Domestics/Pizzatramp – This is Your Life / No Life (Kibou/TNS/Sick World)
Out 11 June 2020
Welsh skate punks Pizzatramp and East Anglian hardcore hooligans Domestics team up for a 12 inch split EP with a difference.
Here we have two bands who did a split 5″ together in which they each performed 3 songs in 1 minute. They have now flipped to the other extreme. This time round each band has contributed a single track that is over 11 minutes long.
Even 3 minutes is generally quite long for a punk song. Canvassing punks about similar length songs produced very few examples. Standing out because it is so unusual were Subhumans Cradle To The Grave and Curtain Call from The Damned’s Black Album. Both are one side of an album each, clocking in at about 17 mins. They also mentioned Saw Throat’s Indestroy. A 41 minute track spread over 2 sides of an album, recently given a 30 year reissue. There may be more examples but there won’t be loads.
No Life by the Domestics starts off slow and brooding with some twiddly guitar. It then launches into fast hardcore with a descending riff straight out of the Subhumans songbook before switching to a more straight up chunky hardcore riff that typifies the Domestics. It’s this “No Life” chorus that the song is really built around. The band meander around a bit but return to the chorus before going off on their travels again. The guitar drops out then comes back in. It builds up, before a lonesome gloomy bass line booms out like a fog horn (very Saw Throat) as if the band are taking a breath.
Then we’re off round the track again. More fast hardcore, another fast riff, a return to the descending riff at the start, back to the solid chunky riff, guitar drop out, the slow boomy bass line, then back to fast riff. Around the middle of the song there are a few stops and starts, a very metal breakdown complete with pitch harmonics, and then things really simmer down.
A keyboard chimes in (which I am really sorry to say reminds me of Curtain Call!) setting the subdued scene as words of self doubt are intoned. Then we’re off for another round arriving back at the chunky “No Life” chorus. 20 seconds or so before the song ends, the gloomy bass reappears and just as you expect the song to slowly peter out as if drifting into the fog, it speeds back up in full ferocity and then disappears off a cliff edge.
This soundtrack is the setting for a tale of a working class bloke who does a night class, works to leave the life in the factory for a better job but is still full of existential angst.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that some of this song is autobiographical with perhaps some artistic licence. You see, I sat down for a drink or 4 with James after a gig they played in Southampton last summer. We were having a conversation about how you often think you don’t belong and you’ll get found out because you are in someone else’s world. He called it “imposter syndrome”. This song covers some of that ground and I know he was/is the bloke in a factory who gets up and gets out via education…”But the doubts come knocking…who the fuck do you think you are carrying on this way?..It’s not for the likes of you…Why is it I feel a fraud?…I know they can smell my class”.
Full points for getting a reference to a Tardigrade (AKA Water bear) into a song too.
Sound wise, this definitely seems doomier than other Domestics output – plenty of bass chords and a heavier guitar sound. They did also benefit from recording at the studio run by Bri of the band Doom (and Saw Throat). The band have embraced the opportunity to stretch themselves musically and lyrically. It speeds up it slows down. The lyrics are shouted, then they are spoken. Despite the change of styles throughout it doesn’t sound like a clumsy cut and shut job, or a panicked jump into a new time signature. The segues have been thought through and work well. I’m wonder if they were subconsciously influenced by Cradle To The Grave, Curtain Call and Indestroy or if I’m only hearing it because I want to?
The Pizzatramp song This Is Your Life is less of a departure from the norm. While the Domestics really experiment with the space, Pizzatramp sound like they are playing several of their songs back to back. No bad thing, not dissimilar to listening to an album of theirs but with no gaps. Or watching them live without the piss taking in between songs (which makes them such a great band. Seriously, check them out).
Starting with a heavy, slow, metal influenced riff, by the time you hit the 1 minute mark there’s a zoomy instrumental break and we are off into familiar Pizzatramp territory. It’s fast skate punk hardcore. Back to that zoomy instrumental, another verse, then a new riff. Now a third riff and flipping between the different tunes before dropping the tempo, rocking out a bit. As they approach the middle, they get get progressively slower and heavier. It’s as if they are pacing themselves on this relative marathon.
A touch more on the brakes and they hit a heavy break down with some Sabbath influenced down strokes and noodley bass. Then comes the drop out and the voice of George W Bush. The guitar then leads the fray into a rock out riff, broken up by verses of anguished vocals. Nearly on the home straight, they introduce another new tune led by a bass run with a few bass solos chucked in, before rocking out for the last leg building to a crescendo of “We reap what we sow”.
Where the Domestics talk about class politics through the prism of personal angst, Pizzatramp are on the global stage. This song is part history lesson, part soothsayer warning, part observation of what is already taking place. How freedom has been and is, eroded so many times. How we risk sleepwalking into another nightmare. The rise of the far right. How the people get tricked into totalitarianism.
The Iraq war and what it represented looms large, being dropped right in the middle of the song with that George Dubwya sample. Clearly a well read bunch, Pizzatramp lyrically name check dystopian literary culture (“When Orwell’s finest work is no longer fiction, when Huxley’s A to E comes to fruition, when Atwoods hangings are commonplace…”).
Both these bands are usually a great example of ADHD in musical form when 2 minutes is way too long for a song, so it will be interesting to see if the ritalin kids of hardcore can sit still long enough to make it through each side. I really enjoyed the flipping backwards and forwards and the variety of styles on offer here.
All words by Nathan Brown. You can read more from Nathan on his Louder Than War archive over here.