Album Review: GBH – Complete Singles Collection

GBH

Album Review: GBH – Complete Singles Collection
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

The Birmingham from which the fledgling G.B.H. – then still bearing the name of Charged G.B.H. – emerged was a microcosm of the fractures felt across the whole of the United Kingdom as the Seventies started to wind down. Their take on the already established Punk genre was to follow the paths set down by the likes of Discharge, The Exploited and Broken Bones, with the collective sound being retrospectively referred to as UK82.

Still, to this day, the term denotes bands whose take on punk is more aggy than Pistols, and more musically confrontational than the Oi! bands; and would go one to inspire bands as wide-ranging as Bathory, Anthrax and Queens of the Stone Age.

Cherry Red Records have collected the entire singles output from G.B.H., thirty-seven tracks across two CDs, dating back to the release of the nine-track Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne in September 1981. Arranged chronologically, disc one begins with Race Against Time and the informative sound of Colin Abrahall calling “Go”.

The nine songs that make up Leather, Bristles… carry the sound of a bunch of angry young men, who are taking their frustrations out on the instruments. Although the production on this collection is sometimes muddy, the abrasive guitars and vicious vocals, supported by pummelling rhythms, is the perfect vehicle for G.B.H.’s unbridled rage. Knife Edge and Lycanthrope feature Ross Lomas’ bass prominently, with Knife Edge being faster and more in your face, while Lycanthrope is more measured in its use of scratchy guitars.

Necrophilia is dark and moody, with a muddy vocal that match the unsavoury subject matter and in which can be heard the first seeds of the Thrash genre; State Executioner, Freak and Dead on Arrival are charging, driving tunes, Generals goes for a more melodic approach and Alcohol is little more than studio shenanigans.

Reaching number 8 on the charts, Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne acted as the precursor to the band’s 1982 debut full-length, City Baby Attacked by Rats.

Both No Survivors and Sick Boy feature bonus material from the City Baby… sessions. No Survivor reached number 4 in the Hit Parade and it’s clear from the outset the improved production values of the album had given the singles a cleaner edge. Self-Destruct mirrors the fuller sound and, while never losing the UK82 ethos, revels in a more melodic sound and even features Jock shredding a solo; Big Women is a celebration of the fuller female figure.

Sick Boy, falling short by one chart position, has an early Motorhead-vibe about its three songs, most notably on Slit Your Own Throat and Am I Dead Yet?

Album Review: GBH – Complete Singles Collection

Later in 1982 came Give Me Fire, backed with Man Trap, which would find their way onto the bonus tracks of the sophomore City Baby’s Revenge in 1983. Another leap in production values and musical ability would find Charged G.B.H. adopting an early Crossover sound and ripping it up with reckless abandon. A second helping of City Baby’s Revenge bonus material would emerge the next year along with the record itself, in the shape of Catch 23, backed with Hellhole, these are a couple of fast and furious blasters.

Finally, from the second album, came Do What You Want, whose title track and Children of Dust are classic Charged G.B.H. material, with Four Men adopting a more mellow, though no less angry point of view. Finally, the Concrete Mix of Do What You Want shows no matter how rough and raw a track is, there’s always scope for an Industrial mix.

All went quiet on the Charged G.B.H. front until 1986, when they moved from their home at Clay to Rough Justice Records, the Punk arm of Music for Nations, dropped the Charged and became simply G.B.H. and released the album Midnight Madness and Beyond. The Oh No, It’s G.B.H. Again EP saw the light of day in March and the sound of the four tracks here could have been coloured by the parent company’s more metallic direction. Malice in Wonderland begins with a pop sensibility, Lost in the Fog ramps up the tempo and both Get Out of the City and Company of Wolves pull up just short of going full on metal.

Amazingly for a Punk band back then, G.B.H.’s line-up had remained stable since the release of Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne, but before the release of the album four, No Need to Panic, there was a change in percussion, with Andrew Williams departing and Kai Reder taking up residence on the drums. The EP Wot a Bargin’ came out in 1988, delving deeper into the Speed Metal sound they’d been exploring since their move to Rough Justice. Checkin’ Out, Infected and No One Cares all have that hard rockin’ grit and fearsome delivery that goes beyond the Punk; Tipuki Thunder would be considered more aggressive were it not for the three preceding tunes.

The final half-dozen songs on this collection come from G.B.H.’s association with Texans, Billyclub, who toured the US together. Punk as Fuck!! was issued in July 1999 as a split EP, featuring G.B.H. doing covers of The Lurker’s I’m On Heat, Rezillos’ No and Last of the Teenage Idols, a 1973 hit for The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. The first two songs have a distinctive Ramones vibe going on, but the final one sees G.B.H. playing slower and heavier than ever before.

A year later and the bands would get together again for Punk Rock Ambulance, on which each band recorded covers of the other’s material. Here, G.B.H. try on Billclub’s 3-Piece Suit’s speedy chops and Happyville USA’s unstoppable chugs. Bringing it all to a close is Punk Rock Ambulance itself, a modern punk classic. Both EPs were later combined into 2004’s Cruel and Unusual release in promotion of the band’s fourteen date tour of Japan.

If you like your music loud, fast and aggressive, or you know G.B.H. by their name only, this Complete Singles Collection is a perfect way to introduce yourself to one of the most important and enduring bands of the Punk movement. Maybe not as name-dropped as Discharge, The Exploited or Anti-Nowhere League, but no less important to the overall fabric of UK82 and the bands it went on to inspire.

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