“In between the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage dressed like an extra from a bar scene in American Psycho and exuding his usual noxious stench of smarminess, desperation and cheap fags, declared that both events could be put down to the fact that “The little people had won”.” Extract from ‘An End To Silence’ by Jake Farrell.
If John Lydon’s return to TV screens last week is anything to go by, Brexit Britain is the most fucked up place imaginable. Like Farage, Lydon attributed Brexit to the working-classes, in turn scapegoating the real villains in an ongoing pantomime of lies. For a second you couldn’t tell the difference between our frog-eyed man from UKIP and the weathered figure of Lydon sitting there in his tweed jacket (the one he’s worn since he did those butter ads) being all ‘patriotic’. You could just imagine them both side-by-side down the local, clinking pint glasses with some bald blokes, heckling passers-by with shouts of ‘ENGERRLUNNND’. Absolute Anarchy.
A Brexiteers’ vision of the future is not a good one. It’s a segregated and increasingly backward-looking one and is a particularly sour pill to swallow for those of us who didn’t vote for it. Stevenage-based noise-punks Bad Breeding know a thing or two about struggle, they’ve lived on the council estates, saw the strain first-hand. Each band member works part-time to fund their passion for making very loud and angry punk music in a tiny practice space in every inch of spare time. They’re not washing down the pill with a glass of sugary water though, instead, they are chewing it up and spitting it back in the face of those responsible – on the hunt, growling like starved hounds, salivating at the idea of total destruction.
Divide is the band’s second album, following on from their vitriolic self-titled 2016 debut and provides a bleak stomping ground, in which to vent frustrations with our current socio-political no-man’s-land. Collaborator Jake Farrell (quoted above) has written accompanying essays for the album’s release, which acts like a manifesto, denouncing and degrading the leaders of Brexit with razor-sharp satire. Beginning where the referendum ended, the record channels a similar sense of disillusionment that came with their first effort, but feels a lot more intensified and focused. Now all targets are locked on the people who claim to be one of us, masking their elitism by diverting eyes to immigration and other insignificant factors in our countries demise.
‘Whip Hand’ is an unexpected introduction to the dank undergrowth of a post-leave Britain, opened by the crackled skipping sound of an aged piano sample. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to hear under a hip hop acapella or in the trailer for a creepy slasher flick. But it doesn’t last long, quickly becoming infected by screeches of guitar feedback that are eventually devoured by a chaotic burst of raw energy and aggression. In a way, the track is reflective of the referendum itself, a sense of complacency from ‘Remainers’ that people would see through the immigration fables and ignore the NHS bus banners. But instead, here we stand, doused in a cataclysmic bar-brawl of noise, distortion, bleeding into a deadened feedback buzz.
Most tracks on Divide clock in around the two-minute mark, but a lot is crammed into a short space of time. Some are lightning fast thrash-punk epics (Entrenched, Loss) and others are thick, brooding behemoths (‘Anamnesis’, ‘Death’, ‘Endless Possibility’). The only thing resembling breathing space are Interludes ‘I’ and ‘II’, which are presumably there to break up the album a little, but the former pierces the ear like a bad case of tinnitus and the latter whirs incessantly like looming drone, interspaced with white noise and barely decipherable chatter. ‘Death’ is probably one of the most damning moments in modern punk, like a freight train crashing through a level crossing. It’s an instrumental bloodbath that rips up article 50, sets it alight and tosses it into a pit full of Politician’s carcasses. If you’re looking for melodies, don’t bother. This is pure, distorted dirt of the most ferocious kind. Any signs of jubilance are skewed (purposefully), out of tune or contorted into mangled rubble. Bands like Iceage and Ceremony laid down the groundwork for the ramshackle re-invention of modern punk, but that doesn’t come close to the pure ferocity Bad Breeding are capable of unleashing.
If anything, Divide is proof that ‘The People’ haven’t spoken and an aging punk like Lydon has no idea about the current political landscape. The corrupt leaders have been given a free pass to spout their hate-fuelled vitriol and It’s not ok. Very few or even no modern British punk bands have managed to encapsulate the feelings of a segregated nation (politically and socially) as viscerally as Bad Breeding have here. Divide as informed as it is urgent and we need it, right now.
Divide is out now on La Vida Es un Mus.