Destructors - Exercise The Demons Of Youth
When a recent edition of Kerrang! declared the likes of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco as "the shape of punk to come" it must have come as something of a surprise to anyone who'd ever spent the early 1980s dying their hair with food colouring. In many eyes, punk was typified by the "leather, bristles, studs and acne" of contemporary bands like GBH and The Exploited. Today's physically - and musically - clean-cut combos seem bland by comparison.
The past few years has seen an renewed interest in British punk of the early Thatcherite era with prices rising on the collector's circuit and many reissues and compilations from some of the bigger acts. Inevitably attention has turned towards some of the less successful bands of the period: those like Peterborough's Destructors, whose 1982 debut album* has just been reissued by Captain Oi! with 11 bonus tracks.
Be warned, however. Anyone brought up on the relatively dulcet tones of Green Day or Good Charlotte will find little recognisable here. It's not that it's necessarily noisy or brutal, more amatereurish and indifferently recorded. Pretty much every song follows the same basic riffery and barked vocals and the listener is soon left wearied by the onslaught. Lyrical sophistication was not the order of the day either. Consider this final verse to 'Sewage Worker': "Sanitary engineering can be fine / If you don't smell all the time / 'Cos you don't have no friends no more / When you're a walking heap of manure." Hardly worthy of Kim Wilde, never mind Oscar. Even frontman Neil Singleton was moved to say "I don't think we ever made a good record!" which must be indicative of the jewels within. The band actually managed two more albums before calling it a day in 1984 but their main claim to fame is probably the fact that their guitarist Graham 'Gizz' Butt surfaced more than a decade later as the live guitarist for The Prodigy.
However basic and, frankly, unlistenable some of this stuff is, there remains a honesty and naivety that's strangely endearing. It's a brave bunch of lads who'll knock out a chorus such as this: "First he abducts them / Then he rapes them / Then he strangles them / The Hillside Strangler!" and then close the song with a list of the names of titular criminal's victims. Other songs deal with fascism, depression and even the dangers of prostitution ("Leather, bondage, S&M or ACDC / Catering for everything even VD!"), albeit in the most simplistic of manners. I'd like to see James Blunt attempt something similar.
So, despite the fact that it's hard to recommend the music on this collection to anyone who wasn't there at the time, it's worth remembering that the Destructors were typical of their ilk and could draw significant crowds in their day. All over the UK ordinary kids were moved to put bands together and generally vent about their lives and what they thought was wrong with the world. Had to be a good thing.
"Walking down an alleyway / Copper gets into my way / So I hit him with a brick / No no no no no no no."
* Note: The artwork for this re-issue calls the album "Exercise The Demons of Youth" whilst other sources record it as "Exorcise ..." I suspect the former is a printing error but it's an amusing, and strangely apt one.