It comes out of the speakers like the thunder that rolls over the hills when a sky goes suddenly black: all barbed wire guitars, pounding drums and Nick ‘Animal’ Culmer’s guttural growl. It’s the new Anti-Nowhere League album and in this fortieth anniversary year of English punk – almost 36 years to the day after their first gig – the biker punk force of nature is more relevant than ever.
All around the world governments are becoming more and more totalitarian, imposing restrictions on all of our freedoms; telling blatant lies to fool the masses, then shamefully profiteering whilst in office. Television and a media owned by the liars feed us endless drivel to distract our attention and numb our minds.
We need punk more than ever before, and Culmer has described this album not only as “the best thing I’ve done for fucking years,” (he’s right) but also as being about “how we’re born into a cage… and we live in it until we die.”
The implication is obvious: punk rock will open your eyes to the real world, it’ll set you free.
Every song on The Cage is ferocious: for an independent album it sounds amazing, and even though the Anti-Nowhere League line-up has changed many times since their early obscenity squad-baiting days, Culmer’s lyrics and vocals are what the band is about, and this line-up (Tommy-H on guitars, Shady on bass and Sam on drums: no surnames required) is probably the most competent in the band’s long and storied history, without sacrificing any of the raw in-yer-face energy that made the band so essential.
Don’t be fooled by the band’s reputation: yeah sure they may be most famous for THAT song, So What, but Culmer’s lyrics carry far more weight that he’s ever been given credit for.
A Bad Storm, Punk Rock Girl, Uncle Charlie (about the U.K. Subs singer), all celebrate the individuality of punk rock; Sealed With A Kiss muses on betrayal, from Caesar & Cleopatra to Samson & Delilah and Jesus & Judas; Fields Of Yesterday reminisces about battles and wars won and heroes lost, without which we’d not be where we are; Fix Me talks of the horror of dabbling with bad drugs; 13 Rat Theory talks of a dystopian anarchy brought about by a selfish and overcrowded populace.
And then there’s God Bless Alcohol – a fun blast of energy that is as reminiscent of Dropkick Murphys as it is of ANL. Walk Away is basically a football chant made punk anthem; ‘Ain’t We ‘Avin Fun and Brick By Brick finish the album with, firstly, a diatribe against a myriad of societal ills and unfairness, then a call to arms to tear it all down ‘brick by brick.’
And through them all Culmer never preaches, just reminds us that we’re all free to make our own decisions, free to make our minds up about others without being mindfucked by the brainwashing judgementalisms force-fed us by governments and media.
Long live punk.
Long live The League.
Originally published on 100% ROCK MAGAZINE