Remember the old days? Long before MTV presented punk in the form of ultra-glossy mega hits containing juvenile profanity spouted by chubby dudes in ridiculous baggy pants grasping with every morsel of energy onto the fast-fading days of their twenties. Punk, in its various guises, used to reflect the grit and everyday drudgery of reality’s often grim and banal existence. It was an outlet into which every disaffection could be spewed out in a barrage of out-of-tune guitars and phlegm-ridden shouts of anti-right-wing socio-political slogans. New Alaska are not of the current era of well-groomed Topman clothes-horses – these so-called ‘punk’ bands with all their questionable energy drink sponsorship deals and hideous Youtube lyric videos. Snotty in the extreme, the West-Midlands troupe specialise in a brand of unapologetically brash punk that clatters and splutters its way forward showing scant regard for the odd bum note or rim shot mis-hit. The Memoir Sings, their five track battle cry, very much has the distinctly scuzzy feel of being recorded live in a garage on an old crusty four track.
All five tracks boast a flurry of skewed, angular guitar riffs that characterised much of the late 80’s DC scene whilst the lead shouter sports the kind of gobby, everyman-accented vocal delivery that harks back to the days when punk was at its most subversive, outwardly obnoxious and overtly anti-authoritarian. It’s resplendent in blasts of feedback and an uncompromisingly raw production style that would get Steve Albini a little hot under the collar. ‘This Is How To Start Fires’ is a savage opener, rollicking along at blistering pace with guitarists thrashing away at their long-suffering axes. Refusing to stop their unrelenting furore until the closing squeals of feedback at the tail end of ‘International Currencies’, New Alaska come across like noise rockers Unwound reeling off Minor Threat covers. You can almost smell the stale beer of toilet venues flowing through the speakers as they deliver their collections of tumultuous barrages in quick succession, without the slightest pause for breath.
The Memoir Songs is a brilliant, no holds barred reworking of off-kilter DC punk played at a furious and commendable pace. It would fit snuggly amongst the classic Dischord catalogue, in fact it sounds as though it was recorded in the legendary basement of Dischord house rather than the confines of Stourbridge. It’s as earnest and pure as any punk record you’re likely to find. A little caustic beaut.
4 out of 5 high fives!