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Remember The Time…? (Part 1, Maybe)

On a certain forum that I hang around on, someone asked folks to write about their three most memorable gigs. Seeing as I’ve still got a memory, I put it to good use. And, being the generous soul I am, I’m reposting what I remembered here for me, you and generations to come.

Wow, tough. But I’ll give it a go.

Top of the list has to be Conflict at the Brixton Academy in April 1987. A van-load of us travelled up to London after a day spent hunt sabbing, parked up and went for a couple of pints. We headed off, joined the queue, chatted to various friends, and soon found ourselves inside. We spent a decent amount of time chatting to more mates and looking over stalls, where I picked up a copy of The Apostles’ ‘Mob Violence’ EP (still got it, still regularly played) and a map of places to target if (hah!) it kicked off afterwards. We headed into the hall, and I was blown away by the scale of the whole thing. I’d never experienced an indoor gig on this magnitude! It was called the Gathering Of The 5000 for a good reason (or at least not far off). I mingled for a bit, caught up with more people, then the gig started.

First up, Thatcher On Acid, a brilliant start. Upbeat, dancey punk rock was just what was needed to get the evening going. Then it was poetry time with Benjamin Zephaniah, delivering blistering rhymes and sharp humour taking aim at the monarchy, the politicians, the cops, mixed in with uplifting verses about what a vegan eats. He certainly knew how to fire up a crowd!

Finally, after a full-on 20 minute build-up of videos and audio clips (like an extended version of the beginning of ‘The Ungovernable Force’ with added riot film!), Conflict hit the stage. The place went mental! It was the band at their absolute best, and the presence of Steve Ignorant on the stage simply added to the immensity of it all. I’ve never been so exhausted and exhilarated, physically and mentally, before or since.

Like most Conflict gigs, it ended pretty chaotically. Punks were getting on stage and diving off of ridiculously high speaker stacks, brawls were breaking out in the crowd and the venue sent security on stage, complete with Rottweilers. Outside, lines of riots cops, many with dogs, were waiting. We left the venue sharp and, because we’d dressed fairly straight (like many others), made it through the cops with no problems. It didn’t take long for the rowdier elements to make it out on the street and start giving it to the cops, who were only too pleased to reciprocate. What they hadn’t realised is that loads of us who’d got through had hung around. The cops were pretty surprised when they suddenly got hit from the back too. And I think they’d misjudged just how combative us punks had become as they were battered fairly heavily once a decent crowd had gathered.

Before long a mini-riot had spread to Brixton high street, made worse by the cops’ stupid decision to close the Tube station. While a few punks got a bit of a kicking off of the cops, they didn’t have it completely their own way and a few were hospitalised with broken bones. Quite a few corporate targets were hit too, while local shops were left well alone.

Eventually we made our way back to the van and home, everyone buzzing and wearing shit-eating grins. Best day ever.

Second up would have to be Crass in Reading, May 1982. I’d seen ’em a couple of times elsewhere before then, but this was my favourite because of the support – Annie Anxiety, The System, DIRT and Flux Of Pink Indians. I’d hitched to the venue with a mate and, although it was only 50 miles, it took us about 9 hours to hitch it. A lorry driver who had seen us walking out of town that morning picked us up late in the afternoon on his way back after we’d walked bloody miles! Luckily, he was going right past the venue so we made it in plenty of time.

As expected, it was a great night, even the weird Annie Anxiety bit (especially the weird Annie Anxiety bit, just for the reactions she caused among some so-called open-minded people), and all the bands were in top form. I got to jump and sing along to just about all of my favourite @-punk tunes of the day. Also, as expected, trouble broke out when around 40 nazi boneheads stormed in, started fighting anyone in sight and tried to rush the stage. They were still expecting the majority of the crowd to be pacifists. But things had changed and the punks stood their ground, aided by quite a few lefty Oi! skins who, like many, had @-punk mates. The boneheads got battered out of the building, and a couple who’d made it to the stage were soon seen off by Igs and Gary Dirt with a couple of well-aimed boots to the face. We got back to enjoying the rest of the gig, spent the night sleeping on Reading train station with a few others (back in the days when waiting rooms were left open and had heat), then bunked the first train back home.

