“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – Ferris Bueller
Grubbing about in the margins of time and space recently, I got to thinking about the velocity of incoming new music, and the consequence that it doesn’t stop long enough to be registered in anything that could be regarded as a lineage. Back in the dim and distant past, cultural commentators endlessly evaluated: contracting and expanding pantheons; devising and revising parameters; assessing and establishing imagined worth.
These days, you get the same four or five lines copied and pasted into every interchangeable blog post. Opinion seems to be a consensus of resignation, rather than the eternal riot of conjecture it once was. These days the mainstream press are so utterly divorced from the underground that the NME are the Smash Hits of Generation Shit. These days the heritage press are the equivalent of the National Trust. These days music journalists live in ivory cyber-towers devising ever-more convoluted methods of getting paid for dancing to architecture. These days fanzines from obscure scenes of this punk planet offer the only worthy insight into non-commercially-based forms of unpopular music. These days a punk band from Buttfuck, Idaho, that would consider selling every one of the 250-copies of their self-pressed debut EP a triumph, are labeled as ‘hyped’ on the blogosphere if they are cited by more than a handful of interchangeable blog postings. These days.
It was with Ferris Bueller in mind, then, that I duly took a day off from following links; chasing new records; listening to endless bandcamp pages; searching for clues on the handful of decent music blogs I do trust, and instead took a wander through the record box that time forgot, for a little quality reflection: Jean Encoule’s day off!
The first thing that struck me was how many of the bands I’ve lovingly accumulated records by over the last six or seven years have split up already: Brain Killer, Bloodkrow Butcher, Crosta, Fracaso, Hoax, Inservibles, Perdition, Shitty Limits, and, most notably, Kremlin. It only seems like yesterday that I slipped ‘Drunk In The Gulag’ onto the turntable for the first time. The fact that I wasn’t keen on first listen is ironic, as is the subsequent reality that it has become one of my most treasured records in recent punk rock annals. That’s the way it goes: the records you fall in love with at first listen are often the ones you tire of first, the ones that take effort are the ones that stay with you longest. I even reviewed ‘Drunk In The Gulag’ as a disappointment at the time, so it’s nice to go back and disagree with myself. It’s good to know that culture still improves with time: that post-everything outsider art is not the disposable artifact its detractors often suggest.
I love the way ‘Drunk In The Gulag’ bleeds all over your turntable. The way the red vinyl mimics the total lack of separation between channels: pick-up clicks; string squeaks; valve seepage; random static; crud buzz; fret rattles; the anomalies of compromised fidelity define this record’s warmth. Kremlin said everything they had to say with ‘Drunk In The Gulag’: mission statement realised. Move along now, there’s nothing more to see here, punks and punkettes. In the time and space of a couple of years, this Toronto trio said all that could be said in this format; played all the places they wanted to play; smeared a cannon work over a handful of cassette releases, a seven, and a twelve, and moved on to pastures new, leaving a considerable legacy, and their integrity intact. That’s punk rock. It’s not a career. I wonder if Kremlin will reform in 2044 to play the Canadian Rebellion Festival at Toronto Tower Ballroom, sharing a bill with Brain Killer, Bloodkrow Butcher, Crosta, Fracaso, Hoax, Inservibles, Perdition and Shitty Limits.
My second revelation was how many reissues I’ve bought over the last few years. There was a time when only a pristine original copy would suffice, these days I’m more than happy to settle for a quality repress: blemish free; improved sound; more than likely not missing any original inserts or supplementary artwork, often in a lurid shade of coloured wax. This can cut both ways: I recently stumbled across a repress of Rudimentary Peni‘s mandatory ‘Death Church’, only to find that not only could I not d/l the digital file from Southern (who still haven’t responded to my email of complaint some three weeks later!), but that my original copy was missing an insert!
This got me thinking: will there be a Toxic State reissue program in 2044? Will there be a LVEUM box set on Amazon in time for the 30th anniversary of the release of DHK’s ‘La Krudeza No Muere’? A Static Shock compilation on a hitherto unimagined format? A range of high street Buck Biloxi and the Fucks t-shirts? Will people post pictures of a post-Buck line up of the Fucks with the legend ‘RIP’ following Buck’s tragic death from colon cancer in 2037, 26-years after he left the band?
Obviously, I will be long gone by then, which brings me to my final chilling revelation: what happens to my record collection after my death? My current last will and testament states that it be bequeathed to the Hep C Trust, but what will they do with it? They’re hardly likely to commission the Museum Of Punk Rock Artifact I naturally believe a collection of such stature to demand. Discussing this subject with loved ones as my day off drew to a close, my daughter mentioned the words ‘skip’ and ‘landfill’ with an air of certainty that filled my line of vision with small bubbles, suggesting a rapid rise in blood pressure. I was suddenly reminded of the Gospel Of St Marx, chapter 7, verse 3: “Verily, it is easier for a rich man to fit through the eye of a needle than it is for a poor man with a vast collection of punk rock records to enter the kingdom of heaven”.
