Discharge Why. This LP just screams 1981 to me – monochrome cover replete with stark photographs of civilian war casualties on the front and bombs falling towards a city on the back. Random selection of song titles*:
- Visions of War
- Maimed and Slaughtered
- Massacre of Innocence (Air Attack)
- War’s No Fairytale
Essence of ’81 all the way.
My parents were big in the anti-nuclear movement in the early 80’s** and so I’ve been on more protests, pickets and marches as a kid than I can remember clearly. Although my parents tried to stop me reading the gory details too closely from various mimeographed leaflets, I did and came to dread the nuclear threat looming over the world stemming from, to quote Discharge, ‘Two Monstrous Nuclear Stockpiles’. Things were very black and white back then, our elected leaders were seemingly trying to get us killed and I was scared that I wouldn’t get to be a grown up. It was a frightening time to be alive, particularly if you were a young boy prone to being a bit serious about things. Why brings all this back to me, the worry crystallised into something rawer, angrier.
Discharge formed in 1977 in Stoke-on-Trent, playing streetwise punk and finally coalescing around the lineup of Cal Morris on vocals, Tez on drums and his brother Bones on guitar and Rainy on bass. Suddenly the sound switched from a fairly standard Oi punk sound to something faster, harder and intens-ier than had ever been heard on these shores before. This was hardcore.
When you sung about the topics Discharge did you had to make your music more extreme and Why hits that sweet spot for me you get when intent butts up against ability, which is when I think loud, fast, brash bands make most of their best music. Anyone who has ever liked thrash metal has heard Discharge’s legacy whether they have ever known their name, or not.
Here’s a video of my second most played track on my iPod:
Check out one of my all time favourite tunes ever, in the whole history of me and music, ‘Ain’t No Feeble Bastard’. Blast it. It just works on me like a shot of adrenalin into my cold black heart. I love the sentiment*^ and there is some really serious riffing going on here – listen to it fellow metal heads and tell me you can’t hear a logical progression from Motörhead going on in there.
In fact I’d go further than that, when I listen to the white-hot pummeling ‘Is This To Be’, or ‘Massacre Of Innocence (Air Attack)’ and their frantic screaming about arbitrary atrocities I get the sense of not even being able to hear the instruments any more, just directly experiencing the electricity^. It doesn’t get any purer or more exciting than that, and I just crave that shot of energy.
Bar one outlier, nothing on Why clocks in at any longer than 1:55, the mean track duration is 1:19 which is more than enough time to get what you need across. Wasn’t it Max Headroom that put forward the idea of ‘blipverts’ adverts that played at you so fast you could only process them subliminally? Why is just like that. After rattling through all 22 tracks in 31 minutes four times in the last few days, I had an overwhelming urge to bring Thatcher down and scream at cruise missiles.
Why is a fabulous, visceral snapshot of a time and place. A direct, political counterpunch from the hopeless, from the unheard, forgotten, overwhelmed masses that struggled to see the world lasting much beyond 1984. Discharge put the ‘fucking hard’ into the phrase ‘hard left’.
Some favourite other bits:
- Tomorrow Belongs To Us: Discharge just reaching for their sound here without quite hitting it, just sheer momentum
- Fight Back: It doesn’t get any simpler, more basic or more necessary than this. A ‘Times They Are A-Changing’ for our times.
- Why: They just sound rabid here, like nothing else I’ve ever heard.
The Why I have isn’t a dog-eared copy of the original 1981 mini album but a lovingly curated 2015 reissue by Let Them Eat Vinyl Records on clear vinyl, complete with some great sleeve notes by Ian Glasper. The original 10 tracks are bolstered a whopping great 14 bonus tracks culled from the early EPs, making this spiky artefact great value for money.
You want to know the absolute best thing about Why though? it’s the sound of Discharge practicing, sharpening their songwriting chops and getting good enough to cut one of the very best, heaviest LPs that I have ever heard, a genuine contender for both the best punk album ever, the monolithic Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing. But I’ll write about that one when I’m good enough to do it.
For now I’ll just carry on mains-lining, because as someone else said once upon a time, anger is an energy.
Ain’t no feeble bastard that obeys their every say
They say do this they say do that
No I’m no dogs body
Ain’t no feeble bastard
No fucking scapegoat
Ain’t no feeble bastard that has no say
I say what I think, not what they want me to think
Ain’t no feeble bastard
No fucking scapegoat!
*as processed by the 1537-Random-o-Matic-title-selector (patent pending).
**one legacy of which is that I can say ‘Nuclear Power, No Thanks’ in a variety of European languages, thanks to the famous smiley-faced car sticker that we all had back then.
*^second only to ‘The Harder They Come’ for me in tunes I use to motivate myself. If I were that sort of guy I’d have both titles inked across my forehead.