Sunday, 18 February 2018

D&V - The Nearest Door


Equally interesting but in an altogether different way were D&V, who after gracing the stage at the Zig Zag squat gig the previous year had their début 7” EP released on Crass Records. Entitled The Nearest Door, as with most other Crass label releases it was produced by Penny Rimbaud, engineered by Jon Loder, and came wrapped in a black-and-white fold-out sleeve adorned with photomontage artwork by Gee Vaucher.

D&V were just two people, Andrew Leach on drums and Jeff Antcliffe on vocals; hence the name, D&V – drums and vocals. Hailing originally from Sheffield, they had upped sticks and moved to London, bedding down in the large squatter community in Hackney whereupon they had become actively involved in the Anarcho Punk scene.

In a similar fashion to Annie Anxiety and Andy T, they would often appear at gigs as a support act; one moment suddenly being there on stage doing their thing and the next moment gone like an urban guerilla hit-and-run outfit. Though a lot less avant garde than Annie or Andy T, they were still an unusual proposition due to not being a band in the traditional sense.
As shown on Bullshit Detector 1, Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant had at first started out as being just drums and vocals themselves, before adding guitars, additional vocals, art, film and everything else. Penny and Steve's drums and vocals incarnation, however, was but a preamble to fully-fledged Crass whilst D&V were the whole deal. To a point, at least.

Though being developed enough to have their music committed to vinyl, it was obvious that there was a lot more potential for growth in what D&V were creating. In many ways, The Nearest Door was the bare bones of what could be done with just the combination of drums and vocals, particularly when considering what was being done with Rap music in America at that time. 
It was embryonic.
Whilst being totally immersed in the Anarcho Punk scene, D&V weren't actually singing about the Bomb, the government, animal rights or anything of the like either but instead were looking inwards at themselves: “Life's what you make of it, lay back or get up and go. What you want and where you go, only you will ever know.
It was the stuff of thoughts and feelings. Or as Shakespeare put it, such stuff that dreams are made on...

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Omega Tribe - No Love Lost


Of course, being good musicians is not without some value, a case in point being Omega Tribe whose début album No Love Lost was a veritable Pop/Punk explosion, sounding like a bastard love child of early The Jam and Crass. Released on the Corpus Christi label, the album's cover was a curiously simple black and white drawing of a sea of hands grabbing at butterflys fluttering overhead that gave no hint of the musical contents within.

Omega Tribe had all the credentials to be a perfect Anarcho Punk band. They were thoughtful, generous, naturally anarchist and that summer of '83 had even been one of the headlining bands at the Stonehenge festival. Guitarist Pete Fender was also the son of Vi Subversa and they were good friends of both Crass and Conflict. Whilst being very capable of thrashing it up with the best of them, Omega Tribe's unique contribution to the party was their pop sensibility and an ear for a good melody as evidenced on the opening track of the album, Duty Calls.

Starting with a simple drum beat and a rather more intricate bass line, a vocal harmony of the kind not heard since when the Buzzcocks or the Undertones were at their best immediately elevated the song to a grander height where dual guitars careered around and teased each other like stunt kites zig-zagging in the sky.
Omega Tribe had a message to impart and were trying to do so to the best of their abilities. That message being that the world didn't have to be the way it was, that it could be far different and much, much better. Duty Calls was almost an inversion of Crass's Do They Owe Us A Living, where instead of Steve Ignorant arguing for the living that is owed to him, it is 'they' or in other words 'the system' that was demanding recompense for what it has given: "We've given you your whole life, your mortgage, car and wealth, we gave you lots of make-up to cover your real self. We gave you a loving husband, made you a passive whore, and now we think it's right for you to fight our futile war."
Omega Tribe's response might well have been predictable but not so in the way it was delivered: "System! System! We're not your pretty boys. System! System! We're not your little toys," sung with female vocals, and "System! System! We're not your pretty girls. System! System! We're not your little pearls," sung with male vocals.
Omega Tribe were refusing to accept their given lot in life and declining all that was on offer to them in terms of role play, consumerism, education and work. They were rejecting what Crass had called "the corporation deal" that had long ago been brokered and to which they were now meant to abide. Omega Tribe were saying 'No!': "Total war, it's in our minds, reject their dirty power."

Reiterating the fact that profit and greed are motivating forces behind all those in power, a re-recorded version of the track Profiteer, from the Angry Songs EP takes over the strings to fly the stunt kite guitars ever higher before gliding into a calmer jet stream in the form of the track Aftermath: "You can't do anything new, you've left it much too late. Now there's only earth and sea." Painting an end of the world scenario, the point being made in the song is that after nuclear war there are no winners. We all lose.