Tercer Mundo (Third World) have just dropped what those in the know are already calling ‘the HC album of 2014′. Led by the most prolific man in South American punk, Dave Rata (Ratas Del Vaticano, Inservibles, Muerte, Era del Vacio, etc), Monterrey, Mexico’s Tercer Mundo lead a phalanx of South American raw punk/HC bands that capture the unrequited rage of the genre, both instinctively and authentically, without recourse to the ‘am-I-punk-yet?’ approach of many of their first world contemporaries.
Maquina Muerte, DHK, Fracaso, Tercer Mundo and their ilk reflect the challenges of life under difficult circumstances: no trust funds; no posing; no vacuous statements of intent; no need to hide behind carefully constructed images, cliched art work, over-used fonts, or second-hand ideas. Dangerous music created in dangerous places, where being a punk and playing punk music can still get you a kicking, or worse.
‘Ser Nosotros Mismos’ (Cintas Pepe), ‘Being Ourselves’ in English, sees Alex Marga (Margaritos/drums) and Rata (vocals/bass/gtrs) expand the basic shape of the their critically acclaimed debut EP over eight songs in rousing fashion, being very much themselves. The progression here is simply staggering: said EP was rightly praised, but this collection takes Tercer Mundo to another level entirely, referencing the EP just once, on the closing ‘Sin Rostro Ni Corazón’. I’ve been a massive fan of most everything Rata has committed to vinyl/tape thus far, including his misunderstood solo record, ‘Hallucigenia’ (Batshit Records), but this is his finest work to date. If you only buy one punk rock LP this year, make damn sure it’s ‘Ser Nosotros Mismos’.
From the man responsible for turning me onto Tercer Mundo in the first place:
“I love the TERCER MUNDO 12″. It is PUNK” – Paco Mus
I was introduced to Danish label, Dead Section Records, by the work of blackened punks, Sump, and sevens by Pagan Youth and Family Enema, a couple years ago, thus opening a portal into a whole new world of blackness. Having abandoned my second black metal crusade, mid-noughties, due to the stench of NSBM, and the associated connotations of the ever-encroaching far right, I was overjoyed to discover that ancient and hallowed music had overcome its crisis of consciousness, and that the advent of RABM and the Cascadian influences of the celestial Wolves In The Throne Room had ushered in a new era of black metal, infused with the reactionary elements of punk rock, and the rampant energy of hardcore approaches:
Whilst in a state of total punk ennui one harsh winter’s evening back in November of 2013, with the threat of a blizzard in the cold night air, and the central heating eating at the ozone layer, I stumbled across ‘Hammer Of The Night’ by Yellow Eyes, and my relationship with Dead Section was duly consecrated. I have sung the praises of Yellow Eyes elsewhere in these pages, and those of you who frequent this blog will doubtless have already exposed your minds to the ice burn of their sacred art. It is with great expectation, then, that we welcome three new twelve inch vinyl releases from Dead Section Records:
The first of these offerings comes from Berlin trio, Sun Worship, who proffer four tears of desolation, in the form of three arcing spears of harsh beauty, and one exercise in ambient atmospheria. ‘Elder Giants’ is BM informed by post-punk sensibility: sans corpse paint; sans lank locks; sans illegible logo-embossed t-shirts; sans bullet belts; sans wrist studs. Hauntingly melodic, stridently powerful, this is monolithic music, as old as the stones, as wise as those who laid them out: “a timeless catharsis through vehemence, momentum and volume.”
The second of these sacrifices is offered up by Vilkacis, the solo project of M. Rekeviks of Fell Voices. Tune-laden, romantic and vast, this veritable mannerist canvas of sound brings the past into the present without the aid of a Tardis. What had become tainted is pure of intent once again: the wisdom of the elders, electrified with hope and renewed purpose for a third age of black beauty, where music of substance can have both heart and soul. ‘The Fever Of War’ delivers five passages of stirring melancholia, drenched in nihilism, primal, yet as ‘of its time’ as anything else out there right now. Vilkacis, the Latvian werewolf, has come to tear you limb from limb. Don’t go down to the woods today.
