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Noel's Straight Hedge

Straight Hedge! Noel Gardner Reviews Punk & HC For March
Noel Gardner , March 17th, 2021 09:00

Rimming disasters, Cockney piano and countryfied garage rock expectorations... Noel Gardner probes the boundaries of punk rock once again

Home page portrait of Spodee Boy

Can it really be a whole year since I was sporting a ‘beer jacket’ in north London at the Static Shock Weekend, being given a flyer for The Chisel’s debut gig, briefly wondering who The Chisel were and swiftly realising they were all in the place too? Course it can! We’re not going to do that soft-arsed Facebook anniversary palaver, though, because The Chisel have had a productive 12 months even if you haven’t.

London-located but with a relevant Blackpool grounding in vocalist Callum Graham, as of March 2021 the five-piece have played zero gigs (that debut mentioned above got canned and you know the rest) and released three 7-inch singles. The first, Deconstructive Surgery, I briefly praised The Chisel’s here instead of here, which is where I’m going to big up the second and third. Here, that is.

Come See Me came out in January on La Vida Es Un Mus and sold out of its first pressing as well as having US and Japan-specific releases. This might be partly attributable to a collective pedigree including The Lowest Form, Arms Race, The Shitty Limits and Chubby & The Gang (who, I confidently stated when reviewing their first single, would probably only release that one and who now appear to be something like a professional music group). It sounding shit hot likely didn’t hurt either, the title track asserting itself with one opening powerchord and bombing on with some speedy streetpunk-via-hardcore: production, by Jonah Falco, is gleaming but in a nasty way, and the whole vibe is aggro but in the face of “xenophobic cunts” so, like, fair enough.

A cover of ‘Criminal Crew’ by early 80s Eastbourne herberts Criminal Damage lacks the unfakeable teenageness of the original but still does it justice, and ‘Not The Only One’ is a belting working class anthem™, call it heartland hardcore if you like. Or don’t.

The latest Chisel release, meanwhile, is Enough Said (Wardance), another three-tracker featuring a classic Oi! cover: ‘Harry May’, originally by The Business, has its brilliant/ disgusting glam metal guitar tone creditably imitated, and the band’s late singer Micky Fitz is shouted out by Graham. ‘Enough Said’ the song is about not putting up with knobheads of an evening and ‘What I See’ combines tinkling knees-up piano with a plea that the lower orders not permit themselves to be divided by the elites. It was released on flexi inside a book of punk art compiled by NYHC geezer Freddy Alva, which sold out very quickly, but if you like unruly punk of all stripes make sure you at least hear this.

Public Trust are from Boston, MA and come off like their punk rock inspirations are rigidly, unimpeachably American. Not in a chauvinistic way, just how things panned out, although four-song EP Dirt In My Eye (Activ-8) may prove a bit uncouth for the tastes of some readers. They will miss out on the likes of this record’s title track, which is about getting covered in shit during an inadvisable rimming session and sounds a bit like fellow Massachusetts mean boys The Queers. “I don’t wanna eat your hole/ I just wanna eat you whole,” vocalist Ban Reilly, clearly chastened, continues on the topically self-explanatory ‘Cannibal Love’; an audacious couplet rhyming “Elizabeth Taylor” with “nobody will nail her” characterises ‘Eyes Without A Face’, a heartbreaking lament for a road accident victim. Public Trust’s second single after a quietly released 2016 debut, Dirt In My Eye’s chewy pre-hardcore shock-punk – think the Misfits – provides a fresh angle for Reilly, formerly of straight edge hellions Boston Strangler, and I think the other members of that band too although it’s all kept a bit mysterious.

