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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ten anti-capitalist songs of the Pet Shop Boys

Ten anti-capitalist songs of the Pet Shop Boys

You can hardly call a band that has sold 50 million records anti-capitalist, yet underneath all the glitz, glamour, and partying, there are many subtleties behind some of their lyrical content, which direct apply to many of the problems of living in a capitalist system. What follows is an analysis of some of their more outspoken lyrics in relation to the contradictions of capitalism. There aren’t many artists that make a living based on contradictions, yet the Pet Shop Boys remain one of them, combining elements of sad lyrics with happy melodies, and vice versa.

West End Girls (1984)

The bass line of this song is sampled from “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash, which is a protest song in itself, commenting on the harsh realities of living in a ghetto and the lack of opportunities available. In contrast to New York, the Pet Shop Boys cough up their own thought on London life. The chorus kicks in with “In a western town, a dead end world”, where “no-one knows your name”.  It seems like a great existence in two of the supposed richest cities in the first world. It’s a critique of the concept of the individualism, “If, when, why, what, how much have you got?” and Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’, with “We’ve got no future, we’ve got no past”, which are both key influences of the ideological infliction of capitalisms most extreme model: neoliberalism. 

In an interview, Chris said that it was about the mixing of the classes during their time off work, for example a group of likely lads stumbling into a wine bar, it's about the rough getting some posh. In the past it was rare for different classes to mix - there were clear distinctions between residential areas. When the class system became more blurred and the middle class grew, alongside intensive gentrification, more and more people found themselves in an unfamiliar environment, mixing it up with other classes. This caused many people to develop new psychological states, such as "existential anxiety" and "urban neurosis". It's a song that is deeply entrenched in class politics, which would naturally fit in with an anti-capitalist narrative.

Furthermore, the video to the song has clips from an anti-apartheid vigil, which was still a controversial issue at the time. In the endless pursuit of profit at the expense of human exploitation, South Africa during the apartheid era was one of the worst case modern examples of openly racist state policies. Even now, with supposed equal human rights, there is still a huge class divide between white and black in South Africa. 

Left to my own devices (1988)

This is clearly an autobiographical account of Neil's experiences whilst growing up. The inner rebel is revealed when he sings about his ambition to be "Che Guevara and Debussi to a disco beat". Ironically enough, Neil worked for the teenage pop music magazine 'Smash Hits' before giving it all up to focus on the Pet Shop Boys full time. Perhaps that retrospective wisdom is confounded in the line "if you pass the test, you can beat the rest, I didn't want to compete or talk street street street". With most organisations now, following a scientific capitalist mode of production with a market based on competition, perhaps the best environment where one can still be openly creative, conscientious and critical, is the arts.

Go West (1993)

This was released a few years after the collapse of Soviet communism, and the imagery used in the video makes plenty of artistic references to this period. On the flip side, images of the West provide a stark contrast. The musical arrangements of the song even have thematic elements from the national anthem of the Soviet Union. Perhaps that was the reason why the song was so popular in Russia, invoking popular nationalism to go west. Unfortunately many Russians were duped during the hope of the post-Soviet era, which promised that change would be gradual and it would lead to people being better off.  What ended up happening was the poor getting poorer and the arrival of a filthy rich oligarch class. Think about all those billions of roubles belonging to the Russian taxpayers, embezzled and spent on stupid projects such as lining the pockets of footballers at Chelsea - surely this was the greatest working class rip-off? 

With it being a Village People cover, it’s likely to be more about a promised land, a gay utopia that isn’t achievable in a system that so heavily favors heterosexual relationships and families. In the past, being gay was demonised. They were an exploited class that didn't fit it with the ideal capitalist family unit. Of course things are very different now, those vultures working in media and consumer industries have found a way to make profit from gay identities and lifestyles.

Love etc. (2009)

It’s about greed and wanting more “you need more, you need more, you need more”, it’s a simple message, wealth does not put you in any better position to find true love. This relates to the issue of surplus value absorption: if capital can not be invested to make a further surplus, then the capital moves on to another place where it can. If we relate it back to the song, then if love cannot be reinvested to deepen it, then it becomes surplus to requirement and will find elsewhere to invest. Perhaps true love can never exist living under capitalist relations of production, because our souls are nurtured to always want more.   

Kings Cross (1987)

There is a spine chilling lyric at the start of the song: “the man at the back of the queue was sent, to feel the smack of firm government” and the chorus ends with “Wake up in the morning and there’s still no guarantee”. I guess this relates to unemployment and it being an inevitable aspect of capitalism, as without it employers aren’t able to drive down wages in order to keep competition for jobs. Kings Cross is symbolic of escaping to Londoners. Neil Lowe in an interview stated that, "King's Cross is an actual train station in London that, at least at the time, was crime-ridden and dingy...prostitution, drug addicts, and a lot of tramps come up to you there. I just thought that was a metaphor for Britain - people arriving at this place, waiting for an opportunity that doesn't happen...it's about hopes being dashed...It's an angry song about Thatcherism."

