A Volunteers song can be recognised by several distinguishing
features. These are: minimalist, shouted lyrics; a tempo so fast you
could have a heart attack trying to keep up with it on the dance floor;
loud loud LOUD drums; guitars with more rhythm than tune; and, finally,
brevity this fifteen song album is over in twenty minutes and
thirty seconds. Thats fairly fast by anyones standards
except possibly those of The Descendents, who dont count because
they were clearly just being perverse for the sake of it*.
Which makes it sound as though this is some kind of musical tract, a dogmatic punk-thrash-the-politics-home sound the like of which you can hear purveyed by a zillion leather-jacketed amateurish messes of bands in a zillion dingy pub back rooms across the country. But this is not the case. Volunteers are not here to preach; nor are they here to appropriate music as a joyless medium for their doctrine. Volunteers have something to say, yes but they also have a yearning for fun. They want to shout and jump around, they want to mime extravagantly along to their songs and wave their arms in the air, they want to write bass lines with such an exuberant rebound to them that they elicit spontaneous grins from those who hear them.
Volunteers are, make no mistake, an angry and driven band. But its a different kind of drive and anger to that peddled by most bands of their ilk. When Volunteers pour their anger into their songs it doesnt wrap round itself, freeze and go nowhere: it gets changed, it gets released. Volunteers pour their anger into and right through the music, taking the tail-chasing introspection of frustrated rage and turning it into a forward drive. This is clearly an angry record, but its a constructive one as well: it allows release and catharsis (without ever falling into the trap of happy-but-dumb-utopian drivellings) and it revels in the joyous kinesis that anger can give when its not allowed to fester and grow stale. Listening to Know Yourself doesnt evoke frustrated rage and the desire to punch something. Instead, it makes you happy.
So then; Volunteers minimalist repetition and superlatively cathartic shouting is worth a thousand detailed but impotent political rages, and you should buy this album. Because it takes an old, tired template and injects new life into it; because its passionate and alive and it cares. And because its positive and intelligent both at once, which is a fucking hard trick to pull off in such doomed and broken times as these. And if you cant dig that, youre probably dead.
*This is not intended as a dismissive criticism; The Descendents were
ace. But that doesnt prevent their being the most wilfully contrary
bunch of bastards who ever named an album after lard.
Holl(i)y Davies, Drowned in Sound
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