SUBHUMANS - BIG JOBS - SEX PEST - PAUL HOOLI - King’s Arms, Auckland, New Zealand - 22nd September 2012
It must be at least 15 years since I last saw SUBHUMANS. I was just too young to catch the band before it originally split up but caught two excellent shows in the UK from the band’s reformation in the 90s. SUBHUMANS was probably the first Anarcho band I really got into, thanks to a cassette I ordered via Sounds (ancient UK music mag/ paper that was way better than NME or MM) back in about 1983 called ‘Punk... An Acquired Taste’. This lead me to ‘From The Cradle To The Grave’ album and away I went. The band’s songs mixed the velocity of Hardcore Punk with other genres, be it Reggae or Dub or even a bit of Psychedelia and the lyrics of Dick Lucas were imbibed with wit, intelligence and a political line of thinking that was both informative and pointed.
So, when Tim Edwards and his Punk Rock Road Trips team arranged a New Zealand tour for SUBHUMANS, it was a no-brainer that I’d be there. Unfortunately, I was there early enough to see PAUL HOOLI.
I’m not quite sure how HOOLI got the gig - possibly on the strength that he used to be in THE MANAGERS. It was a solo set with just HOOLI’s voice and his acoustic guitar doing a bunch of songs that ranged from MOR Ska-esque originals through to a few covers from the likes of WHO, BUZZCOCKS and more. He wasn’t necessarily bad, just way out of place and more than a bit tiresome.
Thankfully the relatively new Auckland band, SEX PEST, came on and delivered a set of snide, sneering and embittered Garage Punk Rock that fused the likes of SEX VID and SHITTY LIMITS with vintage Kiwi Punks, THE HENCHMEN. The band includes members of TENTACLES OF DESTRUCTION and MALENKY ROBOT among others. The ten or so songs they played were uncompromising and powerful, but didn’t really on hyper speed to get their message across; instead the songs pivoted around a mid-paced guitar riff and a vocal that was spat out.
The King’s Arms had filled up nicely by this time too with a mix of Punks, some long hairs, a few Joe Normals and the odd, wasted Sid Vicious clone.
Next up was the endearingly titled BIG JOBS that feature ex-members of CITY NEWTON BOMBERS and MISSING TEETH. They blitzed through an incendiary set of raging Hardcore Punk (and not your shitty Metal-tainted macho bollocks either) that was over all too soon. The songs were short, direct and rippled with the fury of prime-time Boston Hardcore but delivered with an instant accessibility.
As 11pm dawned, Dick, Trotsky, Phil and Bruce assembled on stage and it was Show Time! Dick said his brief introduction and then it was into ‘Apathy’. It didn’t take long for a minor scuffle to breakout as one of the Sid clones got a bit of a hiding, but that was the only spate of violence I saw.
From there, every SUBHUMANS release was represented except ‘29:29 Split Vision’. It was an interesting choice of songs in places too - the obvious were there: ‘All Gone Dead’, ‘Mickey Mouse Is Dead’, ‘Wake Up Screaming’, ‘Joe Public’, ‘No’ (my personal fave), ‘Parasites’ ‘Businessmen’ and ‘Animal’ along with a number of tracks from the more recent ‘Internal Riot’ album including a scorching ‘This Year’s War’ and ‘Too Fat, Too Thin’. The gig closed with the excellent sing-a-ling-a-Dick ‘Work Rest Play Die’ (which was one of the tracks on that cassette mentioned above), and as usual, the classic ‘Religious Wars’. The interesting tracks came in the form of ‘Who’s Gonna Fight In The Third World War’, ‘Til The Pigs Come Round’ and, more specifically, ‘Germ’ that I had never heard live before - it was a superb take too really emphasising the groove of the bass line.
One of the main faults with SUBHUMANS though, is there are just too many great songs. I was really looking forward to ‘Waste Of Breath’, ‘Black And White’, ‘Peroxide’ and, even though it was a long shot, ‘Fade Away’. Biggest surprise though was no ‘Subvert’.
What I did notice about this gig that I had failed to before, is just how musically adventurous guitarist Bruce and bassist Phil are. Previous SUBHUMANS gigs I’ve been to, I’ve usually been a little too alcohol-soaked - this time I was virtually sober (mainly cuz I ain’t gonna pay the inflated booze prices at the King’s Arms - $10 a pint of Guinness? Get real...) which allowed me clearer vision and a clearer head the next morning! The excellent sound from the PA no doubt helped also.
As 12.15 hit, the band said their thank yous and the gig was over. SUBHUMANS certainly lived up to their reputation live and I’m pleased to say the intervening 15 years or so since I last saw the band has not diminished their power one jot. Unfortunately though, the world is still fucked and these songs- even those recorded way back in 1981 - are still as relevant today as they were then. Whilst that is the case (and let’s face it, things ain’t gonna get any better), this Punk Rock scene of ours should be very thankful that there is still a spokesman who possesses the clarity of vision and power with words as Dick Lucas.