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.
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.
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.