With guitars sounding as though they'd been plundered from the Siouxsie And The Banshees début album but with vocals of the Steve Ignorant variety coursing over them, another nightmare scenario is depicted on the track Freedom, Peace And Unity: "They'll spread nuclear power and use the waste to make a bomb, and when a war's declared they'll find a foe to drop it on. And the dying, ruined world will say 'My god, the State was wrong'."
Realists they may have been but Omega Tribe were also optimists who were all too willing to snatch victory and hope from the jaws of defeat and desperation: "Well, it hasn't happened yet, we've still got a choice if we stand up all together, unite and use our voice. Oppose all bigot leaders. Oppose all State violence. Oppose all those deadly bombs, stand up and break the silence. Anything can change if enough people shout. Freedom, peace and unity is what it's all about."

The nub of Omega Tribe's dissatisfaction with the world lay in it being demanded of them and everyone else to accept that violence and war were facts of life which of course, was an absolute lie. The truth of the matter was that humankind got along extremely well together when all things considered and without even thinking about it practised (as anarchist philosopher Prince Peter Kropotkin had pointed out) cooperation and mutual aid. It was the natural state of things. Violence was simply a question of power and semantics.
Most people (apart from possibly a few skinheads still and your common or garden psychopaths) chose not to go around hitting or threatening others and in the main it was only those holding positions of or lusting after power that were actually violent or even really capable of actual violence. For some reason this seemed to be mainly politicians and other authoritative types such as police, army and certain bosses. Violence is violence as Crass had correctly pointed out but there was a world of difference between fisticuffs at a Punk gig and the capability along with the willingness to destroy all life on Earth at the push of a button.
So, violence was not a fact of life at all and the lust for and the sanction of ultimate violence in the form of world destruction as an example, was a perversion. A twisted deviation from the norm. Who in their right mind would want to hold such power? Who in their right mind would want to support such power? Who in their right mind would want to threaten others? Who in their right mind would seek out the capability and have the will to murder? Practically every politician of every stripe and colour for sure but certainly not Omega Tribe: "Leaders lie and children die, we're dreaming of freedom in a nightmare world. Now we can't take much more. What the hell are they fighting for?"

Omega Tribe's strength lay in their ability to communicate such thoughts and ideas through an inviting and easily accessible Pop/Punk medium, given added impetus by their obvious convictions. With this in mind, it was rather strange that they chose to include a slightly clumsy spoken-word piece entitled Mother Of Cultivation as a way of opening up side two of their album. Not that it took anything away from the album as a whole but it didn't exactly add anything either, unlike the following track entitled My Tears.

Already viewed by their 'fan base' as a favourite when played live, My Tears stood out from their set due to it not being weighed down by any Punk trappings. It was the song in which Omega Tribe flew free, enabling them to fully come into their own. Pirouetting as though it was dancing with itself before a mirror, the song's joyful tunefulness and uninhibited emotion was infectious. Concerning itself with the Falklands War, it was proof positive that such subjects could be sugar-coated without losing any seriousness of intent: "I've shed my tears, I've voiced my fears and now it's up to you. Stand down from war and all it's for, show what you can do. Show that callous, brutal lot who sit and make our laws, that we don't need their vicious rules and we don't want their wars."

It was clear right from their first appearance on Bullshit Detector 2 with the track Nature Wonder that Omega Tribe were on an upward trajectory. If they were that good in demo tape form then what might they be like after further rehearsals? Where might they possibly end up going? A re-recorded version of Nature Wonder on the album suggested that whilst rehearsing and playing live had obviously helped to polish their sound and make them more tighter as a group, the real achievement was in the expansion of their musical palette.
Nature Wonder was a fine example of political Pop Punk of which from the start they were clearly very good at but it was the following track on the album, entitled Pictures, that showed their horizons were in no way limited. Incorporating folk-tinged British psychedelia with fuzzboxed Punk thrash, their chiming guitars soared over and collided with 1980s Anarcho realism in a display of endearing enthusiasm and hope.

Whilst a band like Conflict were undoubted masters of their Punk domain and chose to remain firmly within it, the musical ambitions of Omega Tribe lay somewhere else over the rainbow. The essential point being, however, not the differences between Conflict and Omega Tribe but the commonalities.
Both bands were interested in ideas and in ways of changing the world, and both bands were supportive of all kinds of good causes as well as being supporters of each other. As Omega Tribe had declared earlier on the album: "Freedom, peace and unity is what it's all about. Freedom, peace for you and me."
The album ends on a final high note with the track Man Made, with Omega Tribe doing what they did best in the form of a tuneful, uplifting Anarcho Punk workout, wearing their Crass influence and their hearts very much on their sleeve.

