Get Violent With Discharge, U.K. Subs and Their Savage UK82 Peers
As the ’70s slammed into the ’80s and the dust settled on the abrupt cultural explosion that was punk rock in England during 1977, it seemed to leave more questions than answers for some. As the pioneers of the sound and scene moved along into territories later to be called “post-punk,” there was still a surplus of younger punks who had no interest in the cerebral explorations of Johnny Rotten’s new outfit Public Image Ltd, or a pompous-as-shit three-record set like Sandinista! by the Clash.
No, what they wanted was a visceral, full-throttle, three-chord charge with the snotbag, rambunctious look and attitude of their punk predecessors — but ratcheted up to cartoonish levels. Luckily, there were bands such as the Exploited, G.B.H, Infa Riot and many others who felt the same way, and were more than happy to provide the soundtrack to this die-hard contingent’s spitting, pogoing and general dancefloor mayhem.
Those who were there for the initial sparking of the punk fuse branded these bands redundant and misconceived. But when you consider that some of them went on to buy into flash-in-the-pan trends such as New Romanticism and the rockabilly revival, it doesn’t really paint them to be all that bright themselves, does it?
So, throw the comments made by these pretentious twats aside and join us as we wade through a sea of leather, bristles, studs and acne to give up a Crash Course in UK82 punk.
The U.K. Subs started smack-dab in the middle of punk’s eruption in London during 1976, but they lingered long enough and kept enough of their sonic bite to be both an influence to and peers with the new school of ’82. Band founder Charlie Harper is still plugging away with the band at 72 years of age, proving that punk might just not be dead as of yet, as he still prowls the stage with the same rabid demeanor as he did in the glory days.
Among the lot of UK82 bands, the Scottish louts of the Exploited usually get the most shit heaped on them, as they personified the nose-picking, gob-spitting, static-brained, boozed-up debauchery that people usually associated with the movement. But in the rearview, there’s really no way we can deny the full-bore attack of those first few 7"s and LPs; most especially 1982’s Troops of Tomorrow, which holds a song entitled (hey, what do you know?) “UK82.”
Although all of the bands lumped into the UK82 moniker put their own stamp on this new wing of punk in one way or another, it was Stoke-on-Trent’s Discharge that managed to manifest something that was solely all their own. Their culmination of apocalyptic lyrical content and minimalist-though-potent riffage opened up a whole new approach to the genre that not only helped usher in the crossover of heavy metal and punk, but brought a whole new sound to the punk genre — generally referred to as “D-Beat” — that is still aped to this day.
Out of all the bands to wear the UK82 moniker, Charged G.B.H. always seemed to be the ones who got the most respect from the American hardcore punk audience. Maybe it’s because they actually exhibited more of a U.S. influence than their counterparts (Ramones). Maybe it’s because they weren’t blinkered in thinking punk just blitzed out of nowhere in 1977 (check their cover of the Stooges’ “1970”). Or maybe it was just because they fucking rocked. Their dip into mediocre crossover metal in the late ’80s might not have been the smartest move, but they certainly had a longer run at quality than most of their fellow countrymen.
Sure, the Exploited or Discharge could be considered to be ungodly noise to some, but compared to Bristol’s Disorder, they sound like the freakin’ Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Relistening to them at this later date has us thinking their rumbling, crumbling, lo-fi, falling-apart-at-the-seams roar might be more of a prototype for later U.K. hardcore bands such as Heresy, Ripcord and Concrete Sox than anyone else on this list.
Fronted by UK82 pin-up girl Beki Bondage, Vice Squad stood out from the rest of the spiky-haired lot by providing the hooks and pop sensibilities that many others weren’t providing in their jackhammer-like assault. Their debut 7" EP from 1980, Last Rockers, helped launch the Riot City label, which, along with the No Future imprint, released a bevy of important ’80s Brit-punk and Oi! such as Blitz, Abrasive Wheels, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Court Martial and Red Alert.
On the cover of their 1982 EP, I Don’t Wanna Be a Victim, Leamington-based unit the Varukers stamped the words “Guaranteed Fast and Loud” in the lower right hand corner — a most apt declaration if there ever was one. Taking both the pile-driving sound and anti-war sentiment of Discharge and amping it up to steroidal levels, the band found an audience both in their homeland and over here early on. They still continue on to this day, with vocalist Anthony “Rat” Martin actually being the vocalist for Discharge for a brief moment in the early part of the 2000s.
Much like fellow Bristolians Disorder, Chaos U.K. created such a howling cacophony with their debut 7" EP, Burning Britain, in ’82 that even the most dyed-in-the-wool punker thought them to be “a bit much.” The release of that EP was not only the start of their 35-year run, but opened the floodgates for an enormous amount of releases, with the latest one being Shit Man Fucker! on the Austin-based label, 540 Records.
Out of the many UK82 bands who released a 7" and LP before fading into the dank ether, Derbyshire’s Attak stand head and shoulders above them all in our tiny little universe. With the steady plod of drummer Lindsay McLennan driving the three-piece, they gave up two 7" EPs of total concrete headrush in 1982 — Today’s Generation and Murder in the Subway — while forking up the decent-but-not-great Zombies full-length a year later.
Not only were Hertfordshire’s Chron Gen pretty boys compared to the rest of their UK82 peers, but they stood apart from the rest by providing something a bit more melodic in the sea of full-bore thrash attacks. The band’s 1982 debut LP, Chronic Generation, still holds up in the present day due to the pop drive of earlier ’77 bands like the Buzzcocks or Generation X, but with a harder kick.