When the Punk Go Marching In 2 Skum.
Back in the late 70s/early 80s the NME, or New Musical Express as it was know in those days, had a deadly rival in the shape of Sounds. This less than esteemed organ was edited for a while by Garry Bushell, who at the time was championing a new punk genre called Oi. The paper printed its own rival to the commercial Top 40 with a weekly UK Indie Chart that gave valuable publicity to the plethora of new, mostly DIY, records labels (like Cheery Red, Rough Trade and Mute) that had sprung up in the wake of punk. It is from these dim distant days that I remember the names of groups like Flux of Pink Indians, Red Alert, Rudimentary Peni, Anti Patsti, Chron Gen, Erazerhead, Special Duties, Infa Riot and ABRASIVE WHEELS.
Formed in Leeds in the late 70s they were seemingly hardly ever out of the alternative chart, and I especially remember their album When the Punks Go Marching In was a perennial favourite. Well, having split in 1984 lead singer Phil "Shonna" Rzonca has now reserected the band after 25 years and released a follow up CD to boot When the Punk Go Marching In 2 Skum.
Not having been acquainted with them back in the day I didnt know quite what to expect especially when first track Fight the Enemy started with a sample of Wagners Ride of the Valkyriesa that segued into The Dam Busters March, accompanied by a voiceover about the dropping of atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. However once the music kicked in my fears were allayed and through came the sounds of a powerful smashmouth punk rock band. I was immediately impressed by lead singer Shonnas voice as it does not necessarily fall into the Joe Strummer/Tim Anderson gargled-with- gravel style that a lot of todays bands seem to favour. In the nicest possible way there are touches of heavy metal/rock in the sound of guitarists Eden and Chris Popplewell, even to the point that this track has a mini guitar solo mid way through. Next number Class of 82 continues in the same vain with powerful guitar chords and thumping drums making the song rattle along at a fair old pace. Although no lyric sheet is provided it strikes me that this song is aimed at any doubters and climaxes with a heartfelt fuck you to any of their detractors.
Born Loser reminds me of Motorhead at their best, no bad thing as Lars Frederiksen of Rancid sites them as one of his greatest influences, with Shonna shouting out the chorus Im a born loser, Im an abuser with gusto. Similarly the next track Survivors has a touch of the Fast Eddie Clarke guitar technique which is all good by me. What I particularly like are the catchy choruses which Im sure offer their live crowd ample opportunity to sing along with their heroes, and this was again born out in Nothing to Learn which follows the tried and tested formula of the albums previous numbers. Breadline starts with a northern voiced bemoaning Minimum wage, avent got no education, know what I mean . before the band highlight what too many people are finding out today, that surviving on the Breadline aint easy!
For me the albums stand out track is Soldiers Prayer, not because it radically departs from the musical style of the other numbers, but because at a time when good British boys are being sent to slaughter by uncaring Government, it is moving to hear a chillingly realistic prayer from a mythical soldier that I dont want to die in a foreign land. Christ, if a punk rock band can highlight the helplessness of what our young men must feel in some God forsaken Afghan field, then you would have thought it wouldnt be beyond Brown and his half witted cronies to realise it as well.
I previously mentioned Rancid, and feel that track eight could easily have been recorded by them. Out of Control has a deceptive slow start think Smash It Up (Part 1) by the Damned- but then the machine guns drums of Skruff kick in and for a moment you could be easily be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to something from And Out Come The Wolves. I can pay Abrasive Wheels no bigger compliment than likening them to Californias finest.
Next number Johnny Law again starts with a headlong thrash, but there is a nice switch mid-song to an almost ska beat, but like all their songs it retains an infectious chorus that begs you to sing along. As the album draws to a close the band seem to take on a more reflective mood, and Heroes seems to implore the listener not to put the band on a pedestal. Whilst in penultimate number Skum they state their case that as still seeing themselves as outsiders from society.
However to finish off they return to what they do best in writing big sounding, in your face, punk rock songs. Crashed Out and Wasted had an infectious Sex Pistolian sounding guitar hook and contains a mid-song dedication to their peers Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts, GBH, and many other and who would not agree with Shonna when he says Nothings going to stop us getting out of our heads tonight. I think Ill join him!!