Suburbia (1986)

“Stood by the bus stop, with a felt pen, in this suburban hell”. Town planning was a condition of the industrial revolution. It created new urban sprawls full of people hanging around with nothing to do but get in trouble, whereby workers had no fruits of their labour to revel in. The capitalist soon realized that and started to create new forms of leisure and consumption to absorb the little of amount of surplus we create from our own labour, all in an attempt to escape the alienation our labour produces. In this day and age, it is those people that create alternative forms of recreation, devoid of a price and rebellious in nature, which are the ones that find true happiness and freedom.

It doesn’t often snow at Christmas (1997)

This is a rare outing of a song from a fan club single. It’s about the commercialisation of Christmas and how the original meaning of love and family has been lost. This relates to commodity fetishism and creating false desires. “Now it’s all about shopping, and how much things cost”, leads the bridge to the chorus. Anyone with a large family Christmas list will understand.

Rent (1987)

The video is about an older rich woman supporting a younger poor man, which relates to dependency theory, the 99% being dependent on the 1% for money, and the 1% being dependent on the 99% for an escape. Rent itself as a tool for exploitation and capital accumulation. Perhaps in the later periods of the capitalist epoch, A new form of love based on economic dependency has emerged, and this permeates through the themes of the song.

Opportunites (Let’s Make Lots of Money) (1985)

It’s about the neo-liberal opening of the London Stock Exchange. “Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be rich?” and “If you’ve got the inclination, I have got the crime” – and that’s what the event was, a legalization of previously criminal activity. In a way it’s a satire of Thatcherism and its embodiment of Yuppie culture. According to Neil Lowe, “It’s actually a joke that the two people in the song won’t actually make any money – it represents the façade of capitalism that anyone can make it big”. Classic PBS Irony.

Shopping (1987)

“We check it with the city then change the law”, “It's easy when you got all the information, Inside help, no investigation, no questions in the house, no give and take, there's a big bang in the city, we're all on the make”, “I heard it in the house of commons, everything’s for sale”. In the 1980s, shopping moved from being a necessity to a leisure activity to absorb capital surplus back into the capitalist class. Christ Tennant actually said that the song is about the government selling off national industries, which they were personally against. In the great neoliberal public sector grab, everything was for sale.  

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Manchester Punk Festival 2015 Review Poem

Manchester Punk Festival 2015 

So Manchester Punk Festival was a mind blowing experience. 
Years of experience of attending Fest, meant those at the helm could provide us the best
Set up, where those at the Sound desk were master full in Control,
And a squat simulation basement to sing and shout 'Woah'.
No need for a stroll beyond a 100 metre radius of Oxford Road
Without townie eyes needlesly prying.
An overwhelming turn out had settled the soul,
With the Murderburgers signing off nicely with 'all my best friends are dying'.
Acoustical joy in the Thirsty Scholar, with Captain Hotknives, Joe McMahon, and Billy Liar.
Even the heckle was coaxed out of retire
Much to the merry ment of a joyful choir.

Quality starter and mid session ales,
In the Salisbury's well kept cellar, that never fails.
To warm the springtime with some FC United fans in session
from Mansfield and beyond, who taught us a lesson.
About punk football, and sticking it to the man
A lovely paper programme kept us in the plan.
To teach us a lesson about pop and punk,
Where the Wonk Unit pumelled to an outstanding pop
With their disco punk getting the old punks to bop
To the songs and the sounds of sparkling donkeys
In a haze and a blur of Parklife meets Musical Monkey
Joseph Holt Maple Moon and strategic Old Rosies
Double Whiskey Noise Cokes on the cobbled streets a cozy.
To an unimaginable day of Mancunian sun.
A burrito and cocktails to ensure the nights fun.
New establishments bound so we didn't Peveril of the Peak.
I wish we could do this, every week. 

A virgin experience of Muncie Girls,
Whose wonderful vocals caused the brain swirls to unfurl.
The crazy pit antics from those at The Restarts,
With joyful songs about our rebellious upstarts.
And I never though I'd say it to this day,
Yet Apologies, I Have None killed the night away.
Spitfire and crusties singing songs outside about Whiskey.
Mellowed into beers in the park and a magic football kicksy.
And two old bums reminisced rheumy eyed whilst playing football tennis,
Marvelling at the Mancunian architecture without counting the pennies.

To the after gig at the Retro Bar, queuing by the door like 14 year old kids
At a NOFX concert, just to make sure of being in the mix.
Against Me! covers set was a League Apart,
Such a ridiculous affair, and a massive singing part.
As those did a great job with that their song selection.
Sent the night into overdrive without need for destruction
And then Out Come the Wolves in the moonlit eleventh hour
Then the last train back to Leeds with a cold can of red stripe to devour.
Straight into the taxi and tucked up in bed,
By 2:30am and a warm fuzzy head.
Not bad for the getting old timers 
2016 let's do it again.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

FREE DOWNLOADS of all back issues of Ont Road Zine

Back issues of Ont Road Zine - FREE DOWNLOADS

Issue 11 featuring: Ont Road with Hero Dishonest in the UK & USA (Tour Reports), Stories about getting in trouble with Police, Non-League Football, Ont Rail & Road in Europe (Travel Report), Gig and Record Reviews. 40 pages, Approx. 20,000 words.

