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Noel's Straight Hedge

Straight Hedge! Noel Gardner Reviews Punk & HC For February
Noel Gardner , February 15th, 2022 07:49

Noel Gardner, bringing you news of a band called THATCHER'S SNATCH, sprints back into the pit with all that is good, bad and ugly, or named THATCHER'S SNATCH, in international punk rock, hc, oi, D-beat and crust. And, did we mention THATCHER'S SNATCH?

Home page photograph Deaf Club

Two-zero-two-two, the Noel’s Straight Hedge version, starts with a couple of discs of pure belter melodic punk from the scrag end of 2021 and finishes, for this month anyway, with a set of 40-year-old recordings which treat melody like it’s an on-board bomb which will explode if anyone approaches it or acknowledges its conceptual existence. In the centre, the ground between these poles.

The debut EP by Ataque Zerø, which actually came out last spring but only digitally – it’s now a 12-inch on Static Shock – is a product of the very cool and good DIY punk scene in Bogotá, Colombia. Rafael Augusto of hardcore ragers Muro, probably the best known band from that mushrooming, is on drums here, joined by a couple of people from French band Dernier Futur and Venezuelan-born bassist Oski.

Ataque Zerø doesn’t sound much like their other bands, or much that I review in here, for better or worse: 14 minutes of rugged Spanish-language rattlers a notch above midpace, enlivened by some almost folky guitar breaks and post punk-chunk bass intros but fundamentally a strain of punk that’s been timelessly tweaked since mid-80s Hüsker Dü and, especially, early-90s Leatherface. EP opener ‘Destrucción’ has a bit of streetpunk strychnine in its holler and certain moments, like the liquor-dark ‘Máquina’, are rhythmically unorthodox in the same way Naked Raygun were (still are, actually, going on their reunion album from a few months ago). Strong in all departments though, this’un, assuming you can dig punk with an unmangled singalong quality such as a more mature punter might favour. Hopefully you can!

Grit’s debut album Shatterproof arrives on a French label, AU Vinyles – seems to be its first release, in fact – though the band are from Dublin. Most of them were in Easpa Measa, a crust band who called time about a decade ago; Grit is a slightly gentler beast in musical terms at least, with a pop-savvy spin on Oi! offset by Clodagh Murphy’s affecting lyrical tack.

‘O’Duffy’s Ghost’, second of ten songs on this superb LP, is an anti-cop song almost acid enough to have fit Easpa Measa (“Still in the blue shirt, still the fucking same / Fascist tradition, supported by the state”). Elsewhere, the personal is in lockstep with the political, as on ‘Go Out’, a weary decrying of laddish sex pests; championing of working class values and concerns in ‘Zero Hours’ and ‘They Win’ are contemporary and uplifting, not nostalgic or reactionary. I can’t quite get over how much I love this album, my only past brush with Grit being 2017 single ‘Diamond’ (and that as a track on the Karate Klub compilation, though that was one of my year-end highlights) – but Shatterproof really does feel like a textbook everypunk release, an umbrella in waiting for a lot of disparate tastes and factions.

The debut tape by Cyborg A.D. was recorded in that selfsame Karate Klub I just mentioned, the fellow behind it being another Dublin punk lifer: Colin Mifsud has delivered drum deadliness for Disguise and, beforehand, Drainland. On 2037, released by Yorkshire’s Donor label and arriving seven years after the previous Cyborg A.D. release, it’s not fully obvious how much of the rhythms are human-derived, this being a noisy, hardcore upgrade on the synthpunk aesthetic – but I’m pretty sure some of them are.

The synths in question are spacey, but in a cheerful way, circuits sizzling throughout energetic whippers like ‘The Droids II’ (the tracks generally have sci-fi-y titles like this, with a token nod to hardcore history in ‘The Victims Of An EMP Raid’); Mifsud’s vocals are bearish and metallic, his guitar parts ripe with noisepunk skree. Horror-prog keyboard flourishes rise to the top but can never flourish unsullied, ‘The Vessel Of Time’ a grandiose/gruff rager in this regard, and for a release that seems comfortable with outlining its ancestry, 2037 has found itself a pretty specific niche here. Beta Blockers’ Stiff Prescription rocked a comparable if less flamboyant keyboardcore formula a few years ago (Baron Milek of that group has also played in the live incarnation of Cyborg A.D.), likewise Olympia’s heavy conceptualists Cyberplasm, but Mifsud’s electronic chops are well ahead of both of those.

