FUNGALPUNK - CD REVIEWS Page 86
FAT PHACE - FRONTIER MYTHS
'Dear Dave - Thank ye for accepting our humble request for a review. We hugely appreciate your obvious sexual potency and general dude-ness. We look forward to what will no doubt be a scathing review...kisses and awkward hugs - Fat Phace'. Now how many times do I receive a letter like that with a review request? Remember also the paper was lined and had several pink roses on it - non-perfumed though so the guys are gonna have to try harder to get this Fungal Fruit in the old sack of deviancy ha, ha. Hailing from Liverpool these scouse smoothies have some mileage under their belts and if you ask me it is about time arses were set on fire and we got em' moving a little faster. But is the music up to keeping pace, is it worthy of thy attention - well, as per, it is left up to yours truly to fuckin' find out.
Preconceived ideas get flung out of the window, I am faced with new skool hygiene, ooh and here's me in my vagabond attire...gear change, style stance altered...re-plunge...
'The Amulet Of Kings' is pompously titled or borne from minds who like to fiddle in fantasy land rather than fiddle with their own members (it happens). The initial vibes I get is way from my usual pit of sonic shit but I am always prepared to listen deep and give bands time. The guitars come with high hopes and oodles of promises before we twitch in to a opening verse that has many titivating touches to those in the club. The brief stops, scuttles and cymbal taps and general unformulated scaffolding beneath the upper framework of rhythm is choice. Vocally things are light and without rage but still adequately done. Bass has its moment to showpiece, the song has that 'in scene' spontaneity factor and the band can certainly play their instruments - verdict – sweet and well why the hell not! Take note though - if you are in a primitive mood and want nothing more than a full on tear up without too much thought then these ain't the sounds to opt for. 'Frontier Science' glistens with tepid tranquillity before rising and prompting varied angularity from a band on a mission to befuddle and exhibit their ability. I have no doubts about either but question the intricacy of the song and the many awkward aspects that do indeed create fascination and interest but make for a difficult listening session. The song needs an abundance of time and has many compact pages to be turned before one fully captures the true thread. Have patience though (don't be a fly by night empty head) and you will appreciate the effort and success levels therein. If punk were split into several types of people what we have here is a nervous noodle who wears the cleanest acoustic underpants in town and is forever checking things and tweaking his own nipples of noise - such is diversity!
'For What It's Worth' has the most obvious emotion and holds a certain transparency that helps achieve the vote of best donation thus far. An organised thoroughfare is walked with less time taken pissing in discordant doorways and dropping showy matches in dustbins of flamboyance. The straight'ish line is more rewarding and given the bands appetite for their vibe, their precision and ear for a solid production value (ooh as well as the terse running time) this is a concrete track. 'Fundamentals Of Failure' (mmm - now I should know all about that dabbling with all things underdog) segues forth and outdoes its predecessor with its sensation of a well blown, well aerated song that has a subtle defiance and refreshing quality that gets the best out of all players, especially the gob at the fore. When stretched and a greater liberation is reached for once more a band soars higher and captivates with ardour. A chomping riff, a positivity and from the initial desire to the satisfying end blast this is a joy - excellento chaps.
'Broke And Breaking' (yet another topic I can relate to it seems) glistens with acuteness before ram-rodding the jacksie of the listener with bold strums. A breeze borne from the throat blows through, shades vary and intertwine between the heavy and light thus almost creating two separate structures to assess. Both work well and as a duo make a fair impression. Of course the Fatty Phaced fuckers add bonus ball ornamentation - is it really necessary - I know not! 'A Disturbance In The Force' is, just maybe, the most commercialised song of the lot. Very fluffed up, very polished and yet still containing the bands touches and forceful underscore of sonic strength. Busy? You bet! Overly Complicated? Not at all! Well played? It goes without saying! 'Night Wire' has more Fungal appeal (not always the best thing) with its pristine sheen and more orthodox essence. The bass commands and the guitar and sticks do well to keep pace - the scuttling is plentiful - it helps keep this knackered noggin attentive. Again that extra zest and pace injection make the small but essential difference - nice. Oh man - the closing curtain is here - seems like a quick do indeed. 'The Waves' splash against the senses and after an initial frothiness they come in irregular pulses. Your rocks of resistance are spumed upon and the spay that comes is as you were - at this stage that will do for me and, in truth, what more do you want me to add?
So 8 tracks not from my exact chosen circle but an octet of acoustic science that gives much pleasure. Technically sharp, rhythmically angled, sub-generic specific and with an eye and ear for good presentation. Yeah, maybe not my everyday bag of sound but I'll be listening out for more from these guys, offer them a gig in the future and check em' out if they are local - it is all about variety as I say on many, many occasions.
