Discharge

Serious Articles Relating to DISCHARGE, their influence, and the band's history. 

WOUNDED BY BOMB SPLINTERS!

Like an enormous door, slamming in the depths of Liverpool, Mr. Plate 2 exercises his right to free speech..and by Cal, has he gorra lot to say....

..It is necessary when starting this piece to remind the reader that what follows is simply one person’s opinion of Discharge. The opinions expressed by the writer are no more or less valid than those of the reader (a fact ignored by generations of self -absorbed music journalists

I, like so many others, was first introduced to raw, aggressive music when, as a kid, I was exposed to the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. Something truly astonishing had clearly been captured within the grooves of that record. It wasn’t just the monumental, life-changing music or the snotty, anti-mainstream lyrics which affected me so deeply – it was the magnificent, non-conformist attitude that infected, inspired and changed my whole perspective. I was only 12 years old in 1977 and didn’t know my arse from my elbow – I wasn’t mature enough to understand the workings of “the system” and certainly couldn’t put together a valid political opinion if I tried. However, something was stirring, and I could sense that things just weren’t quite right .My dad was working shift work in a factory and seemed to be in a permanent state of exhaustion. Coming home from school one day I put on the television and was confronted by the nauseating spectacle that was “Royal Ascot.” This was mid-week, a normal “working “day –yet my screen seemed to be full of chinless wonders in silk top hats. Not only were they not working, they seemed to be having a jolly good time. Picnic hampers, champagne and gambling on horses seemed to be the order of the day. I was appalled, enraged and baffled. I was still a kid, but I had worked out that there was an “elite” and an unfair system of haves and have nots . However, I digress, back to the music

The pinnacle of that classic Pistols L.P. for me was the track “Bodies.” Here was a track that combined the key ingredients of speed, aggression and attitude – all delivered in a unique, frenzied manner. I was hooked .Until this point my main interests in life were probably pickled onion flavoured Monster Munch and Texan bars. I now had a new purpose in life and set out find some more of this fast, angry and confrontational noise / music hybrid- and 50p pocket money was not going to hold me back!

Sadly, the Pistols quickly disintegrated , Sid began crooning Eddie Cochran songs in a ludicrous American accent , Rotten moved on to Fodderstompf us into submission and we were all confronted by that tidal-wave of apolitical fluffiness now known as  “New Wave.” This, to my ears at least, took some elements of  punk, watered them down and made them palatable to the mainstream conservative drones that controlled public broadcasting ( horrific, disturbing visions of Dave Lee Travis fill my head . What a scum-dribbling, sorry excuse for a human being the “Hairy Cornflake” is.) We now had to endure a swarm of apolitical, insipid New-Wave imbeciles in pencil ties and dayglo socks singing tiresome songs about making plans for Nigel, and other such banalities.

The quest for noise/ music similar in effect to “Bodies” (which incidentally contains the line “I’m not a discharge “ ) was becoming more difficult. At one point I was reduced to repeat playing of one small portion of the Dickies’ cover version of “Paranoid.” There is a particular part of the song, devoid of the ludicrous vocals, where the riff is suitably paced. I was forced to record that segment of the track and loop it together on a cheap tape machine in order to satisfy my mania for what would later be termed “thrash.” Desperate times indeed, but by March 1980 the search for vicious, savage, grinding, raw punk would be satisfied once and for all as Discharge released the legendary and incendiary Realities of War E.P. and cracked my brain up for good. I had no idea at the time that this would be the start of a life-long addiction to their music.

Initially distributed from the boot of Mike Stone’s car , the first Discharge E.P. was a ground-breaking, frighteningly brutal introduction to the band. From the iconic artwork to the demented, savage anti-music that spilled from the grooves- this was as hardcore as it could be. The effect was similar to a firework going off in your face. Things would never be the same again. Of course, it was this E.P. upon which Tez introduces the now legendary drum beat- the beat that launched a thousand imitators (per year.) Some deranged historical revisionists are currently claiming that the Buzzcocks were the first to use this rhythm.  Who knows? What I do know is that there are legions of punk bands all around the globe citing Discharge as a major influence. While the Buzzcocks were content to write songs about being jilted at the bus-stop and going home to vigorously masturbate, Discharge were attaching their beats to the images of children lying dead in pools of blood- and it wasn’t a T.V. sketch !

