Andy T: Life At Tether’s EndÂ is a combination CD / book released on the recently revived All The MadmenÂ record label. After a 23 year hiatus, the DIY punk label regrouped last year after seeing the continuing need for its politically-charged output, and Life At Tether’s End fits their DIY anarcho-punk ethos perfectly.
The book itself is a neat little 96-page hardback. The first third of it is a biography of Andy T written from interviews conducted by Richard Cubesville. It covers his life growing up in Rochdale through the early anarchist punk scene in the 1970s, with anecdotes about the lifestyle, politics and bands of the time – he was good friends with Crass and The Poison Girls – through to his decision to leave the scene in the mid 1980s and finally his return four years ago, angry as ever. Although the biography is reasonably short, it’s not just a charming slice of history. You get a close insight into Andy’s thoughts and opinions and finish it feeling like you know the guy. I’m usually fairly dubious of people who describe themselves as poets but Andy T’s a guy with a good sense of humour and his boots firmly on the ground, someone you can see yourself going to the pub with and putting the world to rights.
The rest of the book is a collection of the poems (in the order they appear on the CD), overlaid on graphic images (which are sometimes literally graphic, like in the case of the poem about vivisection). The poems themselves are simple, blunt and fairly raw, but you don’t want an audience or reader to have to wade through several layers of Joycean prose in order to tell them about the harsh realities of life. The way the poems appear juxtaposed with the images fits the content perfectly, each page looks like a postcard from working class life in Tory Britain.
The content of Andy T’s poetry is far-ranging but easy to identify with. He speaks of frustration with the voting system, the debilitating effects of addiction, the evils of vivisection, apathy, racism, the erosion of civil liberties, and how much he hates Thatcher (a lot). He’s an angry, angry bloke but this isn’t a series of haranguing lectures, he’s just telling it like it is and asking the audience to stand up help him do something about it. He’s pissed off that the world isn’t as good as he knows it can be, and succeeds in making you realise it too.
The focus on the album is obviously on the lyrical content rather than the music, with some tracks being spoken word only, and it’s nice to see the poems stand on their own strength. Andy’s harsh Northern accent frames the topics like no other could, and you hear genuine, heartfelt fury and bitter disappointment in the way he spits questions to those he rails against. That’s not to say the music should be ignored or doesn’t enhance the poetry though, since it really does. The band are a solid, group who’s bass-heavy, new-wavey, post-punkish sounds accentuate Andy T’s invective, giving it added depth while making it easier to hear. The result ends up sounding like early Culture Shock or a slower Ian Dury, with elements of The Stranglers and Joy Division.
The CD also contains bonus material, featuring a performance supporting Crass at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. It’s not brilliant quality (it was recorded on a handheld camera), but it’s nice to see Andy T in action.
To conclude, this is a really nifty little combination, and does so much more than it says on the tin. It’s not just a book and CD, it’s a poetry collection, album, interview, performance, art and historical account all wrapped up in one. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book and album, and at only a tenner it’d make a fine stocking filler for the anarcho-punk in your life.