THE STORY OF UK IN­DE­PEN­DENT PUNK 1980-1983

White-knuckle set brings to­gether the noisy, thrilling world of early-’80s UK punk.

Q (UK) - - Contents -

If you think punk died with Sid Vi­cious, this com­pi­la­tion has some very loud news.

VAR­I­OUS ARTISTS BURN­ING BRI­TAIN: A STORY OF IN­DE­PEN­DENT UK PUNK 1980-1983 CHERRY RED, OUT 27 APRIL

The Sex Pis­tols had been defunct for well over three years by the time The Ex­ploited ap­peared on Top Of The Pops in Oc­to­ber 1981. In the same month, punk’s other truly de­fin­i­tive band The Clash em­barked upon their clas­sic lineup’s fi­nal al­bum, Com­bat Rock, wherein they dal­lied with funk, dub and hip-hop. None of that fancy stuff for The Ex­ploited: a crazy-colour mo­hawk’d quar­tet from the bleak hous­ing schemes of Ed­in­burgh, they blitzed through Dead Cities’ ag­gro-happy thrash (“Snarling and gob­bing and fall­ing around”) in 90 sec­onds. “Well!” pre­sen­ter David “Kid” Jensen splut­tered af­ter­wards. “Who­ever said punk was dead?!” Jensen’s ques­tion felt rhetor­i­cal: as far as main­stream cul­ture was con­cerned, punk died with Sid Vi­cious. The Ex­ploited’s brief prime-time cross­over rep­re­sented a freak in­cur­sion from the in­de­pen­dent sec­tor, where punk now resided, will­ingly ghet­toised by its own prac­ti­tion­ers. “Here’s a chord; here’s an­other; here’s a third – now form a band”: the irony of the le­gendary 1977 fanzine edict was that most of the orig­i­nal punk bands had pre­vi­ous lives in glam rock, pub rock, even pro­gres­sive rock, and were ac­tu­ally ca­pa­ble of far greater pro­fi­ciency. Sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions,

IT’S AN EPIC HAUL THROUGH GRUEL BRI­TAN­NIA: AN UNDERCLASS SOUND­TRACK HAUNTED BY THATCHER AND NU­CLEAR PARA­NOIA.

how­ever, re­ally were start­ing from Ground Zero. To provin­cial late-adopters such as The In­sane from Wi­gan, or Sep­tic Psy­chos from Ch­ester­field, three chords seemed a bit of a stretch, a point­less grasp at mu­si­cal­ity in a harsh new so­cial and eco­nomic land­scape. Freed from the il­lu­sory prom­ise of fame, how­ever, punk’s egal­i­tar­ian ethos meant it not only sur­vived, but thrived – as this mam­moth doc­u­ment proves. Any col­lec­tion which opens with the siren yob­bery of the Cock­ney Re­jects isn’t pulling any punches. Com­pared to most of the 113 tracks which fol­low, how­ever, the Jimmy Purseypro­duced Bad Man re­sem­bles a pin­na­cle of evo­lu­tion. The Re­jects’ pres­ence on Burn­ing Bri­tain is some­what anoma­lous – they were one of the last punk bands signed to a ma­jor la­bel – but the song’s thrilling at­tack is a gen­tle ap­pe­tiser for em­bark­ing upon this epic haul through gruel Bri­tan­nia: a 4CD underclass sound­track haunted by the de­mon Thatcher and nu­clear para­noia. The real stars here are leather jacket leg­ends Dis­charge (their piv­otal early sin­gle De­con­trol) or Sub­hu­mans (whose as­ton­ish­ing Rea­son For Ex­is­tence is a postAr­maged­don Play For Today), or myr­iad one-off spasms of frus­tra­tion from bands whose sto­ries barely reg­is­tered be­yond the Sounds gig guide: the un­con­tain­able force of They’ve Got It All Wrong by Gravesend’s An­thrax, or 17 Years Of Hell by The Par­ti­sans, an Oi! Band from Brid­gend, or The Sears, a onere­cord won­der from the Black Coun­try whose demo track Not Pre­pared, pre­served here in its warped tape glory, sees singer Clare Tay­lor ev­i­dently march­ing in step with Pe­nis Envy-era Crass. The Ep­ping For­est an­ar­chists are glar­ingly ab­sent, but their spirit is felt here via le­gions of im­i­ta­tors and the pre­dom­i­nant lib­er­tine nar­ra­tive. The com­pil­ers lighten a some­times for­bid­ding jour­ney with the oc­ca­sional burst of big-name so­phis­ti­ca­tion (The Damned’s Wait For The Black­out) or hu­mour, of­ten gal­lows, as from the ex­cel­lent Ac­tion Pact’s Lon­don Bounc­ers. Credit also to writer and for­mer punk la­bel-owner Ian Glasper’s sleevenotes for pro­vid­ing con­text to the in­choate noise. Tellingly, many of th­ese bands have re-formed in re­cent years, a tes­ti­mony to the mu­sic’s re­silience. The Ex­ploited, mean­while, never stopped. Their con­tri­bu­tion is ti­tled Al­ter­na­tive – but for th­ese punk lif­ers, there was no such thing. ★★★★ KEITH CAMERON Lis­ten To: Sub­hu­mans – Rea­son For Ex­is­tence | An­thrax – They’ve Got It All Wrong

Rebel with a cause: Cock­ney Re­jects’ Jeff “Stinky” Turner in 1980.

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