Grow Your Own

Armoured Flu Unit The Mighty Roar LP

Blimey, this is old-school. Well, the record is technically a new release, but the band members are, well, not. As my late friend and mentor, who had been active in the scene since the mid-’80s, used to say, “Let’s just agree that I am an experienced punk and not dwell on the issue that I put on gigs for YOUTH OF TODAY while you still feasted on your own boogies.” I personally love to see how old-timers keep forming new bands, touring, being involved in worthy causes, and delivering relevant political messages. To me it is as important as supporting teenage bands. We all were snotty brats at some point, and we will also all (hopefully) grow older, as punks. Enough cheesiness already. ARMOURED FLU UNIT is from the south of England and have been going for a few years now, made up of people formerly in A.U.K and HAYWIRE (a band I have always loved)—those bands were known for their anarchist political stances, notably on the topic of animal liberation, so it hardly comes as a surprise that The Mighty Roar includes songs tackling an issue that is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, perhaps even more so with more and more common people seeing the truth behind animal exploitation but with big corporations thriving on animal murder for decades trying to get their capitalist hands on the vegan pound. Lyrically, The Mighty Roar is an angry, honest, direct political charge that is meaningful and contextual (no abstract metaphors about oppression here). Musically, ARMOURED FLU UNIT plays hard-hitting hardcore punk with a metallic edge, mostly inspired by US bands but with a British touch. Classically executed. I enjoy the punkier, catchier mid-paced moments the most here (“Blindsided’’ is ace), but I find the production too clean for my liking. But then, I have been feeding on filthy, distorted hardcore punk for so long that I am probably not the most qualified to comment. They remind me of a cleaner version of ’90s bands like POA or IN THE SHIT, or the more recent CONSTANT STATE OF TERROR. The LP was released on Grow Your Own, a very active DIY anarcho-punk label run by Oscar from ANTHRAX—go for it if you are looking for hard-hitting political hardcore with a clean sound.

Bug Central And the Fires Began 10″

Gargling bass starts what quickly presents itself as classic UK anarcho-punk. Sort of reminding me of SPITE, or RIOT/CLONE with a KILLING JOKE rhythm to it. Abrasive while equally encompassing a tide of UK82 and some crust influence, BUG CENTRAL hits a SUBHUMANS groove at times as well. This is dancey and slamming. Boots and bristles with a darker veneer. This is clearly composed by maestros from decades of UK punk rock. “Another Vegan Hipster” is cracking me up. BUG CENTRAL pulls no punches, but packs a catchy wallop. SUICIDAL SUPERMARKET TROLLEYS, PIL, RESTARTS, POLICE BASTARD…it has a lot going on. I want to see this band play with PI$$ER. I wish this was the direction ANTISECT went in. This album is earnest and smart. The title track kind of recalls early ENT with more discernible vocals. BUG CENTRAL is gloomy and bright. The cover art is a full-color British street scene, if you mixed CRASS graphic design with Zdzisław Beksiński. Check this out.

D.O.V.E. D.O.V.E. LP

D.O.V.E. plays that jam-laden style of anarcho-punk that explores riffs as much as societal criticism. Sure, there are portions of this album that are “heavy” and “fast,” but there’s also a lot of instrumental and vocal experimentation. Most of the songs on this album are well over the three-minute mark, without including any sort of outside audio sample. In fact, I don’t believe there are any samples used on this album, which in 2023 is a rarity of its own. If I had to compare D.O.V.E. to something, I’d say something like HONEY BANE, but with more willingness to embrace the jam, or maybe a more chilled-out PERMACULTURE.

Dogma Dogma LP

This LP marks the first release from Ottawa’s anarcho/peace punks DOGMA. For fans of OMEGA TRIBE, HAGAR THE WOMB and the like, whose influences can be felt throughout. In keeping with the tradition of the genre, lyrical themes focus mainly on political issues/social unrest. DOGMA knows humanity is fucked, and they want to do something about it. It’s heartening to know that bands like this still exist, using music as medium for a greater message.

