Early 80’s Swedish brick wallers turned räpunk (rough, DISCHARGE-inspired punk), THE BRISTLES return with two tracks of a bit of both. Weird to think these guys must be well into their fifties but still sound like angry teenagers. The band formed in 1982 and were initially inspired by THE EXPLOITED, GBH & Oi! before joining the massed ranks of raw thrash. Shame they didn’t think to change their name. DISBRUSH? BRISCHARGE? ‘Stukad’ is generic, early Swedish raw punk. ‘Back in the DDR’ is a much more enjoyable speedy number with some ‘waaaargh’ and a ‘hup-two-three-four’ sing-a-long that could have appeared on a Riot City Records b-side.
Flip this thing over and… remember when our jaws dropped as the P.E.A.C.E. compilation album (1984) introduced us to all those exotic hardcore punk bands from across the globe? When you realised just how geographical and cultural differences could influence punk and hardcore music to create such wildly differing sounds? KRIMTÄNK will transport you effortlessly back to that time. Formed in 2004, they have cornered the market in grin-inducing, ultra-fast, under-rehearsed short songs. Counted in seconds not minutes, these eight tracks boast minimal production, insane vocals and stupidly fast music that owes more to early Italian hardcore legends NEGAZIONE and DECLINO than their Swedish brethren. Their speeds frequently enter blastbeat territory with zero metal, just authentic continental hardcore like the last thirty-five years never happened. The whole thing sounds like it’s on the verge of falling apart and damn, it makes you feel good to be alive.
This is a multi-label release with Kibou (UK), Pike (Sweden), Jan’s Little Hammer (Spain) and Aback Distribuce (Czech Republic). Released 26th February 2021. Available from:
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Here’s a slight left(field) turn from the usual Personal Punk material. I’m a big fan of 6402‘s broadly post-punk forays and always look forward to something new. A collaboration with Lisbon-based singer-songwriter Juline Costa has resulted in this remarkable piece.
‘I Really Like You’ mixes effective instrumental flourishes with a playful vocal, giving way to a chilly, sinister feel, particularly once Juline let’s loose with those wailing backing vocals. A stark lead guitar, part THEATRE OF HATE, part Spaghetti Western, adds to the growing unease. It’s a beautiful thing.
Rob Howsam (6402):
I was looking for a good vocalist to collaborate with and an Instagram contact suggested that Juline might be a good match. Juline has a great tone to her voice and often uses a ‘speaking’ singing style which works well with the 6402 sound.
The track was originally a song that Julia had written, based around a single repeated acoustic guitar riff. The original version was a very lo-fi home recording, but the words and mood captured my imagination. A few simple phrases drew me into a story and the sparse narrative triggered my curiosity. Is this just a simple tale of unrequited and innocent love, or is it something darker, malevolent and angry? What happened, what might be about to happen?
Inspired by this and taking the voice and basic riff as a starting point, I set out to build a bigger, more cinematic sound to enhance the mystery and explore the shadows. I created layered electric guitar textures and atmospheric keyboards, along with bass and drum loops. The heavier instruments contrast the soft spoken voice to reveal the ‘punch’ lying just beneath the ‘frailty’.
A stunning endeavour from these long distance collaborators, we can only hope they’ll work together again. A full album maybe?
KÖRD VÄRLD – Total Distortion 7″ EP (Kibou/Cimex/Kangaroo)
Charlie Cimex (ANTI-CIMEX, KNIFE FOR AN EYE, DRILLER KILLER) and James Domestic (THE DOMESTICS, PI$$ER, TOKYO LUNGS) are back for another shot at the charts with KÖRD VÄRLD (fucked world). Charlie brings his substantial drumming prowess while James flexes his considerable multi-tasking muscle to provide the guitar, bass and vocals. The artwork and EP title give the game away as to what’s in store: four tracks of 80’s Swedish thrash worship a la SHITLICKERS and MOB 47, though you’ll hear just as much of Japan’s KURO and Finland’s TAMPERE SS. Tighter and more blasting than those originals, we are still treated to distorted guitars, sub-audible bass, frantic drums and that recognisable vocal bark, with minimal production completing the grubby sonic picture. Fast, pissed off and generic but we’re not here for the originality, right?
