Smegma Riot (Italy 意大利 /China 中國)

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Live review from Underground Heavy #10

1. Blame the Pope
2. Kill Your Boyfriend
3. Fish Supper
4. Don’t Blame the Party
5. Manifest Destiny
6. Real Visceralist
7. The Night of Drunken Death
8. Heart Quake
9. Swallow
10. Fiki Fiki
11. Com’e’ Bello Lavarsi
12. Humonety
13. Mia mi
14. Drill or Kill
15. Taliban Tour
16. Fire Fighters
17. Karma Punk
18. Skat Girl
19. Spara Yuri

To close out the night we had one of the most exciting bands I’ve ever seen live. In their different-coloured neon spandex pants they’re like the Wiggles of punk. One can’t help but think that the presence of a semi-regimented uniform isn’t a coincidence, when you consider what band they most resemble; the Ramones had a sort of uniform as well, but with different t-shirts each time; so do these guys. It feels like it’s not a coincidence; these guys have a really similar primal feel in their music, just like the Ramones did. However, they don’t resemble the Ramones’ form, so much as they do their spirit; generally stripped down, heavy, fast music with little patience for solos or musical gloating in general. I read somewhere that they didn’t start out wanting to play punk, but they ended up there; that they just wanted to play some loud, fun and simple music; so did the Ramones. So, perhaps it’s the point of origin that reminds me (and nearly anyone who listens to them) of that band. Okay, I’ll try not to say ‘Ramones’ any more in this review.

Where they break off from the Ramones (ohhhh, crap) is that they’re not stripped down; they have plenty of instruments, they clearly like to play them, and they like to layer their sound. It’s fast, but the guitars, aside from being part of the ‘wall of sound’ approach, also use different tones and textures, so they create very different soundscapes with different songs. The drum style has a range between simple punk, to more hardcore punk stuff and a little bit of ska. They also do themselves major favours by having a saxophone; the fluidity and range of sound alone that a competently-played sax adds makes it a worthy addition to many types of band, and their guy is really good. The sax allows the guitar to chug away, simplifying its job, while adding variety to the sound while the main tunes stay simple. Additionally, some types of solos sound much better rendered on a sax, than on a guitar (wherein it would just sound like show-offy noodling). All of this at top speed (other than occasionally). This is punk all right.

The combination can be intoxicating; sometimes literally, as when they played a show at Xperience during Oktoberfest season (I think) that had members of the crowd smashing beer steins to their music. The atmosphere they create and the way the singer can get the crowd going by just reacting to him is remarkable, and their music is eminently danceable. Moreover, he’s one of the best people I’ve seen at really owning the stage even when he’s not singing; most people who don’t play an instrument end up looking like tools on stage when it’s not their turn to sing. Not this guy; he could give lessons (and should). All of this stuff combined, they sound something like a mix of Gogol Bordello, RKL and The Dickies. It’s street-punk without the grit. Perhaps, to borrow a turn of phrase from Gogol Bordello, it’s just “immigrant punk”. They do of course, have a couple of romantic songs as well, like Com’e’ Bello Lavarsi, which generally start of ska-like and move to a punky speed at some point into a song. In terms of this, yes, the transitions between styles are glaring, but they’re a good enough band to make even me not care about that. There were a couple of misses among their setlist, but when a band plays so many songs, I think they’re allowed a couple of underwhelming ones. In all, they’re just a great band to watch and listen to; you should do both those things as soon as you can.
— Shashwati Kala

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    Performances by Smegma Riot (Italy 意大利 /China 中國):