Review # 53
Title: Demos 1982
This record is a new release of the long out-of-print 1982 demo of British anarcho-punk band The Alternative. Unlike many of the other more obscure bands from this era who's recordings have become nearly impossible to track down in a physical form, this band has also remained fairly elusive on the internet as well. You can find MP3s by Hit Parade, Honey Bane, and Hagar the Womb if you look hard enough, but try searching the internet for "Alternative punk band MP3s" or some other variation of that. You'll look all day before you find anything by them.
So, if you're a collector of British anarcho-punk like I am, it's good that this is back in print. Like my previous review, this is a band that, if you've heard them at all, you've probably heard on the Overground Records anarcho-punk series, which included their song "Where Are Your Hiroshimas?" A version of that song is also found on this record. I'm not really sure why it was the one chosen for the Overground series as it's far from my favorite on the record, being a bit overly shrill and repetitious for my taste. Be that as it may, unless you are a really serious punk historian and archivist, you're probably fine with just having the Overground comp in this case.
I'm not saying this record is bad, to be clear. But the recording quality is pretty awful in places. Both tinny and warbley at times, I think you have to have an ear that's accustomed to lo-fi diy punk recordings to get much out of this. There's something I actually like about recordings that sound like this--they come off as more organic and authentic in some way. Having started playing music in the age when the best most diy bands could hope for was a half decent cassette four track demo, there's something that feels right to me about cheap analogue basement recordings, but I know that for most people, especially those younger than me, this isn't the case. There's no reason for any recording to sound like this in the 21st century.
What about the music? Well, it's good anarcho-punk, if you like that sort of thing. But there's nothing here that's so indispensable for the casual punk fan that it would be worth it to force yourself to listen to recordings that don't sound good. Alternative sounds like slightly more melodic Crass. There's some good bass and guitar work, but nothing that goes outside the confines of the anarcho-punk style. "Antichrist" and "Moral Bondage" in particular have some nice guitar hooks, and "Who's Sussed" has some nice melodic bass parts, but if you've heard contemporaries of this band, there are no real surprises here. Likewise the messages of the songs, which are anti-war, anti-organized religion, anti-nationalism, anti-nuclear weapons, etc. Kind of predictable.
I'm afraid I've come off more negative about this record than I am. I actually like it quite a bit. But, as I mentioned in my last review, I'll pick up nearly anything from this particular milieu of the punk scene. To me, it's the happy medium between the musical stylings of the first wave of British punk bands, which I tend tend to prefer to crust bands from a musical standpoint, and political content of crust, which is often more thoughtful than the first wave bands. But if I was going to recommend one record from this era, I can't say I'd consider this. It's for collectors of anarcho punk. If you can find their EP (good luck), the recordings are a lot better, but still, Alternative still doesn't really stand out from their contemporaries that much.
Total songs listened: 674