Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Apostles - Blow It Up, Burn It Down, Kick It Till It Breaks


Ensconced within the same east London squatter community that The Mob inhabited were The Apostles who, whilst being one of the most annoyingly untalented of bands were also one of the most interesting. Since the summer of 1981, The Apostles had released a number of demo tapes of varying degrees of musical ineptitude, all distributed through the DIY network thrown up in the wake of Crass. The creative force behind the band was one Andy Martin, responsible also for a provocatively entertaining fanzine called Scum. Andy Martin and his fellow band members had been key players behind aspects not only of the Crass/Poison Girls-sponsored Anarchy Centre but also the Centro Iberico, before moving musical operations to the LMC venue in north London. They had also been instrumental in the success of the Zig Zag squat gig at which they had also performed.
From the very start of and throughout their activities and participation in the Anarcho Punk scene, however, they had never once declared themselves to be anarchists; whilst the very idea of pacifism was an anathema to them. In fact, going totally against the grain of Anarcho Punk, The Apostles openly advocated violent direct action and armed insurrection, proffering solidarity and support for Britain's very own home-grown urban guerrilla gang of the 1970s, the Angry Brigade. Underlining this respect they had for them, one of the Angry Brigade's most well-known slogans was adopted by The Apostles for the title of their d├ębut EP, released in the Spring of 1983.

Blow It Up, Burn It Down, Kick It Till It Breaks contained five tracks of ramshackle, muddy, lo-fi Punk that left little doubt that for The Apostles it was the sentiment rather than the medium that was the message. Wrapped in a Crass-influenced fold-out cover, the sleeve comprised a variety of essays under such titles as 'Why Punk is a total failure', criticisms of 'hypocritical hippy tramps', and instructions on how to break into a house for the purpose of squatting it and even how to construct an incendiary device.
Amongst songs entitled Proletarian Autonomy, and Fucking Queer, the stand-out track by far was Pigs For Slaughter, named after a militant, agitational, London-based Punk zine of the same name. This particular song was to prove highly significant, acting as a prophetic sign that things were soon to change.

Under the cloud of imminent nuclear armageddon it seemed that for some, wealth and the accumulation of it was all that mattered, giving rise to the young urban professional - otherwise known as the 'yuppies'. Brash, arrogant, self-centred high-flyers with no regard for anything apart from making money and flaunting it, these were the true Thatcherites. Prostrating themselves before the altar of laissez-faire capitalism and basking in the perversity of conservative politics, they were representatives of an almighty insult to all those living in poverty.
Dressed in their designer suits and armed with Filofaxes, their shallowness was reflected in their dubious taste in music: Phil Collins, Dire Straits, Level 42, even Lady Di's favourites Duran Duran. If ever they were to have heard a band like The Apostles, particularly a song of theirs such as Pigs For Slaughter, they would certainly have been perplexed, dumbfounded and mightily confused:
"Glue the locks of all the banks and butchers or kick them in. Spray a message of hate across a Bentley or smash it up. Go to Kensington and mug a rich bastard against a wall. Sabotage the meat in supermarkets, poison them all. We're taking no more, we're smashing down the door for this is class war."
If yuppies were the apostles of Thatcher, embodying Conservative policies on the rampage then The Apostles were the harbingers of a fresh attitude to combat that. Rather than being always on the defensive and simply reacting to Thatcher all the time, The Apostles were advocating that people be proactive and actually go on the attack:
"Put sugar in the petrol tank, deflate the tyres with six-inch nails. That's the way to wreck a Rolls, so get stuck in, it never fails. Blow it up! Burn it down! Kick it till it breaks!"

The Apostles had obviously been inspired by Punk and in particular by the whole DIY ethic of it. Their criticism of Punk therefore was not so much toward the idea but toward the way it was being interpreted and executed. The Apostles lived with, associated and collaborated with Punks but instead of allowing themselves to be boxed-in and restricted in their behaviour by so-called codes of Punk conduct regarding dress sense, musical style and politics, they were more interested in pushing the envelope and using Punk as a stepping stone towards an even greater freedom of expression. Punk dogma was not for them.
In the same light, this was how they viewed the so-called radical politics of Anarcho Punk and subsequently explained somewhat their respect for the Angry Brigade.

Emerging from the hippy/liberation/student protest movements of the late 1960s (the same milieu, of course, that members of Crass had come from), the Angry Brigade had embarked on a technically brilliant bombing campaign that called into question the effectiveness of 'acceptable' and more peaceful methods of protest as defined by the State and practised by the organized Left.
As well as exposing the inhibitions and limited desires of other radicals operating within the framework of legality, the Angry Brigade's bombing campaign exposed the vulnerability of the State, sending a shudder of fear and confusion through the upper echelons of the Establishment. If they had so wished, the Angry Brigade could so very easily have killed the people to whom they had delivered their bombs but the fact that they didn't kill anyone spoke volumes.
Compared to the Red Brigade in Italy, the Baader Meinhoff Group in Germany and certainly to any government, the Angry Brigade displayed a morality that was almost humbling. This didn't save them, however, from the intense criticism and condemnation they received from many of their supposed comrades - even from within the anarchist movement - who accused them of being provocateurs, vanguardists, adventurists and even 'a threat to the growth of the mass movement'.

Criticism, accusations and slander would also forever dog The Apostles so little wonder that apart from empathising with the Angry Brigade's tactics they might also feel a certain kinship with them on other levels. When Joe Strummer sported a home-made Red Brigade t-shirt at the Rock Against Racism carnival of 1978, he too was criticised and in his case accused of 'romanticising terrorist violence'. It was a pity Joe didn't choose instead to wear the symbol of the Angry Brigade (who he would surely have known about) for he could then at least have countered any criticism by stating that the Angry Brigade never killed anyone - unlike any British government. If only Joe had penned a song about the Angry Brigade, even? But alas he never did, leaving it instead for The Apostles to step up to the mark.

But for lack of musical prowess, the track Pigs For Slaughter could easily have been a classic song in the vein of Holiday In Cambodia by the Dead Kennedys or Babylon's Burning by The Ruts though it must be said that being poorly performed did nothing to diminish its significance. Rather than being a powerful declaration of intent, however, Pigs For Slaughter was instead a nod, a hint, a suggestion that there were other Anarcho Punk visions to be had besides the pacifist one.

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