Issue 12 featuring travels in: St. Kitts & Nevis, Prague, Lisbon, UK & Eire. On tour with: Hero Dishonest, Sotatila, Ruidosa Inmundicia. Articles about: Public Transport Romance, Essential Travel Items, The Scene Today, The Manic Street Preachers, Fluff Fest. Plus: Fanzine & Record Reviews
20,000 words, 40 pages.

Issue 13 features a travel report to a darts tournament in Holland, in-depth band features on Teenage Bottlerocket, Leatherface & Manic Street Preachers, a Sotatila / Pisschrist Euro tour diary, crimethinc writings, football stories, zine and record reviews.

 Issue 14 - This issue is a special issue, which features a 20,000 word travel report of a 2 month long trip that I made, down the West Coast of the USA, and into Texas.

Issue 15 is another 20,000 word bumper issue featuring travels in Romania, Mallorca, Czech Republic, USA, as well as articles on Concrete Sox, Lady Gaga, Accidents, Manic Street Preachers, Bad Religion, and the1 in 12 club darts tournament.

Issue 16 is an extended piece on travel in Athens, Greece. Short articles on Romania, East Bay, Eggheads, and Punk football. Interviews with The Afternoon Gentlemen, Geoffrey Oi!cott, and Mouth.

Issue 17 is a bumper 30,000 words featuring articles on: Amsterdam, Glastonbury Festival, Deep South of the USA (Georgia, New Orleans, Texas - Wrestlemania, Lady Gaga, Defect Defect), Monster Bash in Berlin (NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket & Descendents), Hitchiking in Eastern Europe, Meeting your favorite bands, On tour with Leatherface in Germany, Eastern Europe (Czech, Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Greece), and Punk Football (Dynamo Bucharest). Packed full of punk-rock anecdotes!

 The final issue 18 features an extensive tour diary with Leatherface in Russia & Finland, an interview with Cubesville Zine, mischief in the Baltic States, pub crawling in Mulheim, incidents with the police, and the Manic Street Preachers.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Concrete Sox - Live at the Kopi - Worst gig ever?

Concrete Sox Euro ‘Tour’ 2010 

(aka how to make a complete embarrassment of yourself) 

The most amusing sham of a tour you’ll read about for years to come.

Ont Road Exclusive Report

Not a band I’ve ever had a liking for and had an affiliation with; yet during a summer trip in Germany I soon discovered a set of circumstances that the band was involved in, which has now become legendary, and not for the right reasons. Following a series of interviews with veteran scenesters, Ont Road can exclusively reveal the events that lead to their infamous performance in Berlin being described as ‘the worst gig ever?’

Even before the band hit the mainland, all was not well at Camp Sox. Seven days before the tour, a desperate plea was put out as a facebook status update by Vic, guitarist, singer, and only remaining original member of the band, asking if anyone would to play drums on the upcoming tour - at this stage any rational musician would have pulled the plug - yet the war machine was still at work, so Vic pulled up his sox, and found a replacement to continue the nightmare.

Those with strong intuitions would have been concerned with what happened immediately after the band arrived at the German airport. Within 5 minutes of stepping into the van, Vic gave the driver a CD to play. Much to his surprise it was the limited edition, sought after, Concrete Sox instrumental greatest hits compilation. Looking into the rear view mirror, the driver said he was in disbelief, watching the guitarist trying to play along and learn the songs.

Three days later, Ont Road editor, Herr Schwarzbrennen, found himself on the streets with with nowhere to stay, after seeing the excellent Chicago garage band M.O.T.O. live in Berlin. Thankfully there was a show taking place at the Kopi, featuring Concrete Sox, who were labelled on the flyer as ‘legendary UK crust’. The expectation was high.

The most striking thing about their stage presence was a song sheet stand in front of Vic that held a folder, which he was urgently flicking through between songs. At one point, for a good 30 seconds, as the rest of the band were playing the start of the song, he was just bent over looking through the book. After 2 songs it was clear that the band couldn’t play together.

The German audiences are not well known for making wild or mildly enthusiastic crowd responses; yet the subdued and morose atmosphere during their performance was taking things to the extreme. Most people were stood in circles, having conversations with their friends, whilst the band plodded along, desperately trying not to acknowledge the fact that they were out of time, and sounded like dog-shit. In fact, the band looked uncomfortable together, and were regularly making awkward gestures towards each other.

They were so bad that a German punk defied belief by engaging in the art of the heckle. In an exhibition as pleasing as an unmade bed, Vic responded to a standard heckle of ‘Go home’, with the much thought out ‘No. You go home’. A tumble-weed then blew across the stage.

The set is best summed up, not by the few songs they managed to get through, or the crowd reaction; it is by their choice of songs to cover. Social Distortion was a bizarre choice, yet the song ‘Left me for dead’ by English Dogs proved to be prophetic, as Vic sang out ‘Leave me be, leave me be, I’ve had enough, can’t you see’ to the rapidly depleting audience.

Just as John Lydon of the Sex Pistols announced at the end of their final concert with reflective wisdom, uttering ‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’, this was probably running through the minds of all the paying punters, as the Sox set is cut drastically short and Vic sheepishly says, ‘I’d like to apologise, we’ve fucked up’...and so ends the show.

