The Varukers: 1984-2000 (Anti-Society Records)
The latest in the Anti-Society series of re-releases, this Varukers double CD gives you 4 LPs and 2 EPs – 63 tracks in all – spanning from 1984 right the way through to 2000.
For those not in the know, the Varukers had previously inhabited Riot City records, once dismissed as part of “the gluebag brigade” along with label mates Chaos UK and Disorder by Sounds. By the period covered in this retrospective they had developed a metal tinged, furious paced punk rock with a social conscience developed beyond “gizza job” – in the vein of Discharge (after whom the “D-beat” term was coined) and Antisect. Rat, Varukers front man, has in recent years joined the reformed Discharge to replace orginal singer Cal – some might say fulfilling his destiny.
The first LP featured, “One Struggle One Fight” from 1985, has the driving powerchord riffs, haiku verses and single line choruses that this genre of music does so well, delivered with a slightly nasal twang.
Amazingly it has weathered well – the only thing that marks this out as being from the 1980s is the reference to nuclear power and apartheid in South Africa. The second offering “Still Bollox but still here” is the weak point of this compilation. The tracks are a 1995 reworking of songs from their earlier Riot City period. Whilst the music has been brought up to date with an increase in tempo and a more raw sound, it lacks the quality of the preceding LP and sounds a little rushed – at times almost as if the band are failing to keep up with each other in a race to be fastest.
The closing 4 tracks of CD1 from the 1994 “Nothing’s Changed” EP show a return to a good quality sound and they even chuck in a mid-tempo Black Sabbath inspired track offering some variety.
CD2 kicks off with the “How Do You Sleep?” LP which stands out as the best release on the collection with an increase in pace, more punch to the sound and a more developed lyrical form. Perhaps by 2000 they had managed to capture their true selves in the studio. The production is huge with big guitars, heavy riffs and that driving drum beat that has made the D-beat sound a successful UK export, recently dominated by high quality Scandinavian imports. This LP can hold its head up to those newcomers.
1998’s “Murder” LP is a good LP in its own right, if a little derivative of Discharge, but following the superior “How Do You Sleep” risks sounding like more of the same even with the cover of UK Subs “Emotional Blackmail”. I can understand the logic – when you have 31/32 tracks on a CD the ones that will get the most play are the ones at the start and the opening LPs on each disc are clearly the better on here. The second disc closes with the “Massacred Millions” EP from 1984 nicely bringing this release full circle. The more distinctive nasal vocals are back but they make the Varukers who they are and stand out from the crowd. These tunes bring back memories for me of too many people crammed into a bedsit with cider & vomit soaked trousers and soapy spiked hair all around. Ah, nostalgia!
Accompanied by a 16 page booklet that contains all the lyrics, this collection is certainly a bargain and recommended for people with a penchant for black clothing, patches and studs – either young punks who’ve yet to discover the Varukers or the older generation whose vinyl collection has been consigned to history by lack of a record deck.
April 20 – Adam & Eve, Birmingham, United Kingdom
May 1 – Mondo Bizarro, Renne (Ferrières), France
May 2 – Le VIP, Saint Nazaire, France
May 3 – Le Cargo, Caen, France
May 4 – Le Cateau, Plédran, France
May 5 – La Miroiterie, Paris, France
June 1 – The Grosvenor, London, United Kingdom
You can find the Varukers on Facebook.
All words by Nathan Haywire.