Silent Front are a three-piece from London who formed in the late 90s. They’re well-respected and much adored within the local DIY music community as evidenced by their dedicated underground following. They’re a hard-gigging band, having been constantly gallivanting off on some tour or other across the UK and Europe. Most importantly, they’re DIY all the way: they have a hand in their recording, production, artwork and distro, as well as booking shows, touring, and running their own label Triplejump Records.
They harken back to the imagined glory days of true hardcore and noise, when shit was intense and immanent and exciting, experimental but not yet wanky. They boast a straightforward urgency, a mastery over strange signatures and dynamics, and their delivery is unpredictable and sincere. Sweet Jehu! They sound like a million sleepytime fugazms under a dazzling coat of big black shellac. How’s that for a tribute to their excellent noise-rock heritage?
Silent Front quickly became one of my favourite bands when I lived in London. Live and in the flesh, in the dank and dingy rooms and car parks I’ve seen them play, they were impeccable. They’re tightly in tune with each other; cohabitating, revelling and playing music together as they do will have a band tapped in like nothing else. These guys compelled me to dance at shows, yet even now on the other side of the world, hearing their music through cold speakers in dead solitude, the heat still translates. Bodily memories reawaken and I’m transported back to that dirty old town again.
Their music is sincere, authentic, defiant. They’ve got heart and maturity. They give it everything they’ve got, however that does not mean it is a relentless, balls-to-the-wall continuous pounding. It’s not testosterone-fueled aggression or contemptible teen angst, but all grown man authentic intensity. Silent Front make me move, stop, and start again. It’s all in the fast and slow, push and pull, build up and pare down, tension and release, heavy and light, intense and sparse to-ing and fro-ing.
Following from various split releases before and aft their 2010 debut Dead Lake, Trust is their second full-length album and was released in early February 2014 by Function Records. Silent Front have not evolved into any unrecognisable form with this album – their tight niche has only been drilled deeper. It’s heavy but not brutal, immense but not crushing, the layers speak for themselves yet are greater than the sum of each impeccable part. Full drum geekdom, thick as mud bass, lean and mean guitar, and intense, urgent vocals are all distinct yet coherent. From the tightest of the small and sharp pushes and pulls within the sweeping delineations of each noisescape, Trust is classic Silent Front: short songs with very wide parameters.
There’s no slow and gentle buildup to Trust. From the first urgent yells, Mechanical Grip is forced straight into us dry. It’s aggressive, thrashy and exciting, catchy and almost dancey until the last minute’s emotive withdrawal. Bracken is bassically thick and muddy; it’s determinedly slower but ever driving. More Is Less is a song stripped back to the essentials, building up slowly and progressive. Friend or Foe is abrasive but melodic, relentless, and gallops into an unsettling six-minute instrumental intermezzo. Confiance serves as a beautiful nadir of this parabola, a respite on a chaotic journey. Before the energetic reuptake of the upswing, this is a calm within the storm; a pensive island in a thrashing, gnashing sea. However, it is a false sense of security that this quiet part will lull you into.
Just as we get comfortable, we’re thrown back to the wolves with Nails. This is my favourite transition, as well as stand-alone track, of the album. Its immediacy is perfect: passionate and violent. Phil sings it like he means it, and I believe every word he sings. Next, Invisible Mouth is suitably choppy and catchy too. Final track Veil, although is melodic in truth, is also discordant and the constant rhythmic changes are disorienting. The ending to the song is simply epic.Thus ends half an hour of solemnity, tension, urgency and energy, and the quiet spaces make the noise all the more glorious. There is looseness contained within the walls and depth in the shallows.
Trust is noisy chaos, yes, but this is planned precision, and a skilfully jarring controlled opposition it is. There may be parts in this album that other folk might not be too sold on, but if they’d made the album more appetising, they’d lose the exquisitely uneasy restraint. And Silent Front aren’t making music to make the masses happy. Look elsewhere if you want a band that will spoon-feed you pre-digested songs, or jam inedible shit down your throats. But enter here if you want creative tension, and a band that tantalises and teases, letting their music speak for itself. Trust? I fucking believe you Silent Front, I really do.
