It’s feels strange to be reassessing archive material from the 1990s Dublin punk underground. These recordings are a quarter of a century old and at the time they were made, hometown punk was the poor cousin of everything – a very small cluster of new bands in a changing climate where the popularity of rave/dance music meant that options for purveyors of niche tastes within local noisy music had declined considerably… out with the stage, in with the dancefloor.
Without resorting to retrospective tropes about greyness, syringe attacks, drug zombies in shell-suits and associated violence, there is simply nothing “good old days” to wax nostalgic about 1994. It was shit.
And to add to the blurry murk of whatever memories these recordings provoke, a certain type of highly polished US punk becoming a commercially viable product in 1994 was a very surreal development in what was supposed to be the freaks corner of culture. It interested some people and irritated others but was ultimately never going to have much effect on punk at a tribal level.
From an early point in the Strikniën DC timeline, there was certain symbiosis with the fusion experiments of Radical Dance Faction, AOS3, Citizen Fish etc. but as a result of geographic disconnect (and to the group’s eternal benefit), it had no commonality with the tail end of English free festival culture – There was zero hippy in its DNA – This was resolutely and obstinately a gnarling and angry Dublin city band.
The brief sleeve notes on this release explain that these are live rehearsal recordings professionally captured at the practice space/studio above Mulligan’s Pub on Hill Street and that the tracks were eventually to be part of an album that was accidentally deleted. Interestingly, there’s zero overlap with the preceding WELCOME TO THE GASH FACTORY cassette from mid 1994 (going right to the band’s roots as Hellvision), and none of these ten tracks ended up in any form on what is generally regarded as their debut album, FROM THE DEAD ROOM (released as a split CD with Monkhouse). Instead, this session isolates itself to material that demonstrates the band in its early days as a 5 piece, gearing up for it’s most creative period.
The first track, DESTROYER, wouldn’t officially surface until 1997’s GHETTOBLASTER album, at which point it had reconstituted as a cleaner and faster single-guitar track than the rough-cut bundle of spit and venom it is here. FEAR OF THE FUTURE is presented fully formed – aside from production there isn’t a world of difference between what’s here and what ultimately became the spearhead track of the debut 7” SONGS FROM THE SMACK CRADLE (Rugger Bugger Records 1995).
NOT SCARED, is a work in progress – It sounds like it’s in a different key and is yet to include some of the great guitar frills that developed it into the final version. 1990 BORE, one of a handful of tracks that went astray in the sludge of time sounds just that little bit too bouncy and positive to have found its place in the temperamental Strikniën DC repertoire.
It’s interesting to compare both WHERE IS HE and PLANET HAPPY with their respective versions on the debut EP – This is a good indication of how the band as a twin guitar entity processed the material into something more streamlined and digestible while managing to retain that vital indignation.
GRAND FINALE launches into a stylistic tangent with somewhat of a psychobilly garage punk shuffle. It’s a pity that this fell through the cracks and straight into the dusty archives. SHAME TURNS TO RAGE is a clunky and underdeveloped postpunk idea looking for that evasive ingredient. It’s certainly not bad, but given the standard of some of the stronger tracks in this phase of the band’s writing, it had some distance to go.
DOGS is another scornful and growling punk track that seemed to have a very short life. Thematically very Strikniën DC, a finished version would definitely have been more than a curiosity. Finally, IN THE DOCK (INSTRUMENTAL) is the second track that was eventually plucked from this era for the GHETTOBLASTER album. There’s a scratch vocal underneath this but it’s most likely incomplete lyrics or a guide vocal for the purpose of the recording.
Like many bands with a worthy sonic legacy, there were very many times when Strikniën DC seemed to be on an unstoppable creative roll, and just as many when it seemed plagued by internal and external issues (some unfortunate and some entirely of the band’s own making). But for anyone who witnessed the band live when it was firing on all cylinders, there was very little doubt that this was some of the most vital punk music Europe had to offer in the 1990s… to refute this would take a heavy dose of petulance…
DEAD IN THE LIVE ROOM is a lot more listenable than you would expect for something that has resided on a cassette for 25 years – It has been rescued, digitised and mastered into a perfectly presentable archive recording.
It is also strange and somewhat sad that this is currently the only Strikniën DC product available. On that front, the band’s product always deserved better that what it ended up with – a label that was essentially an extension of a shoddy fanzine – and if ever a band needed a serious overhaul of its back catalogue, this is it.
Proceeds from the sales of this CD go to the PUNK FOR BEANO fund.