Review; Bangers – “Bird” LP (Specialist Subject)
“Bird” is the third “proper” LP from Cornwall punks Bangers and is quite possibly their finest piece of work to date. Bangers have long been one of the most interesting bands in the country, eschewing trends and “coolness” in favour of being true to themselves and their inherent oddities as a punk rock band from one of the rural outbacks of the UK. In coming from the north-east of Scotland, I feel kinship there and it’s this refusal to engage with current trends and notions of “cool” that makes Bangers one of the most irresistible and joyous bands in UK punk.
The first thing that is clear as soon as opener “No!” blasts through the headphones is that the band’s first time in a “proper” recording studio has done nothing to temper their boisterousness and sense of fun. Instead, where some bands feel panicked in a “professional” environment, Bangers have turned this new-found luxury to their advantage and have created a record that is equal parts “pro” and unequivocally “punk”. While not recorded in a shed, the studio environment serves to enhance everything that we already love about the band; the hooks, the stories, the sing-a-longs; amplifying the size and further developing their sonic subtleties, of which there are many on this record. Thankfully, the studio doesn’t wash Bangers clean of their grime.
“I Don’t Feel Like I’ll Ever Be Clean Again” is the first “single” taken from the record and it’s an impeccable slice of pop-punk that’s easy to picture on heavy rotation on MTV2 back in the day, like Sum 41 playing a Weezer cover. There’s a knowing sense of fun in the stomp and the chorus is glorious, made even better by the fact the song is literally about getting covered in shit. It’s classic songwriting married to irresistible hooks that will stick for days. I dare you not to sing along. The ever-present mischievousness remains, especially in the playfulness and lyricism of Roo’s surrealist storytelling, as evidenced in the likes of “Mannequin” and “The Trousers of Time”. Even when exploring themes of worthlessness and emotional detachment, the sound is one of joyfully defiant.
“Oh, I feel like someone else’s satellite”.
There’s always been a part of Bangers that reminds me of the genius of Thin Lizzy; the subtle intricacies of Roo’s guitar lines, the knack for knocking out poetic sing-a-long classics with seeming ease, that driving bass sound, the sense of serious play; that classic rock influence shines through even more throughout this record. Hamish and Andrew are one of the tightest rhythm sections in UK punk, you don’t get to be eight years in and not be, but they bringing an elasticity that allows space for Roo’s creative guitar work to add depth and texture throughout the record. There’s a lot going on in the songs beyond simple melodic three-chord punk jams.
That’s not to say that the boys can’t get down and dirty (literally), they’ll never escape their grubby skate punk and hardcore roots, but there’s a sense of assured confidence in the band’s abilities. Bangers have never been a band afraid to take risks, as evidenced by the brilliant yet audacious “Mysterious Ways” project that was written, recorded and available to buy for only 48 hours. That’s not to say that this record is a radical sonic shift but takes all the best parts of Bangers, amplifies and refines then blends them together to create a delicious wholly satisfying whole; there is cohesion in sound and narrative; “everything will fall into place”.
Thematically, Bangers seem to be dealing with some shit, both literally and figuratively, with the the refrain of “I’m so tired of being someone else” from “Stressful Festival” speaking volumes; showing a band that are comfortable with their own identity as a unit but still wrestling individually and collectively with a sense of “self” and “place”. There is desperation, acceptance and hope amongst the metaphysical grappling and self-loathing. There aren’t many bands that could write a song about a Russian American biochemist/author and turn it into a demented almost Devo-esque robotic punk stomper, as evidenced on “Asimov”. There is also a healthy slice of piss-taking, as “Vibrate” indicates with it’s cry of “I’mma break like a atom”. Science rarely possesses such swag.
Overall, this is Bangers’ most complete and assured body of work to date. “Bird” marries classic Bangers punk (scuzzy, gobby, brilliant) with the ever-present classic rock influence; the sound of a band unburdened by expectations allowing themselves to be themselves. Ironically, amidst identity struggles and trying to find their place in the world, Bangers seem to have found what it is they’ve been looking for and used it to create a record that is everything a fan could want from the band; thoughtful, driving, powerful, thought-provoking intelligent punk rock across the board. It’s also undoubtedly one of the best punk rock records of the year.
“It’s getting better, so much better than it was”.
Stream the record at Punknews.org here.
Buy the record from Specialist Subject Records here.
Bangers kick off their UK tour on Friday 8th August and play Glasgow on Wednesday 12th August with The Kimberly Steaks and Lost Limbs at Nice’n’Sleazy.