GIMP FIST - MARCHING ON AND ON
The idea behind what I do is to expose bands, let them do the business and then fly further afield with a host of new fans and faces. When I first brought this lot to the North West quite a few years back no one had even heard of em', many though went away intrigued. I repeated the chance, more were in attendance, the bands stature was growing - here, there and everywhere. Since then this trio of fine minstrels has gone from strength to strength strictly down to their marvellous ability to create and nail many a choice street-based outpouring that is just absolutely drenched in realism and approachability. When I first saw them I believed they were most probably the best Oi band in the country, having caught up with them since and listened to this CD several times over there is no apparent reason to change my mind - it is always gratifying to see a band fulfil its potential. Hailing from the North East this lot ooze class and erudite insight and give songs with many depths rather than the usual 'fuck you' Oi belligerence. The fact they have an Anti-Fascist stance and are decent chaps all helps the conviction factor - what more can I add - ah yes - the review - watch out, honesty will not be held back (PS - this is the 9th CD reviewed by these guys - thanks chaps).
We roll forward with the opening gambit entitled 'First In Line', a fight back foray into the wilderness of betrayal that is on the look out for hope and promise. The opening sirens threaten to overwhelm, the march to victory defies - the fantastic textured rhythm that unfolds is immovable and once the hungered and passionate vocals join the force we have something irresistibly momentous on our hands. The chorus that comes is utterly unifying and takes away any hint of trouble we may encounter and helps all and sundry to rise up and deal with it. Gimp Fist have sincere class, this is one of many, many examples I could throw your way - a wonderful start - I expected nothing less. 'Fear Of Unemployment' fires in, is outsider cum working class wordage that touches the emotion of being left on the scrap heap and with no options left. A subject in keeping with the bands ethos and one delivered in a simplistic way yet subtly filled with desperate shuffles and scuffles and guitar delicacies that could easily be overlooked but that do so much. This one is nothing outrageous but this lot make it highly convincing. 'Marching On And On' is irrefutably an anthem-esque donation that sets out its stall, displays its bold beating heart and works hard to get the stubborn message across 'I'm not gonna stop, I'm never giving in, I'll keep marching on and on and on'. Restrained guitars begin, the air is cleared, the players are off the leash, we flow with remarkable fluidity into a chorus that is swift and to the point, again so much said with so little time wasted. The underlay of acoustica is gently waved with the peaks and troughs parallel and none too deep but yet containing so much energy and effect. Smashing!
'Battered And Bruised' is more urbanised output with a disheartened streak running through the entire length of the song. The authentic and candid essence to the opening bars draws one in and when the real wind of the song blows through your soul you will be thoroughly enchanted. The direct sincerity that comes from the players and their individual tickers is blatant, the gritted and lucid grain that each song has is sonically seductive and once more we are absorbed. 'I Believe' takes an unexpected take on the youth of today and shows the band can find hope in the most desperate of situations. I like the ethos even though in part I disagree (responsibility is a thing we all have to have) and the swift execution of this song is well timed and well positioned. The opening bass seems almost destined to take us into a bout of hardcorian mania but the band give us their usual special brew of thought-provoking excellence. 'Guilty' transports itself into realms of reggaefied rhythms, subtle two-tonian aromas and keyed up retrofication where a more considered approach is taken to get the best out of those guitar pulses, slightly smoked utterances and cruising tympanic tap outs. The crew do this mode of melody oh so beautifully and with foot on the gas, or indeed off, the crew never fail to excel. This is the best effort so far and has certain cultured trimmings and well placed accoutrements and undulations escorting the lyrics against injustice - very refined stuff.
Metallic scraping, the voice of reality, a firm bass thread, a development into another satisfying bout of glory. 'Waste Away' is more enthusing encouragement to get up and do it (although I will always advise that you do it without emphasis on self and ego) and nails home a very important point. Of course anyone with any ounce of sanity and insight will realise we are all fuck all and whatever we do, in the main, it will count for nothing (especially those aforementioned self motivated movements) but in the interim, we can cut the crap, be honest and fair and keep moving and those you love motivated. The band pass over these flavours with zeal and gush out another grand track - it is almost par for the course. An old fave next given a makeover and it goes without saying it is all fine and dandy. 'She's A Skinhead Now' has always been a classic but here, in its new souped up mode, the song becomes almost immortal. Greater weight, bolder emphasis on certain overlooked intricacies and with an eternal flame that gives utter life this, and all other tracks, are nothing short of marvellous etc. etc. et...fuckin'...cetera!
'Which Side Are You On', asks questions, just sneaks into the world of political ambiguity and always offers itself the chance of being nebulous and avoiding idiot accusation but, to anyone in the know, is a sure-fire message to all those prejudiced twats out there (be they left, right or utterly stupid game players shuffling cards because it ticks boxes - cunts). In these days of idiocy, when many claim loyalty one way and yet are easily uncloaked with the drop of a dangerous word, the band tackle a major problem with genuine delicacy that has a forthrightness many could only dream of. The musical aspect of the song is rugged, feisty and so damn enjoyable. Glistened and gleaned by stringwork that lives and breathes and roused by slap happy, crash dash, smash sticks this is another gem and if ever a man was destitute of harsh criticism it is surely this beaten reviewer. 'Gotta Get Away' has a superb rocked up energy and rampages with passion as it yearns once more to get up and go. The relish and emergency are combined by the well crafted hands of the players to make a short, sharp and well executed number even greater than what it is - lovely. 'British Bullet's next and with a Sweet-esque intro I do wonder if the band are gonna slip up and make a small skid mark in the otherwise spotless acoustic underpants. It is an odd moment but given time the chanted chimes ring true and, although it may struggle as a stand alone, as part of the pack it works splendidly. Chugging and consistent - not bad but of course outshone by the 'that's more like it' piece known as 'Ignorant', a swift, in yer face burst that has punk venom, basicness and fuck you attitude. This simplistic blast offers the necessary contrast and helps embolden all around it without being overlay elaborate. It has a neat underscore but is nothing outrageously technical which just shows sometimes (well quite a lot of the time) basic is best.