After the show, the band were spotted having a number of arguments with each other. However, the following morning the time came for the Sox to finally hang out and dry. The tour organiser, who had received complaints from the promoters of the two shows they had played on the tour, informed the band that he had cancelled the rest of the tour in order to save his reputation, and that this was the first time he has ever had to carry out such drastic action.

Geriatric Unit were supposed to play a show with them later in the tour, and when singer Gords, phoned Vic to see what time they were arriving, he was told ‘it’s all gone to shit mate, i’ll speak to you later’ before being cut off.

And so it remains, the calamity that was the Concrete Sox ‘Sham and no 69’ European Tour 2010. Concrete Sox (Live in Berlin) - The Worst Gig Ever? cassette tape is available from www.kickasstapes.jimdo.com, based in Berlin, Germany.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Punk Rock songs about Heavy Metal (Compilation)

Punk-rock songs about Heavy METAL!

A list of punk-rock songs about Heavy Metal and the best lyrics in brackets.

Diesel Boy – Cock Rock (I love the spandex that they wear, I saw Dio when he had hair. Well I know metal is dead, But I love to bang my head, and throw my fists up into the air, I know Ozzy Osbourne's old but I don't care)

Sack – Headbanger (And then this guy took off his denim jacket, and his shirt said 'Bark at the Moon'. He was a headbanger. He whipped his head around so fast He gave himself a concussion. Dude you better slow down, Before you break your neck, You know that shit can't be good for your brain)

Guttermouth – When Hell Freezes Over (You were good 20 years ago. Too much pot, A little too much blow! Now the bypass surgery, New hip At seisure world. Enjoy your stay. Shuffle Board, Bingo, Macrame. 3 hot meals liquified for you!)

No Use For A Name – Gene and Paul I hate you all (Gene and Paul I hate you most of all. Ace your the ace and Peter your the cat)

Descendents – Rock star (Rockstar. Poser. Asshole. Loser. Satisfaction. Recognition. Leave me alone. Let's see if we can exploit rock and roll to its fullest potential)

Frenzal Rhomb – Russell Crowes band (I don't get a million bucks for getting out of bed, I don't get a million fucks when I punch folks in the head, And even if we know we never get a billboard top 10 hit, At least we know Russell Crowe's bands a fucking pile of shit)

Guns N Wankers – 668 (Argh!)

NOFX – Kill Rock Stars ("Kill the rockstars" how ironic, Kathleen. You've been crowned the newest queen. Kinda like the punk rock Gloria Steinham. You can't change the world by blaming men. Can't change the world by hating men)

Propagandhi – Back to the Motor League (But what have we here? 15 years later it still reeks of swill and Chickenshit Conformists. With their fists in the ai . Like-father, like-son "rebels" bloated on korn, eminems and bizkits. Lord, hear our prayer: Take back your Amy Grant mosh-crews and fair-weather politics. Blow-dry my hair and stick me on a ten-speed. Back to the Motor League)

Screeching Weasel – I hate Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant is a slimy fuck. John Bonham man, he really sucked. Those greedy fuckers, those phoney shits. They made their money off idiots. I hate Led Zeppelin. 12 dollar concerts were all the rage. They bought cocaine for Jimmy Page. "Stairway to Heaven" makes me see red. Bonzo's buried, only three more left. I hate Led Zeppelin)

Nerf Hereder – Pantera Fans in Love (I'll bring the wine you bring the bread and cheese. It's hard to eat when you're headbanging. Makin' out in the middle of the pit. How come Slayer doesn't sing about this. If anything comes between you and me. Then heavy metal heaven, that's where we'll meet. We are Pantera fans in love)

Circle Jerks – American heavy metal weekend (The English, sure we'll give 'em a break. With their Hiwatts and their Marshalls. It started here make no mistake. It's alway real and never fake. Platform boots and puffy hair. Gotta raise and scare. Metal merchants peddle their wares. No U.S. made buyer beware)

Napalm Death – Cock rock alienation (Capitalism, racism, sexism. The foundations of cock-rocking idealism. Exploiting, sucking, manipulating. The wisdom of a starry-eyed nation. Making "idols" out of assholes. "Raunchy" "hunky" machismo type fools. "Who cares if they've got no brains. Just give us tits and tools!" Fantasy? Reality? Distinction? Satisfaction?)

Larm – Metal Attitude Sucks (Everybody’s going metal why shoudn’t you, 666 and sexism does it please you? Metal attitude sucks. High door prices major record company, rock star assholes making big money. Metal attitude sucks. Hardcore is generic, Metal is okay, but we know better so this is what we say: Metal attitude sucks. Better support Hardcore if you’re a punk)

Dayglo Abortions – Acting like Black Sabbath (Acting like black sabbath is lots of fun. Their records sound so heavy when I turn them on. I jump up and down and pretend I'm them. I can almost make the change. Tony Iommi is my god. His guitar solos have been osterized. Ozzy Osbourne is so out in space. That he'd probably love me if I pissed on his face)

Conflict – Metal Mania (Seen my bird, my Satan tattoos, I'm here to get fucked right out my nut, I'm jacking up, then falling down, but the lights, the dry ice, the stage act, Have you ever thought of directing energy towards action? "Action, I'd sooner fuck my motorbike",You pile of sexist, drugged up macho shit; you're a hindrance not a help, So go on bang your head harder, we hope it drops right off)

Scholastic Death - we think metal music is awesome, but everything connected to it sucks including you (what the fuck is going on? kids at hardcore shows wearing some fascist shirt, accepted since its "metal", why aren't you living up to your own ideals? screw all that fucking shit, punks shouldn't be supporting it,"hey dude, the music fucking rips", "i don't listen of music for the politics" well I call you out on your fucking shit)

© @Schwarzbrennen

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Music to remember dead friends by... a punk-rock compilation.

