Sunday, 12 July 2015

Disguise - Signs of the Future

Dublin, like New York or London, is a city whose punk in 2015 matches its vibrancy with its refusal to be defined by one sound. Multiple bands, all with wildly divergent takes on 2015 punk, all unified in their DIY ethic and refusal to compromise. The first 12" from searing rawpunx Disguise continues where their System Shock 7" left off, slamming together the lithe turmoil of Gloom, the monstrous purpose of Bastard, the ugly burn of Crude SS into a violent driving gunk, like Florida's Mauser or Australia's Kromosom, taking that Scandi-Japanese rawpunk axis and stretching it out to their own corner of the globe.

Built on a relentless sinister thrum, a taut propulsive clatter, Disguise explode with scalding fury in the screaming guitars and tortured barks and roars echoing out of the radioactive slurry. From Constant Victim pure vitriol rolling into Signs of the Future's noisestomp groove, to Depleted Uranium heady crash and Breed Bastards broken fade, this is ferocious hardcore punk, worked til its end.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

VCR - Greatest Hits 7"

Buggy-eyed, bloody-lipped eejit squabbling from Toronto, springing from an overcaffeinated and understimulated mind, all e-numbers and teengang spit: "WE'RE VCR! FREAK PUNKS AND TOTAL FUCKING HUNKS!". Fluorescent synth squawks goofily jabbing through the dirtied up gitpunk like bubblegum blisters, careening through the splintered remnants of Swankys burble with jellylegs rhythms and sneering, screams, whoops and barks that snap out like involuntary tics. Playground taunts like the drawl of "I THINK YOUR LIFE IS PISS COS YOU CAN'T DANCE AND YOU'RE A PRICK" on Fake Freaks Fuck Off, Danzig/Shakira style non sequitur couplets like One Trick Dog's "AIN'T A PHONY/MACARONI/RIGATONI". Truly dumb and way too great.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Vanity - Vain in Life LP

Oi! influences have been sliding their way into hardcore for a hot minute now and Vanity just drop all the pretenses. A straight-up Oi! album from a bunch of people from hardcore bands like Creem and The Rival Mob that draws from a bunch of early streetpunk/late pubrock, though probably most prominently and noticably, All Skrewed Up-era Skrewdriver.

The Skrewdriver question is, like stagediving, one of punk's spiralling athanastic debates, the sort of thing where you could drop out of punk for 15 years and walk right back in to find people reiterating the same points. All Skrewed Up is an album of catchy nihilistic punk rock that, probably more than any other album of the time, hews closer to the more distant R'n'B origins of the genre, exhibiting a greater truth in the cliche of punk as supercharged rock and roll, which obviously lends a dreadful irony the swerve they took into vile haterock. It also inevitably probably owes a chunk of its popularity for its place as a straight down-the-line punk album made by one of the most notorious  bands of all time, a safe way of flirting with the titillation of the taboo, the same proximity to the macabre that gives the hint of the forbidden to Death in June or NSBM, a similar impulse to ghoulish adolescent fascinations with serial killers, Faces of Death videos and the yawning horrors of history. So with that Rocket 88 shake and and 14/88 morbidity, All Skrewed Up occupies its own special acrid little spot in the punk pantheon. Personally, having heard all the hype, I opted to forego listening to it for years, only to find myself at a party where someone put on a super-catchy punk song and I had a conversation that went something like "This is pretty sick. Who is it?" "Skrewdriver." "Ah."

Though since Rock Against Communism and its fellows bloomed out of the insecure turbulence of troglodytic white rage of the late 70s/early 80s, plenty of bands have tilted at ripping Oi! back from its nationalistic posturing, to wipe it clean of its heinous racist taint, the circular inanities of politicised apolitics like Discharger, a phalanx of SHARPies and commie skinheads (bizarrely but somewhat predictably claiming the name 'redskins') like Malaysia's A.C.A.B., Catalonia's Inadaptats, the UK's Blaggers ITA and countless others armed with similar shoutalong anthems and about 8 million songs called R.A.S.H. or Good Night White Pride, just as dozens of bands like Iskra, Iprit, Torture Garden, PunaTerrori etc have sought to lace blackmetal with hardleft and anarcho perspectives.