The finale entitled 'Back On My Feet' goes for hometown emotion and that 'never say die' attitude prevalent throughout this CD. Strings caressed, oral tones as genuine as ever, the surge that comes is delightful, the keyed additions exquisite. Power and delicacy combine to add a strong exclamation mark at the end of a true working class CD doused in class and hard fought belief. You get a bonus track too which, as per, you can decide on - I do more than my whack.
So if anything comes close to perfection in the realms of Oi then this is it. Gimp Fist have always been a cut above (like I told you years ago when they were just rising through) and there is no reason why they can't still keep on going on to bigger and better things. What can I say or do - they need little help from Fungal these days so as I sink back to the bottom this lot will rise and, along the way, I hope to catch up, congratulate and wish them all the best now and again (and to also add to keep pushing themselves - lazy bastards wink, wink). Complete quality!
THE HOOLIVANS - ARROW IN THE EYE
Yorkites The Hoolivans offer up here a hat-trick of sub-garaged shuffle and shake modernisation via a CD that has a charm that I find quite captivating. The strings shimmer with rhythmic raiment’s that are bedecked with scratched trinkets and padded with underlying honesty. The textures grasp a certain awkwardness, a staggering step and yet somehow the band mould all into an end product that is organised and thoroughly in tune with its inner self. As I drift in and out of many sub-circles and strive for the overlooked I can see where this will appeal, where it won't and where it bloody well should - I can only do my honest bit and provoke interest from the punters and provoke further action from the band - be that with comments that are deemed negative or positive (I know the true ethos).
First up and the title track, namely 'Arrow In The Eye', for me a burst laden with pre-punk/post punk vibes and grabbing a chunk of attitude from somewhere in between. The angularity, sub-deconstructed sound jerks and judders with a troubled brow and more than suggests a sonic austerity on the brink of a self induced collapse. There is a US vein sneaking beneath the radar and something of a gassing noggins feel is had, a geeked out facet that pokes a finger in the vacant eye of the fleeting sonic passenger who hops on and off, here and there, at his wayward will. Take time, digest the puncturing clatter that has fractured guitars, mechanised stick ticks and a vocal style that aches, pangs, begs for a solution. Bare and also including many garaged spices this end recipe is a fascinating delight and has more spikiness than many would give it credit for - a crackin' number.
'Bend And Break' has a sparse electric twang with early rock and roll upchucks more than a little hinted at. Loose and yet tightly wound up this second cutlet of cornered and crooked corruption has yet more rag and bone structure with parts busy, parts spasmodic, parts almost void. The gob again sub-groans, poetically promises to produce love induced magic, oh so gently leans towards smashing a cast spell - very interesting stuff. There is no illusion with the bands output though, quite charming, utterly from the heart of the crew and, if I may say so, quite fuckin' entertaining and enjoyable.
We close the ménage de trois of melody with the masturbating disability named 'Zimmers'; a spooked tale that deals with aged crusaders and seemingly protectors of the law. The frustration found therein is tempered by cool dude tonsil work that appears to slide with indifference, drums hoppity hop around, guitars moodily glisten and shake and give a somewhat horrorpunk feel. Quite unexpected this last jaunt and of course, that is the way I like it.
Too much similar stuff is found within many small sonic garbage heaps but if you rummage keenly enough, have a bit of luck, or do your bit, you will undoubtedly come across some gems that are slightly out of the boundaries known as 'the norm'. Here is such a discovery - this is a fine 3 card trick and I look forward to hooking up with this band as well as hearing what comes next.
STOJ SNAK - CHRONOLOGY SOUNDTRACK
Time changes everything! Remember that! Hold onto it in the back of your mind whilst you read the following review.
Stoj Snak is an artiste that always seems liable to wander off on a tangent and do something right off kilter despite his obvious talent for one man warbling and strumming. I have reviewed 3 CD's by the said player and, on the whole, have been more than a little pleased with what I have heard (in fact in some instances things have been almost orgasmic). Here we see Stoj contributing a soundtrack. A soundtrack to a new puzzle, adventure game known as 'Chronology', a piece of techno-entertainment that has you playing the role of either a detective or a snail and travelling back and forth in time to 'Defy time and manipulate the past and the future, in order to fix the present'. Sounds intriguing to say the least. What I have before me is a musical background mixed with brief soundbites and all combining to make an end composite to be judged in its entirety. Here is my take on proceedings without delving further into the games intricacies - I hope it paints a picture!
A statement via a sound snip 'Time Changes Everything', the clockwork mechanics are wound taut, the overseer says his piece, the journey begins. As we drop through the membrane of reality into the open void of fantasy the 'Chronology Theme Tune' adds a background of well-being, wonder, expectation. Keys gently cascade, percussive devices twinkle, the atmosphere set is an all-absorbing episode of magical delight. We fall like a swaying feather on comforting thermals, we come to rest and then, oh and then...
