FIDLAR – FIDLAR (Witchita, 2013)

Those dumb punk kids will buy anything.

Well, perhaps.

There’s something a resurgence of punk and hardcore that doesn’t seem to come from ‘the scene’, and is usually triumphed by non-scene media – which is suspicious. This is not to say that the ‘scene’ should be the ‘approved’ way to be recognised as a punk band, just that I’m suspicious of ‘punk’ I hear through, say, Pitchfork, than I am through a mate, a Facebook post from a associate, or even PunkNews.org. Basically, media-first, rather than word-of-mouth, seems to be akin to hype.

And there are things that stink of hype in ‘the scene’ (don’t ask me to define it), as well. I mean, what the fuck is OFF! about? They suck. The Circle Jerks sort of sucked, too. And the only Black Flag album I’ve listened to that find remotely interest is Slip It In. Bad Brains? Bunch of homophobic wank – that first album is balls, too. Maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, enough with the bitching. Okay one more, but this is where I was leading – Cerebral Ballzy are an appalling, terrible, awful band. Hyped by the media as a return to hardcore’s roots. Bollocks is it – they may play hardcore music, but like thrash metal’s return in the mid ’00s, it’s devoid anything that made the original scene interesting. This time round, both thrash and hardcore, were shadows of their former self, devoid of reason, devoid of mission. Faux anger, faux nihilism, faux fun. They took the Beavis and Butthead laughter too seriously, and thought it was all a joke.

FIDLAR sum up the problem with these bands quite well. The opener features the chorus, ‘I drink cheap beer, so what? Fuck you.’ So what, indeed, so why should I fucking care?

But FIDLAR are a bit different. Unlike their market-buddies in Cerebal Ballzy, FIDLAR can write a good tune. The lyrics are embarrasing, but the noise is nice. This doesn’t mean I think much of their punk stance – that doesn’t work, that doesn’t sell for shit. But, as kids who like some loud guitars, they’re pretty good.

The sound is scratchy guitars playing mostly power chords with the occasional quite dumb lead, horesly shouted vocals, the bass does nothing interesting, and the drums are quiet in the mix, but are played loudly. No songs outstay their welcome – it’s all over pretty quick. And, as I said, they write some good pop tunes.

Rating: this ain’t punk. It’s basically some rock’n’roll-based indie with wannabe nihilistic lyricism. Again, this isn’t to say it’s bad – it just is what it is. But, I think enough time has passed to see past the marketting bollocks and actually find some enjoyment in it just as it is for itself.

White Suns – Totem (2014, The Flenser)

IT WAXES AND WANES

Jesus H Christ on a bike, what a fucking album. It’s not good practice just to say something is good – I get really fucking fed up with it whenever anybody else does it. And, it’s just not good practice. But, this album is mammoth. Totem makes a sound that conjures an image of someone trapped down a boarded-up, dried-up well: hollow and almost pitch-black but with the occasional ray of blaring, blinding white light casting through the cracks onto the poor bastard who has clawed their fingers to the knuckle trying to get out, who can now only screech and gnaw with his stumps.

Or, at least, that’s what it seems like to me. I could be wrong.

Noise guitars, vocals and drums is what’s on offer, but it’s not what you get, exactly. This is record is nihilistic at its very core.  It’s dark, dissonant, and doesn’t care, or maybe it just can’t care. The sound is one of atonalist feedback occasionally punctured by hectic, hateful, loud “songs”. Strangely sensitive relentless drums; occasionally howling yelling’s and occasionally alienated spoken word. Basically, the sound of intense screams piercing the sobbing of the person trapped down the well.

Some might call the noise soundscape-like, but I don’t think that, that is not it’s purpose. Its purpose seems more like to isolate the listener – you’re all alone on this trip, and this trip isn’t fun. Just you and the noise. What’s more, the monsters (songs?) that leap out of the darkness at you aren’t actually there – they’re figments of your imagination. But, perhaps that’s worse than them being real. These songs will scare the shit out of you and return to darkness before you know you’ve been bludgeoned. The ethereal noise they make is only the parts of your experience of the well when you’re awake.

But, there’s something absolutely compelling about it – you keep returning to it. The dark hole is a comfort, the monsters are your friends.

Really, the only apt response after listening to this record is to find yourself bleeding from your ears afterwards.

Rating: This is a nihilistic, noise rock based in despair. And I’ve probably over blown it, but this is nevertheless one hell of a record and easily one of the most stunning things this year. I’m saluting this one.

MY GOD’S FACE IS MADE OF MIRRORS

MY GOD’S FACE LOOKS LIKE MY FATHERS

Punk vs Indie (This Is Bob Dylan To Me)

It’s a stupid idea to weigh on this subject. That’s why I’m doing it. What is punk anyway?

Fuck you.

