Counter Action: Edition 4
Each week our resident ‘man of mystery’ (alright he works in a record shop) chooses to shine his vinyl shaped spotlight on a dimly lit corner of that wonderful world of ‘7”s, 12”s, LPs etc. that we call, err, records. The records chosen needn’t cost an arm and a leg, be especially rare, or even be so obscure that you out there in ‘normal land’ are like never-ever-ever going to find one – in fact, they don’t have to be good at all (although that does help). No, our record shop employee has a far more noble aim – namely to celebrate the seldom-celebrated, to tell the story of a record with a story to tell – no genre shall go unturned, after all, a tune, is a tune, is a tune…..
This week – after receiving (and spinning on the ‘ol shop dansette) a batch of second wave Brit-Punk and Oi! ‘45s (always a good thing btw) our mystery employee found himself hurtling back through the years to our recent past, and what do we know about the past? Well, it’s another country – they do things differently there…..
Ahhh 1982, the year in which Channel 4 was launched, the ZX Spectrum 'home computer' was everyone's favourite new gadget and Henry VIII's warship the Mary Rose was successfully raised after 500 years at the bottom of the Solent – why would anyone think that Britain might be burning? Oh yes, nearly forgot…the Falklands War, a former TV/film personality (Ronald Reagan) was the U.S president, all-women protests at the Greenham Common Nuclear base, an I.R.A. bombing campaign on the British mainland and unemployment topped three million for the first time since the 1930's…..Chaos U.K indeed!
Although the band formed in 1979, they would spend the next three years furiously gigging and learning their punk chops in and around their native Bristol and the South West. With their first release, the 'Burning Britain E.P.', not emerging until 1982. From a 2016 perspective the band form part of that huge wave of 'second wave punk', not a pejorative term, but rather an accurate description of all the disaffected 'yoof' up and down the land that were intent on honouring thy punk maxim: “This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band”.
The Burning Britain E.P.
Place the needle down and E.P. opener 'Four Minute Warning' functions like some sort of pocket-sized time-portal – it’s 1982, the cold war and impending nuclear doom, Chaos U.K. like many others saw fit to add their two-penneth-worth to the err, debate – "Hiroshima was just a start for America to act out a part".
So what's the record like? Super feedback/fuzzed guitars a' la Crass set the 'nuclear-mise en scene' before drummer Richard Potts unleashes the hammer-blow tempo and you're off – as with much 'second wave Brit-punk' this is no angular thesis set to music like some of their 'trendy' big-city contemporaries, instead it's a full-on angry assault that's positively prog in its 2.22 running time, although granted a good 30 seconds is the nuclear explosion at the end!
The oh-so sweetly named 'Kill Your Baby' rounds off the A-Side, not sure where to go with this but after the 'comedy' opening it's either a not-so-subtle re-write of the Pistols 'Bodies' or just, err, a bit of a laugh?
Flip it over for the short-sharp-shock of 'Army', a riot of fuzz-saw guitars and all over in a dazzling 1.36, from what I can make out of the lyrics it would appear to be a comment on the British occupation of Ireland, musically it's another stormer – like contemporaries Discharge the super-fast tempo would help set the template for punk-offshoot – hardcore…
However, proving there was more to the band than 100 MPH rama-lama punk (and there's nowt wrong with that mind) last number 'Victimised' slows the tempo down, stretching out the track to a mind-bendingly Yes album track length of 3.09, whilst detailing the trials and tribulations of choosing 'punk' as your lifestyle choice. Mohican haircuts, ripped trousers and home-made leather jackets might be alright for a Saturday afternoon peacocks parade up and down the King's Road in that-there London, try it out in any one of the U.K's provinces in 1982 and, as 'Victimised' illustrates, you might not have had such an easy ride, "I'm being victimised, police won't leave me alone We're being victimised for wearing strange clothes…. Bring false charges against you Nothing else you could do Take you out to make your statement Then it's back to police detainment".
And there you have it, four tracks of highly charged second wave punk, all over in the blink of an eye, and a pretty accurate reflection on life in “Thatcher’s Britain” (as Rik the people’s poet might have it), the band continue to tour and release new material – infact 2015 saw them release the wonderfully titled ‘Shit Man Fucker EP’, with reissues of some of the older stuff on Let Them Eat Vinyl out too – original copies are available on Discogs, so if you’re looking for a spot of time travel this weekend, Burning Britain awaits….