'The Heart' of our destination is found and we get up, dust down, and stride forth through verdant curtains and dew kissed leaves to an open glade where a semi-buried ticker does indeed 'tick'. Time is reversed, we are on a mission, 'A Clock Ticking Backwards' mesmerises, enchants, confounds the senses and the prospects of hope. We are confused with analogue direction, there is no need of fear though - the sonic structures all around are superbly sweet and assuring - the overlooking artiste is in an accomplished state of mind. Things go slow, flicker like a spool of film about to expire - what next?
'The Invention' comes, creates drama - gosh. On we go, we are plunged 'Deep In The Forest', it is a place loaded with fascinating life. Eyes peer through shrubbery, from treetops, around the gnarled trucks of majestic trees - we are not alone. The melody escort heightens our vision, enhances our soul. We spin around, arms flung wide, looking upward to the pure azure heavens and indulge in the sonic and visual spectacle - quite lovely. The memory is nudged 'Things Started Coming Back To Me' is a motif built on keyed sensuality and provocative passion - we ponder, deliberate, enjoy and get subdued. We move forth into a nearby cave, which leads into gloomy lagoons heavy with the scent of subtle danger. A scurry, a scratch, an uncertainty - the grey matter is nebulous, 'Muddled Memories' are difficult to stir even with the harped assistance and scarcity of distraction - a neatly done moment. We flee as a clang repeats, is it a warning? We find ourselves at 'The Outpost', a strange place filled with kaleidoscopic montages that forever swirl and twirl on a black velvet dance floor that only mad scientists and multi-coloured shell carriers may reel on - we pipe down, stand back and watch the gastropods weave to the 'Snails Theme'. A trail of fluorescent sonic slime is left, built on careful notes and deliberate tick tock timings - agog we be, this is a beautiful midway moment - savour it - life needs escape routes in which to be lost - God bless those who find them and God bless the creators of such opportunities.
Suddenly the heavens fall inward, a devil of disturbance seeks to destroy - it seems everything around us is being felled by 'Dangerous Machinery', the peril factor is achieved via theatrical high flown vehicles of acoustica - there is a master at work and not necessarily one of disaster. The debris is all around us, I drop to my knees, I feel 'Betrayed' - a touching miniscule of time that separates and creates appreciation of what we had.
We are catapulted, via the knicker elastic of good fortune, through several dimensions until we end up in the routine and regular organisation known as 'The Metropolis'. A Steptoenian place that wakes with the new day, glistens with industry, hypnotises with its tidy effect. Each component is precise, we have an orderly scene, the bright prospects radiated are immense. Snak-ian textures pervade at the latter end - delicious. In we go, out we come 'We Searched The City', on tranquil thermals, looking for 'The Hub' - we found it, far from redundant it was. Accursed, a sleeping giant liable to awaken and end all games, all escapades. The silken flow works, the images that come are plentiful - and certainly mystical in parts - have we found glory?
Now to 'The Passport Office', surely an integral part of proceedings - oh no - what the hell! I feel trapped in a 70's elevator porno scene. The vibe makes me want to grow a beard and find the nearest ultra hairy buff and do my cool guy thing. My spotted arse twitches and wants to buck and fuck - the toons are sidetracking me - get back to the crux of the matter ya bastard - talk about a tangent! Whilst away in a dream of todgers and twats I do believe 'The Air Thickened' in a most sinister orchestral way - ho hum, it happens. Next I am thrown to 'The Lower Quarters' (no, the porno is over ya dirty devils) and find myself in a dimmed area of bleak boilers, leaking pipes and steam driven inventions. Metallic spiders scuttle away, crowbars clash against steel devices, the under-carriage to what transpires has been discovered. Within this psychedelic hotch potch of wonder I feel we are 'Getting Very Close' to the reasoning behind all that has gone and will undoubtedly come. The tortured cuckoos and clangers continue before more drama emboldens the stage - oooh the excitement.
I run, open a door - I am within 'The Lab' - I expected more, what strange subdued idiocy is this? Do not fear, the experimentation winds itself up, test tubes bubble over, Bunsen’s burn bright, petri dishes give birth to insidious growths - a terror train with the unexpected at the helm. We drink from a phial - collapse and...
Roll the credits.
'Crooks And Criminals' is a stunning finale, we listen with awe, Stoj applies himself perfectly, what a way to finish. The solo artist full stops with emphasis - he states his outlook, we clatter and eventually fold. A tearful piano adds one last burst to the farewell - goodbye all.
This has been a test, a trial - but I get the point, appreciate the artistry, the situation this material is used for - it is fascinating. I did this review in one foul swoop and think it best done that way to understand the journey. What it does more than anything though is show a real talent at work - quite exciting really and who knows where he will go next. The message I feel I must pass on to all is 'Never know your boundaries' - and if you are a gamer why not dabble with 'Chronology' - by the utter sound of it it could be a gem.