PI$$ER – Carved Up For Yuks mini LP (Kibou/Sick World/TNS/ Cimex/No Time/Toxic Wotsit)
Barely seven months after our styluses have recovered from the insanity of the d-beat/jazz-punk epic ‘Crushed Down To Paste‘, James Domestic, clearly still unhinged by the experience, has gone back and tinkered with four of its tracks, along with three from the earlier ‘Wretched Life’ 7″. Part remix, part mad-dub-scientist plot, this has the potential to go horribly wrong as the originals are torn asunder and remoulded.
Opener ‘Nasty Rhythm‘ – rudimentary dance music morphing into industrial churn – does a great job of introducing the unhingery to come. ‘Pi$$ Bazaar‘ is an atmospheric highlight, with spacey ‘dance-hall’ drums, dub effects and isolated guitar/sax combining to create a truly fresh feel. Others, like ‘15% Dub Time‘ – which increases the d-beat speed and adds extra effects – remain faithful to the source. ‘Dub Won’t Repent‘ keeps the drums and overlays them with squelchy dub goodness and sampled Christian preachers to satisfying effect. ‘Jazz-Funk Wasps‘ (‘Jazz Wasps’) is surely the least rewarding, despite having a new funky piece to accompany it because, well, you can’t improve on spoken-word/avante-jazz perfection. ‘A Wretched Dub‘, while still a fast punker, has a sampled voice – “how wretched is your life?” – and stop/start dynamics to enhance the mania.
The final track on ‘Crushed Down To Paste’ is the five minute ‘Dance In The Light Of Your Burning Bridges‘. Retitled as ‘More Petrol, More Light, More Dancing‘, it has gained a few pounds – an extra four minutes for starters, giving James plenty of space to expand on this already remarkable track. The basic beat remains, as does that warm, soulful saxophone. A little extra twist has been added to the root tune, ushering in some atmospheric ‘Dr Who’-style sounds along with a powerhouse new spoken word piece. Trust me when I say that this is a truly jaw-dropping, ten minute tour de force.
Ordinarily, I’m sniffy about remix projects as they’re so often self-indulgent exercises in tedium but this is something of a revelation. With the isolation of guitar riffs, sampled drums, dub reggae meanderings and mucho studio effects utilised, new sonic narratives are opened up. Don’t despair though: the skronky sax endures.
James Domestic clearly needs to keep busy and his ability to be creative within a genre often seen as having a limited palette knows no bounds. With Carved Up For Yuks, he has mastered the seemingly impossible and elevated the source material to an even higher level. A total delight.
Mathilda’s scoundrel moonlights in country punk combo
Jason Stirling could, under pre-pandemic conditions, be found playing in Hastings folk-punk troubadours MATHILDA’S SCOUNDRELS. With THE BLUE MOON BAND, he has taken his punk bedrock and layered in a seam of country music, absorbed via his mum during formative years. Described as “a collection of stories, warnings and reflections about where we have been, where we are going and the dangers of the world we live in”, there are some interesting lyrical concerns on offer across these five tracks. Opening track ‘Railway Man’ takes in traditional country music tropes, telling the tale of a hard working life on the railways circa. WW2. Rattling along like TV SMITH fronting BLYTH POWER, it’s an impressive opener. ‘Let Them Tyrants Be’, an intense, banjo-propelled hymn of defiance, bemoans society’s lack of appetite for protest against the powers that be. Closer ‘Unprecedented’ is, ironically, the real star of the show. A heartfelt slice of harmonica/acoustic melancholia, Jason manages to convey the complex emotions resulting from the year of the pandemic in a deceptively simple, but rather lovely way.