As of 2022 Deaf Club vocalist Justin Pearson is a recording artist with a thirty-year career. Of his myriad projects in that time, the definitive one in most observers’ eyes is likely insect-suited San Diegan keyboard-grind absurdists The Locust – a precedent for the sound of the previously reviewed item, although I wouldn’t assume an influence. Deaf Club’s debut album Productive Disruption, on Pearson’s own Three One G label, is to my ears his closest circling back to peak Locust since they ceased recording: there’s no electronics on here as such, but guitarists Tommy Meehan and Brian Amalfitano plug themselves into a national grid of effects, achieving a pretty similar result.

The sound on these 14 songs is neither fish nor fowl, in a good way. Deaf Club songs are fast as fuck, musicianly as you like and bulging with drummer Scott Osment’s blastbeats, but don’t quite scan as grindcore, at least not the narrowly-defined entity it became. Songs, though fairly short, aren’t quite compact or brutal enough to be called powerviolence, and there aren’t (m)any hardcore qua hardcore bands moving in this direction. Atop a stack of stopstart bass judder and waves of treated noise guitar, Pearson is still a commanding frontman, if a little lower-pitched and more intelligible than two decades or so back.

Synths are back in a big way on the debut tape by Secret Agent Headcheese, who is evidently so confident of global success he doesn’t feel the need to spell his own artist name correctly in the Bandcamp URL. And with Headcheese Gets Abducted briskly selling out its admittedly small first run on Richter Scale and being licensed to labels on no less than four continents, kudos to the brains behind the brawn, Sam Horton from Barnsley, as he and his friend Gianni have home-recorded a miniature diamond here.

Rickety and wobbly, with few or possibly no guitars and scant drops in tempo, Headcheese Gets Abducted is synthpunk very much in the 2k10s DIY mould: Coneheads, CCTV and London’s Powerplant (whose upcoming album appears to be a pivot to dungeon synth) notable names in this morass. SAH’s keys are a little more woozily Radiophonic in the main, and Horton dips into powerpoppy garage for ‘Cheapside Cowboys’ and psych on closer ‘Return To Earth’, so it’s far from wall-to-wall homage. Moreover, there’s already a new EP, Sinful Souls, on his Bandcamp, and it sounds almost nothing like this, being a sort of idealised take on countrified Christian worship music.

All of which (including that new Powerplant I mentioned) makes me more sanguine about bundling this Herbert Powell album into my punk & hardcore compendium, instead of its sibling column ‘New Weird Britain’. I mean, and pompously assuming for a moment anyone other than me cares, these Glaswegians could have sat pretty in there, with their lashings of prog and art and 90s-perfected underground squiggle. But I also want to highlight the quartet’s big post-hardcore moves throughout Here In My Scheme, Here It Ends (Lost Map/Bert) – often when least expected – with heaters like ‘I Love My Fleeto’ coming with the detuned punch of Unwound.

Elsewhere, Herbert Powell are more melodic and singsongy, indie you might even say, with Kieran Thomas draping dreamy vox over ‘Once Powerful Uncle’ and many others; even here, there’s always a pronounced spikiness closer to, say, Deerhoof than anything some hypothetical saps might like, sappily. It’s worth noting, in respect of what a strangle-tight unit this band sound like, that Herbert Powell only recently regrouped after several years dormant and almost nothing recorded in their first go-around: since then, guitarist Kay Logan has played in Anxiety and made loads of rad solo music under various names, while Taylor Stewart has become a doyen of patriotic happy hardcore with the single I deemed my second favourite New Weird Britain release of 2021 (among other accolades). Insofar as I hear a lineage back to madhead bands of yore like Dog Faced Hermans and Badgewearer, Here In My Scheme feels like a crucially Scottish document itself. Oh, and the A5 booklet that comes with the CDR is genuinely funny.

Mallorcans Barrera don’t shout their credentials from the rooftops but, if you inhabit or even merely visit the Spanish punk underground, certainly possess ‘em. In the course of ascertaining the four members’ identities, I’ve discovered (in a personal sense) two boss releases by related projects: 2017’s Dimonis LP by Pou, drummer Sofia Ramis’ old band, and this tape of blissed-out minimal synth ballads by Ramis solo, released not long before debut Barrera 12-inch Visions Nocturnes (La Vida Es Un Mus). Which packs an ample whack on its own terms, never fear!