EPIC PROBLEM - LINES
A local-ish band to me, with a good pedigree found within the players and many initial opportunities shown which, if they play it carefully, can be built to greater enormity. The 3rd assessment from my Fungalised fingers of this band with, if I remember rightly, subtle nudges, fair praise and gentle critique given via the last two overviews. The band offer up another 4 songs here and my approach will be as consistent (wrongly or rightly) as ever.
'Lines' is first up (makes sense) and offers a Road Rage feel with just that little extra sheen on top. The scene where the sonicology is set is absolutely saturated and as sharp as you could desire, the picture grasped is immediately in focus, precise, pixel soaked. The vocals that arise are parched to a crisp with the radiating acoustic thermals and it is only a matter of course that the song will be a good one as long as the band can maintain the intensity and full on impetus. They travel hard, push it even harder and clutch on dearly to a well structured tune that sizzles with ever growing confidence. Back hollers strengthen, strings and skins catch fire, the whole mush is gratifying - Epic Problem begin in fine roasting style. 'Deny' jumps on the blazing tails of the first runaway number and twinges with angst before rumbling along on gratifyingly well vibrated cables that give nervous agitation and weight. The concoction rummages in your mental box of chordage and shakes up each and every note before flourishing a chosen acoustic article via the chorus. This is well worn professionalism and is the kind of noise to cross the pond. The US tinted punk lovers will get this, many over this side will too and, in between, yeah - another bunch of applauders.
Next one and a new level of success is attained with the glorious (in all ways) ‘Sink’ capturing everything fine within this band and exposing a beautiful potential I fuckin' knew they had. Totally gushing and flying along on determined heels taut with excitable emotion and victory seeking stubbornness. The band have a feeling, a feeling to move things on swifter and with greater showmanship - they nail this beauty with all guns blazing. Tight, poured into our awaiting aural orifices with copious passion and hitting many noised neurones with unquestionable accuracy - boom. 'Weak' folds up this pack of four with flurries, deliberate poundings, jab attacks and subtle body blows. A more regular routine with an irresistible drive pushing all home with just that little vital ounce of extra spite chucked in. A stinging edge sharpens all, again an unstoppable momentum propels this one further than most would predict it to go and the whole explosion is done and dusted in good time.
And that is that - 4 songs, all nailed and no room to gripe from the Fungaloid critic. The band do this style so well and after two decent releases have now moved up the gears and started to create more accomplished offerings. It re-emphasises that it is no good praising people too much if their output isn't 100% as there is always room for improvement. Here it is hard to find fault but that is now the bands problem of epic proportions it seems - anything less next time will be frowned upon, anything better will be duly jacked off upon - I do get excited by good music wink, wank!
GIRL BAND - FRANCE 98
A discordance from Dublin this way comes with heavy duty bludgeoning and well-worn wire attacks the main state of play as well with the odd tympanic threat thrown in and persistent grungeoid holler outs. The band make their noise with intent and do so from pain laden cavernous vaults that are outside the more usual pigeonholes. This is haunted sonica, thrown forth with an inner flame that burns black. Purely post punk in initial appearance with suggestions of the more insightful and, may it be said, wretched bands out there. A quagmire mire of noise which sucks at the attentive soul and somehow never lets go - dare I step forward. Of course I do!
The first acoustic eruption to arise from the depths is tattooed with the name of 'You're A Dog', a diseased grind of grunged machinery that abrasively attacks your protective epidermis and pulverises any precious resistance you have - oh you fool! We spiral in before being psychedelically pummelled by a pleasing fist of heavy duty repetition. The free floating vocals remain indifferent to the forceful pressure of the boomed beat and as a result we have a contrast to savour. The intent is almost sadistic with a strong desire felt to cause injury rather than to sooth with salubrious sonica. The edge is spiteful with the attack almost visually visceral, the glutinous approach entrances and ensnares and you may not find yourself escaping the evil anytime soon. The end ascension to seemingly hellish chaos is a delight - this is an opening triumph for sure. Wham! 'Busy At Maths' counterpunches the finale of its predecessor with carefully tended strings before pounding deeper with a sub-regulated pulse that has much weight and property of value. Not as vindictive as the opening assault this one still pierces the attentive spirit and gets a reaction. The verdict is of a schizophrenic tune that finds order, regulates itself with a strung breakout and then yearns to flex its acoustic muscles via a taut troubled segment. The closure seems premature, the song still leaves a nice aftertaste and much room for further digestion.
'That Snake Conor Cusack' knocks on the door of Hell and greets us with a conflagration that is only just under control. Perhaps the most intrinsically simplified number with a certain wraparound feel and underlying niggle to the noise. When billowing the effect is powerful, when blowing with less purpose the song drifts and without a proper aural effort by the listener certain intricacies can be missed - such as the masterful bass that provides a concrete underlay to this bold number. The end visage of the song is one that seems insanely detached and leaves a cold and utter terrorised feeling to be respected - a piece that needs best attention when the mood suits. The pre-skidded moment and closing tumult are most rewarding though - warning - do not underestimate.
Fascinating stuff and even though of a certain ilk I readily recognise (what isn’t these days) the production and end insightful mix is what magnifies the artistry and has me appreciative.
