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.