No Love Lost was another classic album of its age that like the début albums from The Mob and Zounds would stand the test of time and invite repeat listenings. What Omega Tribe's lasting influence might be was hard to predict but in the here and now they were a very welcome member of the Anarcho Punk ranks.
Only time would tell if they might eventually move toward a more mainstream audience but in possibly doing so would it mean them losing their original audience? Would a more mainstream audience even want them if it meant having undiluted Anarcho politics bound tightly in with pop tunes?
It was a very interesting question but then Omega Tribe were a very interesting band.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Apostles - Rising From The Ashes


Inspirational in their own way were The Apostles, who with their second EP - going by the title Rising From The Ashes - helped to further demystify the whole process of making a record. In amongst the various essays on the multiple fold-out covers that the record came in was a description of how they came to finance their first EP (which basically involved the selling of Andy Martin's record collection, along with working at various jobs and going without tobacco and new clothes for a year) plus a complete breakdown of studio costs. It was neither easy or cheap as the Desperate Bicycles had once exclaimed but it was possible, with a need for any musical talent not entering into it at all.

There were six tracks in total on Rising From The Ashes dealing with subjects such as racism, disability, the Stoke Newington Eight (otherwise known as the Angry Brigade) and class war.
'We support lock glueing, bricking, arson and rioting and yes, we do practice what we preach,' said the sleeve-notes but for all that, arguably the best song on the EP was actually a sort of love song. Swimming In The Sea Of Life, sung by Apostles guitarist Dave Fanning was a naggingly memorable, roughly-hewn gem with more than a nod to the Velvet Underground at their despondent best.

Did it matter that the whole record was badly played and badly produced? Up to a point, yes, because if the songs had been better played and better produced then the whole record would have been far more satisfying. But then if The Apostles had actually waited until they were accomplished musicians or until they had more money to spend on studio time then they may never have released anything ever? On top of this, in all likelihood The Apostles would also have been far less creative, far less productive and probably far less interesting...

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Kronstadt Uprising - Unknown Revolution


Through the Stop The City action, Punk had for the time being redeemed itself but how it stood in the Autumn of 1983 was as a very different beast from that of the summer of 1977. A telling sign of just how much it had changed coming with the announcement in September that Mick Jones had been thrown out of The Clash. Even though Joe Strummer was going to continue with a Mark 2 version of the band, to all intent and purpose it meant that The Clash had split up but the real point was that it didn't actually matter.
Without any doubt, The Clash were one of the most iconic Punk bands of all time but by late '83 they were of little relevance, least of all to Punk. As proto-Oi!/Punk band Cock Sparrer had asked on their 1983-released Shock Troops début album in regard to Strummer, Rotten, Jimmy Pursey, Julie Burchill et al: Where are they now?
The true worth of Punk was now only to be found far outside the mainstream where the possibility of commercial success was not even a consideration. Punk was once again and probably further beyond the dictates of the media and any other Establishment-sided or would-be authority than ever before, explaining perhaps why so many (Anarcho) Punk rockers had connected so readily with Stop The City.
Punk's core had hardened and in many ways had returned to it's roots, or rather, it was becoming what it had always promised to be.

For the music industry, Punk was of no value and had long ago moved on in search of the next big thing but for those not in thrall to the music press and its attempt to foist the likes of Aztec Camera, Echo And The Bunnymen, and Sade upon 'the market', Punk was still the most honest, immediate and up-for-it culture around. Populated by drunkards and ne'er-do-wells it may have been but when it kicked in with a certain record, gig or fanzine there was nothing else to compare.
Out in the sticks and in backwater towns in particular, when a local group formed and released a record the buzz, hope and inspiration to others that it often gave was incalculable. Such was the case with Kronstadt Uprising and their Spiderleg Records début release, Unknown Revolution.

Taken from an event in Russia in 1921, the name of the band in itself was even a pointer to an education. Kronstadt was the name of a Russian naval base, the sailors there being some of the most loyal and resolute supporters of the Bolshevik revolution who twice already had rescued the revolution by helping to defeat and see off counter-revolutionary forces both internal and external. They were, as described by Trotsky, the "pride and flower of the revolution".
Having helped make their homeland safe after years of conflict and civil war, the Kronstadt sailors could see no reason to not return to the original 1917 program and carry the revolution through to its ultimate conclusion. All they were met with, however, was a new political and social elite holding sway over a starving population being kept in check by State terror.

