Bad Breeding play The Sebright Arms in London, Tom Clayton catches the gig for Louder Than War.
Bad Breeding’s recent second record, Divide, features as part of its artwork an extensive essay on the current political climate on both sides of the Atlantic, highlighting an atmosphere that ‘makes it hard to gain purchase on reality or clarity… designed to induce lethargy and silence.’
Luckily for us, they have succumbed to neither.
Divideis cathartic, breathless and absolutely fucking furious. For all those bemoaning the lack of political anger in today’s musicians: here it is, and then some. It also represents a step up in intensity from BB’s earlier recordings (they formed in 2013; debut album Bad Breeding followed last year) seeing them step further away from their original hardcore influences towards a more atonal, all-encompassing hurricane of noise; longer cuts like ‘Leaving’ bear comparison to Killing Joke and Suicide. That’s not to say there’s nothing to jump around to, mind: Whip Hand and latest single The More the Merrier are singularly relentless, at times reminiscent of Black Flag at their strangulated best.
Kicking off a two-night residency at The Sebright Arms, Good Friday finds the band in typically no-nonsense mood. Early highlight Death features the first of vocalist Chris Dodd’s frequent sojourns into a clearly hyped pit. Dodd is an indomitable presence – when not throwing himself at the punters, he sweeps the room with a calculating gaze, ensuring the whole audience is locked in, and barking down the microphone with seemingly endless reserves of fury. The rest of the band leave little room for the mind to wander, either: they play with the controlled ferocity of musicians who have learned their trade in small rooms, on smaller budgets. After a frantic first ten, white light and distorted tape noise fills the room while they a deserved (albeit miniscule) breather.
Early single Burn This Flag then arrives at breakneck speed, representing the closest thing Bad Breeding have to an anthem; as you’ll have gathered, this isn’t particularly a ‘verse, chorus, repeat’ outfit. The More the Merrier is the clincher, though: a claustrophobic, 90-second howl which confirms we are seeing something special at work here. With another night lined up for tomorrow, you’d forgive them for keeping a little something in reserve – but that, of course, isn’t their style. It’s an exhilarating statement.
Many bands have tried and failed to recapture the glory days of hardcore, but Bad Breeding are not simply revivalists; through a combination of innovation within what is admittedly a narrow set of parameters, and sheer force, they pull off the incredibly difficult trick of making these sounds seem new again. The Guardian recently called them ‘the best punk band in Britain today’ – in fact, that genre-specific caveat does them a disservice. The fact that their message is often obscured by those slabs of noise actually serves as a pretty neat summation of Divide’s essay: in a world positively roaring with deception, you have to listen carefully for the truth. And with the West’s leaders seemingly intent on continuing down a path of political and economic self-destruction, you sense Bad Breeding’s insurrectionist vision won’t be short of material in future.
Divide is out now on La Vida Es Un Mus records and is available to order here