Bug Central – …And the fires began… (Grow Your Own)
London anarcho-punks Bug Central spit out 8 gritty numbers, holding up a mirror to their city in 2021, on their latest release for Grow Your Own Records. A record by the punks, of the punks, for the punks says Nathan Brown.
As mentioned in the recent Louder Than War interview with Grow Your Own records, Bug Central’s new album is the latest installment in a growing series of 10 inch records.
Bug Central rant, spit out anger and invective then howl in despair. Charlie Bug hammers away like a Duracell bunny on speed and the growl of Bruce Riffraff’s chunky sounding bass is a gloriously punk sound. Noodles F. Romanov’s guitar buzzes away or punctuates and punches with heavy down strokes. The overall effect is a proper dirty punk sound that sits stylistically alongside some of the best who have emanated from the gutters of the capital like Coitus, Restarts, Suicidal Supermarket Trolleys and Dread Messiah. There is also a touch of the overdriven sound of D-beat mongers Doom. In general the bass leads the charge which is never a bad thing and arguably a defining feature of punk rock down the ages.
The record has a coherent narrative in that the songs cover linked subjects reflecting our current times. You get the feeling this is genuine because Bug Central write about what they know – the famous advice given to a nascent Stiff Little Fingers. There is a growing chasm of inequality as the rich take all they want and a growing mental health crisis. Outside the gated communities and exclusive areas, everything is crumbling. We have a government in power with Victorian attitudes, using gunboat diplomacy and trumpeting the idea of Empire, fueling far right sympathies.
The cover art is suitably grim with an apocalyptic future London street under the scrutiny of watch towers, searchlights and all seeing eyes. People donning gas masks. It takes its cue from a whole stream of dystopian science fiction, and I see a nod to Hieronymus Bosch in the colour scheme and the general horror aesthetic. The Banksy-esque motif of the mother in gasmask pushing a buggy is lifted from the cover to decorate the lyric sheet.
Bug Central want to Consign To The Past the days of empire and inequality. They celebrate fighting fascists with their chorus of “Antifa!” on No Platform. Whilst tearing down colonial statues they’d like to take out a few cops.
They understand the power of repeating a well chosen phrase. The more you repeat, the stronger it’s meaning, akin to a ritual chant. In this case “Fuckin’ fascist bully in a uniform. Waiting for the Day when your time will come” builds a well of anger and defiance. They are also pragmatic, realising that de-funding the police is not the instant solution it’s touted to be – “Be careful what you wish for. A private army makes no sense”. Way too complex a subject to be resolved in a song. I’m happy to go with the ACAB message. Some bluesy lead guitar from Shaun of Anthrax is the icing on this cake of a catchy song.
They explore mental torment and betrayal on Do Your Worst and the suicidal sounding Headfuckshit.
The Fires Began is not a revolutionary call to arms. It’s about the rampant excesses of the rich when left unconstrained, and the “economical war” against the poor (AKA class war). The neo-liberal obsession with a “bonfire of red tape” has led to even more rampant exploitation for the poorest, for workers. It’s created more opportunity for the richest. As they sing “Then the fires began and the government sang ‘We can do as we please’ and the rich all agreed”.
Nowhere Like Home is dirgey and almost lumpy with it’s repetitive bass line. The vocal is melancholy rather than angry, with a melody to the chorus that really works. It tells the all too familiar tale of gentrification. Areas where punk once thrived like Hackney and Brixton are now the preserve of the rich. The Irish pubs and grubby punk venues closed down and replaced with expensive craft beer micro pubs or astronomically priced housing. Places like Deptford, where I last saw Bug Central live, ain’t far behind. Returning to these areas that they’ve been pushed out of, the conclusion for Bug Central is what they knew is gone, they are “A new town where I don’t fit and makes me glad I’m out of it”.
These areas have now become the natural habitat for Another Vegan Hipster. Bug Central aren’t against veganism, rather the people for whom it is a hypocritical part time pose: “Meat Free Monday is gonna be a fun day but I’ll eat the infant roasted on a Sunday”.
As you would expect from Grow Your Own and Bug Central, this album is a record by the punks, of the punks, for the punks. No hype or gimmicks required. Summed up by Charlie’s captured at the end of the last song “That’s a take, fuck it”.
Get the album on your preferred format from Grow Your Own.
Bug Central are on Facebook.
Words by Nathan Brown. Check out his Louder Than War Author Archive.