Dogma Disarm or Die 10″

I was supposed to put on a gig for DOGMA in June 2020, but COVID happened and they had to cancel their European tour. A real shame, since I see this Ottawa-based band as one of the best in contemporary anarcho-punk. In our day and age when being “insta-famous” is actually a thing, DOGMA sounds fresh, genuine, and humble. This is not to say that they are reinventing the anarcho wheel. Indeed, they would be serious contestants in a dove logo challenge, and I assume the title of this brand new 10’’ nods lovingly to POLITICAL ASYLUM. However, while too many bands used the classic anarcho-punk imagery and references as mere gimmicks, not signifying much else than themselves, I feel DOGMA’s overt tribute works. If it was a drink, DOGMA’s music would be a delicious smoothie called “ANOK Bonanza,’’ and their lyrics, while relying on traditional lexical fields, remain relevant and tackle modern topics. I am a massive fan of their first album—its upbeat yet moody dynamics convinced me instantly, and it has been on constant rotation at home. As a result, expectations were high, hopes were up, and anticipation was tense as I awaited the new record like you wait for a pizza at a restaurant: feverishly. Disarm or Die is different from the first album, though. It doesn’t look different (it is bordering on the self-referential, maybe not the best call), but it sounds different, just enough. The guitar sound has grown into something darker and more elaborate, and with the reverb effect on the bass, there are post-punk undertones. But stylistically, DOGMA remains first and foremost a British-inspired traditional punk rock band—thankfully, as the world does not need yet another generic goth-punk band. The songs are as delightfully catchy yet significantly longer and a bit slower, which allows for more space to work on the songwriting and the atmosphere. I love the hypnotic vibe of the very discernible, powerful, and almost spoken vocals, and how danceable and tune-oriented, and yet a little wistful, Disarm or Die sounds. DOGMA reminds me of many old anarcho bands (duh), especially with the very forward female vocals and that seemingly effortless catchiness and hooks. Blend ICON AD’s infectious tunefulness, A-HEADS’ passionate energy, NAKED’s songwriting flair, and INDIAN DREAM’s moody catchiness, and you’d be pretty close. Did I mention DOGMA covers ‘Witch Hunt’’ from the MOB? Don’t miss this jewel.

Exit Stance Retch With Mother 10″

Anarcho-punk legends EXIT STANCE have a lot to live up to with their absolute classic Crime Against Humanity, one of the best EP’s to come out of the UK anarcho-punk scene. If not the best, certainly the angriest. After a shitload of bad luck, they called it quits in ’86 due to constant criticism…being judged all the time, attacked for not being perfect, people always wondering if we were conforming to the ‘”anarchist rule book”! Fortunately they came back from the dead, released Saying Nothing (But Speaking My Mind), and now Retch With Mother. The fire is still there, and by fire I mean the politically-motivated anger. Songs about sexism, animal liberation, and anarchist values. They sound like themselves: dark post-punk in a KILLING JOKE-meets-CRASS way. Some bands lose their ethos within a few years and conform to the “music machine,” but in some rare occasions you see bands like EXIT STANCE that stand the test of time.

Hagar the Womb Hagitate 10″

The women-led duel and gang vocals on every track of this reunion project are the reason to check this out. After breaking up in the late ’80s and reuniting in 2012, this is the most complete and realized new release from HAGAR THE WOMB. Of course there are a lot of similarities here to POISON GIRLS, early CHUMBAWAMBA, and Penis Envy CRASS, but, at the end of the day, Hagitate just feels like a vanity project not unlike the STEVE IGNORANT WITH PARANOID VISIONS albums that have come out over the last few years. The songs are still good and the band is enjoyable, but they will have a hard time living up to the original period of UK anarcho punk they were a part of. The song “Show Off” pretty much explains that they just wanted to get on stage again and have fun, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it does feel like it can water down a legacy. Sometimes it’s nice to see people form new bands and projects instead of going back to the well. This is a very enjoyable release if you love 30- or 40-year-old anarcho punk, but there is certainly nothing mandatory about it.

Lost Cherrees Blank Pages LP

The LOST CHERREES story has been one full of unexpected turns, from member turnover, to genre evolution, to breaking up during a show in 1986, then reforming during the Napster craze of the early 2000s. It’s always fascinating to me when bands span decades, to try and understand what has kept them going, and fueled the creative fire for so long. In LOST CHERREES’ case, it seems that constant change has been a driving force in the forward momentum of the band. Bassist and founding member Steve Battershill has served as an anchor throughout all its incarnations. Politics are still at the forefront, with lyrics confronting issues like bigotry, animal cruelty, and sexual violence. Don’t expect this to sound like their early stuff, but a worthwhile listen for those who appreciate a more modern take on the genre.