Music to remember dead friends by… 

Mumblings on those that have passed and contemporary observations on the songs that surround them.

It’s great to write a music article again, and for no apparent reason this article is peppered with photos of bands I’ve seen recently.

Over the past few years, a few people close and not so close to me have passed away. More recently, I was sat alone at a third division Danish football match, slighty morose after two beers that topped me up from the night before, and I spent the whole match in a day dream about all those whose souls had moved on. I found it therapeutic. This all came to ahead a few weeks ago when I heard two songs on shuffle, back to back, that reminded me of dead people, and thus the idea of the ‘Songs to remember dead friends by’ compilation came about. What follows is a run down of the tracks that made it, and why.

Disclaimer: It’s difficult to find songs that exclusively deal with death, outside of ones that are directly about an individual or a community, so I make no apologies that some of these songs may be about loss in general. 

Track One: No Use For A Name – On the outside

I’ve never given a shit about the death of celebrities or famous people. In fact, it nauseates me to see endless amounts of people posting links on social networking sites about the latest celebrity death, “Robin Williams RIP”. It’s like people are resorting to DIY journalism, to be first at the scene. Needless to say my comments on this received a tonne of criticism. Still, I stand by these words, and it’s typical of the society we live in today when people feel more sadness towards the death of a celebrity, rather than working class heroes or those in their local community.

Tony Sly was different. He was just a punk-rock songwriter that managed to write songs that resonated with me as a teenager growing up ‘out of step’ with the world. His death shocked and saddened me, and it brought back fond memories of a time in 1999 when we went to a gig in Sheffield to see some US bands, and afterwards we had an epic game of 5 a side with Tony & the rest of No Use For A Name in the adjacent car park. The amount of bands that contributed to the tribute LP is testament to how widely loved he was – RIP Tony Sly.

Choice lyric: “I'm dying on the inside, you're never coming back, and now I know whatever we go through, my heart is stuck with you.”

Track Two: The Murderburgers – All my best friends are dying

Perish the thought. I’ve never had a ‘best’ friend die on me, yet the impact some deaths have had on me, I dread to feel the sadness. This is a beautiful song, melodic and catchy music, combined with dark and regretful lyrics. A perfect song for a post- Gin & Tonic melancholic mindset.

Choice lyric: “Snap back a few years ago, we had loads of fucking time. All of our omens seemed benign, now all we see is warning signs.”

Track Three: Against Me! – Dead friend

Have you heard the new Against Me! Album ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’? If like many of us you disappeared from the horizon after some poor musical output during their time on a major label, then it’s time to re-visit. Tom Gabel’s transition to Laura Jane Grace, combined with band members leaving, has led to an introspective look at themselves, and this new record is a ‘return to the roots’ effort, full of pacey, catchy punk rock anthems, full of anger. They were incredible during their recent Leeds show, and once again proved how damn good they are. ‘Dead Friend’ is one of the new tracks, and it’s simple chorus serves as a poignant reminder not to forget those who have passed by the wayside.

On a side note, Tom Gable (now Laura Jane Grace) coming out into the mainstream as a transgender is one of the best things to happen in punk-rock recently. It’s great that these issues are permeating the mainstream, and hopefully it will inspire a generation of transgender punks to be more confident in themselves.

Choice lyric: “God damn, I miss my dead friend.”

Against Me!

Track Four: The Vandals – My girlfriends dead

A bit of a bizarre choice here: This is a tongue in cheek fictional song about someone who can’t cope with telling people that his girlfriend has left him, and the on coming questions that ensue, so he just tells people that she died to end the conversation. It’s classic pre-banter humour as we have come to know from the Vandals, and its inclusion on the compilation was merely to provide some light relief from the heavy content.

Choice lyric: “I say it's leukemia or sometimes bulimia, or a great big truck ran her over and chopped off her head.”

Track Five: Sage Francis – Jah didn’t kill Johnny

I’d been a fan of the ‘Crakpipes’ debut Sage Francis record since it’s release on Epitaph records, as it stood out on a punk label. Good quality ‘white man’ hip-hop that has deep socio-political lyrics. At a recent show at the Brudenell Social Club, Sage went on a long rant about paying homage to those of yesteryears, and how they should be remembered. I was expecting the usual homage to a dead rapper, yet out of the blue he announced the song was about Johnny Cash – it was a great cross over to see homage come to someone outside of the genre – this is creative hip-hop. The timely message is a denouncement of all the religious bullshit of ‘god give life, god take it away’, and eulogises the rebel heart in a way that he should always be remembered.

