Rare cuts and hidden agendas of British punk’s pillars that proudly stand four decades after their erection.
Having reached the end of a 26-album alphabet run with the successful crowdfunding of “Ziezo” and decided to stick to EPs after 40 years of labyrinthine discographic activity, this band were bound to amass some non-longplay curios along the way. Proper anthologizing of it all may be long overdue, but here’s a small portion of the veterans’ fringe releases – some out-of-print sides and some that never saw the light of day.
In retrospect, such context gives certain irony to the group’s 2011 offering “Product Supply” whose title track and other pieces from the same sessions demonstrate heavy edge, balanced on tribal drumming and Charlie Harper’s explosive voice. But all the belligerence on display – still burning hot to cauterize the social illnesses addressed in a playful rarity “Phillips Environmental” or contagious, if mournful, “Rare Disease” – has nothing on the suppressed anger of 1984 demos by TARGET GENERATION. This spin-off was virtually SUBS sans their singer, yet the ensemble Nicky Garratt and his comrades formed didn’t manage to put out neither the sarcastic “The Things We Saw” with its searing sneer at romanticism in the times of Thatcher, nor the slow burn of “Complete Surrender” which, floating on guitar and keyboards, is an example of punk’s transition to new wave.
Harper, not being averse to an occasional side project as well, serves up not only liner notes for this CD but also the songs he recorded in 2013 with Captain Sensible and a year later with Knox who cameoed in the SUBS in the late ’80s and had been in URBAN DOGS with Charlie since before that. “Human Traffic” has THE DAMNED man’s stamp all over it, from a bass rumble to rocking nihilism, all dipped in vocal harmonies, and “Too Much Reality” is as spaced-out and cinematically twangy as it gets for an escapists anthem, while THE VIBRATORS guitarist is infusing “One Foot In The Grave” with bluesy licks and “Rebellion Song” with the feel of impending doom – as defiant as flipping the finger at the face of final solution.
That’s really the spirit of it all, the DNA strain running through various permutations of U.K. SUBS. The band may have reached their “Z” phase but they’re still a viable, and enviable, force.