Force Attack Festival
It’s time we woke up to the Subhumans.
For three decades (with a gap in the nineties when they split) since they formed in Wiltshire they have been touring and making great inventive punk records and somehow, seem to have slipped under the media radar.
Maybe that’s because they don’t play the media game. They never bother with PR’s and are defiantly not part of the music business. They would never get nominated for a Mercury Award or patted on the back with radio play on an ”Ëalternative radio’ station and yet here they are packing out venues worldwide and creating their own highly intelligent take on punk rock.
A questioning intelligence that was so much part of the initial deal with punk rock before it somehow got sidetracked.
The Subhumans emerged in 1980 and were released on Flux Of Pink Indian’s Spiderleg records but their inbuilt sense of independence saw them set up their own Bluurg label where they remain to this day releasing spiky mind boggling reinventions of the punk template and defying all laws of gravity with their last album, Infernal Riot, which is, in terms of intelligence, songs and stretching out their sound, their best yet.
In the mud of Force Attack Festival they are like a machine. They arrive five minutes before they play, walk on stage plug and hit first gear. There is none of the musician tantrums here, no demands for hot towels or dressing rooms or rider, the Subhumans are here to deliver and that’s what they do.
Frontman Dick Lucas is totally engaging. He looks like he had just been dragged out of bed- his hair dishevelled and his clothes even more battered but his personae is sharp and focussed. There is a fierce intelligence here in his lyrics, his delivery and his between song banter where his passion for the old school punk political hits home even if it sails over most of the drunken audiences heads.
The Subhumans are about punk politics. That old fashioned stuff that used to pepper punk gigs. They are anti-war and anti all the bad-isms and they come from a time when music dreamt of possibilities. They do this with a humour and a twisted take on reality that prevents it becoming hectoring or boring. This is thought provoking and passionate.
They ran parallel to Crass and were part of the anarcho scene without ever signing up for it. Their music then and now was powerfully intelligent- almost like a UK version of the Dead Kennedy’s- the same sort of twisted and effortlessly brilliant musicianship like on the band’s old classic ”ËMicky Mouse Is Dead’ but always working within the framework of a punk rock song.
They play fast and there is a wild, feral energy to what they do. There are choruses and tuneful bits to sing a long to and these mind boggling brilliant bass lines from Phil to let yourself go to. They have this punk rock thing so honed down, so perfect – the fluidity of the rhythm section, with Trotsky’s stop start drums that never settle for a boring 4/4 when something more exciting will do are so effective. Bruce’s rasping punk rock guitar completes the perfect backdrop for Dick’s passionate delivery – he works himself up into a sweatshod frenzy as the band hit the stage in top gear and never leave that level of intensity.
If you still need any proof of the intelligence and anti establishment smarts in punk rock then the Subhumans are still out there, still meaning something and still making sense in a senseless world.