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The Stungrenades - Album Review: Class War: Fight Back!

01 Mar 2019 // A review by Peter-James Dries

Not many people outside of Taranaki think about the New Plymouth Hard Core scene. Actually, I don’t think New Plymouth itself is thought about by many people outside of Taranaki…

It’s a shame really. The New Plymouth Hardcore scene is one that deserves to be celebrated. It’s been chugging along in one form or another for over 30 years, and is still going strong, in spite of the gentrification happening all around them, maybe at times fuelled by it.

For clarity, I’m not talking about the clothing label Taranaki Hardcore, whose insignia can be spotted on hoodies and bumpers up and down the country. I’m talking about the punks that graffiti the initials N.P.H.C. in a little X on venues they visit.

It’s probably because New Plymouth isn’t in Auckland, and if the nightly news is anything to go by, the whole country lives in Auckland. The provinces, working hard for our jaffa overlords, all but forgotten. The divide between the rich, the workers, and the poor is alive and well in the 21st century. It’s the shit punk was born from.

I’ve recently been listening to a group of New Plymouth’s working class heroes, The Stungrenades, who are the modern incarnations of the ‘Naki punk spirit, keeping the scene alive. I’ve been playing their 2015 debut Front Toward Enemy and 2017’s follow-up, Class War: Fight Back! back to back on my way to work for a few weeks now. Front Toward Enemy was a pretty damn good debut, which remained true to the old school punk aesthetic.

In a way, their sophomore effort Class War is like an extension of the old album. A flip of the LP. If I didn’t know the sound of the title track Industry’s Dead by heart, or the cynical last line from This Is How It Is, it’d be hard to tell where one album started, and the other ended.

There are the subtle differences. The music and how it’s played is a little more refined. No one should ever be criticised for perfecting their art, but there was a looseness to the first record that made it seem more natural. Live and real. Like a bunch of bogan builders hanging out in a garage.

Now it’s like a bunch of bogan builders hung out in a garage practicing for two years. Like they’re actually trying this time.

The drums have been perfected to the point of sounding like a drum machine at times. The often underrated bass gets the attention it deserves, getting a few filling licks in. The guitar is faster, with a couple of new techniques and riffs thrown in. The vocals are harder, older, angrier, louder, more direct in targeting the antagonists. If you didn’t detect the anti-National sentiment in the last album, Bring Me The Severed Head of State will certainly spell it out for you.

In general, the album is harder, faster, and louder. It’s good to see there’s a bit of experimentation in it too.  Like the metalish intro to B.E.E.R. and the way the song breaks into silence, making you think it’s over.

The recording is up there too. Their first album was already pretty clean for a punk record – no clipping, unintended distortion, or invisible instruments. This is a step further. The use of both channels with the guitar in Shit Boy was pretty amazing. That song was getting close to Motorhead level good.

So which album should you listen to? This one or the last one. The one that’s loose and limber, or the one that has a bit of experience behind it. Both. Back to back. Then go see them live.

Which one’s better? Neither. Sure, the players are more experienced, but Class War is like an extension of what The Stungrenades were doing in Front Toward Enemy, and that’s what you want out of a band sometimes. If they’ve done something perfectly the first time, why wouldn’t you want more of that, played a little better. Another 5 out of 5.

If you find a vinyl, CD, maybe even a tape of this album, or the last one, you should grab it. I feel dirty listening to punk on an iPod, and not the good kind.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About The Stungrenades

The Stungrenades are flash bang, not flash in the pan.

Born out desperation, fuelled by the promise that punk rock can be a threat again, it might be a sunny day, but work is sparse, wages are down and the bastards in power have declared class war!

The Stungrenades are an answer to a question that should be asked, How can pre-packaged rebellion take on the establishment? You won't see them in bondage pants and leather jackets, we are working class, at work they wear overalls or shorts and t-shirts for the builders among them.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Stungrenades

Releases

Class War: Fight Back!
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Front Toward Enemy
Year: 2015
Type: Album

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