Choice lyric: “But God, God, God...would never...kill...Johny Cash. He had a train to catch. He had a date with death. And we've all got a train to catch.”

Sleaford Mods

Track Six: Leatherface – Not a day goes by

The obvious choice Leatherface song here would’ve been ‘Andy’ – a song about a former member that died – however, with the recent death of Leatherface driver and manager ‘Big Rock’ it felt appropriate to include an alternative track that symbolises the loss of a loved one. For more information on the life of Chris Schaefer, see my previous post: CLICK HERE

Choice lyric: “No I, didn't think you were wrong and I can still sing your favourite song. It's not as simple as forgetting presents that were bought. And not a day goes by when I don't spare you a thought.”

Track Seven: HDQ – Hand me downs

It had to be a back-to-back Sunderland song choice. This song is about the author’s brother who fell to addiction. It brings tears to the eyes, even without that context. We don’t want another one from the clan disappearing – if you’re reading son, steady away tiger.

Choice lyric: “Brother, where art thou? I feel like the Soggy Bottom Boys without the voice. Your hand me downs I’ve long since grown out of, I miss you, I’m missing you”.

Rocket From The Crypt

Track Eight: Descendents – Jean is dead

A track about suicide? Henry Rollins got a lot of shit for calling the act selfish for those that are parents. As a parent myself, I can empathise with these thoughts. I have never seen eye to eye with the man, yet this time round I think he had a point. See link here for more background on the story: CLICK HERE

Choice lyric: “I would have done anything, I would have taken you with me, or brought you a ring, but now you're gone and, I'm alone!”

Track Nine: Bad Religion – Pity the dead

A punk-rock compilation without a dissecting look at the issues of looking at death from the outside wouldn’t be complete? We could have had other Bad Religion songs here: ‘Better Off Dead’ – how often do we feel this towards those that anger us? Or ‘You don’t belong’ – an analysis of some of those that faded away during the early days of the LA punk scene. However, ‘Pity the Dead’ is a classic Bad Religion thinking song, which begs the question, is life actually better here in the living?

Choice lyric: “Well, you've seen the disease, suffering and decay, and you whisper to yourself blissfully "it's okay", and you still refuse the possibility, that the dead are better off than we.”

Evil Blizzard
Track Ten: Body Count – The winner looses

‘You wanna get high out the sky, you’re kissing your life goodbye’  - a great chorus line, almost better than ‘No Coke’ by Dr Albarn which offers ‘Cocaine will blow your brain, and ecstasy will mash your life!’ Who needs straight edge hardcore when you have Ice T and other cultural icons offering these pearls of advice? Experimenting with drugs can be a positive eye opening experience for some, yet along hard addiction has seen too many break on through to the other side.

Choice lyric: “He took the money to the dope man, and he said he had the best,
next thing ya knew, cardiac arrest!”

Track Eleven: NOFX – We threw gasoline on the fire…

There is a reference at the end of the song to the death of former Maximumrocknroll editor Tim Yohannan, which is quite a turnaround from their song ‘Im telling Tim’ which is a critique of his manner, and written whilst he was alive. I guess in this day and age when everyone is a NOFX henchmen, Fat Mike really does miss those that were able to call him out on his shit. 

Choice lyric: “Remember the good old days, remember the sound, remember the sweet mustiness underground. No, I don't feel the need for reliving. Some things are better off dead.“

Track Twelve:  Teenage Bottlerocket – Without you

The kings of pop-punk songs about being a looser and failed states to do with women. There could’ve been a number of songs from these guys. I just went with an obscure song for something different.
Choice lyric: “And those nights we talked for hours on the phone, but now you're gone and I feel so all alone.”
Means to an End Festival
Track Thirteen:  The Phoenix Foundation – To a lost friend

This track is about someone the author considered a best friend when they were younger, and as they grew up, they grew apart. It’s a beautiful song, and not by any means a familiar Phoenix Foundation number. Ironically when they crossed paths again in the future, and the person in question had heard the song and asked if it was about them.  The relevance of the song to the article just goes to show how easily people can drift apart, and be easily forgotten.

Choice lyric: “What are you thinking now. When all we had is gone. What if you’d see me now. Would you act like nothing’s wrong.”

Track Fourteen: Manic Street Preachers – Further Away

You have to wonder how many Manic Street Preachers songs are about missing Richie Edwards. This is a candidate, and considering it’s on their first record since his disappearance; it almost has to be. Without an official post-mortem, and no record of death, it must be even harder to deal with the loss, and Richie Edwards has almost become a metaphor for those lost without explanation.  

Choice lyric: “The happier I am when I'm with you, the harder it gets when I am alone.”

Track Fifteen: Bad Astronaut – The Passenger

Supposedly written from the perspective of a passenger on the 9/11 flight, which in itself is an incredibly challenging topic to base a song on, it’s even more haunting that in the outro there is a recording of a voice reading a passage from the Koran. Many religions believe in some kind of ‘life after death’, ‘re-incarnation’ or a ‘transition of the soul’ kind of thing. Yet for the rational among us, we know this is a load of old shit. When you are dead, that’s it. Gone. End.

Choice lyric: “I'm held accomplice to man's will, the faith transcending reason,
the passenger descending, and in an instant time stands still, fade, planet heartbreak , Stop thinking.” 

