Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vice Squad - Punk Rock Radio

Generally when one talks about the "vice squad" one expects undercover police officers posing as prostitutes or police officers that investigate illegal gambling and while both endeavors are quite honorable, well I'm not talking about them.  The Vice Squad I am talking about is a British punk band.  Yes I said punk, what else would you expect so read on...

A simple "Like" in in realm of all things Facebook to a band that I have been a fan of for well over twenty years began the rebirth of my Vice Squad fix.  I began to watch their "wall" (or whatever it is called right this minute) and began to fish about to see what was new.  What I found was extraordinary actually, but it really came as no surprise .

Vice Squad and their diminutive front-woman Beki Bondage who most in the punk rock world know as the band that created "Last Rockers", "Rock N Roll Massacre", and one of the best versions of "Teenage Rampage" has created a new album and confidentially it needs to enter your music library.  While its important to understand the foundation of their music and their older work (which are still phenomenal), it's only right to talk about the new music and this current album.

The latest Vice Squad offering  Punk Rock Radio, was released in December 2011 by their own record label "Last Rockers Records" and is only available online here.  Punk rock is more than just a genre to those that really love the music and those that perform it.  As the current scene of music seems to revolve around the ever shifting poles of pop "stars", one hit wonders, and those that seem to be the most current incantation of Madonna its refreshing when an act like Vice Squad puts out just good music.  Certainly we have all seen (and heard) those bands that switch genres like they are underwear and the bands that are punk today, pop tomorrow and maybe country next week but this is a band that hasn't changed.

Without question this is a plus for Vice Squad fans and the reasons are very simple.  Vice Squad has an iconic lead singer (Beki Bondage) and a sound that still sounds fresh and the music sounds tight and crisp.  History is a medium that holds the imagination of a fan base but a band as well (stick with me for a second).  If a band were to put out garbage and continually release garbage they wouldn't be around next week let alone 20 - 30 years later.  Beki and the band musically sounds better than they did before and this album is amazing!

As I listened to the first selection "Punk Rocker", I was caught off guard a little.  The song has a feel like of the their standards in there set list or even one of the bands iconic songs.  With a song that has a name that defines themselves and their fans, it is important that the work not be naive to those parties.  "Still alive, we will survive, you'll miss us when we're gone", those simple words define the genre and those that dwell within it.  Punk rockers seem to be discarded by societies (and their own families too for that matter) so that simple line reflects each and every one of them.  I love this song!

Through the sounds of a scratchy, warbling turning of a radio dial starts the song "Punk Rock Is The Blues".  I suppose this song fits the same category as the previous song, it really makes sense.  "Second class, treated like trash, punk rock is the blues".  Yep, with those simple words the world of punk is defined and for the same reasons as the previous song.  It's brilliant when a song can entertain and become a defining point to something concrete and this song accomplishes just that.
Every now and then I actually have and "A-HA" moment (no not the '80's band) and as I started to write about the next song "Are You Looking At Me", such a moment hit me in the face.  The first three songs of this album have not only a similar feel but I would dare to say all three of the songs fit together perfectly.  Its fascinating when you can compare the three songs and see the progression of each song back to back to back.  This song however doesn't only apply to punks, it can fit any group (or individual) that isn't socially accepted.  Great song!

"LA Low" (featuring Drake Shining) is a purpose song and I love songs like that.  With the simple drone of a newscaster talking about "Limie's Disease" as well as that smack in the head purpose.  Here lies a song that tells it quite simply that "come to California and turn the skies to gray" a direct reference to the standard belief that the sun never shines in the UK and the fact that they "will overrun with our English sense of punk". I really hope they do overrun because much of the punk from the West Coast oh hell, the entire Nation for that matter is about as punk as the Keds I wore in middle school were like Nike's.  If you listen to this song make sure to not fight the urge to listen to that droning newscaster at the beginning of the song only once, its hilarious.

"Him Indoors" has this Helloween (no that it isn't a misspelling, its a metal band) sounding beginning and an angry tone that is very cool.  They vocals have a Gothic (no not "goth") feel to them and they are infectious.  The music is very interesting and mixed in with a darker feel this song is one of my new favorites!

With a title like "Sick Of Being Poor" one can only imagine the song is about kittens and puppies and baseball (if you think I'm serious about that, its time to awaken and seek forth the light of the sun").  What I like about punk, real punk is that underneath that crunchy surface lies the real meat of the music.  Punk is "notorious" for actually having a meaning or a social conscious for that matter and so the line "our country has handed down wealth, everyone else is living hand to mouth" kind of fits that consciousness now doesn't it.  Coupled with this kind of bouncing, harsh tempo and this is the quintessential punk song.

Misogyny - (noun) hatred, dislike or mistrust of women.  No I didn't just decide to put up a random definition just to throw you off, but with a song named "70's Misogyny" I thought clarification of the title might help some.  Here's some more of that social consciousness and a driving punk / metal feel but it never loses its basic premise, its a kick ass punk song!

"Punk Rock Radio" the song not the album title has this demand-like quality to it that makes me me think (scary isn't it).  As I sat pondering the song I realized that the song is almost revolutionary (in a non-violent way, sorry Big Brother) and although the song doesn't come out and call for a revolution it did evoke a thought or two.  With the current flavor of radio being this icky, contrived, evil, saccharine sweet thing the thought of a punk related radio is a great thing.  There are punk stations throughout the world (not here but around the world) but if more stations were to go to the punk side well it would be a beautiful thing.  Great song.

The final song "Done Before" is a song that is in itself a really snapshot of what our world really is today.  I was going to write that the song is dark but  I decided against it (okay I did write that but...) because its not dark it is actually an indictment of our society today.  This song really is a thought provoking piece and more importantly can actually act as a type of public outcry to the issues it mentions.  This is my favorite song on the album.  Well done!

Music is a fascinating medium to relay thoughts, ideas and dreams.  Punk rock is a fascinating subject because of the depth that resides inside its artists and its fans.  As the two have seemed to re-enter the world of popular thought (it never left my friends) and the band Vice Squad is one of the most interesting melds of the two.  Inasmuch as I would have loved to write about all of their old music, I realize that this album "Punk Rock Radio" is more than worthy to be discussed all by itself.  Can a band like Vice Squad be only as good as their latest iteration?  Can fans expect that they have seen the final curtain of a band like Vice Squad?

You ask too many questions but here's the truth: Vice Squad is a vital block in the history of punk rock and this album is proof that being relevant is more for the fans than for the band.  Vice Squad is now what they were back then, yesterday and twenty-five years from now, Punk Rock Royalty.

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