By Kane Power (@ElHeavio)
23.10.15, The Hope and Anchor, London
Ever since there has been a ‘man’ to rebel against, there have been rebels to tell other rebels that they aren’t rebels. Elitism in punk is old hand; overdone and over argued, but that it still exists in 2015 is actually a kind of comfort to me. When being a rebel is mainstream there’s little room for individualism and little cause for angst, so it’s up to groups within the scene to seek out internal sources to bolster their self importance. Punk has been this way for decades now and on my rare excursions back into this world, it’s kind of nice to know it hasn’t changed.
Being greeted at the door by sneering self-importance is actually the most authentic way to start an evening at a punk show; if nothing else, the music is characterized by confrontation. For those of you new to the process, it’s common practice for bands to invite writers to their shows. It’s free press for the band and a free gig for the writer; a reciprocal relationship, a win-win scenario. “Since when did we start letting journalists in here?”.
Since punk bands started hiring PR companies, you ignorant little twat.
Once inside the venue, the Hope & Anchor basement in Highbury is a good, small size venue with a relaxed atmosphere. Due to our hold-up we arrived as the last note rang out from the second support act, BITCHES, which was a shame, but ultimately I was there to check out the set from USA Nails, celebrating the launch of their new album No Pleasure.
USA Nails took the stage and played their first few songs between extended periods of complaining and moaning about the vocal monitor on stage. One can’t help but wonder why it’s so important to have perfect monitoring when pitch and melody are utilised so sparingly, but then again maybe that’s a result of the lack of monitoring…. Thankfully, once they get going, USA Nails are a good band with a really cool sound.
In full control of a style that thrives on dissonance and groove, USA Nails pounded through song after song of heavy, catchy rock with a punk arrogance. A well-practised guitar tone lends their sludgy riffs a sound bigger than their stature, but it’s the solidity of the drummer and bassist that make USA Nails so convincing. There’s also an 80’s British vibe to their sound, which combined with the singers extreme apathy is endearing in a way that only British bands can be.
Guitarist/vocalist Steven comes across as sarcastic in the extreme, adding a notable irony to nearly all of their songs. I’ve always thought that a good band needs a bit of a fucker as their front man and Steven seems to fill the role well. Drunker than anyone else in the room and exerting the least amount of effort possible, this guy with a grating, antagonising voice is actually incredibly endearing as a performer. His banter, complaints and self-depreciation are relatable traits that create an inclusive atmosphere for their music to take hold.
Highlights of the set were new album tracks ‘You Sing For Yourself’ and ‘I Cannot Drink Enough’, and stand out track was a blistering number referred to only as ‘Cunt’, which may or may not be the actual song title. Also, since it was Steven’s birthday, we all got cake. That’s right, with a gesture totally opposite of the vibe on the door, and characteristic of the wonderful, thoughtful people throughout the punk scene, someone had baked enough cake for everyone in the room.
It tasted like anti-capitalism and chocolate.
No Pleasure is out 6th November via Smalltown America.