Subhumans

Fea, Dark Thoughts

Wednesday, May 29
Doors: 7pm | Show: 8pm

SUBHUMANS

Subhumans are one of the most influential bands from the UK Anarcho-Punk scene of the 80’s, filed right alongside Crass and Conflict, and just as relevant today as they were during the darkest days of Thatcher’s Britain. Take your choice in how to label them – Punk, UK82, Crusty, etc, – there lies the attraction and consequent reason for their popularity, the band epitomizes non-conformity and connects with people in many different scenes.

Forming in 1980, recording and releasing a series of live and demo cassette tapes on their own Bluurg label, they continued to release music throughout the 80’s – building a powerhouse of a back catalog that completely stands the test of time. Their debut LP ‘The Day the Country Died’ (1983), with its Orwellian influence, is considered by many to be a classic and has sold in excess of 100,000 copies. The second album, ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’, came swiftly the following year (1984), and although the same frenetic pace is in evidence, this marks a significant musical development for the band. In 1985 Subhumans broke up, citing the usual musical differences, although had managed to release a third, maybe ironically entitled, LP ‘Worlds Apart.’ A final EP was released posthumously in 1986, ‘29:29 Split Vision,’ a further demonstration of how far the band had come musically from their initial leanings.

Dick Lucas subsequently joined Culture Shock and then formed political ska-punk band Citizen Fish in 1990, both bands releasing many albums, and still playing today. Subhumans had a couple of reunion shows in the nineties, before a more permanent return for the 21st century, including 2 major tours of the US, the first resulting in the ‘Live in a Dive’ LP. The Subhumans then released a further studio album in 2007, ‘Internal Riot,’ again on Bluurg Records. The band is still passionate and angry, illustrated by Dick saying “Being in a band is the source of most of my passion and drive! The live experience of sharing it with people keeps it ongoing, the release of anger, frustration and initially negative/destructive states of mind is a release from the downward spiral of keeping it all bottled up and it feels positive/constructive as a result.”

The band have recently written ten new songs, which Pirates Press Records are thrilled to be releasing, and are embarking on a year of touring in both Europe and North America! First a split with The Restarts before a 12” of their own comes out in October of 2019! The social and political commentary of bands like Subhumans forged a path, along with their contemporaries, for punk to change lives and opinions around the world. Sadly the things they sang about forty years ago are largely just as important now, sometimes more so in an age of Trump and Brexit. We can’t wait to hear more of what they have to say about the current political climate, the immense imbalance of wealth and power, and the causes they hold near and dear to their hearts.


FEA

San Antonio-based band Fea embody one of the most vital tenets of punk: total and unapologetic freedom, fearlessly expressed with both fury and joy. Produced by Chicana punk legend Alice Bag, their sophomore album No Novelties finds Fea following their instincts into entirely unexpected directions (e.g., covering an early-’90s pop anthem from Mexican superstar Gloria Trevi, trash-talking en Français on a yé-yé-inspired track called “Merde”). But even in its most playful moments, No Novelties channels a classic-punk ferocity, endlessly backing Fea’s sticky melodies with breakneck rhythms, blistering guitar riffs, and boldly nuanced vocal work.

The follow-up to their self-titled debut –a 2016 release that prompted Iggy Pop to praise Fea in the pages of Rolling Stone, with the Village Voice ranking “No Hablo Espanol” among the year’s best protest songs—No Novelties takes its title from the album-closing “Girl Band.” “It’s referring to that stereotype of how female bands are some kind of novelty with no real talent,” says Lopez. “But that’s not us at all: we know how to play our instruments, we know how to write great songs. So ‘Girl Band’ is basically a middle finger to anyone who underestimates us.”

Recording at Sonic Ranch (a studio in the Texas border town of Tornillo), Fea brought both raw intensity and greater complexity to the making of No Novelties, composing more intricately layered arrangements and pushing into heavier emotional terrain than ever before. On lead single “Let Me Down,” the band offsets their frenetic energy with graceful three-part harmonies, their lyrics speaking to social media’s constant enabling of self-absorption. “Social media is a great platform that could potentially be used in a lot of positive ways, but it’s become this weird thing where everyone just puts themselves on display because they’re so obsessed with getting attention,” says Martinez of the song’s inspiration.

