Anti-Nowhere League (ANL) are a British punk rock band well into their fourth decade. Despite numerous line-up changes and periods of inactivity, founding member and frontman, Animal is still keeping punk rock alive, With Shady on bass, Tommy H on guitar and newest member, Sammy Carnage on drums, making up the rest of the league of gentlemen we see today! The Cage is their sixth studio album with thirteen (unlucky for some) brand new tracks. Released on the 13th (unlucky for some) May 2016 via Cleopatra Records. I’m not superstitious or I may well have refused to review an album with so many thirteens, as there’s even a track called 13 Rat Theory! If you are superstitious then think of it as a baker’s dozen with a free track thrown in!
It’s probably fair to say that I love ANL live, but I only came to see them about five years ago by fluke when I went to Glasgow for the weekend. Looked to see if any bands were on, saw they were playing at Ivory Blacks, watched So What on YouTube and thought it would be a laugh, if nothing else! They turned out to be one of the best live bands I’ve seen. Yeah I like rude offensive lyrics – So What! I bought a couple of compilation CDs so I haven’t heard any of the previous releases in full. When you get an album by one of your favourite live bands there’s always a panic stricken moment when you think ‘Shit! What if this is absolute garbage! What the hell am I going to say’ Do I think Animal needs to be locked in The Cage after this offering? Well read the review and find out!
The album opens with A Bad Storm and an opening which could could be either a ticking clock or an ominous laugh, I think it’s the former. It sounds like a merger of The Buzzcocks and Black Sabbath, strange but true, a veritable sea shanty given a Punk Rock twist. The last few times I’ve seen them the rest of the band have deserted Tommy for Good As It Gets, from their 2007 album The Road to Rampton, and although Punk Rock Girl is a full band track it definitely has a similar vibe. Sealed with a Kiss sounds like the title of a love song but it’s about the kiss of betrayal and with it’s pummeling beat gives you a history lesson in treachery Caesar and Cleopatra, Samson and Delilah and Jesus and Judas. Uncle Charlie a great rock ‘n’ roller written in honour of the UK Subs‘ front man Charlie Harper, who has just turned 72 and is still rocking, if you are a UK Subs fan you’ll recognise song titles like Stranglehold, Warhead and Skin and Bone cleverly woven into the lyrics, this song had me thinking of the musical Grease and the song from that movie Born To Hand Jive by Sha Na Na.
The Last Cowboys with it’s western style whistling and harder Metallica style riffage was like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme tune by Ennio Moricone given a Punk/Metal update! With lyrics including ‘No iron horse, No more rebels, No more cause’ could The Last Cowboys be referring to the loss of legends like Lemmy and David Bowie? With that thought in mind we move onto Fields of Yesterday, reminding us not to forget fallen heroes, which starts a bit Dr Feelgood, I’m thinking Milk & Alcohol then has some interesting riffs which sound almost like chimes, a Scottish folk vibe, maybe something like Loch Lomond played at double speed, before ending with humming and a chime of bells! Fix Me with it’s pounding drums and lyrics to match ‘My heart is pounding like a train’ is about needing another fix ‘Please just fix me’ and how a fix can change your perception on things ‘Now I see this world in a different way, I see the colours in the rain.’ ‘I love this feeling I can fly’ albeit it temporarily as it doesn’t end on a happy note ‘I am crashing. Fix me.’ 13 Rat Theory reminded me of young Cumbrian band Die No More’s Oblivious mix it with ANL’s own Pig Iron from their 1997 release Scum and throw in Animal doing a few different voices.
God Bless Alcohol starts with a child praying ‘God bless Mummy. God bless Daddy. God bless…….. God bless alcohol’ then it runs through a list of popular drinks any boozer would have on the bar menu Whisky, Beer, Vodka, Vino, Rum, Brandy, Sherry, Gin! We also get a list of suggested recipients, the vicar, the magistrates, the hooker etc with more impersonations/parody voices from Animal. Even the Rock Star gets booze, there’s a surprise, no Champagne Charlies in this song! With lots of yee haws and a country vibe in places, it’s bound to become a drinking anthem for Punks! Despite the country flavour I was reminded of sea shanty Drunken Sailor mix in a bit of Lily The Pink by The Scaffold make a cocktail and if you’re still standing, after all that, God bless YOU!
Time To Kill you could interpret that song title in two ways, it could be about killing someone or killing time? With it’s punishing rhythm and drum beat, if you listen to the lyrics you will find it actually starts off about the former then cleverly beomes about the latter. Walk Away has military beat, an army could march to it, an army of punk rock fans chanting, it’s like a football supporters’ chant think Here We Go done by The Queen’s Welsh Guards! The opening to Ain’t We ‘Avin Fun reminded me of Blondie’s Dreaming. Finally we come to the thirteenth or bonus track, Brick By Brick which starts with what could be American game show host introduction, leading into a song with riffage akin to Billy Idol‘s Dancing With Myself. Billy and Animal hail from the same era and over the past 30 or so years have managed to perfect the perfect punk rock sneer and keep punk rock alive!
You can put a wild animal in a cage but you can’t always tame it! The production is polished, there are some awesome riffs and the lyrics are unmistakably ANL. A few here which will no doubt become popular sing alongs at gigs and I’m looking forward to seeing them live at some point this year. They’re currently on tour over in the states which includes appearances at Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival . They’ll be back in the UK for Rebellion in August with dates scheduled in the UK throughout 2016. If you’re a long term fan it’s a worthy addition to your collection and if you’re new to ANL you won’t be disappointed but if you don’t like it then, as Animal would say, “So ‘Fucking’ What!”.
Highlight Track – Punk Rock Girl
1 – A Bad Storm
2 – Punk Rock Girl
3 – Sealed with a Kiss
4 – Uncle Charlie
5 – The Last Cowboys
6 – Fields of Yesterday
7 – Fix Me
8 – 13 Rat Theory
9 – God Bless Alcohol
10 – Time to Kill
11 – Walk Away
12 – Ain’t We ‘Avin Fun
13 – Brick by Brick
Animal – Vox,
Shady – Bass,
Sammy Carnage – Drums,
Tommy-H – Guitar
For information about The Silent Enemy: How PTSD Damages Our Soldiers – see here