My third choice is Crucifix in my home town, Southampton, in March 1984. I helped arrange this gig. It was supposed to be with MDC, but they’d been refused entry to the country. DIRT headlined and local band Polemic were also on the bill. I’d seen Crucifix a couple of months before in Brighton, along with Antisect (it’s the gig that ended up on the ‘Live In The Darkness‘ / ‘Hallo There’ How’s Life?’ LPs), and was massively impressed by ’em. They didn’t disappoint at this one either and, although there were only around a hundred people there, they gave it their all.

Crucifix were staying at my mum’s house afterwards, what we hadn’t planned for were the seven other guests who were staying too! We spent a couple of hours chatting away, sharing stories with people form all over the world (the guests included an Australian and a Kiwi, a Dutch couple and a lass from South America), before crashing out. Fortunately, my mum’s a star and was completely unfazed by waking up and finding 11 punks sleeping on every available bit of floor in the house. She made beans on toast and tea for everyone, and even offered to make sandwiches for the journey to Brighton for another gig at The Richmond. DIRT turned up in the rusty transit (hence Drunks In Rusty Transits) to collect everyone and I jumped in with ’em, off for another night of punk shenanigans. And that’s another story…

I love punk rock, it’s given (and continues to give) me some of my greatest times. It’s also allowed me to find some of the finest people on this planet. May it always be so.

(I’m thinking maybe I should do a bit more of this before the grey matter finally fails to keep up with my punk rock life. We’ll see.)

Book ‘Em, Danno!

Book flyerFollowing on from yesterday’s little exercise in improving police-community relations, I’ve branched out into literature. This flyer can be downloaded in a convenient 4-to-an-A4-sheet format ready for printing, then cut up and surreptitiously inserted into all manner of inflammatory material. These seditious publications can be found in your local library, bookshop or children’s school.

Remember, in the wrong hands, words can be deadly to the current social order, and have even been known to cause uncontrollable urges for liberty, equality, and solidarity. If we must allow people to have access to words, then we also have a responsibility to point out the perils of using them recklessly.

Grass War

Clip from Operation Griffin briefing paperIn the last couple of days, Brit cops have issued a news bulletin asking people to snitch on any ‘anarchists’ they know. Quite what they define as an anarchist beyond their cut ‘n’ paste job from Wikipedia is anyone’s guess. Local librarians who let you borrow anarchist books? Retailers (I’m looking at you, Amazon!) who will sell you anarchist books? Performances of plays by that dangerous anarchist queer Oscar Wilde? Having shared tea-making facilities for more than five people? What about babies, those natural born anarchists?

As a good citizen, I’ve knocked up this sticker design (8 to an A4 sheet) to help the Old Bill along. Download a ready-made sheet for your printer in either black and white or colour (ODT format, which will open with Open Office (free open source software) and Microsoft Word / Office) and use it widely in your community.

Cop sticker - colour

I used an open source DTP program called Scribus (latest developmental version) to lay out the sticker. And, like all of my graphics, the image was edited beforehand with GIMP (yep, you guessed it, an open source alternative to Photoshop).

Amebix – Knights Of The Black Sun 12″

Amebix - Knights of the Black Sun sleeve

My oh my. This truly is a work of art, from the outside in.

Let’s start with the sleeve. Ethereal tones of grey and blue swirl through each other to suggest a sense of freedom in what first appears to be a very foreboding landscape confined by the blackest of shadows. Immerse yourself in it for a minute and you’ll see the shafts of a brighter dawn on the horizon, the sharp silhouette of a barbed wire fence trodden down by those brave enough to have stepped outside the prison, the feather laying on the ground a symbol of sacrifices made in order to escape the bonds, sacrifices that will soon be forgotten in the exhilaration of the liberation found beyond.

Turning to the contents, ignore the five or so minutes of groove on one side for now and flip the ultra-heavy 180g vinyl over (unless you’ve taken it out of its sleeve groove down). You’ll behold a beautifully interpreted laser etching of ol’ Splathead him/her/itself, a reflection of the hidden recesses of your mind staring back from an ebony mirror. But look more closely and you’ll see yourself reflected too, a reminder of the power that lies within.