Manic Street Preachers

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hamburg - Pokal Round 2 - St Pauli & HSV Hamburg (October 2014)

Hamburg Trip – October 2014 – German Pokal Round 2

Regular readers of Ont Road will be well aware of my penchant for travel. This trip happened to be my first abroad for 14 months, probably the longest time I’ve spent in the UK since I was born. Becoming a father had put a temporary halt on that. However, with a bit of holiday time, some spare cash, and a supportive partner, I was able to partake in a 48-hour venture to Northern Germany’s premier port town, Hamburg.

At the end of the summer I was sat, as usual, browsing the Internet, when I read a tweet on the Yorkshire St Pauli twitter feed about the draw for the second round of the German Cup. After a quick perusal of the fixtures, I noticed that FC St Pauli and HSV Hamburg had both been drawn at home, against the two modern giants of German football, Borussia Dortmund & Bayern Munich. And although the dates hadn’t been confirmed, I knew that due to policing, there was no way that both matches would be on the same night. Half an hour later, I had flight and train tickets booked for £100 all in.

I was able to secure these widely sought-after tickets through two important supporter groups. For St Pauli, they have the fanladen, which keeps a number of tickets aside for every game, for international fans. As I was a member of the Yorkshire St Pauli fan club, which is one of the largest outside of Germany, I was able to secure a standing ticket for the game (€13). And with HSV, I contacted the English Supporters Club, and I was assisted by a kind soul who ordered me two standing tickets during the members sale on the clubs website (€18). For both matches I had tickets in the stands behind the goal, right were the ultras gather – I was going to get the full on experience.

Flying cheaply to Hamburg meant taking Germanwings, and a ridiculously early flight, which meant I had to get up at 4:30am, and spend nearly two hours on a stopover in Dusseldorf. Thankfully there was a smoking area, and I had a free voucher for the first class lounge where I was able to chill out, stuff my face full of pasties and drink a few coffees. I certainly stood out amongst the suits and designer gear with my tight black jeans, and 15-year-old rugged St Pauli ‘skull and crossbones’ hooded top.

I wasn’t meeting my friends, who had just moved to Hamburg, till later that day, so I did what many wouldn’t when they first get to town, and go on a tour of a Russian U-boat, which as parked up on the harbour by the St Pauli district. I had been to Hamburg many times before and every time it feels magical walking along the harbour, watching the boats sail by to the backdrop of all the cranes.

 I went to the Fanladen, which now has a permanent home under the Gegengerade, which in itself is now almost double in capacity, and makes an impressive pitch length all standing terrace. I picked up my ticket, and there was already a buzz about the place. Some Dortmund fans were lingering around, and I overheard tourists being told the reasons why they just couldn’t get a ticket there and then for the game, “It’s not just some normal Bundelsiga 2 game, you know”.

Later on, I took a beer with my friend in the ‘St Pauli Eck’, which is a great fan pub, ran by the landlady who used to run the bar in the old ground. Brown in décor, Dropkick Murphys on the jukebox, and a smoky atmosphere was a perfect backdrop for a warm up to the match. I arrived at the ground over an hour before the game, and there was a real buzz about the place. I drank a beer outside just to soak up the atmosphere, and I felt a little guilty for having a ticket when so many fans were standing around with ‘tickets wanted’ signs.

This was my first competitive St Pauli match where I was standing in the Sudkurve (My other trips can be read in this article: http://ontroadfanzine.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/punk-football-falling-in-love-again.html) Even with 45minutes to go the stand was jam-packed. I didn’t have the confidence or emotional bond with the club to just barge my way into the mix, so I took a modest position in the corner, which gave me a perfect cross-sectional view of the Sudkurve & the Gegengerade. There was a real party atmosphere, and although nobody expected St Pauli to win, it was the fact that they were here that was important – a sell out crowd of 29,000 was full of anticipation.

And the crowd didn’t disappoint, this was the biggest game of the season, and with it being live on TV, the fans made a real effort. With a few minutes to kick off, the Sudkurve had a huge St Pauli banner draped over it, the Gegengerade had hundreds of coloured individual flags alongside two huge skull and crossbones flags, and the Nordkurve had brown and white drapes, a huge nordkurve lettering, and to top it off, a sign across the middle that read something along the lines of ‘this is not just a one off, this is a way of life’.

At this stage of the season Dortmund had already lost 6 games, and St Pauli hadn’t done much better. And although the formbook suggested there was a potential of an upset on the cards, those that had seen St Pauli this season, were well aware that they didn’t have any strength in depth or any solid tactical experience to overcome the visitors. It was clear from the outset that Dortmund was a different class, and it was no surprise that they ended up winning the game. With these kinds of matches, you just hope that the main team don’t run away with it early on, but when they went 2-0 up just before half time it was all over.
Still, it didn’t stop the party atmosphere, and the Sankt Pauli ultras treated the crowd to a huge pyro display during the half time break. There was some great chanting, and even Dortmund joined in one song, although I couldn’t tell if it was in mutual respect or mocking. German sense of humour remains lost in translation! Dortmund took it to 3-0 late on, and then it was all over. Despite the result, I was fortunate to see and feel the atmosphere of this occasion, and it reaffirmed my support and admiration for the club once again.
After the game, I met up with my friend to take a tour of some of the more quirky drinking establishments that frequent the surrounding areas of the Reeperbahn in the St Pauli district. We started off at the ‘Tippell II’, a laid back affair, where we were able to comfortably watch the extra time parts of the other cup games going on that night – Duisburg vs. Koln certainly seemed like a great one for the neutrals. It’d take you a whole night to read all the graffiti on the walls. 