All followers think they are the chosen ones – the only ones who get it and truly understand what their messiah is saying. Admittedly, in a world full of doubt and spiritually vacuous consumption, it is nice to discover something to frame our experiences and it can be a relief to find answers for yourself at that time. But it’s also useful to recognise that we are born to flux and flow, not to stagnate and rot.
Blood, Milk and Blooms
Solve: Breaking the problem into pieces
If you find yourself hero-worshipping the same artist for a lengthy period of time, I challenge you to ask yourself why. If it’s because the values and inspiration you have an affinity for ring true to your experience, ask yourself what other, better, deeper, more wonderful things are waiting to be discovered. Spending hours inside an art gallery filled with beautiful things is fine for a while, but what’s waiting for you in the great outdoors?
Do you only listen to one or two types of music? Why? What feelings and values do they represent? Have you thought about understanding these in different ways, through different music? Or does your favourite music have the monopoly?
There are always going to bands that you just don’t like. I have many in my shit-list but in my defence, they’re all bands from diverse genres. Regardless of how my bespoke critical faculties limit them from being good, I still recognise that they have value for other people – and that all music in itself is a vehicle for our fundamental human right to express ourselves.
For those of you who have made a particular kind of music a focal point of your existence, it can be easy to forget that other genres have value. Fans tend to gravitate towards scenes, to form ghettoes, to join cults. I get it. Communities are safe, and like ugly ducklings, we can feel like we’ve come home. But what does it say about your need to belong? Is your self-worth dependent on belonging to something for the sake of it? “I care about hardcore but I hate the scene,” said Zoli Teglas. Not only can I identify with that, I can apply it to many of the other scenes I move through (but that is a topic for another time).
Be honest: is there anything about your sub/culture that you don’t like? Is it catty, is it elitist? Is it too-serious or not serious enough? Is it monotypic – made up of a majority of people from the same gender, ethnicity, spiritual affiliation, political persuasion, sexual orientation, class background, and/or lifestyle choice? If so, why? Is it because outsiders find acceptance difficult, and are you part of the problem or the solution? Do you judge people who don’t fit in, and why? Is the fact that they’re not wearing the right uniform really a threat to your enjoyment of the music? And do you realise that everything you profess to rebel against might just be the same shit you are perpetuating in your judgements?
Set: Experimenting with content
Listen to music that you hate, and try to find something good about it.
Listen to music you don’t understand and try to find out the appeal.
Listen to aggressive music and feel what arises in your guts – is it a cathartic release of anger? A distillation of rage? Is there beauty in the ugliness? Maybe you find it ridiculous or maybe it scares you. Does it make you uncomfortable, do you hate it? What does this say about anything you may be suppressing?
Listen to something challenging, perhaps some discordant noise or psychedelic jazz. Does it frustrate you that you can’t figure it out? What does this say about your love for the safety nets of rules and law and order? What do you fear about chaos? What untapped potential lies in that tangled fertility?
Listen to some heartfelt love ballads and some melodic eulogies for the fallen. Are you uncomfortable with how it makes your heart hurt? Listen to the despair and longing in that voice. Do you remember ever feeling like that? Does it make you cry? Is this okay – are you accepting of your heavy feelings? Or do you want to skip the song?
Listen to something mainstream, something not cool in your reckoning, or something the hipsters are hyping up. Are you contemptuous of its formulaic simplicity, of its overtly vacuous overtones? Or can you appreciate that silliness and lightness inspires frivolity and just letting troubles go? Does it make you stop thinking and just move, and isn’t that rad in its own right? Or does there have to meaning in music, does its profundity have to be spelled out and hand-fed to you? What does this say about your lack of imagination? What does it tell you about your need to define art only on your own terms, and not wonder about the myriad of other operating systems out there?
