Cyanide Pills: Still Bored – album review

Cyanide Pills – Still Bored (Damaged Goods)

CD/LP/Download

Out now

Are Cyanide Pills 2013’s best new punk band or retro-punk vintage New Wave throwbacks asks Ged Babey.

The Official Jon Savage History of Punk Rock would have you believe it was all Situationism and Art School Theory back in 1976 with the Pistols and Clash… and the side of punk which gets ignored is the unpretentious, custard-pie, speed and blow-jobs brigade; the Damned, the Boys, Vibrators, 999, many of whom had roots in pub-rock or glam and made great, vibrant pop music out of speeded-up rock’n’roll.

Cyanide Pills know all about that side of punk. When it was FUN, pure escapism and high-energy rock’n’roll. “We don’t need no politics to make us dance” sang the Damned on Politics on the appropriately named Music For Pleasure album. (I’m not denigrating the Do-they-think-guitars-&-microphones are just fuckin’ toys side of things, that had its place too, Punk had many facets…).

Damaged Goods too, one of the finest independent record labels left in the UK, sticks to what it knows and loves; punk rock, garage rock and oddball new wave pop, with the emphasis on fun, energy, simplicity…. Billy Childish is on Damaged Goods, the Manics New Art Riot EP was a DG release and everyone from Buzzcocks to Penetration to Armitage Shanks have released some punk rock gems on the label. On coloured vinyl usually.

Leeds five-piece dayglo-punk band Cyanide Pills are a comparatively recent signing and this is their second LP following a brace of brightly-coloured singles. The first thing you notice is the artwork. Its, primary-colours, garish style, paying tribute to various X-Ray Spex and classic punk sleeves.

They dress the part; all skinny jeans, bumper-boots and t-shirts their song titles echo the obscurer punk classics Lock Up ; (Eaters Lock It up) and Can’t Get It Up ; the Snivelling Shits I Can’t Come ) and they sound exactly like a 1978 “plastic punk” band….

I met my first punk bore when I was 12 or 13 in 1978. He must have been 18 and told me how he’d seen the Pistols live and how they were REAL and most other punk bands and kiddy punks like me were “plastics”. I thought he was a dick at the time as he had just got off his moped and was changing out of his waterproofs to reveal his leather trousers and German army jacket. His bleached and green spikes were suffering from a bit of helmet-hair as well…. But I did envy him having SEEN THE PISTOLS and wondered exactly what one had to do to graduate from Plastic Punk to Real Punk status.

By the same token, Boomtown Rats, Plastic Bertrand, most of the Stiff Rosta, Generation X etc were deemed Plastic Punks rather than “the real deal” by many… not that it mattered then as long as the records were good and it doesn’t really matter now except to hipper than thou punk collector-scum obsessives… like er me.

The kind of punk / new wave the CPs specialise in is the Plastic Punk end rather than the Real Punk variety; Bands like 999, the Boys, Neon Hearts, the Vibrators, the Wasps, the Members and so on. The so-called also-rans. Bands that made some absolutely priceless, awesome records, played blinding gigs down the Roxy and had varying degrees of longevity and subsequent success

In retrospect it was bands such as ATV the Slits, Subway Sect, the Fall and the Prefects who were the truest of true punks; self-taught, forward-thinking, trail-blazing and dismissive of stardom and compromise.

However, the first Generation X album for example is still a stupendous piece of work despite them being pin-ups and a favourite with girls.

Naivety was as big a part of punk as was novelty, marketing and image-making and I cant help feeling that Cyanide Pills don’t have that naivety, they are too knowing. They know their history. They know exactly what they are doing; songs about girls and goodtimes with the occasional cartoon reference to politics / boredom, the punk staples. Their motivation though is surely not money & fame, so it must be love of the whole ethos, look and sound. They must mean it man or else they’d be a boyband.

But maybe, just maybe, like Chumbawamba or the Hives, they could make that breakthrough in the dreaded mainstream. TV, radio, the charts ……the odds are against it, but it could happen. A song on a TV series set in the late 70’s would be all it would need.

