It’s very easy to lose sight of a vision in the current musical climate, especially with the flighty nature of consumers and bands being goaded at every turn to modify their sound to maximise windfall by any means necessary. It’s been particularly damaging in punk, seeing a genre once defined by raw confrontation now having few differences to its pop-prefixed offshoot. Funnily enough, that’s the exact same lead-in used when we reviewed Some Thing, the EP from feminist punks Petrol Girls released in February, and how it saw a band refusing to compromise their sound and beliefs in order to conform to the marketing machine. And even with the myriad of tours and support slots they’ve bagged themselves throughout 2016, that still hasn’t changed, most notably in their refusal to tour with The King Blues following frontman Itch’s allegations of sexual abuse. It’s such an honest, human action in an industry that becomes more and more clouded by the allure of profits by the day, and it’s a wonder why those who stand so staunchly against such practices haven’t gravitated towards Petrol Girls more, especially seeing as their EP was a genuinely solid introduction.
Debut full-length Talk Of Violence offers more of the same, but if anything, it might even be a bit better, keeping the acute, piercing punk and an abundance of off-kilter hooks to really hammer the point home that this is an album done in no other way but their own. They somehow manage to make their sound even tighter and more wiry in a long-form context than their EP, retaining their spiky, indie-infused sound that draws from acts like Fucked Up, but with an infectiousness that’s been fine-tuned to a sharp point. The results are tracks like Clay and Restless, seething little shards of shrapnel with just the right amount of pop sensibility to leave a lasting impact, but not too much as to dilute the utter rage that bleeds out. Most of this is courtesy of Ren Aldridge, who yelps and shrieks her way over slicing guitar lines that genuinely feel like the most punk thing in the world.
Though given the lyrical content, the sort of critical, to-the-minute commentary on modern society that the genre’s foundations are deeply entrenched in, it has every right to. Lyrically, Talk Of Violence sees the band take inspiration of their own personal experiences of sexism in a manner that sees them brand anyone in earshot with their ire. Touch Me Again sees them assert their right to their own agency with the keystone polemic of “Touch me again and I’ll fucking kill you”; Harpy sets to dispel the stigma around women in prominent or powerful roles; Phallocentric rallies against the societal norm of sex being purely for male pleasure; it’s all suitably incendiary stuff for a band named after a group of Parisian women who set fire to private property with Molotov cocktails in order to protest against traditional gender norms. But there’s also artifice that sits alongside that power, a precision in the songwriting that runs tandem to that in the instrumentation and puts them into a bracket of intelligence and nuance that most ‘traditional’ punk bands have difficulty striving for.
And though purists may balk at this more technical streak introduced into a genre that has historically been anything but, that’s just the way the genre’s most exciting acts are heading, and Petrol Girls are currently leading the charge. In terms of proper punk albums with something to say released in 2016, Talk Of Violence is right up there with the best, and though letlive.’s If I’m The Devil… remains the gold standard for this sort of thing this year, Petrol Girls could be on a similar level with another year or so of maturation. But even without that, Petrol Girls stand as one of the brightest lights in UK punk, a band with something important to say and an effective way to say it. That it stands excellently as an album as well is the perfect bonus.
For fans of: Refused, Fucked Up, RVIVR
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Talk Of Violence’ by Petrol Girls is released on 18th November on Bomber Music.