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UK Subs – 2006-2016 The Jet Age (Captain Oi!)

“No Future” was a chant that epitomised 1977 and the punk explosion that happened across the UK.  The likes of Sex PistolsChelseaBuzzcocks, and of course The Clash, were among the bands who brought this scene snarling to the public’s attention, but it was The Damned, whose ‘New Rose’ it is said fired the starting pistol on punk in 1976. Around this time vocalist Charlie Harper and the band The Marauders were practicing their craft as part of the pub rock scene and after seeing a few punk shows, decided to become a punk-rock band themselves. Calling themselves. the Subversives, later shortened to UK Subs, after many changes to their line-up, it is Charlie who still remains frontman and lead vocalist today.

This 5-CD collection covers all the releases with guitarist Jet Taniguchi, who played with the band from 2006 to 2016 and whose playing is one of attack, that would strip the paint from walls. Starting with Work in Progress, these have been released on the Captain Oi! imprint. The shout of “Oi, oi, oi!” was a recognised cry during punk shows, back in the day. The collection commences with Creation’, a solid number that plays just off two and a half minutes, where Jet’s shredding his fretboard comes into its own as the number progresses. I don’t know about stripping the paint off walls, in this example demolishing a cooling tower might be a better illustration. This expanded version of the album also includes a second version of this track. Six seconds shorter, it features less impact than its original version. Followed by ‘Warhead 2008’, a re-recording of one of the band’s first single releases. It describes the difficulties between East and West, in some ways reflecting those the World is currently experiencing. ‘Straighten Out’ is a track that appears twice on this expanded content and in this form ‘Straighten Out 2008’ provides a faster more involving version, with heavier bass. I love Harper’s politically charged commentary, none more so than heard on this album’s final track ‘Knuckleduster’. Perhaps not the way arguments should be settled, but certainly challenges those in the establishment “Governments say much and do nothing.” Politics aside, I love the drums on this number.

The album that follows is XXIV, and ‘Implosion 77’ is the track that is first out of the blocks. With the attack and distorted vocals of a number befitting the genre, distorted mics, and solid back-line, this proceeds through three minutes, with a fantastic melody beneath. The track that follows, in my mind, is the most interesting. Coalition Government Blues, remember those and document these in the cynical tone I think we all would. Harper leads the presentation with his harmonica, but it’s when he comes to the lyrics that it really talks, “They got a public school cabinet, MPs who have never worked, Liberals who talk like Tories.” I think you get the picture and it gets better if it weren’t real life. This expanded edition, concludes with just one additional song. This is the more palatable ‘Workers Beer Company’, a studio out-take in which is sung “Brewing for the workers, beer company,” but this brewery is no corporate enterprise, and as they might say, only workers allowed. A number that perhaps displays the colour and tone of Dr. Feelgood, or maybe that’s Harper’s harmonica.

The third album Yellow Leader begins with a bass run that sits perfectly alongside Taniguchi’s shredding as ‘Sick Velveteen’ begins its run. A perfectly weighted number, which runs for just three minutes and announces the album well. The next number hits the mark perfectly, certainly with today’s headlines as ‘Artificial’ tells the story of artificial intelligence and had the world listened to the Subs, companies might’ve done a better job. An album that includes the single ‘ Sin City Blues’, with a solid tone including more of Harper’s harmonica, than without notice ‘Slave’ is introduced, a hard and unforgiving number, where drums play more than their part. The fourth album here is Ziezo, or a showing of satisfaction, from what I can glean and is another sharp presentation by the band. But what the more astute among you might have noticed, is that by releasing this album, the band finally achieved their aim of releasing an album for every letter of the alphabet. No mean feat and this is the album where ‘Banksy’ makes an appearance, of a sort. In this number, Charlie Harper lays before us his account of the street artist Banksy, with a sliding guitar solo, provided by Jet Taniguchi, describing “The culture of the street.” A polished, if not slightly tarnished album concluding with ‘Zeitgeist’, or put another way the defining spirit of the band.

Bringing the collection to a close is Acoustic XXIV. These were tracks only previously available with the limited CD pressing of the XXIV album and shows another side to this punk band. Charlie’s lyrics have always been without question and put in this context, had punk not come calling their direction could have been quite different. Without a doubt, it’s this album that is the shining star of this collection. Without electric guitars, effect pedals, and drums, the bite of a punk-rock album is toned down, so much so I would even play this to my Mum. Pay particular attention to tracks ‘Metamorphosis’, a number from what I can only assume is the telling of Harper’s own daughter’s growing up. ‘Sleeping Rough’ is the tale of a rough sleeper and explains the reasons someone should live this life. On a similar note is the track that rounds off this set of songs, now with the previously non-CD bonus track ‘Hard Times Café’. This is a wonderfully rich number, which placed at the end of the collection will leave the listener feeling wonderfully warm and musically is in juxtaposition to how we arrived.

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