If the crowd attracted by this myth ever ventured beyond the Northern Quarter, they would see that the wasteland and the poverty are still there. And they might even notice that Manchester punk didn’t end with the second Joy Division album. There is still a sizeable underground scene based in slightly seedy and run-down pubs and clubs at the margins of the city centre. And there are bands playing raw but gripping music with a rarely matched passion and dedication.
Take the Hammers. They are a four piece and have been around for little more than a year. They have already played dozens of gigs, toured continental Europe, and released two vinyl EPs and a tape – without the support of management or a label. Hammers play D-Beat, a version of hardcore punk that emerged out of Staffordshire and Scandinavian basements in the early 1980s. Their domain is lightning fast but hard-hitting drums, guitars heavier than tanks and grunting and growling vocals. Listening to Hammers is a pleasure comparable to flattening SUVs with a steamroller.
Or War Coma. They are just as active as Hammers in terms of gigging, and comparable in sound. Their guitars, however, are more melodic and create a tense atmosphere located somewhere between belligerence and melancholy. War Coma have just released an accomplished five-track demo that could have been a ‘proper’ record. It comes in a self-made box assembled out of recycled cardboard, is sold at gigs and costs less than a pint.
Then there are the Autonomads. Again a band that hasn’t been around for long, and again a band that has already toured continental Europe. The Autonomads infuse distorted guitar sounds with Jamaican influences – something that quite a few current Manchester bands do. But unlike their colleagues, they don’t fall into the trap of combining cheesy pop punk with über-hectic, sterile ska. Their off-beats are warm and groovy, and their capable saxophone player gives their sound subtlety and depth. Apart from that, they take a stand politically and support anarchist activism.
Ironically, none of these bands sound anything like the Buzzcocks or Joy Division. They have better things to do than peddling the myth of Manchester punk. This may explain why they remain at the margin – and why they are far more compelling than the myriad of Mancunian groups trying to be the next New Order or Smiths.
Come to the MULE fundraiser this Thursday, for the launch of Manchester’s Cash For Your Stories EP launch, and see War Coma, Nephu Huzzband, and Lie Cycle play at Tiger Lounge.