Omega Tribe New Peace Movement CD

I wanted to like this album. I mean, I really wanted to like this album. No Love Lost and Angry Songs are in my personal music archives for a reason. I gotta say though, I did not care for this album. “Ain’t Gonna Let Em” is a decent song, and there are moments on the album that reminded me of things like TOM ROBINSON BAND, CHUMBAWAMBA, and even early BOWIE. However, there are not many “angry songs” on this album, and instead a bunch of hippy-dippy songs. I’m serious, like “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”-type stuff. This is absolutely not my bag of grass.

The Astronauts It’s Got a Garden LP

If you’re like me and somehow missed it, the ASTRONAUTS are a “semi-legendary” UK band that loosely resonates with a variety of genres including anarcho-punk, psych-rock, progressive rock, and folk punk. They launched in 1977, just eight years after Apollo 11’s moon landing. In 1981, they released their first LP, Peter Pan in the Suburbs on All the Madmen Records—sharing the roster with FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN and the MOB. With witty, irreverent lyrics and a sound swinging from tripped-out psych-rock to impassioned political ballads to folky campfire sing-alongs, they wound their way into the hearts of hippies and punks alike while touring around the UK with ZOUNDS. Their original recordings were overlooked for years before becoming massively collectible in the era of Discogs. The band’s early EPs and first two LPs were re-released on vinyl by La Vida Es Un Mus Records a few years ago, making them available beyond the realm of serious record collectors. While they may have slowed down for a few years in the ’90s, the ASTRONAUTS never stopped making records. Scattered among various formats and labels, they continued to grow and transform. So this November 2019 release is hardly a reunion. It’s Got a Garden stands out in the way it fully takes advantage of modern recording capabilities. There is enough of a consistent aesthetic throughout the band’s discography that it feels like a peek into a parallel universe where the early UK anarcho-punk bands recorded with what, at the time, would have been major label recording studio equipment. The richness of the song “Garden” reimagines DAVID BOWIE-style futurism minus the rockstar vanity, before meandering into a chorus of theatrical singing backed by thin violin accompaniment. There’s something greater here than a more velvety recording, though. While some bands stick around trying to relive their glory days, the ASTRONAUTS’ true glory days are ahead of them. In the process of tirelessly crafting album after album, they’ve perfected rather than rehashed their sound. This new release is just as fresh and exciting as anything they’ve created.

The Astronauts When You’re Not So High LP

The ASTRONAUTS, the epitome of punk rock jam bands, are a developed taste, but When You’re Not So High is actually quite easy on the taste buds, as the ASTRONAUTS rock harder on this LP than on any previous release. This four-song LP has song lengths that may push the boundaries of your attention span, but that won’t be the fault of the band. “Heresy,” the opening track, is a very moody (edging near dub session) critique of contemporary punk and our failing governments, all delivered in the poetic manner only Mark Wilkins (a.k.a. Mark Astronaut) is capable of. The second song “Have It” almost reads as “All Night Party, Part Two” with a pulsating club beat driving an anti-party/party track, and if you’re looking for the “punk” on this album, wait for this song’s midpoint—by the end of it, you’ll be questioning your own complicity in the scheme. “High” and “Melissa’s Party”, the final two songs, almost flow into one unit as they meander and then suddenly rage against the politics of social gatherings as viewed through the lens of 40-plus years of partying experience. I often listened to the ASTRONAUTS in the same way as I view surrealist art, a quick review followed by several hours of discovering the various hidden messages and small enclaves that make the whole of the work interesting. What I can say at the moment is this album is full of very controlled vitriol aimed squarely at the external and internal bullshit of our day, all backed by constantly interesting arrangements. This might not be the most “punk rock” album, but I assure you the message is more punk than any of us actually are.

Virus Pathogens 10″

A record from 2019 with an album cover and title that feel strangely prophetic. Instrumentally, I want to say this record sounds like if FUGAZI took a wild foray into hair metal and then hired the guitarist from LEFTÖVER CRACK. Needless to say, it’s a hard record to pinpoint and I still don’t know where I stand on it. Part of me wants to love it and part of me wants to hate it. Give it a listen, all I can say is it probably won’t bore you.