If you’re anything like me, the artwork is heavy stuff. If you’re not, you can just admire the lovingly executed design and imagery.

Anyway, on to the words and noise.

The lyrical symbolism is incredibly strong and rates as some of their most spellbinding to date. The years have given Rob the time to hone his wordcraft to absolute precision, evoking the great battles between dark and light that we all must face if we really seek our liberty. It’s classic Amebix territory taken up a notch, steeped in poetical traditions but without losing anything of Rob’s distinctive perspective, his ability to find that spark of hope in even the bleakest of times.

Musically, it’s crisp, clean and crushing as fuck, layers of finely-balanced and interconnected riffs and rhythms, starting out as sparse as the best of Joy Division before building to a monstrously intense peak, accented and tail-ended with the most delicate of ambient atmospheres, subtle notes of piano and the faintest of strings, and all without vanishing up its own arse. This is noise of epic proportions that will engulf you completely.

Knowing that this is the last track on the forthcoming album makes perfect sense. It’s a point of closure and a point of departure, the end of one journey and the start of the next. If everything that precedes it matches this finale, then The Amebix will undoubtedly have come of age.

As an added bonus, you get a download card (possibly pre-orders only, check with the labels) for an HD-quality CGI animation for the track by Andy ‘Leffer’ Lefton, also part of Minneapolis crust-punk combo War//Plague. You’ll probably either love it or hate it depending on how you feel about CGI. Me, I love it. Given the constraints he worked under, having to hit a tight deadline using his own spare time, he’s done genuine justice to the audio storyline.

The overall message here is clear – freedom begins within. It’s up to you to smash your own chains and break on through to the other side. And you can do it, no matter how daunting things may first seem. Now that’s a fucking slick thing to achieve with nothing more than a few words, noises and pictures.

If you’re looking for The Amebix of yesteryear, you may end up quite badly disappointed. Personally, I think it’s inspiring that the boys have each allowed their own internal (r)evolutions to be reflected in the sounds they’re now creating.

Some are going to say it’s pretentious bollocks (maybe both the record and what I’ve just written), a waste of good plastic. I say that, in this case, each part’s an essential element of the whole. The aesthete in me approves most fully. And I love playing with words to try and capture how something makes me feel. From where I’m sat, that’s the point and beauty of art. So bollocks to yer bollocks, and bollocks to mine too.

OP’s opinion: Five

Listen to the song and watch the vid on YouTube
Amebix website
Buy from Profane Existence / Easy Action

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

New Town Kings – M.O.J.O. CD

NTK MOJO cover
Is it just me, or does it seem like every summer brings along a record that’s timed to perfection for the (hopefully) sunshine-filled season? This year, that honour goes to the ten(ish)-strong outfit known as the New Town Kings. This is trad ska with an added kick that actually brings something fresh to the table. This is music for long evenings and longer drinks.

Chris Watts’ voice is spot on, strong and direct with an uplifting energy that’s as refreshing as a cold cider on a hot day. The lyrics are simple without being simple-minded, taking on the daily pressures of everyday life while still keeping a postive edge. Really clean and crisp brass bounces around with joyful abandon, the trumpet and sax capturing that rudeboy unity spirit perfectly. Unmistakable Cuban influences add to the depth of authenticity displayed by the NTKs, as do the smooth low-end bass and Kingston-flavoured keyboard and guitar rhythms. Packaging is in keeping with the look of the era although, given my love for real vinyl, the all-black disc complete with grooved surface on the arty side to resemble an actual record seems a bit weird to me – why not just press some proper ones?

OP’s opinion: Four

For people who also like: The Aggrolites, Prince Buster

Download sample track – Stop! (FLAC)
New Town Kings Facebook
Buy from Bomber Music (released 18th July, a few limited edition pre-orders with t-shirt and poster may still be available)

Copasetics – S/T CDEP

Copasetics EP coverI was kindly sent this 4-track introduction to Copasetics by the band, and I’m glad they thought of me. For a group that’s only been around for a year or so, it’s a great first release that holds promise of more good things to come.

