dodgy, if not completely haphazard, tuning cannot have helped). Finally, the drummer played in a band called The Corpse, not to be confused with the anarchopunk band Corpse (I think?). One could think that the boys, upon the split of their respective bands, would have chosen to go for a more polished, refined, mature style, but did they fuck! Dead Meat is even rawer, snottier, angrier and blatantly PUNK. 


What I particularly enjoy in that recording is how the songs instantly sound familiar. Take "Noise ain't dead" for instance. If you are keen on second wave UK punk-rock or any sort of 80's spiky and pogoable punk-rock really, you just know what the song is going to sound like upon hearing the first riff. Classic raucous singalong shouted chorus, fast pogopunk 1-2-1-2 beat, raw as fuck guitar sound with sloppy solos, pissed meancing vocals, this is exactly the sound of the Saturday nights of my teenage years where you get ready for a night out on the piss or for a squat gig (I used to listen to the Dutch Antidote on those occasions and the feel in DM is very similar). This shit could raise the dead. Is it really a wonder that the band also had a promotion agency called... Noiz Ain't Dead? I don't think I need to describe the band further but let's say that it sounds like a friendly but chaotic speed-fueled brawl between Instant Agony, Disorder, Last Rites and Ad'Nauseam. A lot of people today posit that the heritage of the Bristol sound of Chaos UK and Disorder is to be found in distorted, noise-drenched hardcore punk but I would argue that bands like DM, for their attitude and obnoxious primal approach to fast punk, can also be considered as belonging to that punk-as-fuck tradition. The six songs included on the Ep (there is a reworking of a Society's Victims' song, "Takin over") were originally released on an excellent tape compilation in 1985 entitled The Final Decay where you can find other UK82 pogopunk gems from the aforementioned Ad'Nauseam, the little-known but ace Reprisal or Death Zone. It is a solid tape that deserves to be revisited if you are interested in proper raw and primitive 1984 British punk-rock. Real deal here. The reissue of the 1984 recording was made possible thanks to Fear of War Records, an American label also responsible for reissue of The Mad Are Sane, Italy's Impact, Tom & the Boot Boys and, of course, Septic Psychos. It is a safe bet that the person behind Fear of War must be something of a pogo expert.

Shortly after this recording, the band changed its name to No Dead Meat (because two members went vegetarian) and Mick from Septic Psychos eventually joined them on the bass guitar and took part in their second offering, a 14-song demo in 1987 which saw them delivering the same exact blend of fast and loud direct UK pogopunk with "new" versions of old Dead Meat numbers. The sound might be a little better and the band tighter but it's pretty much similar and it is precisely why it is perfect. Noise ain't dead and noise will never die, innit?

Noise ain't dead!!! 

Sunday 14 November 2021

UK84, the Noise ain't Dead (part 1): Potential Threat "Brainwashed" Ep, 1984

A close mate of mine, one of those wise punk elders whose foregone tales of mayhem and chaos we listen to around the bonfire while drinking half stale cans of lager, once detailed how he methodically organizes his record collection since he moved with his partner years ago. The setting of your record collection says a lot about you and one should be careful not to reveal it to malicious punks only out there to destroy your hard-earned reputation and mock your procedure of organization or point out any fashion faux pas publically. When a fellow punk confides in you about records' organization, you know you're officially family. Collecting hardcore records can be a cut-throat business which is often used as a way to assert one's superiority over the rest of the pack. Not unlike gorillas fighting each other for dominance, a stronger and larger record collection can ensure you the much coveted alpha male spot (only blokes engage in this kind of immature behaviours, let's be real). Losers have to bow their head in order to recognize alphas and compliment the winners, in a collective act of submission, on their perfect collection of 80's Japanese flexis, original pressings on Boston hardcore or, if you are really an elite level punk, the actual demo tapes of classic original hardcore bands. At least, inferior gorillas only have to roll over and pretend they did not just get the shit beaten out of them and alpha gorillas actually get sex out of this circus which is a major difference with hardcore record collectors who can only hoped to get a not-too-harsh bollocking from their partners from their ascendancy (not like the time they spent their monthly wage on a mint copy of a Tervet Kadet Ep, a bargain that oddly enough caused some tension at home). 

So yeah, my friend told me that he had a very simple method. The records were organized alphabetically but divided into two discrete categories: one was made up of the records that could be listened to with his wife and kids whereas the other one only had faster, meaner and rawer music. He called the latter category "the noise" which really cracked me up. He did not say "hardcore" or invoked any other genre, just "the noise". The coinage has a poetical, almost naive (in the artistic sense) quality to it. "Noise" and the level of noisiness can be said to be, after all, the unifying factor among all the hardcore churches. I remember once playing two very different songs to a mate who was absolutely not into punk music, as co-called normie not even into "rock music" for that matter, the man was a total virgin and therefore the ideal guinea pig for the experiment. So I played a Bad Religion number and then Discharge's "Fight back" to him. And he could not really tell the difference. To him, it was all noise and the variations were too minimal and insignificant to his untrained ears to be even considered as actual differences. It was only noise. Therefore my old-school punk friend's categorization makes sense only because it is aimed at his uninitiated family and not at him (though to be fair, his little one is not insensitive to Mob 47 as far as I can tell, but who isn't?). 