Listen to some politically-charged punk rock. Does the energy sweep you up or do you resist it? Or does it just make your ears hurt? What does this say about your ability to let go, and what does this say about your judgement on the validity of dissenting voices? Does it sound like a battle-cry, a call to arms? Does this inspire you to make a difference in the world, or a lifestyle change? To educate yourself and others? Ian McKay once said: “At least I’m fucking trying! What the fuck have you done?” How would you answer him?
Listen to some socially-conscious folk music. Is it just whinging, or might they have a point? Where are they coming from? Do they have a right to express their frustration in a creative way, or only in a way that you see fit? Does this raise questions of how unyielding your condemnation can be for those you don’t understand or agree with? Or does it make you feel guilty that you’re ignorant and apathetic? Perhaps it makes you despair that the world is too fucked up and too far gone. And so, will you turn the song off and ignore the message, or will you have a go regardless?
Listen to some hip-hop. Is it ugly because of the way the lines are delivered, or is it beautiful for its passion? Do the beats make you nod in appreciation, the bass pumping your heart to its own beat? Or is it too repetitive? What does this say about your attention span? If, to you, it all just sounds like bullshit gangster drivel, I would suggest that you’ve bought into the mainstream music industry’s marketing ploy. Dig deeper. Find the real stuff.
What about electronic music – is it exciting, does it make you dance? Or is it just annoying doof-doof repetition? Can you see the value in loud repetitions as a vehicle for ecstatic dance, as a tool for embodied transcendental meditation? Is it not ‘real music’ because it doesn’t utilise the generic holy trinity of bass, drums and guitar? Or is it clever and creative because the artist invents new sounds from recordings and manipulations and distortions? If you think they’re not ‘real’ musicians because they don’t play popular instruments, please consider that many deejays are proficient multi-instrumentalists who want to push the envelope and evolve.
Listen to some authentic music from another sub/culture – one you don’t know much about (yet). Can you get a sense of the people, of the place, of history? If there are vocals and they’re in another tongue, can you intuit a meaning from the timbre and the way the singer releases it to your ears? Do you feel contemptuous; do you think the music is too simple or too strange for you to enjoy? Does this say something about your belief that only your sub/culture’s music has reached the epitome of artistic integrity?
Do you see foreign music as spiritual and moving even if in all likelihood they are just singing about mundane life? Does this tell you that perhaps you romanticise the Other too much? That you look outside for the spiritual, and can’t see it in your own backyard?
If in any of these you find yourself drawn to artists of one gender or sexual orientation, try something different. Does it give you a glimpse of another worldview, a tangible way to dance a thousand miles in another person’s shoes? Do lyrics that are too soft make you uncomfortable? Are you ill-at-ease with your untough side? Why do other lived realities really make you squirm?
Do misogynistic lyrics make you angry or uncomfortable in any way? What about racist or homophobic or other discriminatory language? Listen deeper. Does the artist really believe what they are singing, or are they providing a valuable social commentary by playing devil’s advocate? Is it just for shock value, to generate controversy? If so, is there any value in that? Can you use them as an example to generate a dialogue about narrow and harmful paradigms? If they are dead serious, would the artists profess these values in the street individually, without the support of an incestuously like-minded band? Would they shout it in a crowd of those they seek to vilify, without the safety of the stage or recording studio for protection? If not, they’re likely just agent provocateurs – too weak to walk the talk.
Listen to music from way before your time. What kind of world did it emerge from? Was it ground-breaking or was it in the spirit of the age? Does it transport you back to an imagined past, or does it make you cringe? Is it surprisingly good, and what does that say about your assumption that your generation has a patent on epic music?
Listen to music your parents love. What was the soundtrack to their youths, and how does this inform your understanding of their lives before you were thought of? What was going down when you were conceived (pardon the pun), and does this put you into context?
Listen to music by very old and very young people. What are they concerned with, and can you relate? What gravity do you give these issues; can other generations relate to your weighty troubles?