"What has happened to 'Power to the people'?", they asked. "What has happened to 'equality'? To all the promises of destroying privilege?"
By turning such slogans against the Bolsheviks and calling for free elections and freedom of speech, the Kronstadt sailors immediately marked themselves out as a threat to the new ruling Party. Trotsky commanded the rebellious crews to lay down their weapons and submit to the orders of his government or face being shot "like partridges", an ultimatum the proud sailors could only refuse. Trotsky kept his word and after launching huge forces of his Red Army against the city of Kronstadt, the sailors were slaughtered.
To this very day, there are many on the Far Left who argue that the quelling of the Kronstadt rebellion was a necessity to safe-guard the greater Bolshevik revolution but for others - particularly Anarchists - it was the nail in the coffin of the Russian Revolution; the proof that the revolution had failed and had thrown up instead just another set of rulers. Or as Crass put it: "Just another set of bigots with their rifle sights on me."

In terms of Punk, the Kronstadt rebellion could be applied metaphorically to the Anarcho Punk movement and its desire to carry through and make good the original promises of the Punk 'revolution'. Kronstadt Uprising, then, was a brilliant name for an Anarcho Punk band.
Based in Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, they had first appeared on the Bullshit Detector 2 LP with the song Receiver Deceiver but by the time of their Unknown Revolution release, not only had their guitarist taken over lead vocal duties - in itself precipitating a huge change in their sound - but they had also somehow transformed into a burning bright ball of coiled intensity.
With the assistance of Flux Of Pink Indians and Jon Loder at Southern Studios, Kronstadt Uprising had harnessed their natural energy and delivered it to the world in the form of four perfectly crafted songs of raw ferocity. Southend-on-Sea should have been proud to have bred such sons capable of creating such a record able to vent such anger.

The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long, however, and before many people actually realised how good their record was, Kronstadt Uprising tripped and fell forwards into playing a more traditional Johnny Thunders-style of rock'n'roll that sadly never touched the same heights as the Anarcho Punk displayed on their début release.
Not that this was of too much importance because what they had already done with Unknown Revolution was to create something that would forever stand as being inspirational in a variety of ways: From getting kids to form bands, write fanzines, put on gigs or even to pick up and read a book on the history of the Russian Revolution. Which was a lot more than what Aztec Camera, Echo And The Bunnymen, or Sade ever did...

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Stop The City '83


The total disregard for life by those in authority was underlined on September 1st of 1983 when a Korean civilian airliner en route from New York to Seoul via Alaska was shot down by Russian jet fighters, killing all 269 passengers and crew. After initially denying all knowledge of the incident, Russia soon admitted responsibility, claiming that the plane had been on a spying mission. Whether this was true or if the airliner had simply strayed into Soviet airspace by accident was beside the point because the bottom line of it was that hundreds of entirely innocent men, women and children had been murdered for absolutely no reason at all.
For the next few weeks the drums of war beat louder than ever before as anti-Soviet sentiment escalated and Cold War paranoia grew ever more starker. Exactly how close was the world at that moment to all out war? Who knew? Precisely how many minutes were there to midnight on the nuclear clock? How could anyone tell? For those who had been on board Korean Flight 007, World War Three had arrived already whilst all that the rest of the world could do was to watch and hold its breath as the two great super powers squared-up to each other in a frightening game of propaganda and pro-nuclear weapons rhetoric.
As identified by Crass, in general but particularly under such circumstances as these, marching from one point to another in a CND demo was clearly not sufficient but what else could be done? How could any impact be made upon the power games that the ruling elite indulged? In fact, how could any protest against anything at all be bettered and made more effective?

By setting up permanent camp outside the missile base, the women of Greenham Common had already pointed to a way that went beyond the confines of an orthodox protest march, proving to be hugely effective in raising awareness as well as being a constant thorn in the government's side. Restricting the camp to women only had been a shrewd political ploy and whenever calling out for support of an action there had always been a good, positive response.
The Cruise missiles, however, were still on their way and now as passenger planes were being blown out of the sky it was obvious that something more needed to be done not to replace existing methods of protest but to add to and if possible to move them forward.

It was around this time that leaflets and posters started to appear advertising a 'Carnival Against War, Oppression and Exploitation' to be held in the financial centre of London. Produced by a small anarchist/peace activist group called London Greenpeace and distributed via anarchist, peace and animal rights networks, the leaflets declared September the 29th the day to Stop The City.
For such a simple yet inspired idea, it was hard to understand why it had never been thought of and attempted before? The City, after all, was where the profit from and investment into war was calculated and collated. It was the base of the Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, and practically every major financial institution in Britain and according to one of the leaflets was 'where the arms race starts, oppression is financed and exploitation organised'.
Standing in proud isolation from the rest of London, the City had its own mayor, its own unique electoral system and even its own bespoke territorial police force. In effect, it was a state within a state from where real power was operated.