“For some they could take shelter in a home But not all have a roof, merely skin to cover their bones The workers key was in the lock of deaths door Turn out each shift, in return we gave applause”
Derivative in parts, audacious country clichés abound – gambling, snake-eyes, hard-working men – but they more often force a smile rather than an eye-roll, which is no mean feat. The most rewarding moments are the ones where Jason manages to shed the shackles of genre and just do his thing.
Given the blend of country music with a punk rock edge, it’s difficult not to mention SOCIAL DISTORTION, particularly their Prison Bound album with its rollicking pace and twangy guitars. The Blue Moon Band themselves are solid and country-rocking, but boasting members of greaser-punk n’ rollers NOSEBLEED, nothing less should be expected. Inevitably though, Locked Doors And Lost Keys is imbued with endearing British reticence rather than American swagger.
Released 6th February 2021, available for download and streaming here
DIRT ROYAL, a three-piece from Brighton since 2013, have their monkey boots stuck firmly in the past, circa 1979. ‘Great Expectations’, the follow-up to 2014’s ironically-titled debut ‘This Is Now’, displays a knack for authentic, mod-tinged new wave. Think THE CHORDS and STARJETS covering SECRET AFFAIR‘s first album and you’ll be close. That said, they do mix in a sprinkling of noughties’ indie bands like THE ENEMY and the cheeky-chappy sing-a-long of THE FRATELLIS, resulting in a sound not unlike recent material from Liverpool’s DIY heroes DOWN AND OUTS. Despite an occasional lapse into cliche, they showcase strong song-writing across these twelve catchy tracks about work, disappointment and the travails of the modern world. Bless ’em.
Out now, limited to 300 copies, available from Time For Action Records here
HOMEMADE SKI MASK are a two piece punk band from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. On their debut EP ‘Redballbluechicago’, they have cooked up five tracks of nutso garage punk rock n’ roll. Two of the songs are related to provincial issues (drugs, narrow minds) and, along with meditations on ‘active shooters’ and the emboldenment of toxic masculinity (Sperry Stomp – ‘Sperry’ being the favoured footwear of the over-privileged, misogynistic male) the lyrics make for a refreshing change. On ‘Backwoods’, they rope in friends in the shape of Howzit and Gnar Cyst to help out, one of whom is a dead ringer for Jimbob of Welsh contrarians PIZZATRAMP in the vocal department. The chunky production job sets it aside from the usual garage fare and the drums in particular emerge as a force to be reckoned with. The kit gets a right ol’ battering, busy without being fussy and with many a change of pace. The guitar is satisfyingly biting while the vocals are clean and a little unhinged. Inventive, raucous rock n’ roll with a real air of menace which, while it doesn’t break any new ground, is unpredictable and eccentric. Released on Big Eleanor Records on 17th January 2021. Have a listen here.
Something of a scene staple in the mid-2000’s, Manchester’s HARIJAN released this self-titled debut album on TNS Records at the end of 2020, after years on hiatus. Broadly ska punk, it leans more towards the late 70’s 2-Tone sound than OPERATION IVY and the slew of bands that followed, though there are enough raw guitar riffs and shouty choruses to keep fans of the latter vibing. Confident, assured song writing and playing is in full effect across these thirteen tracks and the album flows beautifully, mixing in brass and dub reggae flavours along the way. What really gives their sound its unique quality is Mike’s unusual vocal style. Unmistakably British, this is urban, bedsit-poetry delivered with a fluid ‘ad-lib’ style, not unlike toasting. Available now on double yellow/black vinyl and CD here.