Listen to the first album you ever bought. Does it still excite you or does it embarrass you? Why? Listen to the music you loved when you were rebellious, when you first took drugs, when you first made love. How does the music frame your experiences? Are the memories painful or nostalgic? Do you feel like a kid again – carefree – or is your younger self a stranger to you now? What does that say about your complicity in the world’s efforts to tame and to mould you, to clip your wings and to weigh you down with its responsibilities?
Setting: Experimenting with context
Do you really listen to music, or do you just use it as background noise – the soundtrack to your life? Can you choose an album and do nothing but listen to it, or do you need to hear it whilst working or exercising, doing chores or socialising? Try it. Put something on; feed it through superior speakers or headphones and just listen until it’s done.
Do you hear things you’ve never noticed before? Is there more to it than you previously assumed? Do you get lost in the layers: the high and low; soft and sharp; shallow and deep? How do they harmonise and fit in, or not? Do you find yourself swimming against the tide and overanalysing it, or do you float in oblivion? What pictures does it paint in your mind, what feelings does it invoke? Can you synthesise this and create your own music in response? Can you draw or talk or write about what you’re holding?
If you don’t usually dance or headbang, try moving and just going with what feels right. What does embodying the music do for your interpretation of it? Do the endorphins add more depth to your enjoyment? Does your whole body feel like another instrument; does the music play you instead of the other way around?
If you usually move, try being still. How does it enhance your listening when there are no other distractions? Is your whole body an extension of your ears? How does being anchored affect your listening? Try the same with your eyes opened and closed, singing along and being silent.
What music do you like to make love to, what do you like to fuck to? Do you prefer it aggressive or ephemeral? What does this say about your sexual expression? What would happen if you changed it up a bit?
If you usually go to gigs with friends or a partner, go alone next time. Is it out of your safety zone? Do you need familiar faces around you, or is your own presence enough? Did you have fun, and will you do it again?
Are you always drunk and/or high at gigs? Try going straight. Does the music sound different? Do you hear new things? Are you still having fun, and can the music be enough? Do you remember more the next day, and does the feeling stay with you longer; does it settle in deeper?
How do you discover new sounds? Through friends, or festivals, or do you do your own research? Do you allow the media to dictate for you?
Do you look at the influences of your favourite artists? What bands inspire them, what is their heritage? Look at their label mates, bands they’ve toured with, scenes they grew out of and bands they’ve come from. Look at their side-projects and collaborations. All music is connected through time and across space.
Who does your favourite version of that cover song you like? Is the original the best? Is the new interpretation blasphemy or is it tits?
Are you fiercely loyal to an artist, a genre, a scene? Can they do no wrong in your eyes/ears? What happens when they say something you don’t agree with?
Do you appreciate style changes in bands, understanding that everything eventually evolves? Or do you resent experimentation, believing that your favourite band’s sole purpose is to cater to your tastes that are stuck in time? Do you love all albums from a particular band, or are you able to wipe the stars from your eyes and be critical of less grounded efforts? Are you suspicious of them selling out, or do you empathise with their struggle between the rock of artistic integrity and the hard place of trying to pay the bills?
Do you get obsessed with an album, playing it over and over and over until you know the lyrics, every tempo change, the ins and outs by heart? Have you ever considered that this takes away its power and mystery, or do you need to have everything all figured out? What does the obsession do for you? Does it validate your worldview? Or does it close you off to other music and therefore other ways of experiencing life at the same time?
Coagula: Picking up and synthesising the pieces
We all go through phases: they reflect and are a reflection of our internal states. Musical phases mirror our desires and our values, but surrounding yourself with nothing but reflections of your validations, and staring at your own likeness for too long is essentially just masturbation. Are you self-serving, narcissistic? Are you wanking to your own image?
What phase are you in now, and what does it say about what’s going on in your life? What are you grateful for right now? What kind of person do you want to be, what do you want to change about yourself? Can you open up your ears and your mind? Can you shift your parameters to include different things?
Fuck oath you can. There’s a whole world of music out there waiting to be discovered. Go and play!
