Syd.31 are not your average punks. For a start they are punks by way of electronic music and industrial. But also they are punks by way of a political-based higher education (as explained three years ago when I talked to them on /Talk Show Host/027), and exposure to the music growing up far away from the UK.
/Walk Amongst Rebels
It perhaps gives them a perspective lacking from a band who are entirely from the UK, growing up with UK politics and the relative wealth of the country, as opposed to elsewhere in countries that were part of the Empire once upon a time. This isn’t an album purely about politics, either. It is more of a catharsis, dealing with frustrations of the self and politics, and the lines do blur (as they do in real life).
It is also a fascinating listen, as it is also an album that is rather more open-minded in approach than many of their peers – and perhaps unwittingly or not, following the wider trends in popular music at the moment, one where boundaries between one style and the other are becoming less relevant almost by the day.
The title track, Walk Amongst Rebels, barrels through at a brisk pace, leaning on both old-school drum’n’bass (just check those wubbing synths) and Ministry (the vocal treatments) – and as good as it is, it is rather eclipsed by the bruising fury of the following track. Hate Is A Goldmine takes on a pertinent current subject, that of press influence and impact on world affairs and politics, and lays into it with full force (with an excellent hook of “We will not quit / when the world turns to shit“, that I can well see audiences punching the air along with), with another fast-paced backing that has real bite.
Angel 41 is something of a shock after the full-force front-end of the album. A much more reflective track (dealing with the death of a parent and the after-effects of such an event), it veers into melodic post-punk to great effect, with the heavily-treated vocals and thundering drums taking us down a contemplative rabbit hole that I genuinely wasn’t expecting, and could well be the best song here.
While it isn’t surprising especially, amid the roared punk vocals of Fighting for the Future – a song that is arguing that we really do have something to fight for, even if it doesn’t feel like it at times – my first thought was that this perhaps sounds like a later-period Prodigy nod (which is no bad thing), while Scavenging Our Ruins seems to be built entirely on a shifting, elastic bed of bass. I suspect my neighbours might not have liked me for running that one through the stereo. Great song, though.
At quite a number of points recently – oh, pretty much every time I look at the news – Bulldoze Everything could work as a mantra and a soundtrack. Fuck me, this song is furious. It is heavy, groovy, and relentless, and has a great, looped tribal percussion sample adding extra chaos in the mix. Maybe we should just stack up a PA and play this on repeat at our politicians until they do something that might benefit their constituents rather than just themselves.
One thing I found really interesting about this album is how your own perceptions affect what you are hearing – and most of all how you interpret them. Unusually, perhaps, I rarely read press releases that come with albums that I may be reviewing, at least to start with – as I don’t want someone else’s words to affect my initial opinion of what I’m listening to. But here, they were worth going back to, as there were some notes on each song that offered some background and particular details – and amid what seems to be a very political album, it is really a very personal one indeed.
Clearly not all has worked out for the best within Syd.31 in recent times, and the notes refer to an awful lot of personal turmoil that has inspired this album (and it’s fighting spirit, too). But, too, this is an album that is a kinda clarion call to those of us who would wish that our country, and a few others too, wasn’t going down such an unpleasantly populist route.
I get worn down by it as well. We can still fight in our own ways, discuss, get involved – but only as much as we feel we can. This album is a worthwhile listen if you feel similarly – a reminder that we aren’t alone in our battles, and this applies at all levels of life.