Realities of War  was quickly followed by the Fight Back E.P. which managed to increase the velocity, ferocity and anger to previously unheard of levels.Discharge were continuing to push the boundaries and  despite a low-budget recording (they were all still on the dole of course), the E.P. still manages to sound like an enraged grizzly bear being attacked by a trillion vengeful hornets. The results are utter pandemonium. The anti-system lyrics were inspirational, anthemic and  a welcome tonic to the mainstream bilge that was being forced upon the general public at the time

Decontrol was the third Discharge E.P. for me to spend my school dinner money on! By this time most people knew what to expect –and this record didn’t   disappoint. Extreme in every sense Decontrol is a true anthem.  For a band that set out to construct songs that “you couldn’t sing along to” – it is arguable that in this case they failed!Whether people simply “sing” along to Discharge remains a mystery. The order of the day was to get apoplectic with anger, crash into furniture whilst hammering out beats on an invisible drum-kit (at least that’s what was going on in my house circa 1980.) The third E.P. also had the luxury of lyrics printed on the reverse of the sleeve - so you no longer needed to embarrass yourself at gigs by chanting the likes of “Norman Wisdom was a government scheme!” , or , as Yorkshire punks were rumoured to chant “ Decontrol, Decontrol, we’re being shit on- forty logs !”

The momentum was building with each Discharge release, but nobody could have anticipated the enormity of what was to follow. In 1981 Discharge released the “Why” 12” and I haven’t been the same person since! Affectionately known as Mike Stone’s “two quid deal”, it is simply the most phenomenal recording ever pressed into vinyl. This isn’t a mater of debate. (There’s no point in emailing this website to argue that I haven’t heard the Brasso Quaffer’s E.P. or the Vaporised Hirohito flexi disc etc – nothing comes close to “Why” –it’s an established fact.)

In my humble opinion, there are a few important pre-requisites to the creation of good music - emotion and originality are two key ingredients. Discharge clearly possessed a nuclear stockpile of anger and deep well of fresh, innovative ideas. However, listening to Discharge introduced a third element – it was a physical experience.

Put on a quality pair of headphones, crank up the volume, drop the needle onto the opening grooves of the “Why” 12” and see what happens. It should leave you in a sweating heap! As the blood pumps around your body at an ever increasing velocity you will find yourself either hammering out the beat on your teeth, or grinding your teeth together. Either way, by the end of side two your jaw muscles are likely to have an uncomfortable but satisfying ache! I have lost count of the amount of times I have pulled off the steaming headphones, exhausted and sweaty, with ears hissing and almost “high” after a Dis-workout! The “Why” 12” is, without a shadow of doubt, the supreme hardcore punk release ; it is quite simply the template for all extreme and heavy music. “Why” was the hardest and most extreme hardcore punk record for its time, it set the standard in terms of brutality  – and remains unsurpassed to this day. It is important to note that this was 1981 and Discharge were peerless. “Why” is filled with timeless blasts of finely crafted noise. There are so many legendary tracks that it is not possible to offer a track-by-track analysis here; I will leave that pleasure to other writers. However, I simply must take time to highlight the astonishing sonic bombardment known as “Maimed and Slaughtered.” This is the track that elevates Discharge to a level above all others. So many musical conventions were abandoned in this minute or so of madness and genius. Majestically, there is no introduction whatsoever, no build up at all – the track simply detonates in your face like a crude nail bomb. The razor sharp snare cuts your ears to shreds as Dave “Bambi” Ellesmere hammers out the hypnotic, repetitive beats to steal the show and elevate himself into the Halls of the Gods .The bleak, horrifying lyrics are barked out or recited in deep guttural tones by Cal, making absolutely no attempt whatsoever to following any conventional ideas of how a vocalist should perform.  You can search in vain for a chorus – there isn’t one, but there is, just maybe, the token presence of a guitar “solo” which defies description. “Maimed and Slaughtered “ is a breathtakingly unique experiment in noise – a slashing, pounding attack upon the conventions of traditional music – and as such deserves to be acknowledged and revered.