There’s only 13 minutes of music here, but by and large it goes slow, as in sludgepunk/pigfuck/stare out the person next to you instead of moshing. Bernat (also of the great, comparably noisy Orden Mundial) and Narcís are a sick-toned guitar/bass duo, proffering breezeblocks of feedback and cogent riffs alike: ‘Confusa La Historia’ is almost psychobilly, and when LVEUM namechecked Stickmen With Rayguns in the blurb I’d wager they caught some ‘Scavenger Of Death’ in Barrera’s ‘Silencio’. Same blurb also calls this deathly pallid, elegantly crumpled record part of the “new Balearic sound” – roll over Boy’s Own and tell Danny Rampling the news.

It’s a similar story with the six-song debut cassette by Krimi, not musically so much as this being the latest product of a punk rock city’s scene that just keeps reshaping its personnel and turning out dazzlers. Krimi is a Perth band with peeps from other Perth bands – Cold Meat are the standout name here, and if you know their product like a clever cookie you’ll recognise Ashley Ack’s vocals instantly – released on a Perth label, Helta Skelta. They clang, but melodically; get their point across with the stridency of a governess, but one in the throes of some kind of mania.

Georgia Wilkinson-Derums’ guitar parts are the real revelation of this demo, dipping into humming-coil surf/garage tenderness (‘Friction’) when not yanking early-80s post punk backwards towards essence-of-77 crudity. Lyrically, ‘Vicious Cycle’ finds Ashley unusually but affectingly solemn on the topic of youth punishment: “Destined to fail, doomed from the start / The system is a body without a heart.”

Over in Melbourne and with the aid of the Hardcore Victim label, a five-strong confluence of skinheads, spikies and crusties (going on appearance, as time constraints demand) have released their debut EP as Thatcher’s Snatch – eponymous, meaning its title is also Thatcher’s Snatch. I’m not too proud to admit that I was willing Thatcher’s Snatch to be great on the basis of their name (Thatcher’s Snatch) alone, with the Punk’s Not Dead homage sleeve art of Thatcher’s Snatch helping things along, but any concerns that Thatcher’s Snatch are a half-joke throwaway band are dispatched as efficiently as a coffin in Mortlake Crematorium on 17 April 2013.

In essence, this is dead-set boil-bummed UK82-styled turbo-punk, opening with a song called ‘Wapping Dispute’ – yes, it is literally about the News International print strike of 1986, specifically the gruesome cultural tagteaming of “Maggie and Murdoch, partners in crime” – that sounds like the Varukers. More contemporaneously, ‘We’re Going To Hell’ lampoons, in hardcore singalong fashion, Israel Folau, who outside of Australian oval ball culture is mainly notable for being an outspoken homophobe: “He went on social media with his bigoted thoughts / Jury has spoken, now he can’t play sports.” ‘Taxes’ (“give us back our…”) is a no-flab anti-war thrasher and ‘Don’t Want Your Laws’ – if you scoff straight off at titles like this, Thatcher’s Snatch might not be for you; ah well! – is a break from the mean, all powerchords and rawkish soloing like The Dictators or some bar band escapees who ended up on a Killed By Death comp.

Sealed Records, La Vida Es Un Mus’ reissue-centric imprint, unearthed a demo by authentic UK82 punx Asylum and pressed it to vinyl just before Christmas. The band, who hailed from Stoke, have supplemented this with some self-released CDRs featuring other recordings from the time: the latest is titled Total Annihilation Of Music, and let me tell you, Asylum’s ass cashed the cheques their mouth wrote, in this respect. It makes the Sealed 7-inch sound positively orderly by contrast, and might be the logical end point for punk-as-noise.

Professing, circa 1982, to be mainly influenced by Discharge and The Exploited, the process that resulted in this can only be ascribed to some inverted genius, ditto whoever thought this was how a guitar or bass should be tuned. The drummer basically just plays as fast as possible, with no real way of telling if he’s in time with anyone else in the band; vocalist Beano’s herbert honk makes the Discharge fandom pretty clear, as do the songs with discernible riffs (‘Germ Warfare’, ‘Memories’). Then there’s ‘Sound Of Death’ and ‘Total Hatred’, which – in all my time snorkelling through this sorta prototypical sewage, be it from Bristol, Brazil, Japan or Finland – is the closest I’ve heard a punk-identifying early 80s band come to sounding like first wave power electronics.

A pretty niche yardstick, but for those who chase rainbows of extremity, Asylum are a crucial node. Though defunct as a group, as far as I can see, they’re active on social media and, per TAOM’s liner notes, remain exercised about the germ warfare de nos jours. “What next the corrupt World Health Organisation… so corrupt with their masterplan.” Yes, well.