On being distributed, the leaflets immediately set the cat amongst the pigeons, eliciting a complete retreat away from the idea by the CND leadership. Apart from having their own national demonstration due to take place the following month and not wishing anything to deflect from that, the decision to advise their members not to attend the Stop The City carnival underlined an awful truth: The CND leadership were more concerned about their public image and how they might be depicted in the Right-wing press than in trying to move the boundaries of the peace movement forward. They still believed that the government would listen to reason, particularly if they acted responsibly and presented themselves as reasonable people.
Because Stop The City was going to be unregulated and without any clearly defined structure the CND leadership felt it would be too unpredictable, potentially leading to a clash with the police. To have a protest take place in the heart of the financial district of London might also lead to antagonism, not only from the police but also from those who worked there as any disruption to 'business as usual' could have significant impact on the diverse range of business interests located there...

So would anyone take heed of the call out to come to the City on the 29th or would everyone simply follow the edicts of the CND leadership and wait for the upcoming national demo where they could once again be herded from one place to another? Come the day, over 1500 people responded in the positive, descending upon the City like a tribe of ancient Celts emerging from the wilds of Britain to lay siege to the Roman fortress. In stark contrast to the pinstriped suited orderliness of the City workers, these barbarian invaders dressed in their Punk rags and jumble sale hand-me-downs radiated an unrepentant unruliness, signalling that something highly unusual was taking place.

For as long as anyone could care to remember, the City had always been there, viewed as a great British institution and a central and essential engine room of the economy. Few people, however, had any real understanding of how it actually functioned, most only ever seeing about it when the rising and falling of stocks and shares values was being reported on the news. The Financial Times newspaper was perceived as being 'serious' and held an important position in the world of media though the only people who ever seemed to buy it were those directly involved in finance themselves. The City, then, was a self-contained world that was never queried and certainly never challenged, not by the wider public nor by those employed there in any capacity.
The workings of the City were just part and parcel of consensus normality along with the business of war and arms manufacturing, the slaughter of Argentinian conscripts, Third World hunger, pollution, vivisection, and so on. It was in the City that the profit from these 'tenets of normality' was calculated and managed; meaning that behind all the ills of the world sat gangs of usually white, rich, public school-educated, middle-aged men in suits benefiting from the suffering and misery of others and not giving a fuck.

A year earlier, those very same people had played host to the Falklands war victory parade but now they were having visited upon them a reality entirely at odds with their own. The City of London was now encountering what was in effect a section of the Crass audience. Having last congregated in a show of force at the Zig Zag squat gig, that same audience along with other fellow ideological travellers had once again gathered though this time not to celebrate, entertain or to be entertained but to put to test their collective power.

As the crowds of protesters gathered at the designated meeting points, an air of kinship and solidarity pervaded. Everyone knew that the other people around them were all there for the same reason, that being to stop the City. The city gents on the other hand were all somewhat disconcerted because after all, they were only trying to earn an honest day's pay for an honest day's work and what possible objection could anyone have to that?
The police, meanwhile, were totally confused and running around like headless chickens. If this was a demonstration that was taking place, should there not have been a start and end point to it all? Should there not have been a route to follow with some sort of rally at the end where speeches were given? Ideally somewhere out of the way such as in Hyde Park?
At the same time, the protesters found themselves in a strangely surprising position. By simply abandoning the normal mode of demonstrating they had suddenly entered a previously uncharted arena of autonomy and new possibilities. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the streets of the City appeared to be theirs for the reclaiming.

Like swarms of angry bees, large sections of the protesters started to spontaneously break away from the main gatherings and to charge through the streets, halting traffic and spreading general mayhem. Unable to decide whether to remain watching over the main crowds or to follow and try to keep up with the breakaway groups, the police were left floundering.
Mass chants of "1, 2, 3, 4 - we don't want your fucking war!" and "Human freedom, animal rights, one struggle, one fight!" echoed through the streets as anarchist black flags were raised and Union Jack flags burnt. Slogans were daubed onto walls and pavements as restaurants, banks and fur shops were stink-bombed. Under cover of the confusion, individual protesters set about glueing locks and damaging property whilst more openly, leaflets explaining the reasons behind the protest were handed out to the City workers. Large numbers headed to the Guildhall where the preparations for the election of the City's new mayor were taking place, causing disruption to the proceedings. Drums were banged, whistles blown, songs sung, paint bombs thrown, alarms set off and offices invaded. Organised chaos was the order of the day.

