Thursday 22 June 2023

Still Believing in ANOK: F.U.A.L. "Veganic wind" Lp, 2017

To this day I am not sure how you are supposed to pronounce the name of this band properly. Is it like "fuel" with the phoneme [əl] something like [ˈfjuːəll]? Or should you pronounce each letter separately like you do for T.S.O.L. or C.F.D.L.? I would be lying if I claimed that I talk about F.U.A.L. often. In fact, to be honest, I cannot remember the last time I did but it would have been along the lines of: "Do you know a band called fuel, or maybe fuale, or F.U.A.L. even? You don't? What a shame, go pose somewhere out of my sight". So not much success in terms of proselytising I'm afraid. And yet F.U.A.L. are absolutely brilliant and I believe that, would people be more aware of their existence, they would probably be right into them and some would make pricy bootleg shirts. 

Tragically, the band suffers from the same disadvantageous bias as many other Belfast punk bands who have often been isolated and forgotten in the very London-centric collective memory of British punk. The work of Ian Glasper, and several other writers afterwards, definitely gave some highly deserved space and context to the Belfast scene and its bands and I am convinced that it allowed some of us to discover some underestimated and overlooked bands from Northern Ireland like the magnificent Toxic Waste (the reissue of Belfast by Sealed Records was long overdue and I am very grateful to the label for resurrecting this classic) or the fabulous Stalag 17 (who should be reissued, I am going to petition labels). I knew Toxic Waste before The Day the Country Died, of course, because I am the coolest kid in town and I already wrote a lengthy article about the legendary split that you can read admiringly and with delight here.       

I first became aware of F.U.A.L. browsing on Ebay which I must say is not my greatest pride. I wish I had an epic story about how I accidentally found a F.U.A.L. Lp while dumpster-diving in Berlin, a tale that would earn me an infinite amount of punk points until I retire and ascertain my dominance over the masses. But I don't have one, sadly. Let's not judge, right? After reading a rather flattering description of the band from the seller, I bought the tape version of the F.U.A.L. album entitled Fuck Up and Live! with the booklet missing of course so that I really had very little information about the band. In fact I was not even sure what the actual name was. F.U.A.L.? Or Fuck Up and Live!? That would have been in early 2006 and I was unable to find much about them even on some message boards I was a part of (they mostly argued about Japanese hardcore and digital downloads on those anyway which sounds pretty adorable in retrospect). At that point, punk blogs were still not that common too so I was left in the dark, in a cesspit of shameful ignorance. 

Fortunately with my best mate, we spent a couple of weeks in Ireland that summer to visit some friends. There was a party one night where I was introduced to a friendly fellow who was supposed to be some kind of experts in Irish punk music so I immediately started to bother him with F.U.A.L.. Or Fuck Up and Live!. Or Fueal. The guy was clearly patient and willing to help but he just did not understand which band I was talking about. Frustrating indeed. But then I remembered that I had actually brought the tape with me. We often traveled with a little tape player so that we could play some music when hiking and I played the F.U.A.L. tape often at that time so it just made sense to bring it to Ireland. So I showed him the tape and he immediately lit up: "Oh right, you mean F.U.A.L., good man, they were grand, a cracking band (and a lot of other Irish ways to say a band is good)". So I got a bit of context and it was a good night indeed.

Fast forward a couple of years in 2009 and Boss Tuneage reissued the Lp and the Veganic Wind 1989 demo on a cd that I promptly bought. And then in 2017, the same label did a limited vinyl repress "made to order" of Veganic Wind that I also promptly bought. And that is the record of today. First, let's deal with the elephant in the room: yes the title is a fart joke. A bit odd considering F.U.A.L. were a serious band with political lyrics from the heart but I don't dislike a good fart joke, especially a vegan fart joke (some members of F.U.A.L. would go on to play in Bleeding Rectum so there could be an arse-related issue in Belfast after all). The band rose from the ashes of acts like Toxic Waste, Stalag 17 and Asylum (Belfast's anarcho Big Three) and there were many changes throughout the years. Let's just say that the lineup on Veganic Wind was made up of Brian (Asylum), Petesy (Stalag 17), Crispo (Crude and Snyde) and singer Louanne. 

