Category Archives: punk rock

Uncarved Block by Flux (One Little Indian)

THE STRANGEST thing about Uncarved Block is just how much everyone seems to hate it.

Flux of Pink Indians’ first album – the snappily-named Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible – was a very likeable kind of angry, knockabout Crass punk with tunes and feedback.

By contrast, their second, The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks, was a very unlikeable maelstrom of feedback, shouting and no tunes whatsoever. And that was kind of the whole point.

Even so, the greying, befuddled online remnants of the anarcho-punk community seem to prefer The Fucking Cunts to Uncarved Block, the band’s third album, an ultra-accessible collection of loose-limbed dub funk with lyrics inspired by Taoism.

“Uncarved Block was the most unexpected of the band’s three studio albums, delivering more polemic allied to dance and funk rhythms that left their previous audience totally nonplussed,” says some guy off the internet. “It was a dreadful effort.”

Uncarved Block is, it seems, “largely uninteresting”, “self-indulgent rubbish” and, according to Flux guitarist Kev Hunter in The Day the Country Died, “nothing to do with punk in the slightest, a completely neutered record with no balls at all. Trumpets and bongos on a punk album? Arty-farty shite, I’m afraid.”

You have to peer into some very dark and dusty corners of the internet to find another view.

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Flex Your Head by Various Artists (Dischord)

SOMETIMES this shit seems so important that it eclipses everything, and then when you finally get it together after years of trying and failing, it turns out it means absolutely nothing at all.

There’s a picture of me, Paul, John and Doug from about five years ago, at a house party in leafy Headingley. We’re all beaming. I’m well and truly trollied, having a right laugh with some of my dearest friends, as happy as Larry.

After a tough couple of years, things were happening. I was secure in an exciting new job, confident, cohabiting, committed, and happy with my lot. Full of optimism for the future, I was ready for anything and everything life could throw at me.

At least some of my exuberance on that particular night stemmed from Paul’s admission that he’d found the copy of the seminal Washington DC hardcore compilation, Flex Your Head, that he’d somehow appropriated from me back in the day. Like 30 years ago back in the day.

“I ended up with the record because you gave it me during one of your youthful ‘I’ve had it with that shit, I’m moving on’ moments,” says Paul. “You gave me Let Them Eat Jellybeans too”.

It does sound like something I’d do.

Getting Flex Your Head back seemed like a really big deal. I was proper excited to hear it again – even though, we should remember, I cared so little for this very expensive import that I gave it away within a year or so of buying it.

I was eager to revisit that bit of my ever-more-distant youth, and to recall old times and people and places, and probably make some hokey, convoluted point that while the good old days were pretty great at the time they were actually pretty shitty when you look back on them, yeah? Or maybe it would have been the other way around.

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Death Church by Rudimentary Peni (Corpus Christi)

ULTIMATELY, I don’t actually give a shit whether you like Rudimentary Peni or not – come to think of it, I’d probably prefer it if you didn’t – but if you’re coming to this cold, but you can find out everything you need to know about them here.

Essentially, in the words of a very wise man, Peni “took the basic thrash blueprint, wiped their arses with it and screwed it up into a tight little ball before exploding all over you like a bad medieval disease.”

If you’re already a fan, and you’re looking for catalogue numbers and release dates, you’d be better off elsewhere.

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The Curse Of Zounds by Zounds (Rough Trade)

AS MUCH as I loved fast and furious bands like Antisect, Amebix and Discharge, who operated at the heavier, more raucous end of anarcho punk, there was also a place within my heart for the bands who took a stealthier approach, who sang rather than shouted, who took their time with what they wanted to say and employed a number of chord changes, hell, sometimes even actual melodies to say it.

Foremost among them were The Mob and Zounds – and the Poison Girls of course, but we’ll have to save them for another time – who always seemed to be linked in my mind, not least because they toured together a lot and shared a drummer for a while. And the two bands also seemed to share a style of approach which often seemed completely at odds with many other bands who released music on Crass Records – not least Crass themselves.

