McMahon, M., & Simpson, W. – Freedom Through Football Book

Freedom Through Football coverDon’t be put off by the title, for this book is about much, much more than football (which, incidentally, is now just one of three sports currently played by the various club teams). The Cowfolk, as they are collectively known, are a community-based sports and social club from the heart of inner-city Bristol, who have helped redefine what’s possible when you get a group of amateur sportspeople, professional drunks, activists, misfits and ne’er-do-wells (alongside a few ordinary, decent, everyday folk such as your humble author) together.

The book charts the first 20 years of the club’s history from 1992 to the present day, warts and all. There are tales of dodging army check points in Chiapas during a visit to play teams in the Zapatista communities, taking part in cricket matches in Compton LA against ex-gangsters, heading to the West Bank and literally leaving their mark on the Israeli apartheid wall, and organising Alternative World Cups attended by people from as close as Bedminster to as far away as São Paulo (via Lithuania and the South African township of Diepkloof). There have been a few sad losses during the journey (and quite a few happy additions too), the occasional harsh word, partings of ways, fallouts, fall-ins, love affairs, babies and hangovers. But mostly, it’s about being a part of something that exemplifies everything that is good in human nature.

The book is 229 pages, nicely supplemented with plenty of images (many previously unseen) and extra info, with an additional 32 pages of colour pics (including a couple of that Banksy fellow hanging out with the Cowfolk in Chiapas and doing some rare hand-painted pieces in the villages).

I could be accused of a certain bias with this review, for this book is about my adopted family. And it’s true that the friendships and love I’ve found among this loopy bunch have enriched my life enormously. But I think these tales can be enjoyed, and and the ideals embraced, by anyone who believes that life can be different if we dare to be free.

Iron Column Records have a few copies for sale at cover price (£9.99), including FREE postage in the UK, with all proceeds going to anti-fascist causes.

Burnt Cross – Break The Law Not The Poor 7″

Burnt-Cross-Break-The-Law...-cover
The brothers Marriot show no let up in their output as yet another explosive blast of full-blooded anarcho-punk is committed to vinyl. This time round, they’re busy calling out murdering bastard cops for the scum they are and suggesting a suitable riposte with their stripped-down and powered-up reworking of The Apostles’ ‘Mob Violence’, a venom-filled verbal assault on the rich and their lackey police (and which, along with Conflict’s ‘The Ungovernable Force’, rates as my all-time joint-favourite punk rock song). Rob combines metal-edged fuck-off guitar and bare-knuckle bass with a cleverly-programmed drum machine to produce music that’s steeped in the legacy of the Crass bands without sounding in the least bit hackneyed, while Paul spits out the vocals with a ferocity that’s well-matched to the lyrics.

Burnt Cross labelIt’s all wrapped up in a heavy card sleeve sporting a suitably combative red ‘n’ black (with a bit of white) graphic on the front, a lyric sheet inside, and a label that’s one of the smartest I’ve seen in quite a while.

The record is a co-operative release by ten different labels (Tadpole Records, Lukket Avdeling Records, Loud Punk Records, Opiate Records, Rawby Records, Active Rebellion, Arripurri Records, Schizo, Höhnie Records, Rusty Knife Records), so extra @-punk points to everyone for do-it-together style.

OP’s opinion: Four half

Download sample track – Mob Violence (FLAC)
Burnt Cross Facebook
Buy from Iron Column Records

Socialism For The Masses

I’ve come to realise that there are actually some benefits to be had by being part of this social network thing. So if you now take a look in the left sidebar, you’ll see an image that links to my facebook profile. For day-to-day tittle-tattle from yours truly, this is the place to go. I’ve also created pages for the Anarcho-Punk Pages and Iron Column Records. If you’re part of the fb crowd, pop by and say hello.

You can also grab a banner for your own website if you’re in to that kind of thing.

The Rebel Spell – It’s A Beautiful Future CD

Rebel Spell Beautiful Future coverThese young but well-established veterans of the Canadian punk scene have pulled off a neat trick with their latest release, managing to capture the passion at the heart of our culture and condense it into 12 tracks and 30-something minutes of life-enhancing music. Packed with more energy than a vegan’s farts, the band blast their way through the walls of oppression with their sounds of inspiration. There’s some pretty clever verbal dissection of the multitude of problems that face people around the world but this only serves to reinforce the common ground – we’re all victims of the colonialist mindset of the ruling elites, whether it’s done by invading armies or imposed by our own home-grown governments and their all-seeing eyes. The Rebel Spell do a damned fine job of shining a light into the dark shadows of the fortresses of the power-crazed, exposing them for the cockroaches they really are. Their ability to lay bare the fetid corpse of capitalism is only matched by their desire to get us all to connect the dots and stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the common enemy. The inclusion of radical folk singer Leon Rosselson’s ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ at the very end of the disc is a fitting climax to all that precedes it, the band infusing it with their own unique passion. I’d go as far as to say it’s destined to become many people’s favourite version of this well-loved tune.