Last Friday night Bad Bitch#1, Tater Tot and I had plans to go to M.I.A. at The Enmore; it is the reason why I cut short my holiday on the Coast to drive back early to Sydney. However, we doubted the outcome of this plan as we supped upon cider in Newtown that afternoon. I looked up tickets and realised that when including booking fee, credit card fee and other such bullshit Capitalist profiteering, M.I.A was going to cost us around $95 a pop. I do understand the expenses involved for bands touring to our fair island. In Europe and the USA, a band can theoretically perform >ten shows along a ten hour stretch of road and be able to sell a decent amount of tickets. In Straya, you drive ten hours, petrol is some XP€N$IV $H1T and you may only come across one or two townships on this journey that could support you. That said, $95 is bullshit no matter how you look at it. And personally, whilst I like M.I.A and I have confidence that the show would have been rad, the pricing deeply offended my punk rock sensibilities.
But lo! After digging around within the internet, I was stopped in my tracks by the news that Limp Wrist were playing that night. In my summer-addled mental state of weeks past, I had misguidedly thought that I had already missed their Australian tour over NYE. Armed with the knowledge that they were indeed going to smear their scat all over the Annandale that very evening, my despondency went into retirement and party animal excitement reared its ugly head again. The best part? $25 a ticket, with Hard-Ons supporting. There was no contest in my mind, and with steely determination I quickly convinced Bad Bitch#1 and Tater Tot to come to the dark side.
And so, I went to this gig with my gal pals , something I’ve only done once before. In the fourteenish years that I have been going to gigs, it’s sometimes been me riding solo, or oftentimes with all dude men, but usually with a majority men and a smattering of womenfolk. There has been one exeption last year, when Bad Bitch#1, Lucy Graves, SJA and I all went up to see The Drones at the Hi-Fi in Brisbane. It was a killer gig and an even better drive home. Bad Bitch#1 was driving and she had a stroke of genius when she put on Sing Sing Death House. We cranked it and shouted, growled and screamed every word, full bore, until the last chord. Never have I partaken in a more righteous singalong; the only one that comes close is when Grogan, Coen, other youthful metal kids and I formed the All-Australian Backseat Metal Choir on our way to some mini-metal fest years ago in Brisbane. I dig the cliché that went down post-Drones – ‘twas truly a vagfest made even more devotionally feminine with our vocal worship of Dory Belle Brody Dalle.
Before Limp Wrist, we boozeth at mine and walked to the venue. I had had a cunt of a week with no reprieve, but as soon as I walked into that pub and was surrounded by ugly-beautiful, real-smelling humans of all shapes, sizes and colours, my mood lifted heaven-ward. The relief was palpable and it reminded me that no matter what goes down, punk rock will always have my back. Although we missed Glory Hole, by all accounts they were a worthy first support. We only caught the last two songs of Shit Weather and I was pleasantly surprised by my maiden experience of them. I was worried that my gals would be resentful of me instigating this game change so late in the plan – having had their hearts so set on M.I.A. – but they convinceth me that they were pumped also and so my heart began to rest easy.
Hard-Ons were fucking grouse. It’s been a long time since I saw them at Cooly Hotel back in 2004 or 2005. That night, I was drunk as shit and thrashing intensely and the bass player commented on my DRI shirt, which led me to reason that somebody with such good taste in music was worth following. I also meant to go to their last tour but Blackie went and got himself bashed, silly bugger, and I didn’t go see his replacements. But last Friday night, it only took me two songs in to realise how fucking good Hard-Ons really truly are. Once they kicked into their raucous thrashy shit I was sold. I looked over at the gals and could see that they were pumped also. No guilt, no regrets!
Ray Ahn (bass) was piss-funny as usual and went in to some righteous ranting between songs. My personal favourite was when he spoke of the new plans for corporations to offer civilians outer space holidays. He surmised that with Tiger and Jetstar lowering their prices to an affordability that the average Aussie could accept, we were well on our way to having a bogan exodus to the moon. In light of this, he predicted a surge in Schapelle Corby-esque bud-smuggling in boogie-board bags. Let my judgement be known: Raymond Ahn is a genius of the highest comedic calibre.
