Friday, 1 April 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Pollen "Fear of another war" Ep, 2017

"Fuck me, what a mean record, don't you think dearest?" I must have exclaimed, rather innocuously, after playing Pollen's Fear of Another War Ep for the first time. I don't remember getting a proper confirmation from the person I was addressing but then, I don't suppose I was really expecting to as the answer would have been highly redundant in any case, something like "yes indeed, it is a really mean record but then that's what we bought it for darling, you silly goose". We like to keep things as civil and genteel as possible at Terminal Sound Nuisance's headquarters. We are not fucking animals, right? 

I bought the Ep from this Philadelphia lot upon its release in 2017 as the internet was telling me there was a new scandi-noizecrust band to be reckoned with in town called Pollen (for some reason). To be fair, since the end of the 00's, the arcane art of noizy hardcore punk and crust - a cultural practice once confined to Japan where it had been previously refined for two decades - like a good wine but stored in crust pants instead of a wooden barrel - had spread liberally in many corners of the world. The Japanese scene has produced bands blasting Bristol-by-way-of-Kyuchu-styled distorted hardcore majoring either in relentless cavemen crust or in orthodox dis-mangel for a long time. It can be said to be a timeless tradition now, something impervious to outside trends, like a local punk atavism. French punks do manly oi with constipated-sounding singers, Japanese punks do noizy hardcore. It comes naturally. I guess I was basically not born in the right country as I have been running from boots and braces, sometimes quite literally and not just aesthetically, pretty much forever. So let's briefly keep 00's Japanese crasher dis-noize bands (or any assemblage of relevant adjectives) out of the picture for now and focus on the contagion. 

The "noise not music" artistic mindset rapidly developed along with the spread of blogs in the late 00's, and a couple of years later, everyone and their mums had their own Japanese-styled d-beat/crust bands while, in parallel with what could be called a global trend of crasher dis noize music, excellent contemporary bands from Japan itself at that time like D-Clone, Contrast Attitude, Framtid or Zyanose became quite well-known and fed further this global trend, even outside of the usual pompously knowledgeable circles, thanks to the nascent music streaming explosion, online pictures (punk is #) and some intense international touring. 

In Pollen's case, the intent is unambiguous as they take the Japanese crusters' 90's and 00's savagely intense reworking of vintage raw brutal käng and mangel and infuse it with an emphatically blown-out sound heavily rooted in the crasher tradition. On a metatextual level, you could say that Pollen don't just love cavemen mangel, they also, and maybe primarily so, love how Japanese punks love cavemen mangel, that is to say through added distortion and absolute frenzy. If you need an example, they basically love Framtid as much as they love how Framtid love. Know what I mean? When the phrase "blown-out cave-mangel" is casually whispered during a reception given by a respected crust delegation, you would not be wrong to think of top Swedish bands like Giftgasattack (who can be said to the pioneers of distorted käng in Europe), Electric Funeral or Paranoid, but as mentioned Pollen are certainly more influenced by demented Japanese acts like Frigöra or Ferocious X that took the classic Stockholm hardcore sound of Mob 47, Crudity, Protes Bengt or Discard and drenched it in distortion and more madness. One of Pollen's other main inspirations is Framtid and their furious and unstoppable reinterpretation of 80's cave-käng heroes Bombanfall, Crude SS and Svart Parad, a mixture which is given the blown-out distorted treatment. Pollen can be located in the middle of all this hardcore fury. 

If many bands are just content with working on their earsplitting wall of dis-noize and forget to actually write catchy harcore songs, Pollen do not and the Ep is well-written and catchy in its own right and certainly one of the best of the genres in modern times. The riffs are solid, absolutely relentless and there are enough tempo changes and hooks to keep the listener interested. Given the template the production is great and you can hear every instruments without having to focus for the whole song and I love the gruff and direct vocals. As for the name, well I am undecided. Let's just say that Pollen apparently once shared the stage with Allergy. With Flowers also on the bill that would have made for a legendary gig. 

Fear of Another War was the band's second Ep after an eponymous Ep that was similarly-inspired but perhaps not as heavy production-wise. Both records were released on Boston's Brain Solvent Propaganda, a strong label that is no stranger to punishing and noizy dis-core with releases from Aspects of War, Life Lock, Paranoid and unsurprisingly Framtid and Ferocious X. The band dissolved sometime after 2017, unfortunate as I would have been curious to see how Pollen fared on a full album, but members kept busy with many other worthy punk projects like Mortal War, Neverending Mind War or Arseholes, some of which will be tackled at some point on Terminal Sound Nuisance. There was something in the water - or more likely the beer - in Philadelphia in the late 2010's.      


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