As the day wore on, even larger numbers made their way to the Stock Exchange in a bid to blockade the whole building although by this time the police had called in substantial reinforcements and were in no mood for further cat and mouse games. Throughout the day they had been dispensing regular punches and kicks upon the protesters, dragging them down and holding them in near strangleholds but at the Stock Exchange they fully let rip, riding their horses into the crowds whilst pushing and shoving violently. In the end these methods served them well, eventually forcing the protesters to scatter and thus disperse, bringing to a stumbling conclusion the day's events.

It was apparent that something very significant had occurred that day. Something pivotal not only in regard to the meaning of Punk (and Anarcho Punk in particular) but to the whole subject of power, control and political protest. It was the day that a definitive break was made from Punk being a musical genre grounded in image, attitude, drugs and rhetoric to a genuinely physical street level political presence, able and willing to engage in direct confrontation with those behind the levers of global economic control.
Despite the reservations Crass had about the state of Punk as described on Yes Sir I Will, Punk had in fact always been a furious womb, birthing all kinds of bawling, kicking, screaming, malformed, even stillborn offspring and now thanks in no small part to the efforts of Crass, Punk had come of age and had proved itself worthy.

Could Crass ever have envisaged when first bashing out practice versions of Owe Us A Living in their shed that it would lead to them being part and parcel of a street protest action like Stop The City? Likewise, when the Pistols called Bill Grundy a "fucking rotter" or when Joe Strummer in his squat penned White Riot, could they have imagined that it might years later lead to an attempted blockade of the London Stock Exchange? Hardly. Not that it was likely that come the day Rotten and Strummer et al were even aware of Stop The City though that didn't really matter because the lineage was there and they had already played their part even if they didn't know it.
In a similar fashion, it's unlikely that when London Greenpeace first floated the idea of Stop The City that they could have anticipated it would in the main be a horde of Punk rockers including the like of Disorder from Bristol with their 'Make Homebrew Not War' banner who would respond to the call.

Within the context of Punk, Stop The City was a high watermark but within the context of political protest it was equally significant. By simply rejecting and stepping outside of prescribed avenues of protest the Stop The City demonstrators had thrown off the shackles of conformity and touched a hitherto unrecognised freedom. No-one had imagined how easy it would be to confound the police, leaving them scrambling to regain control whilst the streets of the City were rampaged through. The freedom touched was that of acting without permission. To be out of control. A freedom that could not be asked for or given but only taken.
Permission hadn't been sought to hold a carnival against war, oppression and exploitation in the City because, of course, it would never have been granted, if only for the fact that it might incur the rights of the City workers to go about their daily business. For a large number of those workers, however, their daily business was in fucking up the world so in the end it came down to whose rights and whose freedom should prevail? The freedom touched by the protesters, then, was not a universal freedom but like all freedoms was one to be fought over.

At the end of the day, through use of sheer force the police saved the Stock Exchange from being blockaded and prevented the City being stopped though that's not to say that victory was all theirs. On perhaps a more significant level, the Stop The City demonstrators had thrown open a door and revealed a whole new realm where power and control could not only be effectively challenged but potentially overturned.
Behind that door lay a series of other doors and Stop The City was but the first tentative steps along a path that like the urban riots of 1981 could potentially lead to.... Where? Insurrection? Revolution? Anarchy in the UK? Who knew? Who could say? Though wherever it was, it was a place that those in authority wished to prevent people from reaching but where people again and again would keep on trying to get to...

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Rudimentary Peni - Death Church


And then there was Rudimentary Peni with their début LP, Death Church.
Having come to the attention of a wide audience the year previously with their Crass label release, Farce, there still remained an air of intrigue about Rudimentary Peni nurtured by the fact that they rarely played live (and then only in London) and that there were no available photographs of them. On top of this, their name still managed to unsettle and perplex which was more than could be said of any other Punk band name.
Released on the Corpus Christi label, Death Church arrived in a regular Crass-style fold-out sleeve covered in artwork that looked absolutely incredible, like some excavated alien Quatermass object. The drawings that had festooned their first 7" EPs had been elaborately eye-catching but now given a much larger canvas in the form of a 12" album sleeve to work on, guitarist and vocalist Nick Blinco had utilised it to full effect, cramming it with his meticulously detailed art. Demented, macabre, twisted, hellish, disturbed and disturbing. Rife with religious allusions, like Hieronymous Bosch as interpreted by a lunatic.

Enclosed with the LP came an insert containing thoughts on a variety of topics including animal vivisection in schools, the falsity of parental love, and advice on leaving home; along with quotes from the Pistols and The Clash that in hindsight revealed a glaring hypocrisy, plus a piece lambasting Punk gigs for not only being a waste of time but for being populated by 'prats masquerading as stereotypes'.
Pertinent to Anarcho Punk specifically was a post-mortem of the Crass/Poison Girls-sponsored Anarchy Centre, attributing the cause of its death to rampant drug abuse, petty theft and vandalism. The final stake through the Centre's heart being when the landlord banned the putting on of gigs there, subsequently cutting off the main form of income from which the rent was paid: 'One thing that emerges from this,' the article and by extension Rudimentary Peni concluded 'Is that all you people out there have a lot to learn about yourselves before 'Anarchy' or whatever you want to call it will ever get a real chance to work.'
All this before the record had even been played.