Those proceeding paragraphs right there are the kind of de rigeur exegesis that springs forth anytime every time the name Skrewdriver pops up. Vanity drive with that swaggering streetrock chomp, that rollicking rhythm and vocals that switch between a bloody rasp and more soulful half-croon, not R.A.S.H. types, but moving with a counterfactual vigour from a world where Ian Stuart's fatal car crash happened 12 years earlier than it really did.

On the louche bluster and shunt of Can't Be Bothered, the rattling gusto of Ya Don't Know? and The King Drinks, the bludgeon brassy fuck-right-off of Fuck Right Off, the slick midtempo fightmusic of Might Trumps Thought they succeed, crafting anthems as catchy as anything, cock-of-the-walk pubrock, pugilistic and powerful, packed with lines that read like a litany of unwise bar confrontations, adrenaline rising and eyes whiskey-wild, "You ain't got no fuckin bite, no" on No Bite, "Glass in hand and cowardice don't mix" on The King Drinks, less convincing are moments like the glammed up twang of Bal Des Ardents, the slow run into closer New York City, I do find myself flagging in the back half of the album, but there are a couple of tracks when it does live that dream of forging carefree cutthroat singalong rippers, guiltfree gutpunches and silly stompers, the "This is pretty sick" without the "Ah.", punk songs that may be kinda dumb-as-fuck, but certainly don't require two rambling explanatory paragraphs when you put them on, just two movin feet and a voice to burn.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society's Shit) - Demo

I've been slumping lately. I've been not feeling too good. Spent more time in the last month watching TV shows about superheros with really great abs than writing. There's plenty of 2014 music I loved or liked that I didn't get round to exegesising but every time I come to sit down to write I feel wasted, worn out. Whenever I get into ruts like that writing feels something unknowable, impossible. I look at pieces of written without the slightest idea of how I wrote them.

Yesterday was the third Monday in January, the most-depressing day of the year according to the sort of meaningless pseudo-scientific studies that newspapers and/or advertisers like to latch on in their unending conveyor belt of half-arsed content and it didn't feel great, but then it didn't feel too different to a lot of other days the last four or five months. Shit's just been stale.

But this G.L.O.S.S. demo dropped a couple days ago and it burst like a bomb, immediately it was burning a bushfire across every internet platform, frantic reblogs and retweets, the name on everyone's lips, the message reverberating: "This is the one. This is the one. This. Is. The. One." This G.L.O.S.S. demo dropped a couple days ago and from the first screams of G.L.O.S.S. (We're from the Future) through the mosh of Outcast Stomp to the tear of Targets of Men, it ripped me apart, swept out some of that staleness.

Fierce as storms and tough as bike leathers, G.L.O.S.S. play hardcore punk that makes you feel it like the first time, it's got that struggle-born uncomfortable realness, like Anomaly's demo last year, that deep agony, that fearless kick and scathing punk swagger that transmutes pain into power, rage into revolution. Cos this shit is about way more than my dumb little problems and my shitty little blog, I can only imagine the fear and stress of living while trans, while queer, while female, but Girls Living Outside Society Shit do that every day, and they take all that and mold it into the hardest fucking shit, a carapace of  constantly-reinforced bitterness, a repeated retch of frustration, a punk packed with true heretic sputum, flicking acid into eyes. Full of the sort of lines that are gonna be scratched into desks and daubed on jackets, spraypainted on punkhouse walls, written in blood and sweat and stamped deep as wards onto souls so scarily renegade that the world just wants to crush them to dust: "THIS MAKEUP IS FOR MY EYES/THESE FISHNETS ARE FOR MY THIGHS/THIS WALK IS HOW I GOT THROUGH LIFE/YOU WANT THE PEPPER SPRAY FIRST OR THE POCKET KNIFE?!" goes Targets of Men. The singer Sadie was (is?) also in the amazing Peeple Watchin', a band just as lyrically tight but there working an aching yearning softer vibe, here just taking that keenness of feeling and blowing doors down with it. "THIS IS FOR THE OUTCASTS/REJECTS/GIRLS AND THE QUEERS/FOR THE DOWNTRODDEN WOMEN WHO HAVE SHED THEIR LAST TEARS/FOR THE FIGHTERS/PSCYHOS/FREAKS AND THE FEMMES/FOR ALL THE TRANSGENDER LADIES IN CONSTANT TRANSITION" cries Outcast Stomp.

