Anchors : Bad JuJu

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Anchors : Bad JuJu


Punk rock has sadly been bereft of bands who have a greater understanding of the world around them.

Punk rock has sadly been bereft of bands who have a greater understanding of the world around them. Populating the ever-growing throng of ever-worse contemporary punk bands there’s a disturbing lack of self-awareness; even those who are associated with the smarter end of the punk spectrum like Anti-Flag or Rise Against tend to dwell far too much on the political or ethical aspects of life, tending away from simply reflecting on what life is, well, like.

That, however, is what made punk so enticing in the first place – it was hard to separate the depression and frustration of late-’70s Britain or the disillusionment and anti-establishment sentiments of early-’80s America from the music bands like The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Fugazi, Descendents, Dead Kennedys and the other torchbearers of that musical generation. You know, everyone who wasn’t Billy Joel.

Contemporary punk, however, is similar in that it mirrors the sentiments of the time; that being primarily shallow, facetious, instantaneous communication that leaves little room for an over-arching, quality narrative that helps reflect and comment on the society that births it. Gone are the days – as the passage off time dictates – of Fugazi, Minor Threat, Shai Hulud, Drive Like Jehu, Beefeater or Dag Nasty, or hell, even Hot Water Music. Instead there’s Taking Back Sunday, 30 Seconds To Mars, My Chemical Romance, Mayday Parade or Hawthorne Heights that offer little other than how to style your hair in a way that will earn your parents ire and, if you’re a dude, make you look like an ugly chick.

Thankfully, however, bands still exist that help document life in 2011. Bands like The Bronx, Cancer Bats or Terror use punk and hardcore in a way that communicates a simple idea of actual life – without the often-time pretentious political overtones and torch-bearing. The idea is to reflect the way most people are experiencing life, placing it in musical terms that complement the resultant attitudes – thus, punk and hardcore music. Anchors fall firmly into this tradition, but with their own, brilliantly realised perspective. One of confused disdain for the way life sucks you in, and doesn’t let go.

Like Sydney’s excellent Lungs, or even luminaries like Refused and Social Distortion, Anchors have crafted an album that’s stark, yet realistic in tone, which is nothing short of refreshing and thankfully dispossessed of the inadvertent naïve (and not-so naive) preaching that plagues modern punk music.

In fact, Bad JuJu works as a testament to the death of wide-eyed optimism, brought about by the crushing heaviness of society’s expectations. It spends its time railing against and – crucially – regretting the idea that we’ll all lose people we know to the mundanity of life… as everyone gets older, they lose close friends to work, relationships, family, careers and other tenets of life. Bad JuJu’s seeks to at least address the idea that sure, society and life might pull you in one direction, but at the end of it, in retrospect, it just might not be worth kowtowing to expectation.

The best part is that Anchors deliver this attitude with a finely honed punk brutality – straddling a line between punk and hardcore that few can achieve. Across moments like We Are Oscar Mike their debt to mid-to-late So-Cal ’90s punk is apparent, but it’s well balanced by the sheer force of their delivery. As vocalist Brett is spitting out "I’m sick, sore and tired and never have been satisfied with this boring shit they call day to day," you’re very much inclined to agree with him.

His relentless attack washes along great lines like "That middle-management shoulder slump they’ve been patting for so long," from Ill Glory or the post-modern self-reflexiveness of The Feelgood Hit Of The Summer "I promise this will only take two minutes of your time, and isn’t that all your attention span can afford?" With this anger and disenfranchisement – and sheer bewilderment and confusion as to why you’d waste your life at a desk – seething underneath, Bad JuJu clearly isn’t your run of the mill hardcore punk record.

The lack of dynamics hurt Anchors though – you’ll find that even with the simple-yet-surprisingly-complex compositions, they don’t shy too far from each other in terms of pacing – but when One Man Wolf Pack breaks out a scrote-torching solo or the "everything to everybody" breakdown of Ill Glory snaps your neck forward, it’s enough to steer it away from sounding too similar. The best part? There’s no fucking pseudo ‘look at me I’m grown up’ ballad. Thank fuck. What we don’t need more of is guys aged in their late-20’s proving that they’re deep. Unless it’s hilarious, like Gerard Way writing an acoustic album about comic books and Twilight – or Benji Madden writing about the pitfalls of banging Sophie Monk – something that could become a comedic cultural touchstone.

Bad JuJu is brutal, musically getting the balance of punk and hardcore better than few others could boast. But the crucial element is that it’s self-aware, yet doesn’t beat you upside the head with it – in fact, that alone means Anchors ought to be applauded. As it stands, Anchors haven’t created a game changer, rather the sort of punk album for a new decade that desperately needs it.