‘Memorie In Lingua Morta’ (Memories In Dead Language) is the new LP by Italian d-beat/crust exponents CULTO DEL CARGO. Twelve tracks of relentlessly punishing latter-day DISCHARGE/ENT homage with enough neat tricks to acquit itself with dignity intact. Amid the powerfully produced staples of crushing guitar, thundering bass, battering-ram drums and ferocious vocals lies a sense of passion and commitment many fail to convey in this crowded genre. They keep things interesting by smuggling in some juicy extras: a sample, an occasional death metal guitar lick, stop-on-a-dime time changes and a clearer voice to counter the gutteral terror. All sung in Italian but this is d-beat and with titles like ‘Autopsy On The Corpse of Capitalism’, I’m sure you know what’s coming. Brutal. Out now on vinyl but you can download for free, so what do you have to loose? Check it out here.
THE USURPERS are a ‘DIY punk rock band’ from Salt Lake City. I would add ‘old school’ to that. They mix up early 80’s American hardcore with the UK82 punk of Thatcher’s Britain. This recording has a chunky, powerhouse production, enabling the talented musicians to knock out the noise, juicy pick-slides n’ all. This is heart-warmingly traditional song writing and you can actually hear every word of the anti-police, anti-war and antisocial vitriol. The lyrics are a little clichéd and the vocal delivery is of the brick wall variety I would have loved when I was sixteen, not so much these days. Admirably DIY and political to their boots, if a cross between AUS ROTTEN and THE EXPLOITED sounds like your thing, go get ’em here.
Finally, from Sweden, C2H6O bring pissed off, nihilistic hardcore on their six track ‘We Don’t Care’ EP. Musically, it’s locked in tight n’ fast, with effective finger-pointing choruses and harsh vocals akin to Andy of IMBALANCE. Only one song breaches two minutes (2:04) and the titles should give you an idea of where they’re coming from: ‘I Hate You’, ‘We Don’t Care’ and ‘Beer’, though ‘Carpet Bomber’ and ‘War’ hint at the possibility that they really do care. Hardcore can get away with a tinny production but here it’s a little too buzzy and the bass drum has a distracting click sound but otherwise, if no frills, stripped back Aaaargh!core is what you’re craving, this’ll do it. No bandcamp for these guys so you’ll have to go to Spotify.
New song from South Coast basement dwellers SEXY PRETTY THINGS, (Est. 2015), and their first for Smash Mouse Records. Beginning with a dirty and distinctly grungy guitar intro, ‘Doomed (N.W.O.)‘ locks into a mid-paced groove, accompanied by clean singing and angry yelps. A nifty guitar line running alongside the ruckus, a whiff of psych and a big ol’ catchy chorus finish the job. There’s a juicy breakdown mid-song too, which should get you slinging your head low. No new ground is broken with this slice of indie-grunge but who cares? t’s so hooky, you’ll be singing it behind your mask in Lidl.
By contrast, Manchester’s INCISIONS let loose all the pent-up fury of the last year on new track ‘No Shame‘ (TNS Records). Building on the foundations laid by their 2018 self-titled debut, the band sound much more confident, the vocals in particular are hoarse and dirtier. There’s restraint here but it’s seething, personal and brief and winds up sounding like BLACK FLAG’s feral little brother. The forthcoming album should be a belter.
NOSEBLEED hail from Leeds in the UK and really bring the party in the live setting with their 100% juiced up rock n’ roll. Difficult though it is to recreate that in the studio, the band have upped the intensity levels with new song ‘Make Up Your Mind‘ (TNS Records), a taster for their upcoming album. A slower, heavy duty crusher, with that British ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT vibe intact, the band sound supremely confident here and it wouldn’t surprise me if they wind up adding some stark brass to the mix in the future.
Chicago’s SEX DREAM are back with a new song after last years Candle On My Skin mini LP and it’s more of that breezy pop punk, accompanied by Maria Surfinbird’s sunny, laconic vocals. The difference with ‘Aren’t You Happy You Are Mine?’ (self-released) is the switch to big, meaty Pistolian guitars rather than the NOFX style of the aforementioned album. The resulting two minutes is like listening to ‘Silly Thing‘ as a cheeky love song, sung by a happy-go-lucky soul without a care in the world. A breath of fresh air.