Both the Mob and Zounds employed humour, subtlety and experimentation where others were content to focus on shouting, profanity and buzz-saw guitars – not that there’s anything wrong with shouting, profanity and buzz-saw guitars you understand, but everyone needs a bit of light and shade sometimes, don’t they? Some respite from the anger and hatred, a break from the big ideas? I was very grateful they were around.

They didn’t parrot the by-the-numbers sloganeering endemic in much of the scene, and instead talked about people rather than problems, the personal rather than the overtly political. It was a very different way of working and one that was about setting a mood and creating an atmosphere as much as telling you what was what in the world.

In contrast with the black and white, one-side-or-the-other certainties of Crass and many of the bands on their label, Zounds and the Mob didn’t claim to know all the answers, or indeed any of the answers. They probably weren’t even sure about the question.

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Pink Flag by Wire (Harvest)

ONCE a week, I was banished to Record Village’s other shop, a bus ride away in a nearby small market town called Brigg which was if anything, even bleaker than Scunthorpe, but much more countrified.

The manager got a day off midweek, so I minded the shop and had to deal with one, maybe even two customers a day. The heating always seemed to be turned off. It was pretty grim.

It would have been very boring but for the fact that, y’know, I was hanging around in a record shop – even if it was a bit of a shite one – and I ended up working my way through the shop’s entire stock, more or less. For someone like me, it was nerdvana.

We weren’t really supposed to play interesting stuff in the main shop and generally had to stick to a rigid playlist of whatever major label crap we happened to be pushing that week. There wasn’t quite as wide a range of stock in the Brigg shop but there was enough to go at and I began to look forward to my weekly excursions to mid-Eighties medieval Lincolnshire.

One miserable, God-forsaken, never-ending, quiet-as-the-grave Wednesday in Brigg I heard some new Factory record which turned out to be the raw, wobbly and utterly magnificent Squirrel And G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out) by the Happy Mondays. You can imagine how pleased I was.

Wire were another one of my Brigg discoveries. My uncle Rich was into them, I think, but I only had ears for reggae when I was a kid, a lot of the time, and they didn’t make much of an impression. Later on, Doug probably played them, but I’d have thought they were just another of his dull trad-dad pub rock new wave bands, like Television, Chelsea or the Stranglers.

How wrong can one man be?

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The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks by Flux Of Pink Indians (Spiderleg Records)

I WATCH the postman wheel his cart down the other side of our road and wonder if eil.com can have got my order to me by today. I get a bit excited all of a sudden.

A few minutes later, he’s coming back down our side of the street. He’s a couple of houses away. I hold my breath. Come on lad, I think, you can do it.

The buzzer goes. “Package for you,” it says in a metallic Mancunian monotone.

Two seconds and three storeys later, I open the front door and take the 12-inch cardboard mailer from the unsuspecting postie. If only you knew what you‘re delivering, I think to myself, idiotically, as I thank him.

I make myself walk back up the stairs at a more sedate pace. It’s a big effort. When I get back in the flat I sit on the settee, open the package and slide the album out of its protective sleeve to reveal the savagely androgynous figures on the cover, still every bit as striking, ugly, perverse and compelling as the first day I saw them.

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Christ The Album by Crass (Crass Records)

MY FIRST Crass gig was in Sheffield, where a group of people with too much time on their hands had cadged resources from the city council – then led by David Blunkett – to create a community-focussed arts and music venue, complete with vegetarian café, in an old factory near the train station.

The Leadmill opened in 1982, in the wake of rioting in St Pauls, Brixton and Toxteth (followed by a series of copycat mini-insurrections around the rest of the country) and – the way I remember it, at least – keen to head off any youth rebellion in the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire, the council had sponsored an opening programme of cheap gigs.

In the same situation now, Blunkett would probably just send in the army, but back then he sent Boy George instead.

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