Starting with a very slow and very simple, lone bass line; the drums, guitar and vocals suddenly crash in all together and the first song begins: "Three quarters of the world are starving, the rest are dead. Overdosed on insensitivity, nail varnished to crosses."
Like a psychotic Discharge haiku, the track 1/4 Dead depicts life as a tormented hell on earth, with Nick Blinco's strangled vocals sounding as if trapped within a glass cage of noise. The words are sung once then propelled by the speeding up of the music are repeated but at double the pace and after just 82 seconds in total the song is over and the listener has entered the world of Rudimentary Peni.

"It's escapist shit of a feeble kind, a fucked up institution for fucked up minds. Holy matrimony is a blissful myth wholly based on tradition, wholly based on bullshit." So begins the track Blissful Myth, a bitter and venomous swipe against marriage.
Because so very little information about Rudimentary Peni was available it was being left to search within their songs to find clues as to what had brought them to their unique but clearly troubled state. Were they the end result of having dysfunctional parents and unhappy childhoods? Had bearing witness to the failed marriages of their parents led them to their apparent disgust with the concept of wedlock as described in Blissful Myth?
On their Penis Envy album, Crass too had taken a jack hammer to the institution of marriage but theirs was an almost ideological argument whilst Rudimentary Peni's view sounded as though it was born from personal experience: "Think you love each other, think you're so in touch but it's the shit institution you love so much. You love so much."

The track The Psycho Squat offered further clues about the path that had led Rudimentary Peni to where they were: "Couldn't stand dummy and maddy no more, that's why I had to go to the psycho squat." So was it via the squat scene that had led them to falling in with The Mob and The Apostles, and to being involved with the Anarchy Centre? Was Nick Blinco even referring to himself or to a fictional character? Whoever it was, the squat Punk experience didn't appear to have been a very good one for them: "Now the fleas carry blood about my body, the whining spiel goes round and round. The mass debate never ends."

Mass debate or masturbate? There was so much wordplay going on that it was sometimes difficult to tell. If it was indeed 'mass debate' then what might any debate have been centred around? Punk culture, possibly? That always seemed to be a good one and a topic of debate Rudimentary Peni held strong views on as detailed in the track Rotten To The Core: "Have you realised that rock stars always seem to lie so much? John Lydon once said he cared but he never really gave a fuck. Said he'd use the money he made so that people could have somewhere to go but now he lives in the USA and snorts coke after the show... Joe Strummer said he'd use the money he made to set up a radio station to make the airwaves full of something more than shit. Have you noticed we're still waiting?"
Or would any mass debate have been centred more around higher ideas such as the forlorn state of mankind as expounded upon in the track Poppycock: "Poppies are the opium of the people, you prefer poppies to people. You take pride in genocide. There are no poppies in the USA, there are no poppies in the USSR. Poppy monopoly in the UK. Poppy monopoly OK..."
Or perhaps it would have been centred around life, its meaning and everything as depicted in the track Cosmic Hearse: "Floating round the universe, fucking in our cosmic hearse. You know time don't ever end, can't evade those dead Zen men. You're the meat in big Buddha's dinner..."

There's a good argument for art never having to explain itself and that particular argument sat perfectly well with Rudimentary Peni. Like Conflict had done on their To A Nation Of Animal Lovers EP, Rudimentary Peni had brought under control their previously frenzied and delirious blasts of noise as presented on their 7" EPs and now held total mastery over their craft. It was now as if the songs on their album were like a pack of savage dogs brought to heel, held by firmly gripped leashes that at any given moment could be loosened, allowing the dogs to break free and attack indiscriminately.
By exerting such control, rather than losing any of their power the songs had instead become even more intense and even more volatile. More than any other band affiliated with Crass, Rudimentary Peni were artists - master craftsmen within their hardcore Punk field - outsider artists - carving out sonic sculptures, composing provocative poems and drawing extraordinary pictures. They were also under no obligation to explain themselves to anyone, which simply made them even more fascinating and even more disturbing.

One subject carried over from their Farce EP that required no explanation was their atheism which still boiled over with sheer disgust. In the track Army Of Jesus, profane and twisted images are evoked as in: "Stone the crows and fuck the pigs and pass the ammunition to Jesus, the holy ghost in mohawk hair has crept in every fucking where. Ten tons of the babe's foreskin and fifty thousand skeletons of Jesus... Though the world ate all your shits, they're still allowed to starve. The Turin shroud can't cover up your evil smelling cloud. Deliver us from Jesus, forever and ever. Bloody men."