Then I insisted that we went to some of the crazy bars situated on Hamburger Weg. We started at the ‘Goldene Handschuh’, which had recently turned 50 years old! I remember reading a review of this place on a travel website and the top review talked about seeing an old man being whipped by a midget – it seemed the perfect place to hang out and witness the crazies in action. The entrance is even named after a famous serial killer, Fritz Honka, who killed many prostitutes in Hamburg during the 1970s. Imagine going into a ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ bar in Bradford? Bonkers! 

Not only was there the madness usually associated with Red Light Districts, but also the port town mentality of being by the sea. It’s a small brown bar, yet on two of the main tables there are stripper poles in the middle of them. I was assured by my friend that it was quite tame in comparison to his visits; yet I was just happy to take it all in, and enjoy a cold beer whilst simultaneously being warmed up by the iron radiator situated right underneath our wooden bench. The toilets also were a sight, literally a tiled wall that fit in with the rest of the room, and a small drain at the bottom that was hardly noticeable.
We then visited another famous Reeperbahn institution, the ‘Elbschloss Keller’. Another classic, brown wooden interior bar that is open 24 hours, has loud music playing at all times, and is full of Hamburg’s finest discerning drinkers. It didn’t disappoint! There were immigrants chatting up old grannies, wild youths singing along to the jukebox, alcoholics crowded into a dark corner, Dortmund fans propping up the bar, and us by the gambling machine, taking it all in. Totally recommended!

We ended the night at the ‘Hong Kong’ Hotel bar, a small place run by an older couple, which were St Pauli fans. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere to take in another Astra, a few Mexicaner (Bloody Mary) shots, in the company of some friendly young Dortmund fans and a jukebox of mid-90s Britpop. Our bodies, and drinking tolerance aren’t how they used to be: years of graft, and sleep-deprived parenthood ensured that it was time to hit the sack. It was a great night, to witness the St Pauli FC magic again, and the craziness of the Reeperbahn drinking scene.

The next day’s hangover set the scene, a long morning/afternoon of lying on the couch listening to music, mooching around the streets, and some half drunk purchases from charity shops in Altona: a Beastie Boys t-shirt and a Seattle Sounders football scarf were the best finds. I also stocked up on several pouches of cheap tobacco and visited a great ‘all-you-an-eat’ African buffet.
Then it was time for match number two, a tram ride, and a long walk through the woods to the Imtech Arena, home of HSV Hamburg. It is a huge and wonderful stadium, a testament to efficient German design. The beer was even cheaper that it was at St Pauli, and without the hassle of the Pfand. Prior to the game there was a famous musician on top of a crane, parked right in front of the Nordtribune, stirring the crowd with a rendition of a classic song. And then there was the banner drop, which is something I have always wanted to have witnessed from underneath, as it covered the whole of the middle area where we were standing.
By the time it was removed, the game was underway, and unsurprisingly Bayern Munich took an early lead through Lewandowski. There were plenty of Bayern fans dotted around in the stadium, and nobody seemed bothered – you wouldn’t get that in the top flight of English football, let alone being able to drink beer whilst watching the game. Even though they had been held 0-0 earlier in the season, the poor form of Hamburg over the past year, combined with Bayern’s recent 6-0 win in the league, was a sure fire recipe for a dominating affair. And just as in the previous night, it was 2-0 right before half time; thanks to a wonder 30-yard strike from Alaba. The crowd we were stood with were all friendly, and in good spirits, and without being directly involved in the politics of Hamburg football, it’s easy to avoid the default St Pauli position of hating HSV. However, I do have a lot of respect for a large group of HSV fans, who are taking a lead from FCUM, and in protest at the club moving the dominant ownership of the club from the fans to the shareholders, are boycotting the club, and next season will start up their own team ‘HFC Falke’ – the fan ownership revolution is going global!
Overall, it was cheap to watch, the atmosphere just as good, and the football better (albeit marginally from the home side). Bayern ran out 3-1 winners, and their fans got the party going with lots of jumping and smoke bombs. Unsurprisingly, Frank Ribbery was booed extensively by the crowd for dirty play, and in the dying a seconds a HSV fan ran onto the pitch and whipped him in the face with his scarf, classy! All in all it was great to tick off another German stadium visited, and to watch some teams that I had never seen play before.

We rounded off the night by taking in a final beer at the ‘Tankstelle’, a dodgy HSV supporter’s bar in the Reeperbahn, just for fun. Thankfully the ‘top boys’ were elsewhere, and we were able to sup a peaceful beer and watch the highlights of the other cup games that took place that night.

Once again, Hamburg never failed to impress, and it has certainly continued to set a high benchmark for future trips to watch German football.