❉ Now That’s What I Call Noisy And Pissed Off! This box is a great little time capsule of almost forty years ago, writes Lee Terry.
If you watch most of the myriad of documentaries made about British punk rock over the years, you’d be left with the indelible impression that it was (Buzzcocks notwithstanding) purely a London phenomenon and that the whole thing was over and done with by the end of 1978. Many of those involved at the start would agree with this. However, this is categorically not what happened. Punk spread. Punk metastasised. Punk mutated and seeped into the darkest recesses of the provinces, waiting for the right time to re-emerge. That moment came in the early 1980s, meaner, harder and uglier and with all the art-school pretensions stripped away. As the harsh realities of the new decade started to bite, a more street-level, working-class tsunami of punk reared up to swamp the country. You know the popular image of the Archetypal Punk Rocker – red Mohican, heavily studded leather jacket, tartan strides, 20-hole Doc Martens? Yeah, that’s this lot…
At the beginning of 1982, as a slew of singles from this bizarre new mutation began to dominate the Independent charts (the major labels, predictably, wouldn’t touch this stuff with a bargepole strapped to another bargepole, having so comprehensively lost their collective arse on the original punk wave, so it was left to a myriad of tiny home-made labels such as Clay, Flicknife, Riot City, Secret and Fallout to do the job) some bright spark at Anagram Records had the idea of compiling the best examples on a single album, Punk & Disorderly, to chronicle the scene as it happened. A kind of Now That’s What I Call Noisy And Pissed Off for the Mohawked masses. Now Cherry Red have collected the three records in the series, bunged a wodge of extra tracks in and let them loose again, complete with a comprehensively informative booklet, in a handy triple CD box set.
The original P&D compilation opens in fine style with Vice Squad and their moody post-apocalyptic classic Last Rockers, swiftly followed by The Adicts and their debut single Straight Jacket. Many of the tracks here have come to be seen as real classics of the genre – the likes of Blitz’s relentlessly thuggish Someone’s Gonna Die Tonight, Peter & The Test Tube Babies’ theme tune Banned From The Pubs, Red Alert’s state-of-the-nation address In Britain and Demob’s No Room For You ably displaying the restless energy and exuberant naivety that the scene depended on. Although most of the acts herein were from the far corners of the UK (including representatives from Bristol, Ipswich, Sunderland, Leeds, Birmingham, Bridgend, Belfast and Peacehaven), there’s also a notable ringer in the mix in the form of San Francisco’s Dead Kennedys. Their proto-hardcore Kill The Poor dates back to 1980, but nestles comfortably in this collection.
Not everything here is great; some of the tracks are appallingly badly recorded or just woefully amateurish, as befits the nature of cottage-industry punk, but the good stuff outweighs the dross comfortably. Abrasive Wheels’ Army Song and The Partisans’ Police Story share a viewpoint into the less savoury aspects of the country’s uniformed institutions, while GBH’s savage Race Against Time wraps up the original album in gloriously psychotic fashion. The bonus tracks include the Anti Nowhere League’s swaggering Let’s Break The Law and the bruising Discharge classic State Violence State Control.
Punk And Disorderly was an instant success, and so later that year a second volume, subtitled Further Charges appeared. Opening as the first volume ended, with a GBH track (this time it’s the incendiary Sick Boy) with the more melodic Dreaming by The Expelled – widely touted as the North’s answer to Vice Squad, both bands sharing a record label and having similar-sounding female vocalists – following on. The formula is essentially the same as Volume 1, with as wide a selection of bands as possible included, and a large helping of hidden gems on offer.
The pick of the tracks include One Way System’s brutal Stab The Judge, The Dark’s The Masque (reminiscent of the Damned’s Black Album period, with an irresistibly earwormy chorus), Action Pact’s vehement London Bouncers, I’ve Got A Gun by Channel 3 (another Californian band) and Erazerhead’s Shellshock. The best of the bonus material here includes the hard-as-nails Don’t Wanna Be A Victim by the Varukers and the Mau Maus’ Society’s Rejects. The overall proportion of all-time classics may be lower on this disc, but it’s no less enjoyable for all that.
The third part of the trilogy (tastefully subtitled The Final Solution) emerged in the summer of 1983 and in terms of sheer quality might be the best of the three. Abrasive Wheels’ breathlessly chaotic Burn ‘Em Down opens the account, while elsewhere the Newtown Neurotics’ declamatory Kick Out The Tories, the UK Subs’ coruscating Police State, the Angelic Upstarts’ surprisingly poppy anti-Thatcher diatribe Woman In Disguise, the Adicts’ joyous anthem Viva La Revolution and Chron Gen’s minor masterpiece Outlaw all jostle for position.
There are further rough diamonds in the riotous shout-along New Barbarians by the Urban Dogs (a side project formed by members of the UK Subs and the Vibrators), Edinburgh’s favourite pop-eyed maniacs The Exploited with the ferocious and prescient Computers Don’t Blunder, and The Ejected’s very silly Have You Got 10p?.
Another clutch of bonus material includes some exceptional stuff – Dead Wretched’s nihilistic but infectious No Hope For Anyone, Riot Squad’s Society’s Fodder, and The Blood’s magnificently batshit Stark Raving Normal.
None of these bands were ever going to be pop stars, and that was never the point, but it’s surprising how well this strand of punk rock has weathered the years. Many of the bands included in this box set are still around in some form (I’ve personally shared bills with sixteen of the bands featured herein, and seen many more), most of them still plugging away for the sheer hell of it rather than for any financial gain. After the so-called UK82 resurgence the scene may have gone back underground but it never went away altogether. This box set is a great little time capsule of almost forty years ago, and while the lyrical concerns tended to be largely tilted towards the contemporary obsessions – mass unemployment, imminent nuclear incineration, and Thatcher – much of the material has held up very well indeed… even if a lot of it does sound like it was recorded in somebody’s shed in a couple of hours, on a budget of ten quid, a tin of EvoStik and a bottle of Thunderbird.
Now, as then, this stuff isn’t for everybody, but if this kind of thing is your bag, it’s an indispensable showcase of an underrepresented time in popular culture. Proof that punk didn’t die with the Pistols.
❉ Punk And Disorderly – The Albums (The Sound Of UK82) 3CD Digipak (Captain Oi AHOYT381) released by Cherry Red Records. Click here to order directly from Cherry Red Records, RRP £16.99.
❉ Lee Terry is a regular We Are Cult contributor and a member of The Kingcrows, Leeds’ scuzziest sleaze-punk-n-roll maniacs.