Punk was never meant to be radio friendly. Broken glass on sticky floors. Who gives a fuck what anyone thinks? That’s punk. It’s never been about what you wear. It’s never been about how much you drink or what food you put in your belly. It’s about being a fucking punk, not judging fellow punks. It’s about being yourself and loving life and your friends like there is no tomorrow. At least no tomorrow worth living. Why? Because the system sucks, it’s never going to change and the only happiness we can conjure in this life is that which we surround ourselves with. Burritos make you happy? Eat a few thousand burritos. You want to eat meat from a trash can? Do that shit! You want to sleep under a bridge and hate your parents? More power to you. You want to be an agent on the inside wearing a suit by day but Peter Gibbonsing the shit out of The Man? TREAT YO SELF.
Anyways, that’s the whole gist of this punk thing. There are many different ways to be punk today. And punks can come from all walks of life and listen to all sorts of music. Hell, Dead Prez is one of the most punk bands on the planet. But with all those options, there’s only one style that sounds like true fucking punk, and Kicker plays it.
Something about an English accent. The Rolling Stones hid theirs. The Beatles too. Countless acts tried in vain to be something they were not. To play a style of music not entirely their own. Sometimes borrowed. Sometimes stolen. It was the British punk movement, mohawk-clad two-stompers that finally said fuck that. They were British and they were punks and they were caustic and they were, above all, angry. It was that movement that shoved punk out of the umbrella of metal and out of the umbrella of new wave (and post punk, which somehow ran concurrently with punk) and made punk its own. Cops hated the look. Parents hated the sound. Too loud? FUCK YOU!
While songs have been previously written about grade school teachers (see Dogmatics: “Sister Serena”) none have ever been as damning as Kicker’s “Mrs. Arnold.” I can tell you that Pete did not like this woman. Over a simple, classic punk backdrop he spits vocals about this psychopath that used to lock children in closets and pull their hair. The boys in the backdrop even join in for a sing-along chorus of “teacher was an axe murderer.” The lesson here: you can teach someone to multiply and divide, but that doesn’t make you not a psychopath.
“I Can’t Sleep” provides a more Oi! based take with a walking bass line and dissonant, inverted chords to open. Falling into an almost pop (yet still punk, of course) mantra that lends credence to the fact that they have a member of Operation Ivy in the band. It’s also super relatable. I mean, who hasn’t had issues falling asleep, no matter how many joints they smoked or pills they took?
Speaking of pills, don’t forget about Oxycontin and Vodka Pills, which is not only a questionable life choice, it’s also a song on Pure Drivel. After sampling a 1984 Kit Kat commercial (ironically the same year the aforementioned “Sister Serena” was released), Pete spews his angry vocals over a classic stomp rhythm. Just relatable content for the whole family. Followed by “Wanker on the Bus,” yet another extremely relatable track about the dangers of public transport. It’s another fast track perfectly engineered to support Pete’s vocals.
Can we just say for a moment how absolutely perfect the production value is on this album? The drums sound perfect. In “Down to the Bunker” the tom rolls shine, filling in the negative space with resounding bangs and just the perfect touch of reverb. The guitars are mixed low enough to not infringe on the vocals but are also at a perfect level to balance each other. The samples are similarly mixed—never invasive and always appropriate, scalding and multi-dimensional. It’s a clever way to add an undercurrent of seriousness to an album that, on its face, parades as silly and self-effacing. We also have to mention the bass that pops with cleanliness as it walks its way across the album. It’s really just perfect production from top to bottom, which isn’t something often said about albums that take punk this seriously.
It’s exceptionally exciting to kick back and think about how this band came to be and just how much fun they must have playing together. You’ve got Pete the Roadie joined by members of Neurosis, Operation Ivy and Dystopia. That’s an all star cast, you might say. Those guys wouldn’t get together and rock out to this level if they didn’t absolutely love and enjoy what they were doing and that shines across Pure Drivel. Very self aware, Kicker simultaneously revives and breathes new life into one of the most classic and important sounds in punk history, all while downplaying their accomplishments and poking fun at themselves relentlessly. I mean, “this is just a shit song it won’t go on too long.”
Kick people in the face. Flip cars. Tip cows. Live fucking punk.