Deadlamb Records seems to have been lurking in the background for some time, with a steady output of Irish and international punk product including Nomatrix, Jobseekers, Disturbance, Greenland Whalefishers, Plan Of Attack (and others) going back to the middle of the last decade.
This isn’t the first compilation the Athlone based label has issued – Some strange obsession with quadrupedal flocks and ruminant mammals inspired the nomenclature of LAMBINATION, a series of 4 CDs that restrained itself until the 4th volume where it fell into the familiar trapping of clogging up a disc with 24 bands just because the space is available – Value for money, certainly – A complete headache to get through, definitely. And this isn’t a criticism focused on Deadlamb Records – It’s a criticism of an era of punk compilations we all owned, rarely listened to and mostly can’t even name. They’re in boxes now or we don’t even know if we still own them, or whether they survived that CD purge when we moved house… or the purge after that…
LAMPAIGN – IRELAND, much like the KARATE KLUB compilation released several months back, benefits from being a vinyl release. Far from simply being format fetish, it’s a different though process. With limited space comes quality control, and with quality control comes a superior end result. This record features 12 tracks by 12 Irish punk bands, an acceptable and digestible quantity for any compilation.
The noise kicks off with the wonderfully frenzied hardcore punk of “Welcome to the Toybox” by THE NILZ, one of 5 previously unreleased tracks. Brooding, sick and irreverent, this band could never be accused of kowtowing to the prevailing flatulence of nu-morality or hashtag piety. Scatalogik recommends revisiting their second EP in particular. “Majority Rule” by AUDIBLE JOES from Cork is finely crafted and anthemic, with great vocals and the sort of guitar leads/big choruses that a certain long standing German punk band has employed, flogged and wrung throughout its existence. Another exclusive to this compilation, JOBSEEKERS formula on “Spit” is fast and raw. Lyrically, it’s straight up unapologetic dogma with lots of you’s… add more metal sounding guitars we’d basically be listening to late 80’s NYHC.
Dundalk’s THE GAKK treads a traditional punk rock path on the primal and determined “One By One”, with very much a 20th century political lyric. I’ve yet to hear their debut album released last year so I’m not entirely familiar with the band’s broader sound. THE JOLLARS from Cork stomp through the catchy rudiments of “Rebel Boot Boys”. But while there’s a definite art in striving to perfect the skinhead anthem, the repeated trappings of self-referential lyrics render most of it tired and hackneyed. There’s a good reason why the farce bands in this subgenre do it best. “Ghosts along The Gangland” by UNITED BOTTLES (from their debut album) suffers no such trappings. Rooted in traditional street music, this has undeniable swagger and confidence. One minor quibble is that the only lyric provided is the chorus… otherwise superb!
GRIT opens side B of the record with “Stray Bullets” from the debut 7” (and Ghost Estates demo). This is driving, punchy, melodic punk with discourses on the ugliness behind the fun and frolics of drug culture. Interestingly, GRIT is the sole crossover between this and the 2018 Karate Klub compilation. The longest running band on here, Athlone’s NOMATRIX has been kicking around on and off (at least) since the un-legendary Knockrockstock at Batty O’ Brien’s. “Struggle with Momentum” is fast, snotty and short with various strains of skate trash and early SoCal punk influence. Members of this band also run the label responsible for the existence of this record.
“Deaf, Dumb and Drunk” by THE TURN is the runt of the litter production wise. The band’s concoction of nihilistic/fatalistic lyrics over spirited and barbed hardcore punk is similar to THE NILZ, but unfortunately coated in audio mud. One might argue that there’s little excuse for committing something so comparatively lo-fi to vinyl, given that a more presentable recording can be made in a mildew-ridden shed, but for the sake of representation, we’ll let it pass. The audio proceedings take a guttural turn with the filthpunk of DEATHGRIP. Call-and-response cookie monster and teen-strain vocals over elementary hardcore inhabit “Slave Rinse Repeat”. As an isolated track, it has its charms but I don’t want to hear a whole album of this any time soon.
…Next is a moment of pause and reflection… “due to a manufacturing error”, there is about 30 seconds of silence before the next band (The Circlejerks set a precedent for this on GROUP SEX to extend the apparent running length of the record, so it can be declared a recognised and sanctioned practice rather than a mastering fuck-up!)…
After our little break, THE DIVILS roll out a sort of hybrid punk pathetique, pot-boiled with breakneck guitars and capable melodic ska inspired chops. “Do Something Positive” is a fusion of modern street balladry, punk attitude and an indecipherable auld one selling bananas on Moore Street giving out about something. SHITHÄTT closes the album with “Both (Bad-On-The-Hash)”. Although there’s a lot of lyrical content present, it’s stylised and the whole thing comes across like the sort of instrumental filler often thrown at the end of an album. With better production it might have been something very different and more interesting. It’s not wildly exciting in it’s current state.
As with any short and judiciously curated collection, LAMPAIGN – IRELAND is documentary evidence of a thriving countrywide subculture, sporadically pockmarked across the landscape as it may be. While such a collection could as easily be made up entirely of bands based in the capital, this represents howls of dissent from Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Limerick, Athlone and wherever the hell GRIT can all agree they’re from.
This limited edition of 300 copies is pressed in marbled Black, Green and Yellow… in reality this means it’s kind of a military olive green puce… at least the copy in front of me is!
As a small criticism, there’s little or nothing on the packaging to explain to an outsider or potential random purchaser what this record is or what it represents. The album graphics are stylised in a way that connects to Deadlamb records only if you’re already familiar with the label and it’s work, and from the front this looks more like an album by an individual band. Perhaps the successful visual dialogue of any compilation is that it should fluently communicate theme, genre or purpose.
That aside, LAMPAIGN – IRELAND is an important document of where a fractional slice of Irish Punk is right now, with a very low margin of curatorial misfire. Where one or two tracks might not appeal to any given random listener, the whole record is testament to creativity and variety, and with a lot of short blasts of dissent, it encourages repeated listens… Nothing outstays its welcome. A definite labour of love!