As thrilling as it was personally for something this damn good to drop, to see the excitement it immediately stoked in friends and others, imagining a phalanx of tired-ass punx across the world breaking into grins at the fury and promise of G.L.O.S.S. (We're from the Future), kicking out chairs and bedroom slamming to Outcast Stomp, that's really nothing compared to its realest purpose, its highest potential. As cool as that is, it's secondary to the true power that I know music like this contains, dragging the world into the future, into 2015 and beyond, burning down the bullshit of the past, living adamantine hard, switchblade sharp shining and slicing in the process and progress. Killer punk at its world-warping best. For people still struggling under the weighty pressures of the shite that G.L.O.S.S. take deadly aim at, this message from the future, from the ones who've made a bright burning life outside society's shit in these five songs, might just not be another way-cool demo among the cool demos, the rambling stream of punk releases, the hype and the backlash, the peaks and troughs in the tapes and the records trickling out of punk minds globally. For the ones who haven't found a place yet where they can feel tough and hard and unbeatable, or who have maybe just forgotten that that place exists, this could be so much more. This feels like the sort of thing that could save a fucking life.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Rotten UK - Bat Shit Crazy 7"

Stuff that comes from far away is better than stuff that comes from near you. Everyone knows that. Celebrities looking for the latest eastern religion to latch onto, foodies searching out the latest imported food fad, bibliophiles admiring the intensity of feeling in a magic realist novel from across a couple of oceans, and punks excitedly chattering about some old hardcore record that got a pressing of like a hundred 30 years ago and 10000 miles away.

If you know a lot of christians, it might be harder to see the divine in the book that they follow when you're keenly aware that they're just as full of shit as anyone else, but if that wisdom comes from a far-off place, then it might just be sweeter, less messy. With distance it's easy to romanticise, to see things as purer, unencumbered by all the tawdry human trappings that make bands from round the corner seem so pedestrian, to imagine that these punks on this wax from that country in that year are the realest motherfuckers possible, no day jobs, no scene squabbles, no bad shows, just pure 100% uncut sewersnake attitude. Even if you know that's gonna be bollocks, it's just easier to pretend. Nicer sometimes.

Unfortunately in that desire for that illusion clarity of thought, of action, what is actually happening over there gets flattened, warped into something other than human, when it's often the human drive behind it all that's the most interesting part, the art, the religion, the food, the literature. These things, and all their attendant mess, get stereotyped into things they're not, bite-sized nuggets of digestible misconceived culture to lend a faded sense of exoticism to your interests. Imagine if you were a follower of a religion whose most well-known proponent for most of the world was Richard Gere. It'd be a bit shit.

Rotten UK are not from the UK. They are from Rochester, New York, not Rochester, Kent. They offer a brand of punk ripped from UK82's moronic beat, using the UK as just a lazy cultural signifier, a snotty punk trope akin to d-beat 'dis's or garage-punk 'thee's. They take this whole pulsing nation of 60 million people and reduce it to naught but a mangled Exploited song.

And that's great.

Fuck this country. Fuck this shit rain-drenched feudal outcrop, this shithead isle, choking on its own thankfully dying relevance. Take it all and bash it into a cackling Disorder rip-off. Fuck Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, the Snapping Bogseats are as close as the UK ever got to a voice of the nation, aggressively ignorant, simplistic snaps of shite.

A seven inch in which at least two of the songs are bloodily rearranged nursery rhymes, a thick-as-shit Macc Lads nursery rhyme like Mary Had a Little Goat and the violent fantasy of Burnt Church. That's all we've got, the inane mouthings of babes thrashed into a scrapheap bang of Chaos UK like aggro football chants constructed out of vulgarised pop songs, thousands of voices calling you a cunt in unison. The chugging cut of Slipping Into Darkness. The sneer of Broken Coffins. Death and decline. The end can't come soon enough, and when it does it's gonna sound like Rotten UK. Burn everything down. Smash it up. Weigh the country down with the concrete boots of tradition and sink it in the north sea. Support your local punk scene, vote Tory.

"God save the Queen and a fascist regime … a flabby toothless fascism, to be sure. Never go too far in any direction, is the basic law on which Limey-Land is built. The Queen stabilizes the whole sinking shithouse and keeps a small elite of wealth and privilege on top. The English have gone soft in the outhouse. England is like some stricken beast too stupid to know it is dead. Ingloriously foundering in its own waste products, the backlash and bad karma of empire" - William S. Burroughs, Place of the Dead Roads