My copy of IgnorantesLarga Vida A La Inconsecuencia 7-inch (Rock SVB) came with all sorts of stickers and inserts, as cheerfully oldskool as the band/label not bothering to stream this EP anywhere. (Cheers to the public servants of online for stepping in.) Ignorantes are a duo from Chile whose past releases all seem to be on cassette, and on Larga they turn out chronically infectious pogo-friendly shit-fi that doesn’t totally spurn melody. ‘A La Mierda Las Demandas’ has choice oompah-beat drums – well, all the songs do, but these ones oompah the most – and a blink-and-it’s-gone shrieking guitar solo, a similar example also lighting up ‘Chupapico Del Montón’. Ignorantes don’t have a bassist, but you don’t really miss it, with all due respect to my hypothetical bass-playing readership.

Nashville’s Connor Cummins wears a few musical hats, most of them nasty noisepunk expectorations, but as Spodee Boy he flies solo and dials back the attack a lil’. Latest EP Rides Again (Goodbye Boozy) is a bawhair under eight minutes of countrified garage rock strangeness, opening on a Morricone-type showdown-at-sunset tip but upping the ante with rattling drums and Gun Club axe slash. The combo of pep-pilled rockabilly slop and the cadence (and mix) of Cummins’ scornful vocal drawl gives me big Country Teasers shivers, ‘Tombstone’ especially, although these four songs run at a higher tempo than that for the most part. Definitely worth a punt if you like the idea of someone loving Americana so much they have to gun it down.

Another of Spodee Boy’s bands in Nashville, Chainshot, also feature Shibby Poole, and his multiple responsibilities include drumming in Thirdface, whose debut album is up next. I sequenced these reviews before doing my due Discogs diligence re: recording credits, only then realising there was any connection there. Hail happenstance! Do It With A Smile (Exploding In Sound) is a different beast, lurching and techy with passages of jazzy deconstruction on cuts like ‘Ally’, but audibly connected to hardcore all the way. ‘Legendary Suffering’ and ‘No Requiem For The Wicked’, a double jab in the LP’s latter half, bear this out with a fierceness. David Reichley has an impressive jagged-metal guitar manner, capable of Jesus Lizard-esque subtlety but often engaged in Botch-type supercomputing, and vocalist Kathryn Edwards is forceful enough – sounding sickened, but never cowed – to recommend Do It under her own steam alone. The Gumming LP I reviewed a few columns back isn’t a thousand miles from Thirdface, in its broad vibe, though the Tennessee band skate a little closer to what some might term ‘mathcore’.

Split between London and Brighton at present, I believe, Gaffa Bandana are another duo thumbing their nose at the bass guitar, and making a churning dirtbike racket so’s nothing seems untoward. Could we be seeing the phasing out of bassists as they’re deemed surplus to requirements? I’m “just asking questions”, as dickheads say. Gaffa Bandana feature Gill Dread of Bruxa Maria on vocals and guitar, and at times Fraught In Waves (Human Worth), their debut release, comes off like an outlet for songs too metal even for Bruxa Maria, a band by no means averse to the genre. Something like ‘Charm Offensive’ is something like Jucifer, maybe, but the way Gaffa Bandana (completed by drummer Jennie Howell) build towards a crescendo, then let the whole contraption fly, is fairly exhilarating. These doomy peaks are smartly contextualised by passages of choppy rhythm-guitarred tension like you might find on any of Unsane’s 500 albums, along with some Easter eggs within the bludgeon – strange textured guitar parts poke through the seven-minute ‘Paralysis Of Will’ – while ‘Evil Whispers’ is pitched so equidistantly between 90s industrial and 90s grunge it makes me feel like a warmup DJ listening to it on his own in a metal club.

The debut album by Slant arrives via Seattle’s Iron Lung label, two years after they released the Seoul band’s first 7-inch, and I think what I really like about 1집 is that it recalls several different types of hardcore punk without ending up bitty or unfocused. If anything, these 17 minutes are fastidiously consistent: nearly all songs between 90 and 110 seconds, room for one or both of Yuying Lee and Candy Lee to bang out a guitar solo but make it quick OK pal. A swift flash, say the clean guitar breaks on ‘Stagnation’, might carry itself like an early Dischord release, but the grit that surrounds it struts like Government Warning, or one of those post-millennial HC revivalists. The sheer efficiency of all ten songs lend Slant proximity to the bounciest youth crew outfits, and vocalist Yeji, who works as a tattooist apparently specialising in flowers and other delicate things, sounds like a defunct wrestling federation sold her a steel cage as a larynx, and could do a sterling job in any given crust or noisepunk band. Like I say, Slant only really do one thing, but it’s a dead good thing with a lot packed into it.