Taking their influence from real old-school swing-flavoured ska right through to the fuzzed-out 3rd-wave style first brought to the world’s attention in the ’90s by the likes of Moon Ska Records, they certainly know how to get a groovy beat going. With the brass standing proud and the beats choppin’ in all the right places, it’s pretty infectious. Even the slower, more reggae-flavoured tunes have a certain oomph that demand you stand up and get your feet jiggy.

Lyrically they’re not afraid to include some pretty strong political opinions either, which is always to be applauded. There are too many bands who think a good song stops at the instruments and merely use the vocals as another layer of noise. Copasetics don’t fall into this trap and offer up sharp lines dealing with everything from isolation to inebriation via class struggle and social control. The one lyric that really caught my eye comes from ‘Firing Squad – ” I was busting a gut not to better myself but for reasons I fucking hate…to make a rich man richer”. That’s the plight of the working man and woman summed up in a nutshell. It’s a simple message and it’s good to see the next generation unafraid to tell the world just how things really are, especially when there are still so many who are blind to it.

If I’ve got one criticism, it’s the vocal delivery itself. While it’s generally strong and fits in well with the sound and the message, it has that faux Yankee twang that grates on my ears. For a band from Yorkshire, this should really be an opportunity to celebrate the county’s linguistic twang, not hide it under a blanket of Americanised stresses. Yeah, I know, it’s my bugbear and not everyone gets so het up by these things but, for me, music needs the individuality of an accent to really bring it alive. You can catch traces of the regional patois now and again, it just needs bringing much more to the fore. It says a lot for the quality of this lot though that, after a few listens, I can (almost) forgive them.

A new EP is in the works and, if this debut is anything to go by, should be well worth the wait. Until then, do your ears and brain a favour and grab this little taster for a bargain £2.50 including post and a free badge!

OP’s opinion: Three half

For people who also like: The Skints, The Specials, Capdown

Download sample track – Firing Squad (FLAC)
Copasetics website
Buy from the band

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.

Falafel

Falafels have kept me alive and healthy when I’ve been visiting places where veganism is an almost unknown quantity. They’ve maintained me in a similar state even where veganism is well understood as they’re one of the cheapest ultra-healthy foodstuffs you can buy. A pitta stuffed with falafel and salad is pretty much everything you need to sustain full fighting and drinking strength.

They’re also dead easy to make at home with stuff that any self-respecting vegan should have in their cupboard, fridge and garden / windowsill. Once the mix is made, it takes mere seconds to cook and serve ’em up. With the summer settling in and lazing about with mates being the best way to spend an evening, falafels are the perfect accompaniment.

Makes 10 falafels, scale up as needed.

  • 175g / 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½-1 tsp salt
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed / finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • A handful of fresh parsley and / or coriander, chopped
  • 1 fresh chili (red for spicy, green for not quite so), finely chopped or a good pinch of chili flakes
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • A good grind of pepper
  • Veg oil for frying

Rinse the chickpeas and soak in cold water for 24 hours. Drain then pat dry in a tea towel.

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a pan on a low heat, shaking often, until beginning to colour and release a lovely smell. Grind them coarsely in a pestle and mortar or spice mill.

Uncooked falafel

Uncooked falafel

Put the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse for a minute or two. You’ll need to stop regularly and scrape down the sides to make sure they get properly smashed up. About halfway through add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until fully combined. The finished mix should be gritty (like couscous grains or bulghur wheat) rather than totally puréed. Remember too that this is the basic recipe, you can jazz ’em up with different flavourings as you see fit.

Put the mix into a bowl, cover with clingfilm, and chill for a couple of hours in the fridge.

Pour oil into a wok to around 1″ deep, just enough to cover the falafels, and put on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until nice and hot. Take about a large walnut’s worth of mix and flatten slightly into a small burger shape. Put as many falafels as will comfortably fit into the wok. Cook for a couple of minutes each side until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and place onto kitchen towels to soak up any excess oil. Alternatively, deep fry at around 175°C.

Serve in pitta or tortillas with a load of salad and, if you really like chickpeas, a big smear of hummus too. For more punch use a chili sauce. You can also make a tahini or soya yoghurt sauce to drizzle over, or maybe try a squeeze of lemon or lime. A couple of fresh mint leaves roughly torn and sprinkled on also works really well. In fact, customise ’em however you like. It’s all good.

Cooked falafel

The finished article