From recession and hard times great bands of a political nature sometimes emerge. And if they’re not that great, then they tend to shout loudly to compensate. The Specials and the Sex Pistols both emerged from the gloom of the late ’70s, and so the very least we can expect is an amazing – or a shouty – band to encapsulate the feelings of a nation and kickstart a new musical revolution, yes?
Well, Gallows’ latest release has taken up the gauntlet. They’ll tell us how fucked we all are, and how bad it is, and they’re going to do it all very loudly indeed.
Much has been made of the band being signed to a major label and their punk credentials, but this is a massive red herring. Gallows haven’t really changed much despite, as some would have it, “sucking corporate cock”. They’re still angry; their songs are aggressive, wiry and stripped to the bone.
There are only two real differences in terms of sound to be found between Grey Britain and their debut Orchestra Of Wolves. The first is the far more muscular guitar sound, which makes the band sound even more hostile than they did originally. The second is The Vulture, a song which has pretensions of being prog-punk, being written as it is in two acts. The nerve!
It’s by some margin the best thing Gallows have done thus far, with Frank Carter actually singing over an acoustic introduction. The addition of strings suggests that there’s a depth to the band that they’d do well to explore further, as they’re orchestrated beautifully. However, it’s not long before the band set off into familiar doom infected punk territory again and, as you’d expect, they tear things up in dramatic fashion.
The rest of Grey Britain is punk rock fully inspired by the likes of Discharge and Exploited. Rampant guitars abound, drums pound relentlessly, and at the front of it all is Frank Carter screaming until his lungs plop out on to the floor. With the exception of The Vulture almost every song adopts an unrelenting barrage.
We’re told to kill ourselves, which at the very least will harm record sales come album three. Carter attempts to conjure up the four horsemen of the apocalypse during Death Voices which, given the catchy terrace chant of “four nails, four corners, four riders, four horses”, may have some chance of success. He proclaims the Queen as dead, and rants against knife wielding teens and ex-partners. Best of all, there’s a peculiar longing to return to Victorian values found in the Queensbury Rules, where real men duke it out. It’s like a musical version of the Daily Mail.
Throughout there’s nothing to be found but problems, and Carter himself admits that Gallows merely point problems out without attempting to suggest solutions. But he also reckons global economic collapse began with Hurricane Katrina, which suggests that he probably isn’t the right person to go to for solutions when he doesn’t quite understand the problems in the first place. He may well bellow “I know where you live” during the surging rush of Black Eyes, but would he know what to do when he got there? Not having any answers at all nullifies any sense of purpose.
All of which rather begs the question, what’s the point of Grey Britain and what’s the point of Gallows? Well the point is that it’s pretty good to feel angry sometimes, and what better way to get it all out than bellowing along to a gargantuan cathartic album. If you don’t know how to focus your anger or why you’re pissed off, then this is the anger management class for you. If you ignore all the poorly thought through politics and focus purely on the unbridled energy of the band, Grey Britain is a pretty good record from a pretty good British punk band. But if you already own a copy of Protect and Survive, you don’t really need this.