The final release in this triumvirate is the Anicon/Belus split. Influenced by the harmonic intonations of Finnish lore, Anicon employ Lev Weinstein (Krallice) on drums to power their visions of spectral beauty amongst the urban decay that surrounds them. Belus on the other hand, merely describe themselves thus: “We are a doom band that plays fast 90% of the time.” Co-released with Fragile Branch, all three titles are available in a bundle (see header image), which is both the most economical way to proceed, and the only way to capture the Vilkacis twelve on white vinyl (see link below).
Washington, DC, is home to Priests, a three-girl/one-boy outfit who stretch tired old formulas in interesting new directions. Hard on the heels of a brace of demos and a seven, ‘Radiation’ (Sister Polygon, Dec 2012), comes a new 12″ EP: ‘Bodies And Control And Money And Power’ (Sister Polygon/Don Giovanni Records).
Daniele Daniele (drums), Taylor Mulitz (bass, vocals), G.L. Jaguar (gtr), Katie Alice Greer (vocals), surf a wave of angular angst to land seven spiky songs in just under twenty minutes. Barely out of nappies, conceptually, Priests’ seemingly swiftly-developed collective proficiency should come as little or no surprise: guitarist Jaguar is a stalwart of the grubby DC punk underbelly, whilst Greer has served time in Ian Svenonius’ Chain And The Gang. Meanwhile, despite Jaguar’s Townsendesque arm windmills and Greer’s doubled-up contorted rage, it’s bass player and backing vocalist Mulitz, with her cardsharp haircut and her effortless cool, and drummer Daniele that impress, both visually, and aurally. Their impressively solid undercarriage effortlessly bears the load of Greer’s caterwauling and Jagaur’s rock and roll licks, taking Priests somewhere approaching quality.
Lyrically erring towards the side of social commentary, keynote speech ‘Right Wing’ aims squarely at the normalisation of the devolution of state responsibility and the invasion of your personal space in the name of freedom of the market. Ironically, the song itself is the most conservative contribution to ‘Bodies And Control And Money And Power’, and that speaks volumes for those of you weighing Priests’ integrity by psychostasia.
Seemingly a registered influence here in the UK on both Good Throb and Shopping, the injection of space that suddenly arrived on the former’s ‘Fuck Off’ long player can be heard throughout ‘Bodies And Control And Money And Power’ (especially on ‘New’, whose off-mic shouts echo those of Good Throb’s ‘Double White Denim’), and the bass-led spunk funk of the latter, shot through the closing ‘And Breeding’. This possibly makes Priests generationally seminal.
Priests may be a mass of contradictions posing as the answer to a question no one is actually asking, but, for what it’s worth, ‘Bodies And Control And Money And Power’ is a resolutely entertaining diversionary exercise in post-everything pop, and for that we should be mildly grateful.
Failures second full length, ‘Decline And Fall’, has been a while in the making. Following up 2008′s highly regarded debut twelve was never going to be easy, but vocalist Mark McCoy (Das Oath, Suburbanite, Veins, etc) and guitarist Will Killingsworth (Orchid, Laceration, Ampere, Vaccine, etc) have succeeded triumphantly with this incendiary collection. Aided and abetted by Ryan Abbott (drums) and Andrew Jackmauh (bass), Failures exhibit the ability to level built up areas like an advancing tank division with a rapid fire fourteen songs in fourteen and a half minutes.
The first couple of listens spin by in a haze of disorientation. This is the kind of intense racket that will effortlessly elicit grimaces of pain from trapped loved ones. The vocals are virtually screamed in your general direction, laced with passive aggression, coated in bile. The guitars are wedged firmly in the eighties in terms of tone, biting and snapping at your heels with their jagged fluidity: the epitome of economy. The bass and drums lock tight beneath this threatening squall with deftly executed precision. These boys have been round the block a couple of times, and it shows.
Despite a mission statement headed ‘total alienation’, there are moments the tightly crammed content of ‘Decline And Fall’ hits something that could be interpreted as a hook – ‘Errands’, ‘Introvert’, and ‘Barnacle’ – for example, all contain moments to kill for. Lyrically age-specific, subject matter focuses heavily on isolation, life lessons learned, personal authenticity, and the inevitable stickler of time erosion in a discipline that’s often regarded as a young punk’s game.
The lyric sheet provides insight with some ‘End Notes’:
I was better at that before, wasn’t I?
You misspelled my name on the ‘thank you’ card.
They said it couldn’t be done as I tackled it with a smile and couldn’t do it.
- trakMARX: ROCK AND ROLL, GARAGE PUNK, PSYCHE, HEAVY METAL, PROTO PUNK, KRAUTROCK, JAP ROCK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDUSTRIAL, BLACK METAL, DOOM/DRONE, POST ROCK, NOISE, AVANT ET L'ART DE L'ETRANGER