ALBUM REVIEW: Subhumans – Crisis Point (Pirates Press Records)
Subhumans are one of the most influential bands from the UK anarcho-punk scene of the early 80s.
Formed in Wiltshire in 1980, they were right up there with Crass and Conflict as the big names of the movement, and their debut album The Day The Country Died is regarded as a classic.
After splitting in 1985 they had a couple of short-lived reformations, but their most recent, in 2004, has proved longer lasting, and they still play live regularly.
Now, with the same line-up which has existed since 1983 – Dick Lucas on vocals, Bruce Treasure on guitar, Phil Bryant on bass and Trotsky on drums – they’re back with their first new material in 12 years.
The energy, passion and conviction which comes roaring out of the speakers makes it hard to believe they’re nearer 60 than 16, and age certainly hasn’t mellowed them.
It’s apparent from the off that they’ve lost none of their ability to convey serious messages, whether they’re addressing global pollution, mind control or simply a world in crisis.
Sadly, many of the things they sang about nearly 40 years ago are still relevant today. Opening track Terrorist In Waiting examines our perceptions of anyone who is different, making the point: “everyone’s a terrorist – or not”.
Fear And Confusion and Information Gap are both about conspiracy theories and not knowing what to believe in these times of disinformation and fake news.
Atom Screen War has a swaggering guitar riff and is possibly the standout track in an album full of them, though my favourite changes with every listen.
Strange Land is a ska-inflected condemnation of racist attitudes in these divisive days of Trump and Brexit, and warns: “You’d better watch out or you’ll be next!”
99% rails against the small number of people in power who make the big decisions which affect everyone else – “We’re the 99%, our lives are not for you to spend/ We’re the 99% and we resent this exploitation.”
Subhumans have always been a DIY band, and Punk Machine is a salutary tale for those bands who sign up to major labels. It rages: “It doesn’t work like we were told/It doesn’t work, it’s just control/It doesn’t work cos it’s got no soul/It doesn’t work at all.”
Poison is about geo-engineering and how food production is poisoning the planet, while Thought Is Free encourages people to think for themselves – quintessential Subhumans subjects.
With 11 tracks clocking in at 27 minutes, it’s all killer no filler. It’s also a record which will make it onto many ‘best of’ 2019 lists, including mine. 9/10.