Something In Construction Records
Vinyl / DL
Turn up the bass and revel in the sonic assault of Sikh Punk, the debut album by Primitive Ignorant. Symren Gharial of Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and Piano Wire steps out with his new, collaborative project. Andy Brown shares his thoughts for Louder Than War.
Rock ‘n’ roll presented a young Symren Gharial with a doorway into a world of music, fashion and subculture. A teenager obsessed with the explosion of guitar music in the early-to-mid nineties: Suede-esque glam, Manic Street Preachers inspired haircuts and even an appearance on the front cover of Pulp’s Different Class would follow. Yet Gharial’s inner-turmoil would lead him down a path of addiction, poor mental health and attempted suicide. Running from his ethnicity, Gharial would bleach his skin and work his way through a number of different identities. Losing himself in the process.
Joining psychobilly outfit, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster brought well-earned success yet the rock ‘n’ roll dream was tainted by the spectre of racism and inner-conflict. A badass bassist in the coolest band in town yet the prevailing culture didn’t seem all that open to a fledgling Sikh punk trying to find his way. After all, there weren’t any Indian rock stars on TV or in the NME. It’s for all these reasons and more that Sikh Punk, the debut album by Gharial’s Primitive Ignorant project, feels so vital. Freshly fired up by the Brexit-emboldened racism of recent years, Gharial is embracing his roots and ready to take on the world.
The album opens with a sombre electronic beat and a distorted voice reading excerpts from The Ballad Of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde. An epic nineteenth century poem written by Wilde after his imprisonment for ‘gross indecency’ (or being gay). The poem reappears a few times throughout Sikh Punk and chimes with the albums defiant rallying cry. This is an album for the outcasts, an album for those occupying their own inner prison cell. The bars are prised open before being blown clean off with the propulsive Ballad Of Markland Estate. A heavy, The Bug/ Kevin Martin-worthy bass line and the growling, gothic vocals of Le Junk lead the charge. A protest song that looks into Gharial’s past, growing up feeling ugly and ashamed of his ethnicity as well as referencing the horrifying history of British colonialism.
The album doesn’t feature any guitar, choosing instead to forge its way with Gharial’s heavyweight basslines, industrial rhythms and vibrant electronica. Gharial doesn’t sing on the album, instead letting a selection of impressive guest-vocalists help realise his vision. The brain-rattling bass continues apace with the pulsating pop of Dress Like Me and a rather brilliant vocal from International Teachers Of Pop vocalist Leonore Wheatley. A cautionary tale of young primitive heroes, lost identities and London gangs. A brief interlude leads into the snarling, sonically sultry Beautiful Scum with Daisy Coburn purring over a suitably massive, world conquering anthem. In the wise words of Martin Gore, I just can’t get enough.
Idles’ Joe Talbot makes an appearance to read a little more Wilde before we’re plunged head-first into the pulverising pop of the wonderful Worship Art. Bess Cavendish provides a commanding presence for a dark, intoxicating tale of conflict and empowerment. White Jeans And Eyeliner keeps the energy levels high with club-ready, explosive electronica. Katie Kaboose’s voice echoes around the songs uncompromising, dancefloor throb. Fluorescent Ecstasy features one of the albums heaviest riffs alongside a suitably swaggering vocal from Beatrice Bonnano. The album possesses a brilliantly innovative, genre-splicing sound that gives Sikh Punk a style all of its own. Sikh Punk IV provides a moment to catch your breath before the belligerent Psychic Armageddon steams in with another Iggy Pop-gone-goth vocal from Le Junk. Every second bristling with attitude, anger and intent.
The album’s eclecticism was partly inspired by The Clash’s genre-hopping, triple LP Sandinista so it only seems right that Mick Jones should make an appearance on the albums final track. The music only hinted at during the albums brief interludes is fully realised in the spacey textures and ominous brass (provided by Jon Natchez of The War On Drugs) of Sikh Punk V. “In London jail by London town there is a pit of shame” intones Jones as the song seeps through my headphones “and in it lies a wretched man…and his grave has got no name”. A sombre paean to the outcasts and the forgotten.
Gharial has been through hell yet come back stronger than ever, clutching a handbook on how to best walk through the flames. The album turns Gharial’s personal experience of racism in Britain, his identity crisis and his mental health into something genuinely inspirational. It’s the spirit of punk, free of the clichés and self-imposed restrictions. Sikh Punk has an admirably unquenchable thirst for collaboration and sonic innovation. In an increasingly divided landscape, the project thrives on unity. The sound of rebellion, empowerment and resistance in Brexit Britain.
All words by Andy Brown. You can visit his author profile and read more of his reviews for Louder Than War here