Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Discharge - Realities Of War EP

Realities Of War EP

Released 1980 on Clay
Reviewed by Fitter Stoke, 07/11/2002ce

When people talk of the great innovators of the British punk scene, mention is usually made of The Damned (the first to release a single and album), The Clash (the first to exhibit real political attitude), and the Pistols (the first to really hit the collective conciousness that there was really something happening here). And there'll be no arguments from me. I was lucky enough to be sixteen throughout most of 1977 and to say that those bands had some influence on my life would be like describing World War Two as a firework display. The Buzzcocks, The Jam, and other so-called 'new wave' (God, I hate that term) bands all followed suit into my affections and obsessions. I loved them all. But by 1980, with a few exceptions, the punk era had fizzled into parody with copycat bands grabbing their fifteen minutes apiece of mainstream attention. Punk had turned boring.

Then, into what was then quaintly known as the 'alternative' chart, sneaked this little viper.

The first release on the tiny independent Clay label was described as a "four track EP". Extended Play? That was a joke for a start. 'Realities Of War' had four tracks lasting no more than one minute and fifteen seconds each. That's about five minutes for the whole deal, including the time it took to flip the record over. But I tell you this: within this five minutes was the most intense, take no prisoners racket ever committed to seven inches of British vinyl. Nothing, and I mean nothing, released in the name of punk over the previous three years prepared the way for this. Never mind the cliched black and white bomber-jacket cover with its encircled anarchy 'A' and badly typed or handwritten graphics. Never mind that the band members had names like 'Cal', 'Tezz' and 'Bones' and looked like your typical back alley-lingering yobs. In three hours of cheap studio time, these four unassuming renegades from Stoke almost innocently killed an already-weakened scene stone dead and created a whole new one of their own.

What hit as soon as the needle hit the title track's run in groove was a lightning-fast tom-tom beat and an awesomely moronic, doomy barre chord riff that resembled Black Sabbath on a boatload of speed. Then the vocal: a repulsive amalgamation of Iggy and Lemmy with no concession to subtlety or melody, yelled at full force above a band that rolled like souped-up juggernaut on a 1 in 2 slope, and a ten second guitar solo wrenched and tortured out of the upper frets of a guitar audibly falling apart in its abuser's hands. The second track, 'They Declare It', sounded like an inversion of the first, but with a fist-clenching chant of its title instead of a solo. Then 'But After The Gig' put the boot in with an even more minimalistic two-fretted riff and fuzzed bass playing that sounded like the bastard offspring of Entwistle and that man Kilminster again. 'Society's Victim' completed an ulcer-inducing meal with a central guitar lick that encapsulated within another ten blistering seconds everything that Steve Jones and James Williamson had ever threatened to achieve. It was punk, Jim, but not as we knew it. Concise, deadly and terminally addictive; even Motorhead sounded mellow after this. It was, to this humble admirer at least, an era-defining release from a band as innovative as any of the class of '76.

Discharge emerged into a stagnant punk scene kept afloat by a handful of mostly laughable second and third division opportunists. Garry Bushell hated them (an endorsement of quality if ever there was one). But when members of Anthrax and Metallica started sporting Discharge T-shirts on their early LP sleeves, the impact of 'Realities Of War' and its equally devastating follow-ups was acknowledged. I do believe that were it not for Discharge, the thrash metal scene as we know it would have been very different indeed. It was sad that by the time their influence took hold, the band themselves had moved into the very sub-metal scene that their early work had made sound so worthless in the first place. Never mind. In 'Realities Of War', 'Fight Back', 'Why' and several other essential releases Discharge created a legacy of definitive mega-noise that still hits with a punch as strong as anything since 'Raw Power'. Clear the cobwebs from your woofers and melt your excess earwax with this.

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