Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Abrasive Wheels: When The Punks Go Marching In

Review # 2
Artist: Abrasive Wheels
Title: When the Punks Go Marching In
Format: LP
Label: Get Back
Year: 1982/1997
Songs: 19

Get Back Records is an Italian record label that, especially during the late 1990s, re-released a lot of classic British punk rock on vinyl. They were very prolific with these releases, so much so that the next two reviews after this one will also cover records on the Get Back label, and several others will come up as well as we move beyond the letter "A." This record, released in 1997, includes Abrasive Wheels' first full-length, When The Punks Go Marching In (1982) as well as some tracks from the band's 7" releases. This is a record that was extremely important to me when I went through my UK-'82 punk phase about 10 years ago.  Listening to it now brings back memories of spinning this disc while sewing band patches onto old clothes, studding things, and dyeing my hair bright red.

When The Punks Go Marching In is in many ways a quintessential representation of the early '80s British punk scene. This record is a collection of mid-tempo punk with sing-a-long/shout-out choruses and more than a little bit of that catchy street punk/Oi! influenced sound that I found so addictive in my late teens and early 20s. There's nothing intellectual or profound here, but there's nothing pretentious either. Buzzsaw guitars, sometimes reminiscent of the Ramones, bang out no-time-for-solos rhythms while working-class Brits shout about the very real threats of war and poverty in the 1980s. "Voice of Youth" demands that we "put Margaret Thatcher on the dole" while "Vicious Circle" describes in simple terms the ugly life of unemployed youth under her regime. This is classic UK-82. But it's not all anger and urban decay: the title track is in fact a rather silly cover of "When the Saints Go Marching In" that, with a few minor changes, is now about punks, skins, police officers, and the band themselves ("when the wheels go marching in"). Highlights of this record for me include "BBC" and "Just Another Punk Band," both of which have choruses I'll be singing to myself for days, and the single version of "Vicious Circle" from the groups 1981 7", which captures the raw energy of this band at its peak.

Total songs listened so far: 26

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