“Umpteen versions of the same pneumatic drill solo” wrote the infamous proto-scab and Murdoch shoe-shine boy Bushell when attempting to criticise Discharge. This chronic dullard, half man , half sewer-rat, sitting in his journalistic ivory tower, completely and utterly missed the point. I, for one, would have been more than happy with a triple L.P. of songs identical to “Maimed and Slaughtered” – with the third disc being reprise versions of the first two! “Why” went on to greatly influence generations of bands, who found themselves spellbound and in awe of the sheer brutality of it all. Journalists come and go. Discharge didn’t pander to them back in the day and outlasted each and every one of them. Integrity , honesty and originality will always triumph over fraudulent insipidness. 

In 1980 the Ramones discarded their leather jackets and teamed up with Phil Spector in order to use his famous “Wall of Sound “recording technique. What resulted was one of flattest, limpest and most muffled guitar sounds ever recorded. Discharge, on the other hand, were tapping into Mike Stone’s “Wall of Noise “and the results will be talked about for many years to come.

1981 witnessed the release of the “Never Again” single – a release that some consider to be Discharge’s finest moment. With more iconic artwork (this time borrowed from John Heartfield’s anti-Nazi work from the 1930’s), another master class from Mike Stone, and three musical gems - it was mandatory to own a copy. Evidently, Clay, amongst others, was dealing in class when selling records of this calibre to the developing punk scene.

As “Never Again” continued to crack our brains up, down and all around, by 1982 Discharge were already busy planning their next blitzkrieg. The tectonic plates of Mike Stone, Colin Richardson and the band collided, resulting in a monstrous sonic earthquake entitled “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing”. This tsunami of sound simply swept away everything in its path.  If “Why” was an experience akin to being repeatedly beaten in the face with broken bottles , then “Hear Nothing..” was an altogether different form of aural assault. “Hear Nothing..” is “Why” on steroids – a rumbling, thunderous monster with a production like no other record to date. Quite simply, Mike Stone has produced the heaviest record of all time. In due course, and if there is any justice at all, Stoke on Trent will erect a statue in tribute to one of its greatest sons! “Hear Nothing..” has a finely crafted sound, a perfect blend capturing the rawness of a live performance with the clarity of a studio. If “Why” slashed at the ear drums then “Hear Nothing..” pummels the listener into oblivion. The heaviness of the sound is off the scale – I can only equate it to lying down and having your head crushed by a Panzer tank driven by an obese hippo wearing an overcoat with lead ingots in every pocket. It really is that heavy! The band were using their Dis-sledgehammer to crack the nut of conformist drones whilst at the same time revolutionising music.

Once again I will have to leave it up to others to offer a track–by-track analysis of the heaviest L.P. ever recorded but I must at least take time to draw your attention to one track. Let me struggle to describe “Cries of Help”……   I really don’t know where to begin. Perhaps this is the very first track know to mankind to produce “head orgasms“, because listening to this track produces the most bizarre sensations in my cranium! As “Hell on Earth” ends there is a seamless change of riff and “Cries of Help” engulfs the listener. A swirling whirlwind of sound is delivered in an absolute relentless frenzy. The jackhammer beat is intense, the swerving, screaming guitar riffs are hypnotic and Cal recites his words like a man possessed. For me, it induces a state of euphoria – maximum musical expression to be savoured and enjoyed for the rest of my life. Every generation produces artists and creative minds whose work is revered long after they have gone. We still look up to the historical classical composers and admire their work. I see no reason why future generations cannot look back at Discharge releases and marvel at how on earth they created such a volcanic sound in the early 1980’s.Discharge truly are the Beethoven of bludgeon.

Plate 2, Liverpool, June 2012

WHY?

The words we read from the Odd Dog End, The Odd Dog End in Crewe. Well, Bristol actually, but Crewe sounds better....and when he finishes it. Eventually.. 

Half the world is surely, dying for a cup of tea? 

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