A horrible hack

External Menace

Coalition Blues

Year Released: 2014
Format: LP
Label: Loud Punk
Reviewed by Alex Hannan on Apr 12, 2015
This LP attempts to do justice to EXTERNAL MENACE's earliest era by collecting all their studio sessions from 1982-4 on vinyl. These tracks were spread across 7"s and compilations at the time, and an intervening attempt at documenting this period was a CD bulked out with re-recorded material and demos. Here, though, we have nothing but the original studio tracks, in which first singer Wullie appears on the first two sessions and then leaves, the band regrouping for two more studio trips with Sneddy on guitar and vocals. They subsequently went through a number of lineups and periods of activity right up to the present - I booked their Manchester incarnation to support EASPA MEASA in the early 2000s.

Their sound here shows them absorbing some of the urgency of the UK82 groundswell, but choosing mostly to stick with raucous, three-chords-two-fingers melodic punk rather than heading towards the hypnotic streamlined effect and bleak, evasive chord patterns of DISCHARGE and their like (the speedfreak attack of the closer here "External menace" coming closest.) A little like a Scottish VARUKERS, we mostly see straightforward songwriting which allows a tuneful gift to peep out from under a gruff snarl. You can see it in the way the chorus of "Youth of Today" euphorically kicks up a gear, or the semi wistful vocal line of "Escape from hell," sounding like a rough ancestor of a cut from LEATHERFACE's "Fill your boots".

The LP isn't sequenced chronologically and jumps between different lineups, so more than presenting the original material as archive, it seems to be making a case for an alternate universe in which EXTERNAL MENACE had maintained their lineup and saved up their songs for a full-length. Both sides of the LP begin with a batch of older recordings with Wullie on vocals, and at the end mix in material with Sneddy on the mic - where a less extrovert vocal style and a more rock-n-roll, CLASH influence comes through, particularly on the twin-guitar tracks at the end of side 1, like the bluesy string-bends of "Vietnam."

A couple of the earlier songs stumble a bit in execution - "No views" has some pretty crunchy drumming. Others resort to the lyrically obvious, like "Don't conform." "Main street riot" is basic compared to their best. Wullie's vocals dispatch even this kind of material with great gusto, though, and the occasional second-tier song is outnumbered by the genuine anthems. The later songs appear to be inching back into a more conservative set of influences, but the melodies are still there, "Coalition blues" being a great example. EXTERNAL MENACE continue to reclaim their history after all their unlucky breaks, and this LP presents another reminder of the strength of their catalogue. The bonus 7" has a gargling-glass 1979 version of "Political poverty" - perhaps from their earlier incarnation THE L-PLATES? - a 1984 rehearsal demo called "Shoot to kill" and a couple of 1983 live tracks.

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