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.

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