secret of punk
Neckties Make Me Nervous, 4 song EP (Tiger Force Ultra / GC Records)
I love punk, me, and Neckties Make Me Nervous remind me why. OK, OK, not all punk. That would be daft. It would mean having intense devotional feelings for - I dunno - Peter and the Test Tube Babies. And although their Moped Lads ("if you hit 'em they tell their dads") was, erm, genius, punk has been dead for about twenty five billion times longer than it was ever alive.
Some say it died the day Sid plunged his gleaming SS Obersturmbanfuher's dagger into Nancy's cold, corrupt heart and then gouged her kohl'd eyes out and cast them aside like a couple of unpotted pool balls. Others date punk's demise to the time Plastic Bertrand's audaciously shite Ca Plane Pour Moi video was aired on Swap Shop (YouTube it if you really must.) Still others maintain its fate was sealed the moment Jim Callaghan pogoed through customs yelling "Crisis? what fucking crisis?!?," whilst Glasgow's streets became buried beneath bin-liners full of amputated limbs and typhus-carrying rats chewed punters' faces off at an under-attended Rezillo's gig.
But draw a line beneath these debates, I beg of you! The point is that, as NMMN prove, punk loves to play the revenant, the persistent zombie that comes a knock-knock-knockin' on your sweet leopard-skin bum-flap, gobbing big greenies everywhere and kicking the downstairs bog to bits. Its bloated corpse likes nothing more than to cavort maliciously around your living-room like a gangrenous gazelle, dripping stinking green matter all over your beech-effect laminate flooring.
So what's the secret then? How is this 7" from darkest Oregon waking the dead? WHAT MANNER OF HIDEOUS VOO-DOO IS AT WORK HERE?? Sod all, actually. That's the point - there's no tricks, no smoke and mirrors, no Debbie McGee flourishes. Consequently, in an era when the norm is 24 digital tracks of virtual gospel choirs, banjos and muttering about sound-cards, scart-to-phono leads and god knows what else, NMMN are having an ace laugh making a right din. They are, basically, getting out a bit more, and doing their best to revive the dead art of living.
Nor do they shirk from the task of prodding a few well-chosen targets with a pointy stick or two. Track one - the magnificantly sardonic Apparently the Khmer Rouge are Killing Quite a Lot of People in Portland - takes a critical stab at punk bands' use of images of war and violent oppression on their record sleeves. NMMN's beef is that such artwork is all too often used solely for shock value, rather than to reinforce lyrical content and associated ideological positions: "the photos by your songs, it's all coloured vinyl and the Viet Cong." This gestural, superficial, bollocks may ultimately result in desensitising the consumers' gaze, not radicalising it (it's good to see echoes of a Debord-like critique here). Elsewhere we get such gems as "An ironic t-shirt as armour, that's fucking brilliant." And "the precepts of the pecking order just never fucking die." So, not withstanding an apparently odd mix of metaphors ("The rug's always pulled out when the train hits the last stop"), this is great stuff - mordant and clever, with a few guffaws along the way.
On the sonic side of things, NMMN are speedy and aggressive. And while it's well lazy of me, their punk shtick brings to mind the DKs - what with the Jello-ish lambasting and violent guitars and drums, etc. Which leads me to a minor caveat of sorts. For my money it was the pre-Peligro Kennedys that took all the prizes. That's when DH's predecessor, Ted, tended to keep the band to an uptempo 4:4 - rather than the all-out war of the formers drumming on stuff like the In God We Trust 12". What I'm saying here is that this NMMN single leans towards that thrash and burn approach, refusing to engage with more musically coherent tactics (which was the stuff of the DKs' Fresh Fruit LP and those few, fantastic singles that preceded it).
But shit, this is no criticism of t'Necks - not really. So let there be no doubt it, I'm all in favour of this compellingly hectic racket making, this 'last one to the chorus is a dinkwad' mentality. Arses are kicked, idiots are heckled and fun is had. And to top it all, NMMN have put a brilliant bundle together - you get a free cd of the EP (in its own separate, killer packaging), some great stickers, and a poster thingy - all in a full colour, wrap-around cover, slathered in fantastic graphics. (Rodney 'Stuka' Winsor)
www.necktiesmakemenervous.com Get the ep for $4 from 1426 SE 25th #3 Portland, OR 97214, USA
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