The best punk records sound great through a clock radio. The only way fancy speakers help these records is to let you turn the volume up to shake the windows. These records make people at big labels go ‘hey I like that demo!’ They mix the vocals low so you have to go ‘wait, is the singer shouting about Farage? About abortion? I need to listen to this again!’, and you know the singer’s not shouting recreationally, but out of necessity, just to be heard, because the rest of the instruments sound ten feet tall but also because this is about stuff that matters. That’s how the best punk records capture the sound of a live gig, a gig played by a band that is sweating and straining because they are physically working hard, which they should, because time is short and this shit is urgent. Dead Arms have made one of the best punk records. We live in a real world and I’m just reporting the facts.
From the first track, Dead Arms sound angry, and they’re angry about stuff in the world. They bellow about their anger at nazis, for instance. They yell about the ‘Biased Broadcasting Corporation’. They yell about sexism and class and nationalism and after one listen through the record I had to go read the lyrics because I wanted to shout too. I always do, but I forget that in the endless day to day to day routine. Dead Arms say ‘We are here and we are furious and you are
too, remember? We all are, join in, never stop shouting!’ It’s an important reminder.
‘Simply Dead’ is my first Dead Arms record. They call themselves “noise punks” and a member of the band is in USA Nails, who I like a lot, so I expected this to be what I think of as noise rock and post-punk. It’s not. In some ways these are just words and they don’t matter. But after a few drinks, I feel 100% sure that the best noise rock and post-punk sound like something fucked up and about to breakdown, like maybe the band won’t be able to finish the set. That
can be menacing, like the singer might snap and start a fist fight, or it can be introspective, like the guitarists just can’t seem to keep their shit together despite their best intentions. It’s a dark thing, saying stuff you maybe shouldn’t.
The best punk records, on the other hand – and I’m going to say this three times so you know for sure it’s true, Dead Arms have made one of the best punk records (whatever is said three times is true, that’s in a book you can look it up.) The best punk records sound like they’re going to overflow the room, like the band will get down off the stage into the crowd and you’re going to get swept up in it all and together you all are going to take this party and this energy out of the room and into the rest of your life and things will be different from now on.
While this record deals with heavy things, there’s a light to it, a sense that the darkness can end, a light that never goes out if you’ll pardon the Morrissey-ism. That lightness is partly about saying the things you should but often don’t. To overstate the point, noise rock dramatises through sound how shit’s fucked up. Punk on the other hand, especially Dead Arms’s kind of punk, which is the very bes – ah you get it, no need to say it again. Punk like this is about how we carry on despite, and, eventually, can bring to an end, all that fucked up shit.