 

Their love of the Heartbreakers is summed up in Johnny Thunders Lived In Leeds; which is a beautiful piece of juxtapositioning. “I’m a Yorkshireman not a New York Junkie” sings Phil mixing up local landmarks with the squalid glamour of Thunders life.

Politics only rears its ugly head in songs like Up Against the Wall in cartoon-form when politicians are lined up alongside celebrities, overpaid footballers and the like.

Teargas is a glam-punk love song set in a riotzone but the seriousness is kept to a minimum with lines like “When I saw her in the crowd I was getting quite aroused til the water-cannon hosed me down. I’m not cryin’, its just teargas in my eyes…

Don’t Turn Right is the most subtle yet explicit anthem politically and a great song to boot, and to dance to.

Apathy and Formica could easily have been novelty-punk hit singles in 78 or 79 and the Boomtown Rats are a surprisingly noticeable influence on a couple of songs (as are the Boys, Vibrators and others but it matters not as this is just great, high-energy, infectious pop-music…

The Seventeenth and final track Never Gonna Give It Up is their manifesto and appropriately the guitar kicks like a young James Dean Bradfield.and the first words are “Call me a total prick..!”


It is a magnificent closer to an album which is so perfectly out of time and out of place in 2013 that it fits right in. The most beautiful retro-replica of the time when the provinces fell in love with what it thought was the future; rock’n’roll that was full of sex and fun and energy and humour and meant something and nothing at the same time; The contradictory glorious mess that was pop music trying to redefine itself as punk rock.

Buy the album from here.

Find the Cyanide Pills on Twitter and Facebook

All words by Ged Babey. You can find more by Ged on Louder Than War here.

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3 comments on “Cyanide Pills: Still Bored – album review”

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  1. simon prodhan

    i saw this band at rebellion last year and i was very impressed. I loved all that type of punk back in the late 70’s, i was just a young kid who, like many, was just blown away by the sheer energy and excitement of punk, i didn’t have a clue about politics and so-called real punk. Today, i still love so-called new wave, to me bands like Blondie, Boomtown Rats,Squeeze, The Motors, Elvis Costello, Tonite and The Jam were just brilliant and i regarded them as punk, rightly or wrongly. I always think that show, Revolver sums up punk circa 1978, kids who were just enjoying the moment, loving the music and doing their best to look like ‘punks’. In my opinion punk went down the drain when all the thuggish types like the Exploited and GBH took it over and, whilst i respect them, Crass and their ilk made it all a bit too serious and po-faced.Looking back, i now regard all the bands from that glorious period, 1976 to 1980-ish as being mostly brilliant, The Pistols, Clash, Damned, Vibrators and all the above named were all fantastic pop groups. Essentially, i love good pop music and in my opinion, early punk was certainly that.Another refreshing thing about Cyanide Pills is the way they dress, one of the most awful things about 80’s-on punk is the boring ‘uniform’, the mohicans and big docs etc which to my mind look terrible,unlike the early punks who looked really cool.Summing up, i reckon a band like Cyanide Pills show just how massively different early punk/new wave was compared to what it became in the early 80’s and i know which i prefer.

  2. So far this is the punk album of the year for me. Having been around to experience the real deal in 76-77-78 as an actual new thing, which was actually life-changing, it’s rare that a modern “punk” band can really do anything for me. As Ged says, they’ve nailed that ’78 sound. I would’ve been all over this one back then. They don’t come off as some cheesy old punk redux or tribute act or pastiche, the record has its own energy and excitement. Great two-guitar sound, lyrics that span from funny to honest looks at contemporary society, just like the best stuff from back when. I rate this one above their first album, to which all of my opinions here would apply as well. I really wish these guys would come to the States, or at least NYC. In any case, I’ll be traveling with the Missus next year to London and around Scotland, so I hope we get a chance to see them. Count me as a big fan!

  3. CD of da year; lotto fun in these boys. Just like the good ol daze…

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