Gammon and Karens fuming at inclusion on band’s lefty-liberal, zeitgeist-skewering record
snowflake: replaces politically correct as the insult of the right and the terminally-enthralled-to-a-mythical-past. The mission – to curdle compassion, empathy and defence of minority rights into a negative (see also; woke, Social Justice Warrior and culture wars) – continues apace. A term once confined to fringe elements inhabiting the darkest corners of the internet, thus entered the mainstream thanks to ‘net-savvy types with an agenda, flooding social media with their button-pushing memes. Sadly, it’s now commonplace for friends and acquaintances to use it on a regular basis. Inevitable and refreshing then, that we finally get a reaction in a band who celebrate the virtues of snowflakery. And it’s a little bit special.
The admittedly brilliant band name had me expecting six tracks of drunk-punk crust, so curiosity was well and truly piqued when ‘Uncooperative Crusties’ kicked off proceedings with a slice of agit-noise-rock. Reclaiming Bojo’s dated and pathetic attempt at insulting Extinction Rebellion protesters, TFS have the pointed lyrics covered: “Boris has missed the point again, there’s no surprise there, condemning people who give a damn, to simple sound bytes and stereotypes – he’s missing the point, just listen for once to the uncooperative crusties“. ‘Due Some Terrible End’ surprises further with it’s post-punk shimmering guitars and propulsive bass, straight out of the proto-goth playbook (think PLAY DEAD), lyrically tackling the rise of the ‘new’ far right. ‘White Isn’t Right’ seamlessly blends elements of noise rock and mathcore with agitated, rising and falling vocals, the lyrical baiting of the hate-crowd hugely satisfying: “White isn’t right. Master race? You’re all fucking morons, white isn’t right, fuck off with your white lives matter“. Oh yes.
Flip this yellow beast over and it just keeps on giving. ‘By The Power of Barnard Castle’ powers up with some spiky NOMEANSNO-style action and self-explanatory wordage: “The rules apply to us, but not the boot-licking Eton elite…” ‘Cuadrilla Can Fuck Right Off’ – it should be clear by now that these guys have cornered the market in great song titles – mixes together more of those spiralling guitars with some rock stylings to create a catchy anti-fracking protest hymn. All too soon, it ends with ‘Mendacious Meddling Milkshake Recipient’ taking on poisonous snake-oil peddler Tommy Robinson: “racism is your snake oil -plastic ideals, dog whistled to vacant choirs – empty words, uncovering child abuse – but only when the skin tone suits your agenda – oh, glass houses…” and is the most straight-forward punk track here, though they still can’t help giving it a noisy breakdown twist.
These pranksters have more in common with IDLES and CABBAGE than AMEBIX or DISCHARGE, though hailing from down-trodden Blackpool, their local musical lineage can be traced back to THE MEMBRANES. Stir in a pinch of FUGAZI and a spoonful of the hugely underrated late 80’s/early 90’s North East band CRANE and you should have a clue. The fact that I’m struggling for a handy pigeonhole is a sign that TFS sound as fresh as anything I’ve heard in many a long year. Prickly, quick-witted protest (post) punk for the times that could be your new favourite band, and a shoe-in for Steve Lamacq.
DIY institution celebrates thirty-five years by reissuing legendary US hardcore record
Thirty-five years of dedication to the cause of DIY punk penmanship and art design, of honing a craft to a fine pencil-point brand identity (heh) through passion, healthy cynicism and sheer bloodymindedness. Worth celebrating, right?
The highlight this issue is a refreshing interview with Richmond, Virginia’s anthemic hardcore heroes STRIKE ANYWHERE. Vocalist Thomas gives thoughtful, intelligent answers with honesty and heart. We also get interviews with Golly of DIAZ BROTHERS (formerly of HDQ & THE JONES), Orlando’s power-pop punks VICIOUS DREAMS, London Oi!sters THE CHISEL and an excellent interview with DEALING WITH DAMAGE, whose members’ previous bands could probably fill a ‘zine – THE STUPIDS, SINK, K-LINE, DONE LYING DOWN, ATOMIC MORTGAGE – okay, I made that last one up but there’s a lot. Helsinki’s bullet-belt punks KOHTI TUHOA round out the current crop in grubby style.