The demo sounds like one with all that entails in terms of production and clarity but also as far as punk energy, sense of emergency and sheer emotion are concerned. F.U.A.L.'s first effort is heart-felt and you can sense the emotions, sincerity and passion in their songs and it is just beautiful. The band was not a one-trick poney either as there is a variety of paces, tones and structures throughout, from fast tuneful hardcore punk reminiscent of Dan ("Dead clergymen"), intense anarchopunk like Stalag 17 or Civilised Society? ("And the birdie said") but also melancholy goth-tinged poppy anarcho numbers ("Freedom under animal liberation" or "Repetition...") not unlike Indian Dream or Lost Cherrees. On paper, it could have a disparate feel, like a patchwork of styles and moods but the band managed to create a cohesive whole, a meaningful story. Those Belfast punks were inspired. In some arrangements and songwriting tricks, on some level, F.U.A.L. hinted unknowingly at what would come in the 90's and how political punk would evolve in some quarters. The Fuck up and live! Lp would have a much better production with more focus and impact and some songs were rerecorded but one could argue that Veganic Wind, for its ingenuous spontaneity and raw emotions had more charm. And it had a fart joke. That's difficult to top.

The lyrics of F.U.A.L. are long, detailed and tackled political subjects such as exploitation, ecology and  heavy subjects like the situation in Northern Ireland (from a personal perspective rather than slogans). It's angry but also hopeful. The band was very involved with the Warzone Collective and Giro's, a self-managed social center created in 1986. I recommend you read their chapter in Trapped in a Scene, it is very informative. The demo was originally released in 1989 on Warzone Records. I don't suppose this Lp version is easy to find but the cd reissue might be.

Let's all run with the veganic wind.        


Veganic wind

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Still Believing in ANOK: Kochise "Dans le meilleur des mondes..." Lp, 1997

Let's get real for a second. Terminal Sound Nuisance has become this massive undertaking that is slowly consuming my social life and my eyesight, ruthlessly testing my stamina, gauging how resilient I can be with average crust music and how long I can endure tuneless d-beat raw punk bands and poorly executed faux anarchopunk without overdosing. Forget the labours of Hercules - that half-god, half-man, total mercenary wanker - would not be able to pull out a decent review of a third-rate Doom cover band or see the difference between '86 and '87 Antisect. That poor unsubtle bastard would probably not even know the difference between Dischange and Meanwhile! And he is supposed to be a hero, just because he strangled some kind of snake and hunted a wild pig? Now, are you having a laugh? Bloggers are the true heroes of today (and "content creators" are the scum of the Earth and the real super villains in case you are wondering) and I should be the one people carry down the street chanting my name. But as heroic as I have been for the past 11 (!) years, I realize I have never written about a proper French punk-rock band. The time has now come. That'll teach ya Hercules.

It is not easy for me to reflect about that kind of sound because, on the whole, I have never been much of a fan of French punk-rock. In fact, I don't really like the sound of the French language when used in punk-rock. There are meaningful exceptions but as a general rule, on principle, out of common decency even, I am going to dislike it before actually listening to the band. A bit like an annoying kid who won't taste vegetables, just because he won't, no need to give further arguments. I cannot even pretend to have experienced some sort of trauma, one that would involve being abducted by a demented fan of Bérurier Noir and subsequently forced to listen to Souvent Fauché, Toujours Marteau! for a whole week (an experience akin to an execution of the senses and only an absolutely heartless maniac would do that to a fellow human being). French punk-rock is not well-known outside of the French-speaking world and, to be honest, that can be for the best. Just look at the legions of mediocre French oi bands that have perverted once perfectly sound punk brains on an international scale. Damaging to say the least, fortunately the worst of them have been successfully contained (so far). 

However, as harsh as I know I am with our national punk traditions, some French punk bands are genuinely good and deserve to be praised outside of the cheese-eating world. Enter Kochise, the epitome of French-style anarchopunk. I was lucky to catch Kochise - the name comes from Cochise the name of a famous Apache leader and unsurprisingly the Parisians had a few songs about the political struggles of Native Americans - in 2003 (I think) just before they split up. It was on a beautiful Sunday evening and at that time the band had a mandoline (or was it a banjo?) which, I have to admit, did not strike me as being a particularly good idea since, as everyone knows, such instruments clearly belong to the category of "forbidden instruments in punk music" as stated in the Punk Bible (the Old Testament if you want to check). But it did make the gig quite memorable and, well, enjoyable. The lyrics were great, I could actually understand them without pretending, and they had some great tunes. Despite a plentiful supply of terrible bands, we do have an old tradition of strong female-fronted punk-rock bands with political lyrics in France, La Fraction (a band I rate very highly) being undoubtedly the most famous. Approaching Kochise through this prism is definitely relevant and it makes sense to see the band as a part of the same dynamics and creative political drive as Psycho Squatt, Haine Brigade, Heyoka or Verdun, bands that you are probably not familiar with because you decide to lose your time listening to ghastly bollocks like Komintern Sect or Tulaviok. 

