VARIOUS ARTISTS – KARATE KLUB Dublin HC/Punk Compilation (Distroy Records 2018)

Karate Klub

Although few and far between at this point, local compilations are always an education of sorts. From the band you’re sick of seeing to that band name you’ve seen on flyers but don’t know who they are, there’s always some revelation or other – this band is that band with the instruments swapped – that band broke up 2 years ago – the other band is an inbreeding of 5 others also on here etc…

The KARATE KLUB Dublin HC/Punk Compilation is the product of creative endeavours at a former martial arts dojo, now a DIY practice space existing in Phibsboro, Dublin for the last 10/11 years. Much more information about the space can be found in the accompanying booklet, but the long and the short of it is that the record landmarks a decade of activity and a long history of bands that have composed tumult and generated cacophony within. 20 (mostly) current bands are featured…

Fast, heavy and nasty, “Dublin’s Got Hardcore” by RATS BLOOD is a master class in what it wants to achieve and a perfect opener to the record. SURGE’s “Don’t Settle” is pretty much the flip side of the same stylistic coin but it leans heavily on one basic idea, and thin production siphons much of the power away from it. THE BLOW INS are an Irish based band of Polish punks and “Angela” trades in a very late 80’s European flavour of melodic political punk. GRIT’s offering is “Diamond” from their most recent EP – rather than repeat myself, you can read more about that here. “Void” by THE WHOLE SICK is a kind of meaty and under produced death-punk excursion – The material deserves a little more TLC than what is offered with this particular recording. By contrast, the loose garage-punk jangle of SISSY’s “Gave Birth” is refreshingly minimal and uncluttered. It also offers a fine example of how low budget recording doesn’t have to sound like soggy cardboard. “Maniac Mentality” by RAZOR is a crappy join-the-dots Oi thing. It is pretty much the sound of people from other bands deciding to do an Oi band for a couple of weeks as a respite from whatever they usually do. DOWTH completes side one with the wonderfully daunting “Nine Grey Herons” – The cauldron of melodica, fiddle, programmed bass and downtempo beats is confidently subdued and doesn’t sound like anything except for itself.

THE STRONG BOYS open side 2 with “Government Scum” (title not listed anywhere on the record), a track that serves up a tense balance of brute h/c and guitar licks, a vast improvement on the dirge of the band’s self-titled 7”. “Maze” by DISGUISE is another track that suffers greatly from production just beyond practice tape – It could be great but isn’t. The nightmarish “Fold” by BADB makes no such mistakes with a mid paced doom stomp and suitably dark lyrics. EXTRAVISION take the proceedings somewhere else entirely with “Don’t Want To Be Here”, striking a curious and inventive chord of post-punk originality. POZOGA’s “Out in the Cold” addresses homelessness in a biting manner and is a gloriously angry filtypunk racket. VENA-KAVA serves up an untitled fast hardcore thing with somewhat shrill vocals. It’s ok. ZONA ZLA’s fast punk “High Life” is rudimentary but solid and achieves exactly what it sets out to. The Irish surfpunk of “Achill Island Near Death Experience” by ELECTRICITY BILL & THE METER READERS is clearly a concept, band-name and song-title resulting from late night session shite-talking. Unfortunately, this surfs ripples of production mud and misses out on the early AOD type of thing it could be (I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a cleaner version of this online??). “Move” by the OBJECTORZ from the 2014 EP, reaches a lot further back into time for its cue and the resultant proto-punk gasoline rock’n’roll swagger is finely crafted. PUTREFACTION bookends the album with a death metal influenced gruff hardcore (they call it Mad Max punk) of “Drown them in their Wine”… it’s all blood and wine and rape and death and industrial schools, and why not… Hallmark endings don’t belong on a record like this…

The KARATE KLUB Compilation LP succeeds in several ways. Probably most importantly – it documents a microcosm – in this case, a cluster of bands from a greater underground environment based out of a particular practice space. The tribal aspect makes it personal, and definitely more interesting, than a similar product that might claim to represent the entire city or country. Secondly, it self-limits a capacity to overload with bands/music by being a vinyl release. This has been a problem with unnecessarily lengthy Irish released CD compilations in the past, and the reason why some of them were unremarkable.

With a collection of this nature, the production is always going to be a little fractured from band to band. Where studio recordings and DIY setups and sit alongside each other, certain flavors of noise will fail to get empathetic capture they deserve. Conversely, lo-fi recordings can often represent a band more effectively than the spit and polish of technology. It’s a weird balancing act but anyone with an ear for the HC/Punk underground, Dublin or elsewhere, understands this all goes with the territory.

Limited to 500 copies, this album comes with a 16 page booklet (band lyrics, contacts, photos, art and a reprint of the MRR Karate Klub report), and at €12:00, it’s a steal. Dissonant and fascinating, this hand-printed, hand-numbered, autonomous document is spawned from a heartfelt belief in underground noise as a voice, an art form and a genuine substitute to the eternal shitstorm.

Get it here…

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.