The title track, 'France 98', is a black nightmare scream out with harrowing tones scrambling the senses and leaving an aftermath of mental desolation. As a piece of music it struggles, as a splattering of sonic art it makes a stand. 'Second One' is dominated by a thread that churns up the mish mash and levels it out with orthodox precision. This vital train of melody persists and allows the other players to careen and crash whenever they require. The 5 minute 39 second running time is beyond my usual listening length but here it is a necessary factor. Eruptions of temperament are well placed, density of sound is varied but always pronounced and impacting - I love this tune - fuck your predictable routines and sub-circle trappings - escape, discover, dwell, vibe out!
We close with 'Handswaps', an unpredictable illness that creeps into the positive and drowns with the negative. Spasms occur, a feeling of dread overwhelms, a nauseous noise suffocates - imagery is provoked and nothing comes that is healing or hopeful. The swirling miasma of blinding filth is all consuming - you will be sucked in, mentally sucked off and have the contents of your inner self spat back in your face. A disgusting mix one cannot help to stick ones finger in. One of those I like and one of those that I don't like!
That is it, a dirty professional sludge that is stirred by careful hands and delivered with quite admirable accuracy. Discordant, disagreeable and disturbing - but done with the paradox that is a blurred clarity - I find an abundance of gratification here and much to discover. For those of an adventurous slant - invest!
THE TRADITIONALS - STEEL TOWN ANTHEMS
To add 'anthems' into the title of any album gets me thinking of a crew with extreme sanguinity or an outfit suffering from the widespread disease known as 'ego driven insanity'. It takes balls, be they well filled or slightly drained, and so I go into this expectant of a good tear up. The Traditionals ride on good vibes from many a reviewer but Fungal has yet to have a bash at assessing the output. Hailing from Pittsburgh the band know how to boot out a toon or two and this collection sees them pushing harder and nailing some absolute beauties. But do they all hold fire or are some just lacking the overall thermal excitement and muscularity that comes with the Oi scene? Once more unto the breach...no fuckin' about!
We start 'At The Bottom', a straight forward cutlet driven on whirring strings and tumble rush drums. The chorus is matter of fact, the chorus nothing outrageous but the song has no facets to rip apart and duly boot around. It is a steady opener - nothing more and nothing less - I will stride quickly on. Bar room chatter and then into the textured pulsations of 'How Have You Been', another street-based bout of gobbage that has those essential components of reality and honesty carved throughout. The drive is persuasive without being overly elaborate and the mouth work is beer soaked and delicately smoked. Again nothing new under the sun just steady and reliable noise! Suddenly we have some fighting talk, a firm four pounce and the heat is turned up to blister mode with 'Revolution Is Here' cavalry charging under a well waved banner of intent and the band finding a new level of threat. The unified gob bursts, the eager edge to the passionate frontman's spillage and the extra whizzed and fizzed strings and sticks all enhance the bands effect and this is very much 'more like it'.
'Sold Us Down The River' is a tale of let down and the working man's struggle via a substantial sound soak that has much strict structure and heavily booted belief. The prime asset of the song is the easily picked up and joined in with chorus - surely one to get the crowd swaying and hollering loud. The whole cacophony is well seen to and given 'ooomph' by a band very much in their comfort zone - hefty! Next and 'Problem With Authority' is a fine spleen venting eruption for those who have a fiery rebellious streak and like to question those who think they have the power to rule. The game in which we find ourselves is set in stone but kicking back is built in and why the fuck should we let the bastards who play the game and duly dictate have an easy ride? This is a fine soundtrack to seethe with and go out there and to throw a few bricks to. The band sizzle here, mainly down to, I personally feel, the speed factor. All good bands thrive when the accelerator is pushed down hard - example here!
A cover next, The Oppressed's 'Ultra Violence' gets walloped at you and slammed up yer arse with victorious brilliance. The whole flavour of the song is steeped with the glory of aggression and letting off some steam with like-minded louts. Not everyone’s cup of cha' but the primeval instincts it raises, and somewhat free for all mania, really does the business. This one is a classic and that is from a dude who hates covers and mindless morons who throw punches for fun - better to have a reason wink, wink!
4 double quick time overviews now with 'C. I. A.' beginning with a Blitzey bass before super screeching along with the direction known and nailed. 'Adult In A Youth Cult' is equally rapid, has a self pride and is once more fully blinkered and without distraction. The home pipe blows, 'Weekend Is Here Again' is nailgun noise with one eye on the discordance and one on the beer – a song for the stressed who are ready to throw off the hassles and get ready to fuckin' rock and roll. The last of this quartet is known as 'Seems So Far Away', the best of the lot with a solid opening riff that has a serious edge and well roasted meanness. The following tumult is similar to its predecessors but just has that extra danger factor - I like that!
'Borstal Breakout' next (yes, another cover, those naughty men) and a song that is rattled out in tribute to the Sham. Fans of that band and this song will love this sharp delivery with The Traditionals just doing enough to keep it fun. I move on as 1 cover was more than enough and any other attempts after that glorious outburst will only stand in the shadows. A good effort though. 2 left and 'Not Gonna Change' starts with balance but comes across as a ditty too clattered for its own good. The band spill out their guts, appear to regain a footing but still seem just a little unsure of themselves. I am left out in the lurch with this one - moments excite but others come across as a little wayward - perhaps the weakest whelp in the litter of loudness. We close with 'Memories', a passionate piece that turns up the heat and gets all involved with flaming relish. Of course we have a song that is in keeping with the CD but I do just wonder if this is just one track too many? I like it but it does lack that certain killer edge and winning hook but, I can't fault the desire and full on approach.