So why pick Kochise as part of a series about the survivance of the old-school anarchopunk sound? Well, I feel the band is a great example of a successful adaptation of the classic UK anarcho sound and stance in a different punk tradition and context, in this case quintessentially French punk-rock. While I can pinpoint influences and roots in the aforementioned British past, Kochise nevertheless sound like a French punk band for many reasons. Their use of unusual instruments is one (sax, for instance, was a pretty common tool, or torture method, in French punk-rock); the very specific way the two vocalists place their voices, the accentuation, the prosody overall and the distinctly revolutionary-sounding chorus to be sung along to; the other genres the band borrow in the songwriting like reggae, French chanson or alternative rock; and of course that vibrancy and emotional tunefulness that can work so beautifully but also end up sounding corny. On that level, the work between Géraldine's powerfully epic and tuneful voice (she can actually sing, which is not something I write to often on this blog) and Cyril's streetwise spoken tone is admirable and worthy of your investigation if you are a fan of global anarchopunk music with the classic male/female vocal structure.

If Kochise make sense in this line of French anarchopunk like Haine Brigade or Psycho Squatt, I would argue that using a broader perspective can also be helpful. It would be a little far-fetched to convoke older obscure UK bands like Sanction or Eve of the Scream because not many people had even heard of them in France by 1997, but early Conflict (with whom they toured in France in 1994 and they would also tour with Schwartzeneggar the year after) would almost certainly have been an inspiration although Kochise never hit quite as hard (they were able to write fast-paced numbers though) and bands like The Sears or even Decadent Few, for the sake of description, could be mentioned as well (but again the relevance could be questioned). Dans le Meilleur des Mondes (the band's second album) is clearly rooted in the 90's however so that looking back to the previous decade may not teach us much. To keep a British frame of reference, Kochise's music and versatility is not unlike that of bands like PAIN or AOS3 in spirit who were working on a fusion of traditional anarchopunk and reggae dub, while the intense emotional-yet-angry side of the band really reminds me of the cruelly underrated One By One. But I am sure other people would hear other things and my rather limited knowledge of French punk-rock may impair my usual omniscience and omnipotent sense of analysis. 

Last but not least, the Lp comes with a massive booklet that reeks of the 90's anarchopunk spirit and its way of communicating and presenting ideas. The booklet includes the lyrics, articles, pamphlets, addresses, context, lists of contacts, artworks, and is just as important as the music itself when you consider Dans le Meilleur des Mondes... as a whole discursive entity. The music is great and accessible but without the notebook, it would not tell the same story. This kind of booklet so emblematic of 90's anarchopunk has almost vanished nowadays and you could argue that the internet and the wealth of information and political database it contains has made the initiative behind such an object rather pointless. I understand the point but when you look at some 90's anarcho records and see the love, the care, the belief that must have gone into the making of these booklets (they really do look like political punk fanzines), it still makes one wonder. Kochise's lyrics are sharp and combative in nature and tackle a wide array of topics (from the democratic circus to state surveillance and Orwell and revolutionary hopefulness). Some songs, notably about feminism and sexism, are still as relevant today as they were 25 years ago or even ahead of their time, which is rather sad when you think about it. 

From what Discogs tells me - our modern Pythia when it comes to records - it should not be too difficult to grab a copy of what is one of the best French anarchopunk works from one of its most iconic contestants, de Paris s'il vous plait.     


Saturday 3 June 2023

Still Believing in ANOK: Avaricious "S/t" 10'', 1999

This record was the first one - or one of the first, my short-term memory is not what it used to be and beside, isn't it a social construct too? Or something? - that I picked for Still Believing in ANOK, the new award-winning series exclusively on Terminal Sound Nuisance (I'm proud to say Vice Magazine tried to recruit me but I did not sell out to "the man"). Avaricious is a band fit for this blog. They are obscure, nobody cares about them, it is a 10'' record and they have a typical delicious anarcho sound. It ticks all the right boxes. It is a well trodden path really, just another day at the office. It will allow me to deride people who listen to what I consider "hipster hardcore" while I, as the epitome of the true punk spirit, as a pontiff of good taste, as a feared trend maker that can turn cool kids into posers in the blink of a shite pun, revel in satisfaction, complacency, self-assured that I am, by essence, right. Thanks for giving me an excuse for feeling good about myself Avaricious. 

