It’s Saturday night, time to take everything down a notch, dim the lights, slip into something less restrictive around the midsection and get all lovey-dovey-dovey. From Edinburgh with love:
The Exploited Punks Not Dead* is an abrasive full-force-fist-in-yer-coupon from these second wave of UK punk, punkers, released in that storied year 1981. The very first words on the LP, taken from a live introduction for the title track are:
Every cunt's trying to say punk's dead, right, read it in the papers all the stupid cunts, this one's called 'Punk's Not Dead'.
The ditty that follows is a pounding relentless wall of anger and percussive singing, complete with a neat drop out bit and almost a guitar solo. Driven hard by Gary McCormack’s bass and some frenetic riffing, by future Nirvana guitar tech** Big John Duncan it hits hard. As does the lighter ‘Mucky Pup’^ and the totally frantic and fucking brilliant ‘Cop Cars’. Spoiler Alert: The Exploited are not friends of the boys in blue.
The whole idea of the second wave of UK punk was that the proletariat had seized the means of production from the more rareified art school chaps and lasses and turned their gunfire ire more explicitly on more street-level concerns. As always that’s an over-simplification, but it works. Football style chanting, unseemly amounts of swearing and blunt instrumental trauma all worked for the Exploited, Blitz, Conflict, (my beloved) Discharge and others. The dress got more out-there as the impact got heavier, singer Wattie from the Exploited rocks the mohawk properly; he still does 38 years later.
Punks Not Dead lashes all the usual targets cops, the royal family, being on the dole, how awesome their fans are, anarchy, IRA bombs and, thanks to Wattie’s experience of being a teenage squaddie, army life. What I rather like here is that when the Exploited write a song about something, they call it what it is, none of your florid obscuritanism here – song about being on the dole? ‘Dole Q’; song about life in the army? ‘Army Life (Part 2)’; song about terrorist bombs? ‘Blown To Bits’. And so it goes.
Heavier on the profanity than the profundity, at its best Punks Not Dead is like opening a box of lit fireworks indoors, the venomous ‘SPG’, the title track, ‘Cop Cars’ and ‘Blown To Bits’ are particularly fine exemplars of their art. I know it’s the whole point of it but I find listening to it all in one sitting is a bit like being beaten over the head with a light tin tray by a shrieking madman for 38 minutes, on a bus, in a thunderstorm. In this context my very favourite track here is side A closer ‘Sex & Violence’, beginning with an appalling approximation of a Yorkshire accent it swiftly becomes something brilliantly tribal (Adam & The Rants, maybe?), it’s about my level of subtle too:
At 5:12 ‘Sex & Violence’ is the Exploited’s ‘Supper’s Ready’, or ‘In-A -Gadda-Da-Vida’. I think it really is all kinds of great.
The Exploited and their peers were part of what energised the US hardcore scene an therefore half of the DNA that formed 80’s thrash metal. Slayer and Ice-T covered ‘Disorder’ for, 1537 fave, the Judgment Night soundtrack after all^*. Like a lot of their fellow punkers the Exploited shed members and eventually turned their hand at thrash metal themselves, unlike almost every other band that went that way they were startlingly good at it^^.
Whilst not the best LP that came out of this wave of punk^^^ Punks Not Dead is up there as an accurate document of a harsh time, a vital not-to-be-patronised life-affirming racket of the best kind. A few of the attitudes and language would not pass muster in today’s fussier (and rightly so) climes but it still sounds like an authentic voice from the street and deserves to be embraced as such.
Wattie was right, punk wasn’t dead, it was very much alive and getting ready for a night out jacked up on cheap speed and cider, looking for a fight and a shag. So raise a glass to Punks Not Dead and prepare to careen around your living room, bumping into things and frightening your pets.
Mee-maw, Mee-maw, cops are after me Mee-maw, Mee-maw, cops are after me Mee-maw, Mee-maw, cops are after me Here they come!
God bless Angela Rippon.
*as a pedant and scholar the punctuation of the LP title just kills me every time I type it. Gentlemen, this is not an assertion that multiple punks are still alive, in fact it is a statement that the movement is still vital; Punk is not dead. There are rules governing this sort of thing gentlemen, RULES! And if there is one thing I know about punk it is about slavishly obeying rules. Please change the title on subsequent repressings to Punk’s Not Dead, so I can enjoy ditties like ‘I Believe In Anarchy’ with an easier mind.
**and for one gig only, second Nirvana guitarist.
^possibly the only song in the whole of the 1537 that ends with a homage to Angela Rippon’s Bristols.
^*which is, minutiae fans, a compilation of 3 Exploited songs – War, UK 82 and Disorder.
^^Truly deeply hardcore:
^^^Discharge Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, by a country mile.