The Redskins’ Chris Moore reviews Bristol punk band Vice Squad’s album in the NME, 2 January, 1982.
No Cause For Concern
Listening to Crisis’ ‘Hymns Of Faith’ I remembered how great ‘Frustration’ was – I’d forgotten.
Vice Squad’s first gig was supporting the mighty Crisis as part of the ’79 Militant Entertainment Tour but they first came to light (sound/vinyl) on Bristol’s ‘Avon Calling’ compilation. ‘Nothing’ kicked some fury amongst the pile of neat, reserved pop toons (I remember) and here it is, two years later, with another twelve of Vice Squad’s songs on an album of their own.
Wnen Peel played ‘Coward’ at three minutes to midnight, at the end of what must have been a Vice Squad session, it cheered me up, Beki’s squawling vocals taking me back to ‘Don’t Dictate’and focussing the guitar fuzz-blur. Here on record, as loud as I want it, as many times as I need it, Vice Squad lash out at lethargy, wake up like a line and no mess. But it’s still only Beki’s voice that rescues the noise and keeps the dull assault from putting me back to sleep.
Don’t play no lead guitar – hand me that cheese grater and butcher the bass drum. Shout!
After the waffle, the album?
Most of it lives up to my expectations but one or two tracks are GOOD. ‘Young Blood’ swaps drums for handclaps held high and I hear Sham, whilst ‘Saturday Night Special’ frames teenage kicks Buzzcocks-style – GOOD.
Floor toms thump, mounted toms roll.’Evil’ pummels and pounds behind the drumkit, Buzzcocks meet Sham and lose – BAD.
This is easy!
‘Coward’ speeds up and it’s Beki’s vocals that swing along the song again, ‘specially when she sneers the punchline, “Easy to control” (‘cept she punchlines the sneer: “E.Ze. Toucantro-ohl!) whereas ‘Offering’ is Vice Squad messing up and messing in, guitar fuzz-stabbing sporadically against the unhealthy rhythm heartbeat until the close of play – a number that is punk reduced to the four elements (you can join the dots/make the connections).
The rest? Vice Squad write seminal anthems but here, with this production, they’re just part of the haze. There’s the INEVITABLE ‘Punk Is Dead’ anti-Clash song titled (how about …) ‘It’s A Sell-Out’, conjuring images of Vice Squad sat in EMI’s offices pulling faces at The Clash ‘cross the road at CBS. Vice Squad lament, “More young blood lost everyday / Isn’t it a shame” but at least The Clash, even if they didn’t offer a marxist analysis of lumpen warfare, offered some reasons in ‘Remote Control’. (Aw, go listen to ‘Know Your Rights’ and I’ll argue it out later.)
After the obvious ‘Tommy Gun’ intro of ‘Sell-Out’ comes the suprise of the best thirteen: last track, side two. ‘Last Rockers’. The wind blows into The Skids ‘Wide Open’ EP and ‘Last Rockers’ takes off as Beki cries to her daddy on thetelephone – a rare beauty. Vice Squad leave with a Subs ‘WorldWar’ explosion fuzz-ending and the wind (still) blows . . . the saints are coming.
I listend to ‘No cause For Concern’ pissed and sober, I listened to Vice squad fuzz it up and hated the lyrics both times but then I couldn’t analyse the lyrics of ‘Let’s Groove’, the best single of last year, or try to understand the lyrics to ‘This Sporting Life’ (the best Mekons single of last year).
Whatever’s late night listening for the late night literati, this is late night listening (all day listening for the unlucky ones) for an army of youth conscripts. This is material to fight back with, anger to channel and strength to enjoy – I remember.
It’s 1982 and Vice Squad only cheer me up where The Clash wound me up sometimes, when the guitar cracks and Beki’s voice dips, they crank me up, too.
Vice Squad are nothing special, nothing extreme, no reason to drop your latest summer fashion (no reason for Oi! to be re-defined as anything but overwhelmingly flaccid) but listening to ‘No Cause For Concern’ I remembered how good ‘punk’ can be. ‘Course I wanted to hate it and pretend the punk I had was more vital – what I want to know is who’ll be playing punk for Phil and Joanne’s kids?