The Vaultage section spews forth an unpublished JAWBREAKER interview from 1991, recent chats with SEPTIC DEATH and ICONOCLAST (all U.S.) and a fascinating piece on early 80’s Swedish hardcore, bringing together some of the reprobates involved for a chat.
Welly keeps up the standard with the ever-dwindling review section and always provides at least one quotable line: “…I was expecting to at least be abused by the lyrics for being male, or get a free bag of blood or dogshit, but instead I just got some moaning and generic metal-punk riffs.” (from review of POISONOUS CUNT’s ‘Make Me A Sandwich’ LP)
The inclusion of the vinyl this time round must be a dream come true for kreator Welly. Regular readers will be aware of his fervor for, and encyclopedic knowledge of American hardcore. A remixed and remastered ‘Moscow’ EP by Tulsa, Oklahoma’s N.O.T.A., originally released in 1984, comes housed in a twelve page booklet with band history, lyrics, flyers and download code. Five tracks of energising US hardcore that still sounds fresh.
My small N.O.T.A. reference: I was at a gig at the Riverside in Newcastle sometime in the late 80’s (DAN, HDQ & VISIONS OF CHANGE) and bumped into Golly, vocalist of HDQ, who I knew from his band playing a couple of gigs we had promoted. He was lugging around a bag full of copies of the self-titled N.O.T.A. album. Ever-eager for new music, I bought one and was distinctly disappointed by it. It was US hardcore without a personality and it only received a couple of spins. I sold it during lean times, breaking my vow to never sell a record that could spark a memory, no matter how small. After listening to the ‘Moscow’ EP I have a sinking feeling that if I heard that LP now, thirty-odd years later, I would reflectdifferently…
I’m running out of hyperbole for ARTCORE. One of the very last UK print punk ‘zines, It has a distinct identity both in visuals and writing, straddling that sweet spot between professional and punk with zero compromise. Why hasn’t it inspired the creation of more print ‘zines? Maybe the world-engulfing internet leviathan has finally consumed everything – I recognise the irony of my own writing existing solely online, of course – or maybe it’s a blip in the scheme of things. They say everything comes back around, right? Maybe. For now at least, we still have ARTCORE.
This issue is into it’s second printing and is available here.
2020, a year of extremes. Extreme Johnson. Extreme Trump. Extreme Pandemic. On a positive note, Personal Punk had the privilege of hearing and writing about some amazing music so I couldn’t resist the pull of a year-end Top Ten list.
10:SEX DREAM‘s enjoyably breezy Candle On My Skin mini album caught me by surprise, a sweet kind of pop punk facing the real and present danger of sugar overload. They pull it off with Maria Surfinbird’s laid back vocal style, some unexpected guitar work and strong tunes.
9: Refreshing to hear some lo-fi garage punk this year, provided by the unhinged FROGGY & THE RINGES on their Soft ‘G’ EP. Themed, self-styled ‘pond-core’ by mysterious types, it crash-bashes its way gleefully into your heart over the course of it’s 60’s trash meets ’77 punk delirium.
8:6402 completed their Dump Trump Trilogy‘ in 2020. Previous work showed no signs of political slant so it speaks volumes that they felt compelled to create not one, but three tracks themed around the American carnage that was the Trump Presidency. It may be the lightest material I have reviewed so far but the judicious use of soundbites lend weight to these post-punk protest experiments. Should have been a 7″ vinyl EP.
7:NO MURDER NO MOUSTACHE released their Hold My Beer EP on the ever-eclectic Smash Mouse Records. Tory-bashing folk punk with a sense of humour is served up on this five track stormer and, following Halloween and Christmas specials, I look forward to seeing what comes next.