This fascinating digression leads me to the present series and how and why I selected the culprits. Nowadays, the term "noise" has grown to signify a very specific subgenre and sound textures in the punk scene, namely the Bristol school of cider-fueled distorted aural bollocking and its glorious Japanese heirs ("noise" can also be associated with Sonic Youth-type of American college rock noisiness but I always pretend it doesn't exist and I intend to keep doing so and die with my boots on, know what I mean?). Here the focus will not so much be on punk bristolness or crasherness but, from a very primary and primitive perspective, on British punk bands who could be characterized as post-UK82 "noise", fast and aggressive punk music representative of a national tradition (cough, like Discharge or Chaos UK, cough) in a time when many punk bands were either splitting up or betraying the cause and turning new-wave (what SxE people call "stabbing in the back"). So I picked six recordings from 1984 that exemplified what punk "noise" sounded like at that point in time in the UK so don't expect unlistenably glorious live performances from Scum Dribblers or Sons of Bad Breath. Because of the limited sample and because I am a hard-working bloke standing proud on working-class streets doing working-class things, I don't have the time and the energy to provide an exhaustive panorama of UK84 noise. Still, I think it will manage to provide a relevant picture and highlight some sort of genuine diversity. 


Let's start with Potential Threat, according to me one of the most underrated bands of the era. I already wrote about PT's Never Again Lp years ago so that I recommend you read the writeup if you want some background information about the band. It will save me some time and potentially allow me to get some fresh air and do working-class things in working-class streets such as looking hard, walking, standing proud in front of brickwalls or just being working-class (also known as Oi music reenactment, a bit like medieval cosplay but with boots, braces and dodgy band buttons). Whatever. PT were from Blackburn, a Lancashire town located between sunny Preston and Burnley primarily known for its football club who won the Premier League Title in 1995 because they had Alan Shearer in the team. As I said, PT should be considered as an 80's anarchopunk classic. They released two very strong Ep's in 1982 and 1984 displaying a ferocious Discharge-influenced sound, two albums in 1986 and 1989 with more of a anarcho crossover vibe and appeared on a number of compilations, which was more than many anarchopunk bands of the time could claim. And they had a genuinely great name too with positive yet antagonistic implications. Yet, the band was plagued with is known in punk medical circles as the "Oi Polloi Syndrome". Researches conducted by the Institute of Punk Lineups showed that bands affected by this syndrome experienced insane numbers of lineup changes which can hinder the band's potential. I don't know if that was the case for PT but their entry on Bored Teenagers indicates that, literally, dozens of drummers ans guitar players came and went through the band and they were too many to mention. This instability may have prevented the band from gaining momentum but those are only conjectures. 

The only two members who were in the band from the beginning to the end were Foz and Pauline (though at first PT actually had a male singer), whose distinct vocals undoubtedly remain the band's hallmark and trait. Oddly enough, in a scene obsessed with its own origination - the same could be applied to our epoch as a whole - and perpetually engaging in performative nostalgia, PT are seldom mentioned in the "who was first" challenge. And yet, PT were one tof he very first female-fronted Discharge-inspired punk band around. After much cogitation, in fact, I cannot really think of any other band toying with proto d-beat music with a lady behind the mike as early as 1982. Solvent Abuse did have a couple of rough Discharge-inspired female-fronted numbers on their 1982 demo but PT had an actual Ep to show the same year. Taking part in the rather meaningless "who was first" contest - just a variation on the "who's strongest between classic hardcore band A and classic hardcore band B", not to be confused with the "who do you like best" questionaire which I happen to enjoy - is not my purpose. Still, I do think that acknowledging PT's special place in the 40 year-old history of Discharge-loving punk music is relevant, especially, and sadly, given the rather small contingent of females in that style. Therefore, I shall posit in the present erudite article that 1982's What's so Great Britain? Ep was in fact the first Discharge-inspired female-fronted hardcore punk Ep in punkstory. Bring on the controversy of you're hard enough.

One might ponder over the relevance of such a statement when applied to the context of the early 80's, a time when the practice of Discharge worshiping was still very much in its infancy. Clearly, PT never sat down and decided to be "just like Discharge" - a conscious thought process born only in the early 90's - and we often tend in an anachronistic move to project our own vision of the Discharge influence onto a time period when Discharge were not yet myth and legend (by 1982 Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing had only just come out). Beside, there was no such thing as a "hardcore scene" in Britain and even the consensual gap between the so-called UK82 bands of Riot City or No Future and the anarchopunk wave of Crass Records and Spiderleg was not always pronounced, if at all in smaller towns (I think there was a consensus among all punks that skinheads were wankers to be avoided though). The presence of a female singer in PT becomes anything but surprising if you see the band for what it primarily was: an anarchopunk band. As is commonly known among the learned punk circles, anti-sexism and feminism were important issues and many women were very active and involved in the anarchopunk, notably - but not only of course - in bands. There were dozens of female-fronted anarcho bands in the 80's and the band's birth and development must be seen in that light. In the end, PT were both just a young Blackburn-based anarchopunk band fond of Discharge (and who wasn't apart from Gary Bushell?) and retrospectively, at the same time, the first female-fronted Discharge-loving band.     

