Alcohol Licks: Life is Sweet – album review
One For The Road Records
West Midlands-based Hard-Drinking, Anarcho-Vegetarian, Ska-Punk, Hardcore-Pub-Rock, Covers-Protest, Perenial-Support-act release their second album and it’s fantastic says Ged Babey. Vive Le Alco-Punk!
When I interviewed Alice Nutter from Chumbawamba back in 1994 as their Anarchy album was being released, she spoke about wanting to make the idea of anarchy fun again, and something positive. She defined it as “the politics which announce your life; I do do-this and I do do-that …” rather than be just anti-this and anti-that, how other bands seemed to define themselves.
Listening to Brum punks Alcohol Licks reminded me of that because anarcho-libetarian, cider-punk vegans don’t tend to have songs called things like Life is Sweeeet! Or songs about the sheer joy of dancing and the freedom and perils of cycling.
Lead Alcohol Lick Sam (no surnames, no pack drill) who sings and plays guitar always seems to have a beaming smile on her face and it’s her beliefs and personality, as well as her musical chops, that carry this album into greatness. Spud and Scott are a nifty rhythm section who mix and shuffle the pace and groove though from laid-back to raging, sometimes turning on a sixpence.
Featuring former members of Spithead, Dogshit Sandwich and other appallingly-named bands from the incestuous Birmingham Punk Family the Licks are a perennial support act at every local Subhumans or Mob or GBH gig. But potentially they are one of the best ‘unknown’ protest punk bands in the UK and should be half-way-up the bill at Rebellion where they’d go down a storm.
They pride themselves on a bit of variety musically from some rinky-dink ska-punk, some dancehall reggae stylings, some metal, country and rock ‘n’ roll influences, and this only serves to enhance their appeal. Their previous album was called It’s Not Punk! … They Say, in response to narrow musical minded criticism.
Sam is a great singer and lyricist and has written at lest two absolute classic songs included here which are thoroughly relevant, modern protest anthems. (No Means No and Cycle Warrior).
No Means No is a song about sexual harassment by men, the chorus (No means no mean no means no means no means…) is tunefully sung until the final NOOO!! which vomits out as a growly Exorcist-style roar! Making the point. As a female empowerment anthem it’s inadvertently a punk rock Answer Song to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. The yokel pronunciation of “touching my aaarse” shows a bit too much time spent with West Country Cider-Punks maybe, but what’s great about this song is how an important issue can still be dealt with in a positive, funny way without losing its seriousness. “The government wanted to rule that if you were raped when you were a bit drunk you’d receive less compensation. Hasn’t a girl got the right to get drunk without the risk of interference in this goddamn nation?” And you can dance to it.
Cycle Warrior is sung in a kinda Ari-Up dancehall style, it’s about being a cycle-punk in the congested streets where you are a second-class citizen because you don’t own a car. It starts with Jeremy Clarkson’s weasel voice and calls for cyclists to “Reclaim the streets wi’ a critical mass, a serious protest wi’ a party buzz …. a glimpse of a dream where bikes rules the streets … sweet!”
The other tracks show the Licks are not averse to a love song, a bit of folk and are fond of a naff cover version punked-up (Toy Dolls or rather Eddie & Sheena style); on the last album it was Dolly Partons Jollene and on this one is Suspicious Mindz although I don’t remember the line “lets all get pissed” in the original.
Mixed Dub borrows an ending from the Cure’s Grinding Halt from Three Imaginary Boys – which pinpoints the ages of at least some of the band.
Watchn’ the Newz is another classic with Slits and Menace style usage of plenty of shit-shit- shits (as well as spits and sicks!) and all in all its a great varied yet cohesive album, home produced on a budget which includes nothing left for promotion.
It’s an essential release for fans of Subhumans, The Mob, Cultureshock and so on, but it actually deserves to be heard by a far wider audience who like their music to have something to say, without being dull and preachy. Alcohol Licks, despite the silly name, are the party protest punks you can trust and dance to whilst manning the barricades… Get in touch with them for a copy of this great album.
Alcohol Licks don’t do Myspacebook’n’Twitter. Or Paypal. They’re old fashioned like that.
‘Life is Sweeet’ CD is available for £6.00 plus £2.00 p+p (£8.00) from Scott Davies contact email@example.com Payment by Cheques and postal orders . The only format is CD. Other CDs available – ‘Licks for Kicks’ (4 tracks 2007) £3.00 plus £1.50 p+p and ‘It’s Not Punk! …They Say’ (8 tracks 2010) £5.00 plus £2.00 p+p.
All words by Ged Babey. Photo provided by the band. More of Ged’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.