Vice’s music-tumour-like-growth, Noisey, have just published an article about the British punk scene being alive and well: http://noisey.vice.com/blog/the-british-punk-scene-is-alive-and-well (If you want to linked into the text, you do it).

Well, it’s alive, but I hesitate to call it well. And the article’s opening perspective is fair enough – if, again, open to the criticism that it wasn’t exclusively a working class thing (such class purity is always a myth). But I struggle to find the bands they list below punk. Fine, yes, most of them do strum their guitars with a load of fuzz pedals stomped on, and the delivery is certainly given, generally, with more aplomb with most indie.

And yes, some of them are fine, fine bands. And, yes, I could name other UK punk bands well worth mentioning (Broker (http://broker.bandcamp.com/), Wonk Unit (http://wonk-unit.bandcamp.com/), (Slaves https://www.facebook.com/slaves?fref=ts), and so on). And yes, Good Throb are a good call, but most of the bands are, well, not punk.

What do I mean by punk?

They’re punk rock, perhaps. But, their punk rock isn’t punk.

They’re mostly rock bands, essentially, who are perhaps seperated from much of the rest of a music through a enduring (and rather fantastic) DIY scene. And yes, punk bands do occasionally surface in these circles. I have nothing against the bands, but I guess I’m upset by the use of the word that has meant a lot to me. This is Bob Dylan to me.

(The Minutemen were an American punk band)

Punk is angry, shouty, weird, out there, and it’s anything with that attitude.

Loud, fuzzy guitars aren’t necessarily punk. There, I said it.

REevaluating TUMOR CIRCUS – Tumor Circus (1991, Alternative Tentacles)

Ahh, shit it. I’ll review something new one day. For now:

I’ve never been complete sure of what constitutes a ‘forgotten’ album, and I can’t be bothered to read someone else’s opinion about it. The first album I was introduced as ‘forgotten’ was Adam Ant’s Dirk Wear’s White Sox, but perhaps that’s only in light of his metamorphosis into left-field pop music. Otherwise, I could mention millions of forgotten albums, some of them genuinely brilliant which will only be remembered by those who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Not enough people, evidently. These albums will never fetch much on ebay, but that’s hopefully never the purpose of music.

Does Tumor Circus count as forgotten? It’s one of the few post-Dead Kennedy releases by Jello Biafra not to mention his name in the band name, and seems to crop up in conversations less than his collaborations with DOA, NoMeansNo, Melvins, and his other-post DK band (until the Guantanamo School of Medicine), Lard.

Biafra seemed to be in a flurry of activity around the late 80s, early 90s. During around these years we get two spoken word albums, two collaborations, Lard (a ‘band’ proper?), a few movie appearances, and this album (essentially a collaboration with the noise punk bands Steel Pole Bath Tub and Grong Grong). Maybe it just got buried under higher-profile things.

It’s perhaps Biafra’s only foray into what’s become known as noise rock, and musically it does seem to have siblings with the Jesus Lizard, Melvins (whatever they are), Big Black, etc. For the most part, there’s a scratchy, sludgy, gnarly guitar stretches over a jangly bass that drives and weaves everything together and heavy drums. Biafra’s very individual yelping ranting on top, needlesstosaybutsaidnonetheless.

And it’s, in parts, great. Some of it, such as Take Me Back or I’ll Drown Your Dog (Headlines) would not be out of place on the Dead Kennedys, and wouldn’t at all be an embarrassing addition, either. And such is Biafra’s individual style that it’ll always be hard to remove his voice from the surf-punk-hardcore of the DKs, but, while there is that, as well as element of punk rock that continues, the band makes enough of a move towards noise, atonalism and those alternative ’90s grooves to be distnct from DKs.

The opener, Hazing for Success (Pork Grind Confidential) is a nice lesson in noisy sludge, and is quite dramatic – a murkier, darker, swampier music template than Biafra tends to go. The trebly haze wilfulness of the guitars to refuse to conform to anything resembling a tight rhythm leads the sound more astray: it has that noise rock sloppiness which is so appealing. The mix is such that Biafra’s voice is also much more part of the noise, and his voice does go amiss sometimes, but that’s perhaps the mix rather than the intention.

Some excellent stuff happens in between – listen to it. The 15 minute closer, ‘Turn off the Respirator,’ ventures the Melvins way, yet with Biafra’s delivery taking it not so much post-apocalyptic as witnessing it as it happens. It’s almost John Lydon at his most-doom-laden. Perhaps it is what Biafra does at his best: witnessing of the apocalypse in slow motion, detailing it as it happens, while so few others notice it.

Rating: Bloody, yeah. Perhaps even  worth getting above his other, more straightforward collaborations apart from Lard and Mojo Nixon.

That’s it, George. It’s your turn, George. You know the rules, you know the rules.