However, although undeniably influenced by the mighty D, this first Ep was much punkier sounding and not as mineral as Discharge's primal bursts of anger (bands like Blitz, The Insane, The Violators or The System were recorded at the same place, Hologram Studios in Stockport, which may account for the typical 1982 punk sound). The beat clearly points in the early Discharge direction ("Cheap labour" literally opens on a d-beat) as do most of the riffs, although the sound, if raw, is nowhere near as aggressive. And of course, Pauline vocals, half sung half spoken, were not the angry shouts commonly connected with Dischargy punk. I suppose What's so Great Britain could be compared to 1980's Discharge and Varukers' first Ep's infused with a punkier, more tuneful and dynamic vibe (early Conflict maybe? A-Heads?) and direct anarchist lyrics, a balance that is bound to please both Discore bouncers and spiky punks. This Ep is a brilliant artifact of early Discharge-influenced UK hardcore punk but the real kick up the arse would come two years later in the guise of the Brainwashed Ep.


Brainwashed probably stands as one of my favourite hardcore punk Ep's of the period, a statement that, I am well aware, is not a light one to make but that, as a free-thinker comfortably hidden behind a computer screen (an activity also known as "pissing about"), I am ready to make boldly. Stand strong, stand proud, right? This second Ep was recorded in November, 1984, with a different lineup (which can explain why it took the band two years to actually pull that one out). It was not the band's second recording however since PT had already worked in the studio the year prior but the five songs recorded then were sadly never released. I have bumped into a PT recording supposedly from 1983 but the five songs from this demo session clearly belong to the anarcho-crossover period of the band and different versions of them would all appear on Demand an Alternative, so my guess is that this "1983 demo" is plausibly a "1985 demo", unless PT switched genres every other year. Unlikely but punk-rock is like the World Wrestling Federation: anything can happen. 

To get back to Brainwashed, this Ep should be seen as one of the strongest proto d-beat records of the 80's. The drumming stands as one of the purest d-beat style of the era. It sounds highly energetic, pummeling and very prominent in the mix which I personally love. It reminds me of the drums on Anti-System Defense of the Realm, Varukers' Massacred Millions and even Iconoclast's demo. The guitar riffs are not as punk-rock oriented as on What's so Great Britain and there is an evident shift to a more primitive and aggressive form of Discharge-loving hardcore punk, which was not an isolated case in the UK (with the two above-mentioned bands as well as classics acts like Antisect and smaller noise units like Violent Uprising or Warwound). In instrumental terms, Brainwashed is a model d-beat raw punk record. The guitar sound is raw, distorted but still discernible and adequate in its vigorous delivery. What makes PT stood out was, of course, Pauline's warm, heartfelt and raucous voice and strong dynamic singing style. Where many similar bands of the era went for dark and angry shouts with varying amount of snottiness, the vocals in PT kept that half-spoken, half-sung punk touch reminiscent of a more classic anarchopunk sound that defined their sound on the previous Ep. The words are very distinct, you are not exactly yelled at relentlessly - though it does occur - and the lyrics are rather long, not unlike early Antisect and Anti-System again. I love how she can jump from d-beat driven speeches to a more classic in-your-face Dischargy prosody. Brainwashed, beside the three top notch raw Dis numbers, also included a melancholy song with only vocals and - gasp - non-distorted guitar dealing with vivisection from the animal's point of view (an issue that the band felt very strongly about), again in the 80's anarchopunk tradition which made PT's strongly and fundamentally embedded in that particular scene. The anti-Thatcher cut'n'paste cover is also perfectly coherent with the protest punk aesthetics as the massive circled A indicates. That should have made for a great shirt were it not for the additional inclusion of a swastika and the statement "a nazi with a social degree" which unfortunately makes the shirt unwearable in certain social gatherings and of course at work (speaking from experience here) as it could definitely send the wrong message. I therefore recommend placing a button over the swastika and carrying a spare one in case the first one falls (also speaking from experience here). 

This wonderful fast and loud Ep - it is only five-minute long - was released on the legendary Bristol-based label Children of the Revolution Records in 1984, which made Brainwashed one of its first releases. Following the Ep, PT experienced yet other lineup changes and managed to regroup to record two albums, Demand an Alternative in 1986 for Mortarhate and Never Again 1989 for Recordrom Records, which saw them go for a more crossover metallic punk sound while keeping the classic anarchopunk vibe and politics. Like Civilised Society? and The Sears meeting English Dogs and early Concrete Sox or something. The first album was recently reissued so there is hope that some kind soul will take care of the first two Ep's too at some point which would allow people to discover or re-explore those two gems of early Dischargy female-fronted anarchopunk. It would be well-deserved.