With No Novelties driven by Fea’s naturalistic use of bilingual lyrics, “Ya Se” injects Spanish-sung gang vocals into a cathartic middle-class anthem. “It’s about living paycheck-to-paycheck, and getting caught in that cycle where you don’t make enough money but you spend too much on things you don’t need, just to get some relief from reality,” says Martinez. “It also came from thinking about how a lot of people in our generation are in a worse financial place than our parents, and how sometimes that makes us feel like failures—even though I don’t think it’s necessarily true that we’ve failed.” Elsewhere on the album, Fea turn confessional on songs like “ICU” (a darkly charged portrait of a toxic relationship) and take on a celebratory mood on such tracks as “Itch” (a surf-punk-leaning look at the scuzzy glory of touring). “We don’t glamorize touring in ‘Itch,’ because for us it’s never glamorous,” Martinez points out. “It’s dirty and smelly and uncomfortable and we love it—we always embrace the dirty.”

Born from the ashes of Diaz and Alva’s beloved former band Girl in a Coma, Fea got together in 2015 and soon carved out a kinetic sound shaped by the eclecticism of their homeland. “We all listen to punk and post-punk and riot grrrl music, and we grew up on oldies and Latin music stars and so many other things—so there’s this whole melting-pot effect that definitely comes out in the songs we write,” says Diaz. After putting out their self-titled debut—an album co-produced by Alice Bag, Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace, and Babes in Toyland’s Lori Barbero—Fea earned acclaim from such outlets as NPR (who hailed the band as “Latina punk at its finest”), and soon began taking their rambunctious live show to venues across the country.

Over the past few years, Fea have toured with both Against Me! and Babes in Toyland, as well as with punk icons Agent Orange. And as their audience continues to expand, the band aims to instill every show with the same sense of solidarity, purpose, and irrepressible fun found in their albums. “We’re serious girls, but there’s a lot of humor involved in everything we do,” says Alva. “We try to put on a really rowdy show; we’re always moving around a lot and always smiling at each other. I think everyone in the crowd can tell we’re having a blast, and hopefully that vibe and energy gets transferred onto them. Our favorite shows are the ones where we can really feel that community between us and the audience.”


DARK THOUGHTS

“Dark Thoughts, one of the few pop-punk bands it’s OK for hardcore folks to like.”

Dark Thoughts’ 3rd LP is out, and I think it’s their best one yet. If you heard the first two, this one is a little different, with less of a stylized, Ramones-influenced sound. There are very few bells and whistles (except for the literal bells on the climactic closing track), and an apparently simple formula: take some smart and heartfelt lyrics, find a 3 or 4-chord progression that goes along with their tone, and bash it out as power chords with Ramones-style drums playing at an appropriate tempo (mid-paced to super fast, depending on the tone). For most bands, that would be a fast track to a bunch of generic and boring songs, but for Dark Thoughts the minimal ornamentation highlights how great these songs are. The lyrics give me all the feels (as the kids were saying in the not-too-distant past), and every track has the fist-pumping, energetic and anthemic sound that makes Dark Thoughts one of the few pop-punk bands it’s OK for hardcore folks to like. The overall tone and vibe is similar to what I consider the peak period of Screeching Weasel, i.e. their run of LPs from My Brain Hurts through How to Make Enemies and Irritate People, but if you whittled those records down to the faster, darker tracks like “Hanging Around,” “The Science of Myth,” “Every Night,” etc. Like most of the individual tracks, the LP is short, but it’s such a thrilling listen that I often play it a few times in a row, something I rarely do with other records. I’ve been playing Must Be Nice since the digital version first went online back in December, and it shows no signs of leaving the “current listening” pile any time soon.

– Daniel Lupton, Sorry State Records

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