Zounds, Cravats, Paranoid Visions,
Richard Cubesville reports on three very different anarchopunk bands rejuvenated and revitalised in the 21st Century.
Anarchopunk is a relatively new term for a highly creative scene loosely based around Crass in the early 1980s. Shunned by almost all radio DJs with the notable exception of John Peel, anarchopunk describes a diverse collection of individuals making art and music despite the ravages of an austere Thatcher government. Which explains tonight’s lineup of three groups of a certain vintage but very different influences.
Paranoid Visions are an outsider voice that refused to shut up. Coming out of Dublin at a time when little other punk was produced in Ireland, PV lacked the cool and kudos of London bands. Rather than resigning to an underdog mentality, they seemingly enjoyed the fact that they had little to lose. âWe’re the last punk band left,âÂ announces singer Deko lurching to the front of the stage. In another life Deko would have made a great double for actor Richard Harris ââ he is physically imposing, his moods alternate between theatrical pathos and working class anger, and yep, he is visibly drunk. Although they’ve kicked around for 30 years, PV have a brand new album to draw from, and this is no nostalgia fest. Escape from the Austerity Complex blends parody, passion and rage to deride and decry 21st Century politicians and powermongers. PV’s delivery is a collective effort, and vocals draw their weight from the swaggering and staggering Deko and energy from two younger singers. The band’s frontman is often absent from the stage, to prove the depth of the band. PV appropriate Crass and SLF tunes to score points. Their finale, a new song, Outsider Artists, comes straight from the heart.
Although the Cravats are hailed as progenators of jazz punk, this is a destination at which they arrived through a deeper exploration of anarchy and absurdity. Their single and album released by Crass were as much tribute to their DIY Dadaism than their anarchist punk credentials. And damn fine records they were too. Frontman The Shend and saxplayer Svoor Naan are the group’s two poles of eccentricity. The Shend’s physical bulk and stage character of a genial thespian compliment Svoor’s crazy experimentation and unearthly sounds. Having broken so much ground in a bygone age, they’re happy to stick with this material, which is still potent enough to comfortably confound an average audience. Rub Me Out tiptoes through Orwellian paranoia, while I am the Dreg sees The Shend take the time to deliver infantile improvised lines of scat beside Svoor’s insect-like top-range squawking. And I Hate the Universe was written and performed like Hawkwind fans unleashed from bedroom practices in deepest Redditch. Which they were.
Steve Lake has come into his own since the re-emergence of Zounds and turns his introspective songwriting into rapturous live performances. Zounds’ hailed second album, Redemption of Zounds, owed as much to 60s Britpop than it did to 1970s squatpunk of their 30-year-old debut LP. Yet Mr Lake finely meshes the two to prove the issues that drove kids to write protest songs 30 years ago are still relevant today. Just to show life hasn’t changed much, Mr Lake makes reference to the 11 o’clock curfew hanging over the gig before the club is given back to fashionable Islingtonians to use as their playground. At times, the 1980s paranoia that fuelled the first album, The Curse of Zounds, is still as difficult to decipher, as when it was written, and Mr Lake gets heads scratching when he announces: âThis is about how I replaced my mother with a cruise missile.âÂ When Zounds complete their set with the ska-punk anthem Subvert, the room is rocking wildly and three bands have brought different perspectives together to demonstrate how one banner, which we now call anarchopunk, united very different groups of people.