A horrible hack


Inside Looking Out – A Middle East Punk And Hardcore Compilation

Year Released: 2013
Format: CD
Label: Abbreviated Records
Reviewed by Edward Ling on Jul 10, 2013
It's never off the news, that Middle East. What with all their Arab Springs and civil wars and nuclear arms races and that. You'd've thought they'd never have the time or inclination to make decent punk and hardcore music. But they do. Oh, they certainly do.

This 21 track sampler – 19 if you download – from the Dubai-based DIY label Abbreviated Records is a mixed bag of pop punk, metal, Rockabilly, Industrial, grindcore and wholesome H/C, both melodic and old school, from right across the Middle East. There's an unexpectedly high concentration (about half) from the Arabian Gulf – UAE and Dubai and even Saudi Arabia (I blame the ex-pats), three from the Lebanon, and the rest from North Africa and, with all the best of luck in the world to them – yes, Syria.

If you've ever wondered what the Dead Kennedys would sound like if they sang in Arabic – wonder no longer. Damascus' Mazhott answers your question.

Undeniably, if some of these tracks were released by European or North American bands there are those on this site that would be straight in and tag them as being derivative – the influence of Rancid and NOFX (Dead Shakes, Grand Hotel Paradox), Bad Religion (Fighting Superheroes) and Green Day (Tsinelaz) is clear to see. Given the very real personal risks that these bands are almost certainly taking by making and releasing music like this, I think a little reverence to Billie Joe Armstrong's style can be forgiven though. Even loved.

There are also some really distinctive tracks on here – ranging from belting H/C (Lipslide, Demokhratia), full-throated full-tilt grindy-deathy-core (Egypt's W.O.R.M. - I understand their vocalist recently passed away though. RIP, fella), venomous noise with hints of Wax Trax! And early 90s Ministry (I.E.D., The Camel), to infectious rockabilly (Beirut Scum Society) and MC5-style proto punk (Riff Raff).

There are also some oddities (and it wouldn't be a sampler without a few of them) – “Camel” by Detox is irreverent, in a Jello Biafra being silly way – and Tunisia's Through Sunken Eyes' contribution, “Porn Addict”, is hilarious, but I'm not totally sure it's meant to be – it sounds like a melodic Napalm Death, but is more reminiscent of the Black Flag roadie band the Nigheist in subject matter and basic political incorrectness. There are two or three lines in here that are either absolute classics or deeply distasteful. A lot depends on context.

I happen to know that there is also a fertile punk underground in Israel too (thanks Bandcamp) which is not included in this compilation (Arabic countries of origin only are represented). Which is a shame, but probably wholly understandable. Now. Can punk save the world by building bridges between historically antagonistic peoples through the common language of simple chord structures and shouting? Probably not. Is this compilation worth a download? Fucking hell yes.

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