Public Humiliation II is a 22-minute live recording of a 2017 performance by Gas Chamber and Black Iron Prison, respectively a Buffalo hardcore unit and powerviolence-rooted noise duo from Toronto. A collaborative affair with all six members giving it some onstage, it was Gas Chamber’s last ever gig, and having been “secretly recorded” by Iron Lung, they’ve slapped it on wax and titled it in apparent reference to a similar teamup of their own from back in the day (which I reviewed in the very first of these columns, that’s how back in the day it was). The result’s a rollercoaster, flowing from noiserock clang to psych-drone drift to prog-spiked grind with no less than three members on unspecified electronics and GC’s Patrick Bolger getting his basslines prominently aired for lengthy stretches. Maybe there is a future for bass players after all.

Someone also filmed the whole set, at the front of the stage with a wide-angle lens, and no-one knocks into them or barges past their view, although a dude in a parka with a tattooed head comes and stands even closer to the stage later on. So I guess these guys didn’t peace out to the crazy reception they deserved, but we’ve all seen legendary sets played to sparse shuffly crowds, you know the deal.

Howsabout an authentic hermit-life one-man recording project made under ye olde English lockdowne yoke? John Andrews has played in a fresh variety of DIY punk bands, sax-honking noiserockers Machiavellian Art the most recent, but recorded an album last summer as The Salopian and put it online a few weeks back. (There’s cassettes in existence too, which you may or may not be too late to grab.) ‘Salopian’, for the uninitiated, is a term for the people and customs of Shropshire, where Andrews lives – Bridgnorth, to be precise, so the Birmingham side of the county rather than the Welsh one, but that doesn’t stop him tapping into a rich vein of rural folklore and relating it over measured, weathered emotional post-hardcore. Vocals are more spoken than sung, spinning evocative yarns about mystical figures and verifiable landmarks alike; the recording is spartan, done at home as I’m fairly sure it was, but full of punch and frequently building to a fair tempo, though largely avoiding the sonic histrionics found in much of the early 00s emo which influenced The Salopian.

This brings us to 2000-2004, an LP of unreleased recordings from that timeframe by Wolves Of Greece. Not that they’d have thanked anyone for describing them as emo, I don’t reckon, I just mean they’re the last review this month. In fairness, there are shared touchstones between the genre’s more inventive, less clichéd names and the fizzing feedback wranglage of this Nottingham quintet – two of whom previously toiled in Bob Tilton, probably the UK’s finest ever emo band.

Though only releasing one record while active, a 10-inch where they were styled Wolves! (Of Greece) because bands did that sort of thing then, the six songs here are no dusty castoffs, and the 2002 live set on Side A – recorded for Radio 1 and featuring John Peel as master of ceremonies – makes for a kinetic-sounding 17 minutes 19 years later. Guitarists Neil Johnson and Chris Summerlin sound closer to no wave than anything during substantial periods, and this is maintained in the later studio recordings, boiling over with frantic snare rolls (drummer Steve Charlesworth was in UKHC faces Heresy and now plays in Blind Eye) and vox equal parts sassy and agonised. Perhaps better for burning relatively bright and brief, Wolves Of Greece certainly hold up in a contemporary context; Johnson and Summerlin still play together, in Kogumaza, with the latter guitarist also in Hey Colossus alongside Joe Thompson, whose Wrongspeed label has co-released 2000-2004 with Gringo, who put out the original 10-inch single. STATS!