6:SLACKRR – ‘The Current’ single, download/streaming. I’m giving this band the benefit of the doubt here as polished pop punk isn’t my favourite sub-genre but damn, if I can’t stop playing this catchy and uplifting song. Those additional female vocals. That anthemic chorus. If their upcoming album is chock full of these, I’m in.
5: 2020 saw Sweden’s Cimex Records unleash it’s first two stand-alone releases. It was hard to decide whether to put the GBH/MOTORHEAD swagger of KNIFE FOR AN EYE in here or the simple-minded fun punk of THE PROFESSIONAL AGAINSTERS. I went for the latter because, despite the (tongue-in-cheek) jaw-droppingly dumb lyrics, the devil has all the best tunes.
4:PI$$ER unleashed the mini album ‘Crushed Down To Paste’ in July. A sax-fuelled d-beat odyssey with hints of dirty soul, it proved, if proof were needed, that the DIY punk scene still has some suprises up its sleeve.
3: Lockdown madness struck the Smash Mouse camp as they put together a tribute album to the Tony Hawk’s pro-skater 1 & 2 soundtracks. Comfort blanket promptly shaken, it was a joy to find the two least punk tracks on here were my favourites: FAKE FRIENDS‘ oddball electronic take on MILENCOLIN, and the beautifully overwrought piano dramatics of NO MURDER NO MOUSTACHE’s ‘Blood Brothers’ by PAPA ROACH. This album has a fun vibe throughout and makes me feel good, something special in these dark times.
2: THE DOMESTICS/PIZZATRAMP ‘No Life’/This Is Your Life’. It was a close call. This split 12″ saw a welcome return to taking a vinyl release seriously. A carefully crafted, conceptual piece of work as opposed to throwing your latest tracks down. These two bands are among the best the UK has to offer right now but they surpassed themselves with these 11 minute long songs, channelling, in spirit at least, SUBHUMANS’ (UK) ‘From The Cradle To The Grave’. Gob-smacking. No Life/This Is Your Life.
1: Danish skiffle-core pioneers STOJ SNAK took on no less than the Meaning of Life with the incredible ‘Life, Death & Everything In Between’ album. As with the above, it feels like an event, a piece of earth-rich punk rock art, from the eye-catching cover design to the powerful punk-roots maturity of the music within. An enduring classic.
Honourable mention goes to Poland’s inexplicably named AM, who may have made it impossible to find them on the internet but their 2010 album ‘BA’ finally made it to vinyl. I described it as a FLAG OF DEMOCRACY/CRAVATS swirl. Inventive, passionate and progressive hardcore punk that deserves to be discovered.
This was just some of the music submitted to Personal Punk for review. It’s been a shitty year all round for everyone, one way or another, and writing this stuff has been my therapy. I just want to give a heartfelt thanks to those who submitted their work and to anyone who has taken the time to read any of my babbling. It means a lot, seriously. Here’s to better times.
“I think punk is people. Punk is community. Punk is like-minded people working together as one. And for as long as there are communities, there will be punk.”
The fifth and final book in Ian Glasper’s heroic attempt to document the UK punk scene from the early eighties to the present day, weighs in at a hefty 650 pages. Previous volumes covered smaller time periods – Burning Britain focused on 1980-’85, Trapped In A Scene ’85-90, The Day The Country Died, the anarcho-punk off-shoot of the late 70’s and 80’s and Armed With Anger took on the 90’s. As in mainstream pop culture, there is a vaguely definable line between these periods, a measurable development and a loose ‘beginning and end’. Any attempt at carving up the last twenty years in such a way would inevitably prove futile, and with good reason: the internet, and subsequently social media, changed everything for everyone and the DIY punk scene wasn’t immune to its divisive charms. In-depth analysis of this is best left in the more capable hands of Sociology students and the Punk Scholars Network but suffice to say that it explains why the author had little choice but to cover a twenty year period in a single volume.
