This is the magic of the grab bag. On Record Store Day this year, I made a point of grabbing some blind grab bags from some of the shops I visited, and the bag I grabbed from the indie-er than indie shop Black Dots (which specializes in punk and hardcore releases) was full of 7-inch records and a cassette. I haven’t listened to the cassette yet, but the 7-inches are as invigorating, lo-fi, and weird as one could possibly hope. It’s not all that likely that I’m going to end up a fan of any of these bands, but I love pulling out these records when I want something quick, loud, and different. Martyrs and Prisoners
Martyrs and Prisoners is punk as punk gets, and maybe that’s all you need to know.
There are six(!) songs on this 45RPM 7-inch record, so you can imagine that they all go pretty quickly. The very first track, “Leaves of Grass”, whose title hints at something a little more contemplative than this record ever manages to get, is probably the closest thing to “single material” that Martyrs and Prisoners has. There’s a hint of melody in the genre-appropriate gravelly vocals, there’s song structure, there are passages to shout along to. It’s noisy, it’s messy, but it’s weirdly catchy and even kind of memorable. The band establishes its sound here, and it sounds like something we’ll want to hear more of.
Unfortunately they can’t keep up the high standard. “(No More) Warheads” looks by its title to be particularly fertile ground for punk rage, but mostly it’s here as an excuse to spend half the song noodling around with what sounds like completely blown-out amps (I actually checked both the record and my equipment for damage before realizing that the sound here was intentional). By the time it gets to the meat of the song, it doesn’t have time to turn into anything interesting. “The Profiteers” is pretty good, with some more melodic female vocals countering all the screamy business, and “My Magnificent Sea” might actually have the strongest vocal of the whole record, but at barely 45 seconds long, it’s gone too fast to appreciate.
I kind of know that’s the point, that being punk-as-fuck or whatever means not adhering to preconceived notions of song length and structure, but when there are hints of talent floating around, talent of the kind that could take a band beyond the under-under-underground, hearing a band using what amounts to gimmickry just to make a point of what they will and will not be is not particularly appealing for the listener.
That said – it’s white vinyl. It comes with a patch. Questions about Rations’ authenticity are probably misguided. It’s punk. It’s loud. It’s difficult. As such, you know, it’s fine.