Bristol Archive Records Blog

Album Review –

Bristol Archive Records

This is a highly commendable compilation, as you should expect from this label, with some interesting bands, which is harder to achieve with Punk material than you may realise. Punk compilations tend to be fairly orthodox nowadays, and after a while almost pointless, the same material endlessly regurgitated, but having a regional niche to explore gives this a character of its own, with the timeline aspect fairly unnecessary. It’s a snapshot stretched out over whatever frame you might wish for. Like the wonderful hyped2death releases Bristol Archive continues to intrigue and captivate with their diligent work, so you should enjoy this if you’re an adept at discerning Punk varieties, but also for the newcomer it’s a pretty diverting mixture. Some you will love swiftly, some will make you feel sick. This is all to be expected, and while you could argue some bands deserve more or less space than others, that’s a personal argument. The weirdest part, as with pretty much any Punk compilation, is just how cute it all sounds. There’s also one of the greatest punk songs ever quivering on the autopsy table, which you may be unaware of.

With cuteness under scrutiny The Cortinas are coyly puffing their puny chests out throughout the jingly-jangling ‘Defiant Pose’, which originally felt like a breath of fresh air but now appears to be gerbils covering Dr Feelgood. The voice of rebellion ladies and gentlemen! The Pigs spin into view with ‘National Front’, complete with some shockingly inane lyrics, but then I thought this was dopey old tripe when I first heard it. In fact this was about the only one of the first indie punk singles I didn’t buy, at a time when you bought pretty much everything which came within reach. Even that Clark Kent thing, or Pork Dukes. Luckily Social Security’s ‘I Don’t Want My Heart To Rule My Head’ is made of sterner stuff, albeit determinedly one-dimensional, as agile and chunky guitar disports itself alongside some spirited, ambitious vocals. The Pigs partially redeem themselves with the ironically callous ‘Youthanasia’, complete with a guitar break that wouldn’t exhaust a flea. Social Security could be attempting a cheeky Buzzcocks impersonation in ‘Choc Ice’ but come over as a lopsided version of The Boys, which is okay as their guitar is bright and vivid.

The Posers pound away at the yappingly gumboid ‘Good Advice’ which is a cross between UK Subs and some early hardcore, with neatly slithering bass. It would appear The Media recorded ‘New Blood’ inside a thimble decorated with Gen X posters where they sound tiny, stylishly constricted and a bit demented. It’s bizarre hearing something so oddly recorded it seems to be trapped inside the speakers, and yet it’s fun! The Primates have a live version of ‘Generation Warfare’ and this is a rough and tumble engagingly delivered with punky verve which isn’t squalid or aping others. The X-Certs also blare their way through the jiggling ‘Fight Back’ with some vivacity, at which point we reach The Great Moment.

One of the finest independent punk releases appeared on the ‘4 Alternatives EP’, a song by 48 Hours entitled ‘Back To Ireland.’ I lost my copy a while back but here we have a demo version of it, called ‘A Soldier’ and Ange, whoever he was, is a brilliant lyricist, detailed but direct, with the band, fittingly enough, close in style to Stiff Little Fingers without any hectoring aspect. Passionate but straightforward, this is almost modest in its excitement. I can’t work out all of the words but I felt it necessary to type out what I can, as this is so good compared to most of the dross punk bands used to come up with, especially the ‘have-you-got-10p?’ merchants who were everywhere back then.

“In 1969 I was just twelve years of age,
I didn’t know I was sent to act out on Britain’s great stage,
I had six years to go,
To play with my toy tommy gun,
It took one shot in the leg,
To prove that this isn’t much fun.

“This place ain’t far from home,
Though it could be a million miles,
Some people here are friendly,
Some even bother to smile
But when I was watching the advert,
I’m sure it was nothing like this
When my three years is up I can’t stay in this place.

“Cos they said I’m going to Ireland,
I got to fight for my life
I’ve got to fight for Britain,
Using rifles and knives.”

(May have that last line slightly wrong.)

“1975, eighteen years have passed,
Eighteen years I’ve been here,
I hope this won’t be my last.
Standing in long lines with rifles in our hands
I crush them up with my big boots…

(Can’t make these words out properly.)

“Cos they said I’m staying in Ireland, for the next 18 months
A British army corporal
Once signed on at once
Cos they said I’m going to Ireland (etc).”

Guitar spiral off wonderfully in discontent at this point, over thumping drums, as we hit the best bit.

“How I wish I was back in the office,
Leaving off work at four-thirty
And here I am, in the Lansdowne Road.
I’m cold, I’m wet, I’m dirty.
The army just ain’t for me,
Guns and barbed wire is all I see
I’ve just got to leave this post,
I’ll ditch all my stuff
…and I’ll run for the coast.

“And now I’m running from Ireland
For the next 50 years
A conscientious objector,
Oh, will you see my tears?”

“Cos they said I’m going to Ireland (etc)

“Oh can’t you see
The army
It just ain’t for me
Ohhhh cant you see
The army
Just ain’t for me

“And I never wanted to come here anyway!”

That final touch of petulant post-Pistolian wit nails the perfect song, seemingly throwaway but an actual spark of emphatic genius. Bliss.

The Verdict keep the Irish theme going through a bustling ‘IRA Man’ that reminds me strangely of The Pirates as though they have an r’n’b past, and the carefully emphasised vowels are simply too Rottenesque to be taken seriously, while the guitarist just wants to go on soloing forever! The X-Certs do their convincing reggae in ‘Stop The Fussing And The Fighting’ which has spry touches, and comes over as soothing. Then it’s none other than Vice Squad who charge off in ‘Resurrection’ and here’s a band we could have done with more of. They always had a crazed energy about them and like many of the more exciting bands of that time their energy seemed to have been poured into a fragile shape you expected to shatter, but somehow they’d always seem to surf their own slipstream, round and round, up and down.

That’s the good stuff and then we’re into the bowels of Hell, I’m afraid. Disorder’s ‘Complete Disorder’ is some form of rakish shorthand I’m sure, like low level sonic suicide. Mad and bad they keep the right side of thrash or the plain scrappy, and trail off coldly. Chaos UK offer a fairly identikit sub-anarcho rant in ‘Four Minute Warning’ and represent the kind of earnest but dog-eared, dog-tired Punk I never found remotely exciting or endearing. I suppose they sound pretty decent when set against Court Martial and their slack ‘Gotta Get Out’ but it’s a close run thing as both bore you senseless. The Undead want to complain about the world in ‘It’s Corruption’, as the police and the army are very naughty and apparently corruption destroys freedom of speech and drives people to do crazy things. Their drummer is truly awful. Lunatic Fringe ask ‘Who’s In Control?’ and I think they’re genuinely confused. Chaotic Dischord scamper through the utterly abysmal ‘Who Killed E.T? (I Killed The Fucker!)’ and you have to ask why this garbage was even allowed on the record. Onslaught think they’re Motorhead and gargle through the terminal ‘Thermo Nuclear Devastation Of The Planet Earth’ as I gaze around the office trying to summon up the enthusiasm to leave this chair. At least it’s a short song, but that final phase of the record is a weird thing. Punk started off exciting, developed character and then become a generic heap of shite. The record reflects that, I guess.

While you should find the majority of the album enjoyable, and can simply ignore the final tracks, this is a compilation worth buying for the mighty 48 Hours alone. That’s a total classic and it’s fantastic to be reunited with it again.

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