Limp Wrist took the stage, resplendent in short shorts, leather, demin, biker hats and chains. They are the death of the newest and shittest incarnation of Turbonegro; Limp Wrist are true queer and true punk and they put their money where their fleshy, salivating mouths are; outgaying all imposters for life! Music-wise, these cunts are fast and filthy and would be a proud addition to any hardcore fan’s collection. I stood up the back with my gals, getting drunker and sweatier and more infected by the energy raised. I reached the point of maximum annihilation a few songs in when I realised I was at the hardcore show of the year (big call, I know, but I defy you to prove me wrong any time soon) and I was standing at the fucking back of the pit. What had become of me? I felt sad, old, pathetic and a traitor to everything I stood for. “Fuck this,” I said to myself, “I’m from Tweed!” and with my resolve set, I pushed my way to the front and centre as easy as you please. I was swept up in the energy immediately and got lost in the filth and the fury of it all. It was rad to be at a gig where there are no fuckwits showing off their ninja moves with serious faces, just a sea of stinking bodies sweating torrentially all over one another, purely smiles and loose-limbs and non-self-conscious oblivion. The pit was tight enough for crowd surfers to roll over every couple of minutes, and when someone fell down they were not down for long. Such is the beauteousness of violent but loving punk rock pit-politics.
A few times we had the privilege of supporting Martin’s hefty weight on our downtrodden arms, but he wasn’t heavy cos he’s our brother. I was pumped when he pulled me up out of the crowd to sing in his face and my unholy voice reigned supreme momentarily, but never to be forgotten. The first time I crowd-surfed, I pulled myself up onto the stage, did a sick ninja kick and then sprawled out into the worshipping arms of my Sisters and Brethren in the pit. I was floating on a sea of love and went back for more a few songs later. The second time, I again approached from the stage and did a sweet forward somersault into the writhing mass of flesh beneath me. I felt like I was fifteen again and that is the most elite feeling in the world. Punk rock is the elixir of youth, and relearning my unshakeable faith in the strength and camaraderie of my fellow thrash lords makes it an honour to be human. “I Love Hardcore Boys / I Love Boys Hardcore” was played last, and my heart swelled with euphoria to hear my favourite song live at the end of such a phenomenal set.
Afterwards, I saw Blackie and told him how much fun I had, then thanked him. He thanked me, to which I countered, “No! Thank YOU!” and he tried to thank me more so I told him I’d fight him if he kept trying to lay the blame for such awesomeness on my unworthy conscience. Lucky he thought it was funny; a lesser human could have been offended in light of recent events. I bought a Limp Wrist shirt and the merch dude suggested I get it signed by Martin who standeth nearby. I had no pen, but he gave me a very sweaty Hairy Bear hug and let me wipe the cloth over his perspiring arse, which is a far-superior stamp of approval in my opinion.
Outside, Bad Bitch#1, Tater Tot and I were yarning with some dudes about the gig and such forth. I was engaged in conversation with a tall and smiling messy-haired skate rat, and we speaketh of unknown rad bands that we thought the other should know of. We swapped phone numbers and have since sent suggestions and files to and fro. I would like to thank him for the heads-up on The Mentally Unstable who have been getting a solid work-out the last week, and I hope that Gravelrash was a worthy exchange for him. Tater Tot had her mojo rising and pashed one of the dudes with a full assault and left him gasping. She later jumped into a cab full of these boys for round two. Bad Bitch#1 and I pissed our jeans laughing at her antics, then we all went across the road, sunk more piss and regaled each other with tales of fighting from our teenage years.
In summary, short and sweet: that was a faultless night, filled with good company old and new, and a fucking epic start to this new year. Limp Wrist and Hard-Ons, I thank you from the bottom of my cold, black heart for creating such fond thrash-filled memories. Much love!