Saturday, 15 April 2017

Conflict - It's Time To See Who's Who


The intention of spreading awareness was an honourable one shared by a good many bands at that time of which Conflict would happily have included themselves. Garry Bushell had from the very start spotted the potential of Conflict to be a bridge between the Crass camp and the Oi! brigade and from there spreading their Anarcho message to an even wider audience.
'We want to further people's consciousness. And we want to use whatever means are possible,' as Conflict stated in a pamphlet included with their Live At Centro Iberico EP 'We want to reach people by whatever means we can - papers, television, radio, music, the lot.'
Their ambition was evident as was their energy and passion as witnessed during their live performances, along with their commitment as shown by their solidarity with the DIY Punk scene. Conflict readily offered their support to anyone aligning themselves with Anarcho Punk and in turn the Anarcho Punk elders such as Poison Girls, Crass and Southern Studios owners John and Sue Loder offered their support to Conflict.

The obvious next step in maintaining their momentum was for Conflict to release their début LP which they duly did in April of 1983 on the Corpus Christi label. Affiliated to Crass, Corpus Christi had been set up to allow bands total artistic freedom regarding their records. In particular, this meant they were free from Crass label design 'restrictions' and that John Loder instead of Penny Rimbaud would decide on who and what to release.
For Conflict at that time, artistic control meant releasing their LP in a full-colour gate-fold sleeve, the artwork and lettering beautifully designed by one Bernard Chandler, future bassist of Poison Girls. Entitled It's Time To See Who's Who, the LP was essentially the live set that Conflict had been touring around with, finally rendered coherently audible by Crass bassist Pete Wright on production duties.

When playing live, Conflict would create a blistering vortex of noise with vocalist Colin Jerwood - eyes popping, veins bulging - shouting for all his worth at the centre. On initial hearing of the LP, what surprised was how tuneful a lot of the songs actually were and what with the lyrics transcribed onto the sleeve, what exactly Conflict were raging about.
One subject known to be very close to Conflict's heart was animal liberation, represented most powerfully on the track Meat Means Murder. Flux Of Pink Indians were the only other band who had ever really focussed on vegetarianism and animal abuse, and even then had still not quite managed to disassociate the subjects from hippy and middle class connotations. Being solidly working class and thoroughly unpretentious hard bastards, Conflict were endorsing vegetarianism with a credibility it had never had before: "Can't you see that juice is blood? From new born throats red rivers flood. Blood from young hearts, blood from veins. Your blood, their blood, serves the same."
This was a subject that Conflict would never abandon, encouraging many of their listeners to not only give up eating meat but to become militantly active against the perpetrators and beneficiaries of animal abuse, animal experimentation and animal exploitation.

Conflict's natural-born inclination towards anti-authoritarianism manifested itself in them shouting down officialdom and power in all its forms, whether it be the government, the police, the law, the Bomb, the music business, the media or whatever. Conflict were natural-born anarchists, with nothing studied about their anarchism, nothing scholarly or gleaned from text books just an instinctive, gut-level understanding of right and wrong.
Equally important, unlike a significant proportion of the Punk fraternity as represented by The Exploited, for example, Conflict weren't at all interested in numbing themselves to the world through drugs and noise. Instead, Conflict were very much Punks of a positive inclination, offering much needed inspirational attitude: "The Left-wing manifesto, the Right-wing sham, tell us we can't but I know we can. They tell us we can't but I tell you we can. Stuff your lies, I know we can. We can!"

In the track Exploitation, The Exploited and their fine but amusing appearance on Top Of The Pops with their song Dead Cities is referred to as an example of how unrepresentative such bands were of their actual audiences, serving in the end to be of service only to the music business: "Yeah, we live in dead cities and the streets are grey, but I don't need Top Of The Pops to make me think that way. I can see this rebellion on my tv screen, but no sign of a future for you and me."
Conflict’s intention was to set themselves apart and to actively oppose the machinations of the music business through both word and deed, taking the same stance toward politics and social justice. In this respect, demonstrating in protest marches and involvement in direct action was just as important as playing a gig or releasing a record - if not more so.

There were high expectations of Conflict's début album but when it came to it, the album acted more than anything else as a way of cementing their presence as a band. Conflict needed to forge their own essentially anarchist identity not only within the realm of Anarcho Punk but within a wider social context. So, not only were they rejecting both Left and Right-wing politics as any good anarchist might but rejecting also all ideas of historical English identity: "Great Britain thinks it leads the world so civilised, pure and free. Great Britain doesn't lead fuck all, Great Britain shit, you don't fool me. Smashing Argies, Falklands ours. Falklands ours, what a con. We ain't even got a place to stick our arses on."

Many of the songs on It's Time To See Who's Who seemed to be more about dealing with specific subjects so as to get them dealt with and out of the way, so as to enable the band to move on to other territory. Along the way a veritable storm of bluster and fury was being whipped up and this in turn was becoming Conflict's most prominent feature. Like all the other Anarcho Punk bands, Conflict were saying 'No' but in their own unequivocal and unerring manner: "Fuck you! Fuck off!" they were roaring "Fuck you fucking fuck off!"

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