Hope - and indeed, love - lay not with organized religion but within the individual self, the first step toward any notion of this being the realization of the total horror of life. Religion was nothing but the enforcement of that horror through apathy, lies and indeed, hate "in the warfare state".
As conveyed by Crass, saying 'No' was a good starting point and whilst Rudimentary Peni were echoing this, they were also underlining the necessity of having to face yourself, as relayed in the track Nothing But A Nightmare: "The pile of shit inside your brain in which you live is not your own, you live out all the lies you're given. You're too scared to face yourself, so you're too scared to please yourself. Living in your dream-world is nothing but a nightmare."
But even more important than this was the requisite to love yourself, as stated in the track The Cloud Song: "Have you ever realised you must love yourself? If you don't, how can you love anybody else?"
Whilst in the track Blasphemy Squad, following a chorus of "Never forget, never ever forgive. Wash your mouth out with pope," they declare "No need to feed from corpus Christi. No need to cower, inside you is the power."
How Rudimentary Peni must have relished the idea of naming their LP Death Church, and then having it released on a label called Corpus Christi. How very apt. How very, very fitting.

Another subject that needed no explanation was their vegetarianism. Eating meat was simply wrong, with no reason and no excuse for it. Not only did meat mean murder but it meant also murderous cruelty perpetuated by greed, abdication of responsibility and a paper thin illusion of tradition: "What makes you want this torn ripped flesh so desperately?" they ask in the track Pig In A Blanket "Are you worthy of having this suffering brought about to fuel your greed?"
Whilst in the track Flesh Crucifix, they conjure up one of their most horrific, startling and unsettling images of all: "Carnivores are like tombstones. Cremating animal carcasses, cremating animal shit coffins. Carnivores are like flesh tombstones." Think about it.

The album ends with the song entitled Dutchmen, which is presented as an almost straight narrative describing the murder of 20,000 Dutch men, women and children inside a British concentration camp. Whilst the British were guilty of their murder, the Dutch men were guilty themselves of the murder of Zulus, who in turn were guilty of tribal murders: "It's just the same in Northern Ireland, Poland and Afghanistan," they declare "They're just fighting for the right to enforce their own oppression through the bigotry and blindness of their moral law."
In the world as described by Rudimentary Peni, morality was a moveable feast. A feast that was moving all the time.

Immediately after the release of Death Church, rumours circulated that one of the band members was dying of cancer and that the album was Rudimentary Peni's swansong - their last will and testament - making it all the more poignant and all the more meaningful. It turned out that the rumours were true and that bassist Grant, did indeed have lung cancer.
From such a fraught scenario a monument to desperate living had been wrought that would forever stand as an unorthodox paean to the spirit of freedom. By good fortune, Grant in the end overcame his illness but many years would pass before Rudimentary Peni would ever play together again.
In the meantime, all that was left were the songs and the highlighting of the very simple fact that life was very fragile and very precious. A very simple fact that seemed to escape the vast part of humankind but in particular seemed to pass all those in positions of power...

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Lack Of Knowledge - Grey


Sometimes it seemed that whatever a Crass-affiliated band did they just couldn't win, a case in point being Lack Of Knowledge who having played at the Zig Zag squat gig subsequently had a four-track EP released on the Crass label, called Grey.
Whilst The System were criticised for being 'Crass clones', Lack Of Knowledge were criticised for not being Crass enough, and labelled instead as Joy Division copyists. If the truth be told, they undoubtedly did sound a bit like Joy Division although this was exactly what made them all the more interesting. Lack Of Knowledge were Joy Division as engineered by John Loder and produced by Penny Rimbaud, inhabiting the DIY world of Anarcho Punk.

Outside of the London squat/independent venue scene very little was actually known about them as a band, making their Grey EP oddly enigmatic. Wrapped in a sleeve adorned with nothing but black and white photos of tower blocks and bleak city landscapes, the record conveyed a sense of bareness and indeed, greyness.
When it came to the songs, even though the lyrics were sung in a conventional manner rather than shouted (or screamed) the structure of them eschewed such things as verses, choruses and middle-eights, and instead were short pieces of prose or vignettes mostly dwelling on apocalyptic reveries and future nightmare visions.
Lack Of Knowledge were square pegs in round holes, not really sitting comfortably alongside the likes of Dirt or Flux but then just as equally not fitting in with any of the Factory label bands either. In short, they were a perfect Anarcho band.