Anthrax, Pedagree Skum, Dog Shite, SLUG – split EP (Grow Your Own)
Nathan Brown spins another killer slab of punk rock from the rapidly expanding Grow Your Own Records and gives it the thumbs up.
Following on from the recent three way split between The System, Virus & Bug Central, Grow Your Own are back with the second in a series of split EPs. They’ve assembled four bands who they consider are doing something worthwile enough to warrant vinyl. Gender politics, identity, and different ways we are controlled by government and media….this EP covers a broad subject matter and a breadth of different styles of punk. It is testament to the quality of Grow Your Own’s output that, as a cynical bastard who rarely buys without hearing first, I pre-ordered it on the basis that their quality threshold is high…and I wasn’t disappointed. A word to the wise…this is a label for punk rockers to keep an eye on.
Anthrax, who started the label – the anarcho punks from Kent, not to be confused with the heavy metallers from New York – kick off this EP with “Dirty Bomb” – a song that has hints of ska. Ska? Yes, Anthrax playing a ska influenced tune! While ska is known for being bouncy and cheerful this carries a dark underbelly. Remember the 2 Tone single The Boiler? Kinda reminds me of that until the vocals kick in. And then the conjunction of gruff punk Kentish tones with the reggae cum ska chops has something in common with Inner Terrestrials. I’m sure this wasn’t their intention, more a matter of what happens when you whizz up similar ingredients: punk, Kent and ska. I hereby announce a new genre: SkapunKent.
Anyway, don’t you worry, they soon break into more familiar driving punk which is instantly recognisable as Anthrax. Mid-way through there is a bit of a dubby breakdown and some good old fashioned delay (echo to you heathens). One thing that I like about Anthrax is their ability to come up with salient, pithy observational lyrics. In this case, they build on a familiar saying “If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything – anything they choose to give. Blame culture’s just the start, tear our communities apart”. The Dirty Bomb of the title is no misguided terrorist armed with a suitcase of plutonium but successive governments of all parties armed with a suitcase of anti-community, anti-working class ideas which has an equally corrosive and destructive effect. A great follow up continuing the theme of the “Beg Society” on Anthrax’s recent split 7 inch with Burnt Cross.
I’ve seen the name of Pedagree Skum around but not actually had the pleasure of seeing them in the flesh yet. Hailing from Stoke, they play down the line guitar-driven punk rock. Melodic yet angry, kinda rocky in places, but snotty as you like. “Fight, Kill, Maim, Steal, Love, Hate, Destroy,Create” the words are shouted and spat out like commands. The response tunefully sung back “No-one knows what they’re doing it for”. The overall theme of “The Futility of the Human condition” is “be who you want to be”, surely the defining message of punk rock, from the Pistols to Crass. I hear a a slight similarity in the vocal delivery to later era DIRT which is no bad thing. After successive listens it is this track that keeps bubbling to the top as the stand out song of four very good offerings. On the strength of this song I’m going to be checking out their other releases.
Starting off with a bit of whacka-whacka Starsky & Hutch style wah-wah, with some dancey sounding heavy drum beats there is a definite free festival meets urban savagery vibe to the Dog Shite song. The dance influence came as no surprise because drummer Chris Liberator is well known in techno circles as a DJ (and I should mention also plays for Hagar The Womb). Dealing with feminist issues, the chorus of”Fuck you Rudeboy” is pretty catchy. The vocal delivery has a rhythmic hip hop feel to it and also reminds me of a vocal from an old Spiral Tribe track “Breach The Peace” although comparing the two there isn’t that much in common! The song ranges from sounding like an argument on the nightbus (“You call me ‘bitch’ and a ‘bird’ well not anymore cos I’m gonna be heard”) to commentary about women & their place in society – wage inequality, body image, false “Girl power” and women in the music industry being controlled by men. While Pedagree Skum are kind of saying “Ignore those fools who judge you, be yourself”, the response from Dog Shite is more combative of the nature “Who the fuck are you to judge me?”
Closing an EP of contrasts yet similarities and shared themes, the anger of SLUG thunders out of the speakers at you. It is a real shame they have split as they were one of the most interesting new bands I’d seen of late. A mixture of sussed politics, anger and noisy punk rock tunes punctuated with drunken antics that verged on self harm when they played live. The title, “Weapons of mass deception” says it all….TV brain rot keeps you quiet so the government can get on with what they want with little opposition. Whereas Anthrax focus on sewing seeds of distrust as a way of keeping the people easily governed, SLUG look at the role of distraction. For Bread and circuses read TV dinner and Strictly.
As usual with Grow Your Own releases it’s not just music – the whole package matters to the label. Each band get a 7″ square page for their art/lyrics in an eight page booklet with the cover and middle spread bearing some of the uneasiness provoked by the art of Winston Smith (Dead Kennedys) or Gee Vaucher (Crass). Order it early enough and you’ll get a bunch of stickers to put on your fridge, record player, skateboard or brief case for the punk businessman about town.
Get your filthy hands on it before it sells out from Grow Your Own’s bandcamp page.
Words by Nathan Brown. You can read more from him in his Louder Than War writer archive here