So 13 tracks and a CD that blazes a trail, has massive grab appeal and really combines the power and production values without losing any credibility. Towards the end I found myself just waning which may be a personal thing but I do feel it important to add that a future release would only thrive further if 10 tracks were used and a few were straight out of a different ball park. I can't help thinking about some of Superyob's more wonderfully cultured moments and suggesting this lot try the same slant - I reckon they have it in them to produce some fucking stunners.
GIRL BAND - LAWMAN
More water testing, more dipping in to an ocean of alien sound, more dabbling with danger unknown. Dublin dudes Girl Band throw us a searing sonic liquid from an unpredictable melting pot and after recently reviewing a prize 6 tracker this Fungal bugger expects! 2 tracks, why dawdle, to the meat of the matter we go!
An Orbison-esque metronome beat, a head crunching scatter march, a twist of several cerebral thumbscrews, the revving up of a killer machine. 'Lawman' sets out and is soon assisted by the familiar iced mouth work the result of which is a highly unhinged disruption. Items 'Fall' into place, we have a chainsaw massacre uncertainty, a song on the fritz that just scrapes through the splitting soundscape. The band continue throughout the 6 minute 13 second running length to do themselves no favours whatsoever by continuing to fuck about and persistently irritate - now that is pleasing. The point however is that this stance will dissect the potential fans and have many, who have no sense of patience and out of circle interest, tuning out. My advice to get the best out of this experimental upheaval is to use as an intro/outro piece on an album - start uncertain, finish uncertain and in between bombard the bastards. Not bad but previous material excites me more.
'Heckle The Frames' stands in opposition to its counter self and rushes in, jerks, splutters, screams, blinds, bowel blasts and of course defecates its own tuned trousers. The band are stretching their own structures here and if your ears have never bled before you need to cop this, play loud on a loop and wobble yer privates (if wobbling is what they do). I can see the style, admire the ethos but again am just leaning towards the opinion that the band need to just watch the over-creation effect and keep a rein on their own willingness. By all means push though and if it wins one fan and loses a thousand the job, if you be happy with it, is a priceless good one.
For some reason Girl Band keep me intrigued and there is more than enough scope for the band to build many more songs, of a variety of genres, and still have room to spare. Check this out in conjunction with their other release 'France 98' and judge my the bands talent - you may be surprised!
FLAT BACK FOUR - YOU CAN'T HAVE EVERYTHING
By heck, I remember when I first gave this lot a gig - an all dayer at The Bradford Exchange in 2007. 99% of the crowd hadn't heard of this lot let alone had seen them but that is my style, drag about new crews and expose them - that for me is what anything resembling punk should be. The band played well and really struck a chord with their likeable natures and friendly ways. Since then they have played more than a few Fungal showcases and what I can honestly say is that they are one of the best units one could ever have the pleasure of working with. No ego's, no arsing about - efficient, generous and always enjoyable - there ya go. Over the years the line-up has changed with components coming and going here and there but the Flat Back Four machine goes forward, primarily down to the enthusiasm and drive of the loveable frontman, Steve Lingaard. What a chap! So now we are down the line - 7 years later, a few CD's on and yet with the distinct new-skool thread still remaining as well as the odd quirky angle - what more can I do? Well, let us start with this pending review.
The sonic soil ruptures, the first mushroom of melody to burst through is entitled 'This Time Next Year' a flourish of eternal optimism by a band who are no fools and don't need dragging backwards by negating nags. Crisp, emotive strings begin the discordant dream, a plunge with pace is taken, the screech opens an area for the front gob to clearly state his case. Sub-orthodox, quite simple in construct but not lacking in weight. The style is, of course, modernised and suggestive of the brigade who like things technical but FB4 start in confident style and feel no need to adorn this honest song with pointless toned trinkets - they stick to a few good riffs instead. 'Fail' tympanically staggers in, grumbles, prepares - stubbornly says its piece. A repeat beat that I find an odd little sod. I like the lyrical content and appreciate the mind behind it, I like the general flow of the song but something is just pecking at my assessing nadgers and I just can't pinpoint what it is. Is it the hard stated delivery, the persistent drums or the palpitating pace that creates this minor discomfort? I will move on and say I am 50/50 here - bastard, I ain't being caught in the cogs of indecision! Ouch me walnuts!
'The Man In The Mirror' is a theme we should all be able to relate to, a contemplative session where you study yourself and find things out that sometimes are reassuring and sometimes are best left alone. The band deal with the topic quite astutely and do so with a refreshing tune to savour. A tongue is never far from out of the cheek but a serious underlying question is there and if the song does nothing else it should at least make you think. I like to chug and cruise alternation, the well blown chorus and of course the whole FB4 accent. Best song thus far! 'Splendid Isolation' next and a forthright beat that deals with relationships and the odd problem found therein. Textually terse, musically adequate, overall a steady song. The band are in thoughtful mood and take great care with their worded content as well as the tuneage (in fact the latter sometimes seems to take priority - is that a bad thing). Easy as you go here and into the confident pomp of 'Unbelievable', a tackling ditty that faces up to the crazed consequences of life and the crooked hands of Fortune. Up, down, inside out, all around is where we get dragged, the crew stay at the helm and clatter, straight-line, remain firm - a more than pleasing song with yet more aromas of defiance and hope but without the overloaded effrontery so many inject! Convincing to say the least and with a flourish at the finish to hammer home the point!
