Goldblade: The Terror Of Modern Life – album review

Goldblade – The Terror Of Modern Life (Overground Records)
CD/Ltd Col Vinyl/DL
OUT TODAY (20th May 2013)

He may be the head honcho of Louder Than War but John Robb’s band Goldblade don’t get any preferential treatment from Ged Babey as he reviews their sixth album.

“Listen up! Listen Up! This is Goldblade Calling! This is the last radio show before the Apocalypse!”

Shamefully, I have to admit that I’ve only ever seen Goldblade live once, when they played Southampton in 1997 after releasing their over-ambitious, beautifully flawed début album Home Turf – an album I loved for its sheer breadth and audacity. They were amazing. Punk Rock energy and hooligan soul brother passion. I hadn’t seen such an inspirational, impassioned band since the Manics.

The Cherry Red live DVD Testify! stood me in good stead in the meantime, capturing the sweat and energy of their evangelical rock ’n’ roll live shows.

Their last album, 2008’s Mutiny, despite some great anthemic punk rock songs like Jukebox Generation and the awesome City of Ghosts seemed like they were, by their own standards, treading water to some extent and had become merely “a very good punk rock band” and not world-beaters and brand-leaders.

But as the press release for the Terror of Modern Life quite rightly states. “Reacting to the modern times the band seem to have cranked both the energy and the raw power in an album that is a clean break from their past”. This is the album that Goldblade have always threatened to make.

This album is the summation of decades of punk & rock influences. It’s punk rock in its widest, most all-encompassing definition. This is full-throttle, raw-throated Goldblade, but in a “diverse exploration of all the possibilities of punk rock, set into a 21st century agenda. Finding hope in the apocalypse it’s a dense and dark work that somehow finds moments of optimism in the downward spiral of the planet”.

Goldblade have always been a well-drilled machine, a high-octane, punch-the-air, holler-along, macho proposition. Years of experience have led up to this, yet it took John Robb going back to his earlier band, oddball post-punk noiseniks the Membranes to re-ignite the spark; sonically and attitudinally.

The bass, for starters, what Robb calls the gnarly porridgy JJ Burnel influenced sound is phenomenal. Guitarist Peter Brynchmore plays “out of his skin” as John describes it in a forthcoming interview for The Quietus. The whole band really gel and play harder and faster and with a real sense of purpose on this album. It is visceral and dark but varied and enjoyable and one of the best punk-or-otherwise albums that you will hear, this, or any other year.

The opening salvo is an all-guns-blazing statement of intent entitled This Is War. The best slice of gristly, visceral punk rock you’ll hear in 2013 with the guitar-playing like Dick Dale doing some delicate tattoo-ing with an Oxy-Acetylene blowtorch.

The title track, which closes the album is one of the most pummeling pieces of muscular rock music you’ll hear; the nearest a British band has got to the pectoral perfection of Rollins Bands End of Silence (the pinnacle in post-hardcore bench-press rock in my opinion). Influenced too by all-manner of drone / sludge rock. A whole album in that vein would probably alienate long-time fans, but as a stand-alone track it’s a stunning finale

Before I go on with the positives (and it looks like an ass-kissing fest…) there are a few reservations I have about a couple of tracks; I don’t think Goldblade quite have the lightness of touch to play punky reggae altogether successfully. So the track Serious Business may have benefited from using a different producer (although when reading this bear in mind that this week I’ve also been listening to the new Ruts DC album – and that sets a pretty high benchmark in punky reggae!) The band and label obviously don’t share my opinion as the track is earmarked as the next single.

Track two, Psycho Takes A Holiday is a bit punk-by-numbers filler, with an I Don’t Need to Tell Her / London Lady style section where each instrument has a 3 second solo. Its fun maybe but a bit corny.

All In It Together is a great Oi! anthem I guess, reclaiming the phrase and giving it proper meaning -those who are suffering under the Tories are all in it together- and not a glib soundbite, but it is a bit too Steve Jones and football-terracey for my liking.

 

These quibbles, however, are far outweighed by the sheer quality of the musicianship and intensity of the rest of the songs. From the sixth track until the end of the thirteenth it’s simply a relentless (hard) core of violently tuneful punk with choruses & power chords, rage & despair. The titles are enough to signpost what’s going on; My Mind is like An Atom Bomb. The World is Fucked-Up Nowadays. Sick / Tired. Kiss Like Humans, Act Like Machines. There’s a teenage energy and a mid-life desperation and angst on display, at play and exorcising itself with a shit-eating grin on its chops.

Someone Stole My Brain is a particular highlight, a crunchy bass line like the heavy groove of a Sherman tank and Brynchmore incorporating the main theme from Holst Mars-the Bringer of War ( from the Planets Suite) into his Dick Dale style guitar part. Combined with Robb’s Ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-haaah! Which recalls Rotten’s vocal on Belsen Was a Gas, this makes for a stunning piece of work.

The Shaman are Coming is another classic and future live favourite, with its Killing Joke-ish feel and a choir of heavenly bootboys carrying the chorus.

 

There is so much packed into the full-on, forty-four and a half minutes of this album that make it a great listen from start to finish. In these days of playlists and i-pods though it’s also a great album to break up into 4-song chunks. There’s the fast, raging side, the slower/ varied list, the sing along / party-punk tunes, the apocalyptic, angry selection…..

The fact that Goldblade cover all these bases is probably their greatest strength, although possibly a weakness in their bid for big-time success. Do younger music-fans still want an album with twelve songs that sound like the hit-single? Wider-tastes with a bit of variety & eclecticism come with age don’t they? Maybe times have changed. Goldblade have, they’re on their best form since their early days judging by this, arguably one of the best thinking-mans-punk-rock albums of the 21st Century so far….

The band are on Facebook. Twitter and have an official website.

All words by Ged Babey. For more writing by Ged visit his Louder Than War author archive.

A full interview with John Robb appears on THE QUIETUS website soon.

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3 comments on “Goldblade: The Terror Of Modern Life – album review”

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  1. Have to be honest and say that I was starting to get a bit tired of Goldblade, but they played a few weeks ago in Glasgow and I would put it up there with seeing them on their first tour. The spark has turned into a flame again.

  2. Great review which sums the album up really well. I agree with almost of all of you’re points, Ged and a good, honest summation. The album actually contains the only G/blade song I’ve ever actively disliked in “We’re all In It Together” which is just rubbish. the good bits are excellent, though.

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