This humble but crispy record was extremely easy to find in France twenty years ago and I would not be surprised to hear that some copies are still patiently hibernating like the European edible dormouse in some forlorn distro boxes stored in a damp attic. I don't know how well distributed it was in other countries, but French punks over 35 have definitely bumped into this geezer at some point. Whether they bothered to give it a chance despite the rather underwhelming cover is another issue. Were it not for my own proverbial brilliance and the fact that it was described as "UK anarchopunk" (you can trick me into buying anything with this catchphrase), I would have probably passed on it too. This 10'' was released on Strongly Opposed, a vinyl-only label run by Pablo from Resistance Productions and Earth Citizens (covered here), and looking at the discography I realize that most of the records could easily be found, at least in Paris, in the 2000's so I am guessing the man had some reliable contacts here. To be honest, some releases on Strongly Opposed can barely be called timeless classics (but then, how many labels can claim to have only released masterpieces?) so them being condemned to a loveless life doesn't come as too surprising (for fear of getting punched, I will not mention which ones). However Neurose Urbana's primitive raw punk, Earth Citizens's peacecrust-punk and Poundaflesh's beefy UK hardcore punk are well worth investigating. 

I don't remember where and how I grabbed this one but I may have ordered it from a distro called Punk As Fuck (yes, I know, how original) that was absolutely massive at the time with a strong emphasis on anarchopunk (I remember getting Omega Tribe or The Mob cd's but also Haywire or Resist tapes from the bloke who ran it). It did take literally months before he could be arsed to send the things though. Or was it from the React distro? He also had a big list of international DIY political hardcore and grindcore so it wouldn't be completely implausible. In any case, I have had this 10'' for a long time and played it more regularly than a lot of objectively better records that just do not have as much charm. This makes one wonder about the point of a record collection. Should you keep records you like or records that are good? I own many records that I know are not exactly world class (or not exactly tuned) but that I cannot (and I won't) help enjoying a lot. Similarly, there are "timeless classics" from "legendary bands" that I have convinced myself I should own even though I can't be bothered to actually play them. Another pivotal element lies in my own relationship with some records, especially the ones I bought when I was still a yellow belt punk trainee. A young brain is prone to love unconditionally without much discernment so that I see some of my records in much the same way as I see stuffed toys I cannot bear to part with. It would be far-fetched to characterize Avaricious' as a life-defining record but still, it's almost always been there and it is a reliable and fun listen that reminds me of a time when I did not have to make room for records. 

Avaricious were located in Sheffield but was an international band as, beside two Englishmen, some Swiss and a Greek singer were also involved (this accounts for the fact that the two rather melancholy-sounding acoustic numbers, the intro and the outro, have Greek titles). Because it was released on Strongly Opposed, I suspect people from Earth Citizens or associated bands were involved in this project, especially since it was recorded in Switzerland. I have no idea if Avaricious played many gigs in Britain as the internet is almost mute about them but I am guessing they did not. I don't think many people are even aware of the band, judging from the Discogs rates this 10'' is clearly more on the "for sale" than on the "wanted" list. And it is not a perfect record, I would be the first to admit it. But it is definitely a charming one and it includes some absolute hits that could win the heart of any anarcho-loving punks. The band had that straight-forward punky songwriting and vibe, and some diversity in terms of pace (there are some glue-sniffing UK82 anthems here as well as moodier mid-paced numbers or spoken words) and I can easily imagine young scruffy punks pogoing to the songs. The music reminds me strongly of Just an Error-era DIRT, early Faction and clearly Hagar the Womb (is "Mindless consumption" some sort of tribute to the Hags?) mixed with classically spiky UK82. But one can hear that Avaricious were also inspired by Zounds, or at least one of the guitar players was, especially with the recurrent freer, poppier bits that confer a tunefulness to the songs (assuming Steve Lake had just been listening to The Expelled all day). 

I like the half-spoken half-sung female vocals but I would not go as far as claiming that they are always perfectly in tune, although the singer does a great job at sounding like a proper British punk. In fact, with its thin, "squatty" production, if you are not aware that Avaricious were from 90's, you would probably think that the recording is a lost recording from 1984 of some Bluurg-related bands. I don't think this decidedly old-school anarcho feel was as self-aware or calculated as it would be for a band nowadays - even more so considering the relative lack of popularity the genre enjoyed at that time - and that's precisely why Avaricious sound so fresh and spontaneous and even sloppy at times, just like the bands of yore. Fans of the genre will absolutely love this. On the other hand, those who don't care too much for it, will not be converted. But that could also be because these people just suck.

I am absolutely clueless as to what the members of the band did afterwards. I presume the Swiss went on to play in other bands connected to Strongly Opposed but any details is welcome. As previousl mentioned, this is an easy pick in Europe. And who doesn't like a lovely 10'' record? The same people who sucked at loving vintage anarchopunk, that's who.