Of course, it’s impossible to be definitive. The underground punk scene of the last two decades is a multi-tentacled leviathan, with countless sub-genres and micro-scenes existing alongside, and often without knowledge of each others existence. Ironically, the infinite connections made possible by the ‘net resulted in a more fragmented scene than in say, 1985-1990, with that era’s community-building utilisation of the mail system via stamp-soaping, alongside flyers, fanzines and word of mouth. With such a seismic shift in mind, how then does one begin to capture this, the hardiest of scenes, in a single volume?
The authors modus operandi remains the same: let the bands do the talking. There are 111 music biz-shunning punk and hardcore bands the length and breadth of the British Isles here with a good cross-section of styles: UK82, anarcho, crust, d-beat, thrash, hardcore, riot grrrl, ukecore… (I made that last one up but THE PUKES are featured). The emphasis is on each bands individual stories, with the impact of the internet, social media, Covid-19 and Brexit delivering the coda. Many bands included have members who were active during pre-‘net decades, so have perspective of the before and after and this once again raises a perennial question: does the UK punk scene have enough ‘young blood’ coming through to ensure it’s survival? This is an insecurity that recurs through the years and the answer, so far, has always been ‘yes, at least enough to secure continuity through the fallow times’.
“DIY grass-roots punk rock is doing very well. It’s like Doctor Who – it regenerates every few years. There will always be a healthy turnover of bands and people, all very enthusiastic about making music, organising gigs, doing zines and record labels. And one of the things I love most about that is that the next generations usually aren’t quite so deferential to the bands that came before them. That’s exactly how it should be.”
The long-standing scratching post of punk nostalgia and the Rebellion festival gets a regular airing. The punks of the late 70’s and early 80’s ridiculed teddy boys for their refusal to let go of their own musical youth and a sizeable element of the punk scene has followed that same path, right down to the Butlins Punk Specials. Fierce debate remains between the purists who believe it to be a sad spectacle of a once radical spirit and those who see it as a harmless social gathering, though the latter seem to be slowly grinding the former down as Rebellion increases its inclusion of ‘current’ bands.
There were always going to be omissions. The likes of FIG. 4.0, DAUNTLESS ELITE, THE MAGNIFICENT, DOWN AND OUTS, ARTERIES, MILLOY, JETS VS SHARKS et al, are conspicuous by their absence but there is alot of material here. Big hitters like skate-thrash japesters PIZZATRAMP, the oddball social-commentary-pop of WONK UNIT, anarcho-noise merchants BAD BREEDING and brutal hardcore heroes THE DOMESTICS and GRAND COLLAPSE share the stage with SALEM RAGES’ death rock, THE MIGRAINES’ skatecore and the lo-fi rants of THE MENSTRUAL CRAMPS. The latter in particular, bring refreshing confrontation to a scene that, at least in the Rebellion-Nostalgia element, still holds to some pretty dispiriting sexist attitudes. So then, these are first-hand reports of a wildly varied scene, lovingly detailed, individual voices describing very different experiences but with a passion for a true DIY punk community as common denominator.
A section on grass-roots record labels would have made for the perfect addendum but alas, it has to end somewhere. Still, the book is crawling with crystal clear band photos, live shots and gig posters, another example of advancing technology aiding the documentation of this period.
The Scene That Would Not Die pointedly reports on a DIY punk scene that has proven itself to be the hardiest of street-fighters: shifting, rolling with the punches and swatting aside any and all threats to its survival. Arguably, it’s biggest obstacles are just around the corner but if the past is to teach us anything, it should be that you just can’t kill the spirit. Hopefully, there will be DIY journalists as dedicated as Glasper along the way to document it.
Here’s to all that help out to keep the scene alive Putting in for nothing back because of you we thrive The punx, promoters, bands, the zinesters Non-profit labels and everyone involved! DIY, DIY or die
Book your own shows Make your own label Zines, records, flyers Do it yourself