'The Lucky Reprobate' is here, there and gone - a tale of inner abandon, of uselessness, of total defeat it seems - it flies past and will leave you scratching your bonse! No comment - it will keep thee on thy toes! 'I Am One' is more cultured crooning with the tumble factor beneath all. A brief stop start and into the main thrust we go, more of the same to be honest but the shallowed out moment shines brightest and adds a different feel to proceedings as well as enhancing this offering. A better donation is the more textured and more dangerous 'The Damage Is Done', a song that has contemplative edges, some excellent riffage that reminds me of 'Time and Matter' by the UK Subs, numerous professional undertones and the consistent feel FB4 bring to the table - yeah!
3 left, a sprint finish, you can fill in the gaps when you buy the CD. 'Dear Self' is too similar to others to make an impact and the drum beat too bloody persistent for its own good. A lack of ‘pick up and fuck it’ rhythm at this late stage is needed - my least favourite track. 'Success' begins with thought, clatters with control, rolls around with a slight suggestion of anger and then shoots towards the end goal. Not bad and suddenly we close with 'Recessional', a refusal to add any last minute variety and a reliable episode of noise. No fancy farting, no jumping through predictable hoops - just this lot doing what they do - is that enough?
Another one done and if I am 100% true I find myself 75% intrigued and 25% asking for more - always the greedy shoveler of sonic shit I be and until my spade is overloaded I shall keep these creators of the pile on their toes. Of course I am a fan, of course they get my praise, of course they are good people who deserve my time but, don't think they get off more lightly than anyone else - indecent that would be. Good but not utterly good enough - keep draining the dome of discordance lads – I await your nest sonic splash.
CHEMICAL THREAT - VICIOUS
More DIY punk done for the right reasons - to make a noise, to release some relevant disgruntlement and to just basically 'have their say'. One thing you can't knock the punk scene for is the opportunities it has created for those who just wanna get up and have a go. There may be much shit within the cogs of the inner acoustic wheels but no one will give an argument if your arse is in gear and you are trying your best to be productive. So let us see what these scuzz laden Southampton soniceers are up to and if, in some small way, we can encourage and squeeze them on to better things. Like I say, the essence is on doing it themselves, they already have a Fungal vote of confidence for that alone.
And so the opening effort, 'I. M. F. (International Murder Fund)', a no nonsense assault that is pacey, both sawing and gnawing and has a relentless crustified style aggression that tackles its titled target and grabs you by the throat. This isn't rocket science music, all it needs is a unity and certain spirit and then an ability to nail it - the band do just that. 'Vicious' chases, drums clatter, guitars buzz once more with electric passion. Verses are split by chorus cuts that have beefed outburst contrast and the whole free-wheeling rapidity is spot on. The guitar and drum release is riffed up quite nicely and the band swing it hard and with much impact. No wonder its the title track - meaty man, meaty!
'Oxygen Thief' tightens things up, corrosively progresses, is more of the same scorched earth intensity with sections coursing harsh through the vein of discordance and other parts slam dunking in numerous directions and enhancing the excitement levels. As raw and under affective as you can imagine, bread and gutter produce that, after all these years, I should dissect and bury but...this stuff still tickles me and has as much relevance today as it always did. 'Quality Of Life' once more sticks to the routine set but exposes more of the weighted bass and bands inner machinations. The song is sharp, roused with hate, flaming with passion and unapologetic. 4th track and all consistent and fine - I expect more of the same for the closing quartet.
Is what we get with...'Dine Of Death' a cut of seething, undeniable ill temper that shouts out for the rights of the animals and gives a slant we have come to expect from this certain sub-genre. For me it is worthwhile subject matter even though I ain't a vegetarian. Someone has to balance the books, holler about it and see what transpires - why not - opinions matter as long as they don't cloud judgement. Personally I would have liked to see a complete change of tack here with a skanked up/reggaefied number thrown in - maybe next time lads. 'Media Whore' roars, throws inflammable fuel and ignites with its dogged determination and driving dinnage. The band stay swift, so do I - usual fare but why complain on a short 8 track taster.
'Religion' and 'Another Maniac' follow the route of the forerunners and offer up a likeable consistency as well as some nasty vitriol, slicing string work and hectic stick sensations. The band are in full control, they have a style and they seem to be sticking to it - hardcorians will love it, die hard old school punkers who want it ready and raw will bounce to this, me - yeah why not but next time chaps the alternation of sound is a must and other flavours need to be thrown in. This one is nailed but are the band stretching themselves? The answer is 'no' but like I say, it doesn't matter as yet - let us see what happens in the future. If you want 8 quick tear ups in the meantime though - then chase this up.