It’s really well-balanced when it comes to the musical foundations, perfectly in keeping with the lyrical finesse laid over the top. The bass player double-picks riffs at a speed that suggests he must have some hummingbird genes in his arms, the guitar and vocals dance with the passion of lifelong lovers, while beats are of the solid and hearty variety needed to pull and hold this potent force together. There’s nothing too fancy here, just smart and sharp use of whatever’s within arm’s and tongue’s reach to make a clear and concise point.

The Rebel Spell are the essence of political punk rock, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded once in a while what a great smell that is.

For people who also like: Dropkick Murphys, The Restarts, the first Propagandhi LP

OP’s opinion: Four half

Download sample track – Feel The Same (FLAC)
The Rebel Spell website
Buy from Iron Column Records / the band / Rebel Time Records.

Old Distro Closed, New One Open!

Iron Column Records logoSome of you may have noticed that I had a small distro hidden within these pages. Many of you probably didn’t. So, in an effort to make things more visible (and make it easier to spread the word), I’ve removed the page here and given it a makeover and domain all of its own. So please go and check out

IRON COLUMN RECORDS

Not only is it a distro for fine anti-fascist music and merch, within the next month or so I’ll also be co-releasing the debut album from radical ska-punkers Spanner (on limited edition coloured wax, obviously) under the ‘Iron Column Records’ label. Exciting!

It’s being run as a non-profit project, with 100% of all proceeds going to anti-fascists in need. Feel free to spread the word far and wide, and maybe even spend a little bit of your hard-earned dosh on the gems contained therein.

The Freebooters – Ordinary Level Oi! CD

Freebooters coverThe Freebooters play no-nonsense ska-tinged streetpunk with a big fucking smile on its face! This is one infectious album, full of life and energy. It’s clear to hear that these Irish girls and boys have a burning desire to stand up and shout ‘Shut the fuck up! Listen! Dance! Change the fuckin’ world!’, a task they take on and complete with admirable ease.

While they’re not afraid to take a political stance, they manage to do it with a healthy dose of humour, particularly when it comes to their no-nonsense anti-fascist position. Just check out the chorus to ‘Paddy Hitler’ –

Paddy Hitler was a man who just couldn’t understand
Why things never came together in his master plan
Was his head too fat? Or his brain too small?
Either way he knows fuck all

or the amusingly titled ‘Stormfront In A Teacup’ that mercilessly rips the piss out of pasty-faced cyber-nazis. Putting their money where their mouths are, the band and label are also allowing antifa groups to buy a bundle of the CDs at a heavily discounted wholesale price and will throw in a load free aswell so that anti-nazis can raise some much needed cash (get in touch with Distro-y Records for the lowdown).

Other tunes deal with army recruiters targeting the unemployed, bar room pool-playing alkies, cops, priests, all-night partying and an ode to the fans of the finest anti-fascist football team on the planet, FC St Pauli.

Musically, it’s all as solid as a pint of Guinness – snappy basslines, brickwall beats, guitars that’ll get your Granny spinning and reeling on the dancefloor, and rousing choruses just begging for you to sing along with ’em. With the punk knowledge on display here it’s no surprise to learn that members have been part and parcel of the scene for a long time, having been involved with such luminary acts as The Dagda, Pink Turds In Space, Nappyrash, Toxic Waste, The Poke and Bleeding Rectum.

This is a bit of a departure for Distro-y, probably better known for putting out D-beat and crust flavoured outfits, and I take my hat of to Alex for spreading his punk rock wings in this direction. Diversity is one of the things that makes our culture so great, especially when it’s as sterling as this.

For people who also like: The Restarts, Stage Bottles, Runnin’ Riot

OP’s opinion: Five

Download sample track – St. Pauli (FLAC)
The Freebooters Myspace
Buy from Iron Column Records for £5 plus p&p (all proceeds to my local antifa friends), or Distro-y for €5 plus p&p

Spanner In The Manor

This is a quick heads-up to let you know that my good friends Spanner are on the verge of releasing ‘Crisis’, their first full-length album, in April. It’ll be available on both CD and 12 inches of shiny vinyl and is a collaborative effort between some of my favourite DIY labels – Active Distribution, Pumpkin Records and Maloka Records, as well as my new project Iron Column Records. Spanner logoYou can listen to / download four tracks from it on their Soundcloud page right now, and the rest of the album will be going up very shortly (all under a people-friendly Creative Commons licence).

Spanner knock out in-yer-face political punky ska, more spikey than skanky but still eminently danceable. They almost exclusively play benefit gigs at grassroots / DIY venues and band members aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty at the sharp end of the struggle. And, while work and families occupy a lot of their time, they try and get out on the road as often as possible, including the odd jaunt to Europe. If they turn up somewhere near you, go and check ’em out.