Over the last year, it seems to have become something a losing battle to talk about rock music in almost any context without bringing Brexit, Trump and Farage into the mix. It’s perhaps inevitable and maybe even understandable, but it’s rarely warranted; relatively few notable recent albums have tackled such topics in a meaningful way and even fewer do it well. Yet there’s something about the innately rebellious nature of rock that seems to put it at direct loggerheads with the right-wing political establishment, so it’s no wonder that many of us live in hope of finding a band as good at expressing political dissent as they are at making a right racket. It’s something of a relief, then, to finally have a blistering Punk Rock record that not only tackles the big issues head on but does it with intelligence, fury and style. Those paying close attention may well have known about Bad Breeding for a few years by now – their first single came out in late 2014 – but for many the Stevenage quartet may still be an unknown quantity. If there’s any justice in the world (and let’s face it, the evidence suggests there isn’t) then the group’s second effort, ‘Divide’, will change all that.
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The band’s eponymous debut was self released last year and made huge impact on those who heard it but widespread recognition eluded them; a shame, too, as it was one of the the most refreshingly vitriolic and vital records of the last few years and a hardcore punk tour-de-force. Although they fitted a lot into that record, the band clearly still have plenty left to say as they’ve delivered ‘Divide’ less than a year after the first, and it’s every bit as good if not even better. It’s a wonderful and exciting thing to hear a still relatively new band with so much to say – although not all of their lyrics are overtly political, every song tackles it’s subject matter with absolute passion and total belligerence. Both musically and lyrically, listening to Bad Breeding is the sonic equivalent of getting into a bar-fight with the Incredible Hulk, and it’s bloody great.
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The group create a sonic assault that has one foot in the classic ’80’s hardcore scene and the other in outright noise-rock. Screeching waves of feedback bathe the taught, relentless rhythm section in the sort of viciously burnt-out noise rarely seen in the context of Punk since the early days of Crass, over which lines like “50 years of Catholic service” are bellowed with such intensity that they’re not so much heard as bored into your ears.
Bad Breeding have achieved something very special; they feel utterly contemporary whilst still giving the nod to classic punk groups that have influenced them. Perhaps even more importantly, they’ve channelled personal and political discord into a set of tightly-wound, powerful songs; rather than simply venting their spleen on twitter, as is all too usual today. The age of social media offence seems to have put an entire generation of bands off the idea of ever expressing the controversial; it’s a pleasure to see a band as incredibly direct as Bad Breeding make no secret of their political views. It’s not just in the music, either. The album comes with a well thought out essay deriding the current political landscape and, in particular, laying hard into Farage – referencing his “noxious stench of smarminess, desperation and cheap fags” and topping if off with a picture of the heads of both Farage and Trump impaled on a sword over the group’s logo. It certainly doesn’t leave much to interpretation, but that’s for the best. There are so many acts tiptoeing around political matters that it’s a welcome change of pace to see a band lay their cards on the table. Perhaps most telling is the essay’s final line: “don’t go quietly.” It’s a simple phrase but it clearly means a lot to them; absolutely nothing about Bad Breeding is quiet. That is a very good thing.