Thursday, June 16, 2011
Wow. Oh how the mighty fell. For a few years there, Discharge had it. They were the definitive black-clad hardcore outfit w/ short, simple songs you could bark to. Their first three releases of the 12" variety - Why?, Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing and Never Again - remain essential to just about anyone claiming an interest and/or liking for balls-out rock & roll. My brother was a big fan of these guys back in high school - had their name written on his school bag, if memory serves - and I liked 'em OK though wasn't nearly as smitten. It wasn't until years later when I chanced upon cheap, secondhand vinyl copies which I swooped up toot sweet, that I came around to acknowledging the genius of Discharge's early material. The band, particularly on Why?, was ferocious, completely unstoppable in their relentlessness and stylistically not dissimilar from '80/'81-period Black Flag or Minor Threat ca. their first two EPs. For the following two records, things get tweaked and tightened a tad here and there, but the energy remains. The band was a fairly odd proposition, in retrospect: they were revolutionary in their stark, minimalist approach to their music and presentation - there are few hardcore/crust/metal and even black metal bands on earth who don't owe them a debt somewhere - but they mixed their radical punk/hippie politics equally w/ an approach which bordered on the kind of rock-star swagger you wouldn't typically expect from such a band. Check out the clip from 1983: the band sings about nuclear war whilst singer Cal gyrates around on stage - and what a stage it is! The band was quite the big deal then - like a rooster, part Iggy Pop and part... oh, I don't know, take your pick of unfavourable comparisons. That dichotomy makes them quite appealing to me: at least they could rock, something I could never say for CRASS. In 1986, again w/ a new line-up, the band known as Discharge released Grave New World and pretty much killed their careers for good. Cal started "singing" like he'd been taking vocal lessons from Rob Halford, the band dropped the voluminous amount of hair gel they'd been consuming and let their ample locks hang loose, and musically the band went straight for the heavy metal highway. I remember reading reports of their US tour at the time: they sunk like the Titanic, with shows bombing in Spinal Tap proportions. Discharge never recovered. Check the second clip out: I'm not sure of the exact date, but it's certainly some years later. The band looks and sounds ridiculous, Cal still screeching like Axl Rose whilst the band, who look like Ugly Kid Joe, half-heartedly runs through their classic material. Discharge allegedly still play around to this day. Let's remember them as they were.