The obscure and unknown U.K. hardcore between the eighties and nineties
When we think about England’s underground music scene between the ‘80s and the ‘90s we all got in our minds that Earache banner lighting up like a Christmas tree. That’s completely right, no doubt about it.However, great punk and hardcore bands never really stopped coming out of UK, even in years when deathmetal and grindcore were the big thing. Those less known bands got an almost unique way of sounding, enough to make them hard to classify or to make examples of how they sounded without actually listening to them. At the end of a decade where band used to (as written in Albert Mudrian’s Choose Death) challenge on who could play faster than anyone, and bands like Heresy, Ripcord, Electro Hippies, UnseenTerror and NapalmDeath grinded down the venues in UK and Europe, different sounds started to evolve quickly, sometimes even in almost opposite directions. If on one side, the death metal explosion will merge it deeper and deeper with grindcore, on the other hardcore punk is quite in stall.
Many bands tried to get bigger turning into – sometimes ridiculous and lame –metal bands, others reached maturity, losing momentum, energy and freshness.
The best and most original stuff came out from that bands that didn’t choose to follow the trends or just tried to cut-and-paste the “coolest sound of the moment”, but instead, who metabolized those different influences, making them part of their sound, perfectly merged with their previous musical background. A common example could be G.B.H., that always have tried to make their sound different, even adding metal riffs and a more complex drumming, despite the critics of some of their first-era fans. Let’s spit it out, I love late G.B.H. records, the ones after Midnight Madness and Beyond, maybe even more than their “classic” stuff.
Two similar cases are Meatfly and ForceFed. Both are born from the ashes of Heresy, both of them shared some members (Kalv on bass, and Mike Knowlton, who replaced Jamie Sims at vocals in Force Fed’s last record) and they both shared the same label – In Your Face Records -. They represent the two souls that begin to emerge in the latest Heresy EPs.
Between 1989 and ’91, Force Fed released two LPs – Claustrophobia and EloundaSleeps – and a bunch of 7inches, summing up a hysterical and manic hardcore, almost astonishing. Heavy, powerful but at the same time fluid and fast, something between Articles of Faith and Christ on Parade, with some great thrash hints.
A gloomy and hammering hardcore, with a schizophrenic voice screaming and trembling that gets less obscure with their second record Elounda Sleeps, when they changed the singer, but it really goes almost unnoticed, they remained a really great and solid band, unexplainably confined deep farther from the public’s favorites.
Force Fed – Claustrophobia
Force Fed – Elounda Sleeps
Just like Meatfly, active in the same period. They released two killer albums too and other two 7inches, including a live EP recorded in Japan, where they recorded and released for Discipline Records their last album, Fatness, maybe their masterpiece, just a year after the self-titled ripping debut LP.
Meatlfy – exactly as ForceFed – don’t sound similar to any band I heard before, they’re something of unique and kinda unheard. It’s hardcore, no doubt about it, but it’s just completely their own way. Their songs are technical, long and articulated, with hammering fast drums, time changes and a disorienting atmosphere.
I dig ‘em from the very first listening, because of their unique and outstanding fast thrashy sound!
It’s really hard to compare them with other bands, maybe only some early Negazione stuff, Adrenalin O.D., the most hallucinated Accused records sound kinda close to them (or maybe Massappeal from Australia, for the music nerdest of you).
Meatfly – Self-Titled
Meatfly – Fatness
From the same fast sounds came out the Jailcell Recipes, which still got some Intense Degree’s and early Stupids’ vibe in their first record Energy in an Empty Tank World. Their more “melodic” evolution was already clear, then it got compete in the Poulton Road 7inch EP, to culminate in the amazing – and sadly final – Two Years of Toothache LP. Fast-paced hardcore punk, catchy, just more essential than the Meatfly or the ForceFed sound, but no less abrasive. They released two LPs for First Strike Records and a couple of 7inches before calling it quits in 1992.
Jailcell Recipes – Poulton Road
In the same year, splits up one of my favorite UK hardcore punk bands, tied for Meatlfy, Can’t Decide!
