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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Subhumans - The Day the Country Died reissue

Subhumans - The Day the Country Died reissue
2008 Southern Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

And now we come to the album birthed not only from the continued threat of nuclear holocaust which lingered over the heads of those living in 1982 through the late eighties, but also a punk rock homage to George Orwell's dystopian masterwork 1984.

There's a reason The Day the Country Died is the Subhumans' angriest body of work, despite continued flagrance tolling through their future albums. 16 songs of pure hostility written in a mere five days, The Day the Country Died would've been considered borderline nihilistic in more naive times. This is largely due in part to the hardcore aggression the Subhumans utilized on this album, their fiercest to-date. Recorded in 1982 and released the following year, seldom few albums raged at both the speed and the pot-boiled anger as Dick Lucas and company sieved into The Day the Country Died.

Confrontational to say the least, we can nevertheless recognize The Day the Country Died as a scathing protest album borne of the Cold War era. If you thought The Exploited's Troops of Tomorrow was in-your-face, the Subhumans threw down even harder with The Day the Country Died, particularly with the repeated teletype message of "Think" layered like wallpaper behind the album's lyrics.

Though Dick Lucas was one of the few publicly-spectacled punk rockers of the original punk movement, there was hardly anything dweebish about the mordacious esprit he conveyed behind songs like ""Nothing I Can Do," "All Gone Dead," Ashtray Dirt," "No" and "Mickey Mouse is Dead."

If there was ever an album for Generation X to encapsulate the constant trepidation swarming overtop our heads with combative superpower ego trips representing a potentially deadly manifest destiny, then The Day the City Died is certainly that album. No, it doesn't have the pop yumminess of Michael Jackson's Thriller and it doesn't skank and swerve in idyllic fashion like English Beat (though the Subhumans would eventually dicker in that direction soon after this album). It doesn't gallop with a warrior's charge like their NWOBHM countrymen Saxon; if anything, the Subhumans would've preferred to trip the horse's legs from beneath the proverbial knights and run to the hills with their cutlery lest further violence and bloodshed be inflicted.

With bookend cacophony representing the fearsome sound of a predicted atomic fallout, The Day the Country Died savagely drives its anti-war message home with disarming boisterousness. It's designed to prick your ears into submissive paranoia, all to set you up for the hammering messages on "All Gone Dead," "New Age," "Dying World," "I Don't Wanna Die" and "Black and White."

The Subhumans splinter glass shards at the end of their Orwellian nod "Big Brother," having posited their irked query "And somebody told me 'Big Brother's watching you, and somebody else aid 'You know it's not true.' Who do you believe?" The glass shatter is thus a demonstrative exclamation point. As Lucas relays the riveting narration of being put away for questioning "Big Brother," he next expounds the thought of being locked in a cage for being a free-thinking body in a climate of suppressed censorship on the following song "New Age."

Lucas wails his resistance to joining the file and rank social directives (instigated by the government, naturally) which are sure to lead to his hypothesized demise on "I Don't Wanna Die" only to sneer impudently on "No" about his lack of faith in the state and the church, in particular a system that "thrives on ignorance."

Grabbing hold of the reins of pop culture on "Mickey Mouse is Dead" and "Zyklon-B-Movie" as vehicles to issue his litany of mind control via television, Lucas rounds out The Day the Country Died with a brutal finale beginning with the raucous gang-spewed "'Til the Pigs Come Round" (which begins with a pretty funny flubbed take) then a breakup with a girlfriend yielding further ramifications of isolation on "No More Gigs."

The Day the Country Died drops its final bomb with a white noise detonation at the end with the ratchety and suspenseful "Black and White," the endpoint being governmental control is guilty for sentencing mankind to assured death.

It's hard not to be affected by what the Subhumans left as an imprint for future punk records. The tinny and drum-clumped sound defining British and American hardcore is one aspect, but the theme of manipulation and exploitation by sovereign powers is the bigger stamp the Subhumans left upon the scene.

It's likewise difficult to avoid mulling over the inflammatory statement "U.K. - a disunited kingdom, enquiries - but no solutions, faceless - empty illusions, reasons - are always pushed aside, remember - the day the country died..." The right wing would hardly be moved to say much other than to dismiss this all as leftist propaganda, but you know how Dick and the boys would respond accordingly...

Rating: ****1/2

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