It seems like somewhat of a mystery to me for reasons I can’t get to grips with, but I’m not really much of a fan of the 70’s when it comes to that discussion of the best decade for music. This all boils down to opinion and personal preference of course, so personally speaking, there will never really be a definitive answer, unless you feel compelled to survey the population of Earth that can comprehend musical eras and have functioning hearing. Make no mistake, the 70’s birthed some important music, such as Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, sited as one of the heaviest albums of all-time and most likely responsible for pioneering the ‘doom metal sound.’ But you know what was the most important music that the 70’s was able to birth? Punk. It served as a counterpart to the state of mind and a form of practice through fashion and action, but given how vital its tendencies and ideologies were, especially now, rife in the age of self-publication and self-production, the music and its spirit live on through countless bands and artists. Aspiring and established alike. The faces change over time, and its sound distorted, twisted, disfigured and transformed in endless shapes and evolutions, so when you encounter a gang playing punk as it once was, as raw, uncompromising and unapologetically honest as its roots implied, the outcome is as invigorating as you’d hope it would be.
For the best part of over a decade, Blackpool’s Litterbug have kept the very essence of punk alive by keeping a lo-fi, bare bones approach to writing triumphant bursts of social critique and defiance that could’ve been ripped straight out of the punk revolution at its apex. It is the embodiment of three gentlemen with a message, getting together and thrashing out music that you can feel the passion and heart of in every chord and every word. This isn’t one-dimensional punk either. Instances of the surfing 60’s guitar movement can be felt here, as well as a healthy injection of grunge, most evident by their roaring cover of Pixies’ Planet of Sound. Their most recent long-player Artistic Harassment, an album from front-to-end that flies faster than bullet velocity, punches as hard as a water cannon to the chest but remains as exhilarating as a shuttle ascending into the stratosphere, poses a monumentally difficult task to highlight a standalone track of a stellar punk blueprint. If pressed enough though, I’d settle for Codeine. While there are many, many irresistible hooks best illustrated through ditties I Will Not Explain, You Don’t Want What I Don’t Want and Bash My Brain, the slower-paced, sub-two minute showcase of attitude in Codeine brings out what Litterbug do best. From the outset, guitar performs as a handsaw over a gas-guzzling, chain-bladed one, but that methodical practice serves well with the scuzzy tone, chords almost morphing into riffs from the speed switch. The vocal delivery is undeniably snotty, without being obnoxiously so and serves as one of the album’s most perfect analogies of telling life and society where to shove its predicaments and insecurities. Think Sex Pistols meeting the Buzzcocks on Fistral Beach and you’re pretty damn close. The soft grumble of bass does surface to the forefront throughout and fleshes out the texture of the sound and that illusion of recording on eight-track in your garage, as old-school and pure as music production can get. A pseudo-guitar solo even gets a brief see-in in the short duration of the track, perhaps giving a quick nod to Chuck Berry and the rock and roll greats in the process. But just as you feel the engine revving up, the ignition is gradually turned back off and you can’t help but crave more. You can’t realistically experience the full capacity of Litterbug’s arsenal based on a minute and 49 seconds worth of material, however repeated listens do make for excellent profile building. These three gentlemen make music that is as full-blooded and unrepentant as punk and its pioneers were heralded for, and each collection of songs they commit to record is another kick-ass footnote on why punk never died, it merely went on vacation.
Litterbug’s latest album Artistic Harassment can be found on their Reverb Nation page with the vast majority of that album, generously available as free downloads. A handful of other tracks are also available as free downloads too, including that aforementioned Planet of Sound cover. Otherwise, physical and full digital copies of their other albums are incredibly scarce, besides copies of their 2005 and 2009 re-release of the acclaimed Speaking Through The Gaps which can be found on most respectable music retailers.
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