They released only two LPs – the self-titled debut album, followed by Five Seven Nine Eleven – and a 7inch split single with Meatfly, they got a sound that reminded me great overseas bands like 76% Uncertain, SNFU and Bad Religion, great blend! They got some ex-Heresy and Ripcord members, lately in Dumbstruck and Violent Arrest (John Milllier on drums and Steve Ballam on six-strings). I got so into them, after discovering them from their anthology CD compilation that Boss Tuneage Records released in 2004, that I immediately started looking for buy all their stuff! Clean and solid vocals that move sinuously, even surrounded by thick guitars and a great binomial of bass and drums.
Can’t Decide – Self Titled
Can’t Decide – Five Seven Nine Eleven
Way more long-lived and prolific were the Cowboy Killers, from Newport Gwent, Wales. Formed in the middle of the eighties, they kept playing and releasing albums and stuff till the end of the nineties, splitting up after their last effort Thank You, Fuck You and Goodbye. In all these years, they released 4 studio albums and 3 or 4 live albums too, plus 5 seven inches EPs. Started in the late 80’s with two great Eps, the split 7inch with The Sect, Here Today, Here Tomorrow? and the iconic KKK Wives on Holiday, which were followed by their very first album Koyaanisqatsi. Manic, sardonic and hysterical, bizarre like a low budget cabaret, their sound is inspired by the late and more mature Dead Kennedys – Plastic Surgery Disasters and Bedtime for Democracy era – the almighty Spermbirds (if you don’t know them, you suck!) and that blazing punk rock/hardcore from California, summed up in D.I. and Adolescents blend. All this, melted with vitriolic and desecrating humour, offensiveness and iconoclasm, sometimes fueled by surf-rock fuzzed intermissions. Their albums are not so easy to find – you always got the damn internet by the way, use it! – but the one and only Boss Tuneage Records released an anthology CD compilation with all the early stuff from the band, everything before their third album Dai Laughing.
Cowboy Killers – Koyaanisqatsi
Cowboy Killers – Press and Run Like Hell
Cowboy Killers – Dai Laughing
Cowboy Killers – Punks Look Like Jerks From Outer Space
Always of the same period, even if more punk rock oriented,TheJoyce McKinney Experience! Their singularity were a double female singing (Sharon Hunt and Yvonne McAvoy), which gave to their sound a unique and remarkable note, closer to later bands like Tilt or Bulimia Banquet. The most melodic of those bands, but always without losing their attitude and the impact of their sound, exemplified in their only album Joyce’s Offspring, followed by the two Eps Boring Rock and Cuddle This! In 2006 came out their double CD anthology Love Songs for Kirk, always on Boss Tuneage Records, with demos and previously unreleased material, which would have been on a stillborn second album that never saw the light.
The Joyce McKinney Experience – Joyce’s Offspring
Dan got a female singer too, Julie Dalkin. They’re the last band I’ll write about today, and got a quite longer activity period compared to the other above mentioned bands. Born in mid-‘80s, they ended splitting up in early nineties after releasing four LPs, a cassette album and a bunch of 7inches EPs, they played a strange but great mixture of anarchopunk and catchy punk rock, even experimenting with some synths, combining mid-tempos with faster and in-your-face tracks. The result is an almost unheard punk sound, unique compared to the crust/stenchcore paradigm who almost ruled the squats in which they used to hang out. They even dared a primitive anarchopunk-hip hop crossover, as in some tracks from the Mommy with Child and BunnyLP. Way ahead for the 1988 U.K. punk scene, isn’t it?
Dan – Can You Dig It?
Yeah, I know what you’re wondering now: “what the fuck does this guy do all day?”. I got a job, like almost everyone I suppose, I like going to shows and listening records. That’s it. I just like this stuff, this things, this so-called genre – that is not so easy to define. In my head it’s all so simple that is really difficult to explain or write about.
Well, I just hope you’ll enjoy these bands half than I do, they’re all rad, choose your favorite.
Unfortunately – or luckily, in certain ways – they’re all kinda obscure less-known bands, so keep your eyes open, you can find them in some distro or record store for peanuts. Buy and play them. Because no downloaded file or playlist, even if easier, can compare to a record, a CD or even a cassette.
Written and translated by Rash