Album Review: U.K. Subs – Work In Progress

Album Review: U.K. Subs - Work In Progress
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

The good people at Cherry Red Records have come up trumps again. This time with the revamp of U.K. Subs’ seventeenth studio outing, Work in Progress. Originally released in 2011 it appears on vinyl for the first time since then, this time on a double set of 10” discs, one silver and one in gold, packaged in a gate-fold sleeve.

From a personal point of view, I’ve always had a soft-spot for Work in Progress and, admittedly, it’s not as seminal to the Sub’s not-inconsiderable body of work as Another Kind of Blues or Brand New Age, but in my opinion it can hold its own against any of the subsequent records.

As one of the founder members of the 1976 UK Punk scene, the U.K. Subs have consistently recorded music and toured with mainstay and absolute Punk legend, Charlie Harper presiding over a revolving door of musicians who have passed through the ranks.

Even this deep into the band’s career Work in Progress is not content to rest on the Sub’s legacy. Instead, you get a varied and engaging collection of tunes. Whether they be the abrupt and in your face punk rock of Creation – with its pounding drums and howling guitars – or the agitated rhythms of Hell is Other People, the record is packed with the kind of snotty attitude you would expect from one of the genre’s most endearing acts.

Album Review: U.K. Subs – Work In Progress

Blood and Radio Unfriendly continue that outlook, the latter adding some chunky chugging guitar parts that Jet further pushes to the limits on Guru and Children of the Flood.

There are lighter moments here too, to off-set the vicious punk assault. Rock N’ Roll Whore is pure punk poetry, while The Axe features a catchy melody and Tokyo Rose see Charlie doing his best Lou Reed vocal before launching into a singalong chorus.

Rancid’s – and recently The Last Resorts’ – Lars Frederiksen held a brief tenure in the band back in 1991 and he and Charlie regrouped for This Chaos, featuring a skipping beat and a So-Cal vibe.

U.K. Subs have never been shy about heading out into previously uncharted waters. All Blurs into One feels ahead of its time, even now and Robot Age has some unmistakably industrial undertones. The cover of The Sonic’s Strychnine is built around an off-kilter rhythm and, perhaps the most shocking of all, is the countryfied riff of Eighteen Wheels which see Charlie channelling his most smokey-throated approximation of the great Johnny Cash.

When the book of Rock & Roll is written, the U.K. Subs should, by rights, get their own chapter as one of music’s most endearing, enduring and tenacious acts. And, if Her Majesty could consider Charlie for a Knighthood in the not too distant future, it would only be fitting.

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