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.
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.
THANK YOU. Daily habit for the past year visiting this great page, Knowing noises will continue AND the next year, makes me happy, and wish all the best for you.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the kind words, I shall do my best for 2022 and the 10th anniversary of the blog. CheersDelete