Autumn Falls @ Het Bos - Antwerp (be)
Magasin4 - Brussels (be)
De Kreun - Kortrijk (be)
Cactus Club - Brugge (be) + Raw Peace
Volta x Byrrrh Sessions - Brussels (be)
Autumn Falls @ Cirque Mystique - Aalst (be)
Antwerp Music City - Antwerp (be)
Leffingeleuren - Leffinge (be)
Het Bos - Antwerpen (be)
Absolutely Free Festival - Genk (be)
Micro Festival - Liege (be)
Bad Breeding have been described as “the best new punk band in Britain”, which immediately elicits two contradictory responses: an excited desire to hear them, and a disappointment that a band might be generating this kind of heat via such tired/tried and tested formulae – punk fast approaching its 40th birthday, and all that. But the interesting thing about Bad Breeding is that, while you’re listening to them, they dissolve all notions of now and then and make you feel as though you’re hearing this noise for the first time.
They come from the council estates of Stevenage (a solitary grim tower block is featured on their SoundCloud), a commuter-belt new town on the fringes of London where, according to one of their four early tracks (they formed in December 2013), “nothing really happens, except nothingness itself”. The four members have part-time jobs “eking out a meagre living” in construction and spend their evening-hours squashed together in a small room coming up with their crushed collision of bass, guitar and drums. They have kept a low profile to date because they want to avoid adding to “the viral litter and meretricious trends that develop online, which only go to showcase the kind of cultural zero we’ve reached as a society”. Another of their tracks, Burn This Flag, was played on Radio 1, but really they’re more concerned with creating a sense of community wherever they go.
Other concerns include what they see as the Tories’ systematic attempt to divide the classes, as well as “widening wealth gaps, the deconstruction of communities, the apathy of the growing, marginalised majority”, UKIP’s “sickening and abhorrent destruction of originally, genuine questions about immigration” and “non-domiciled billionaires who are meant to be creating a supposed ‘trickle-down effect’ but are merely lining the pockets of the 1%”. They are caught, they say, between weariness and proactivity. Oh, and they’re not too keen on Royal Blood, who they supported on tour in Europe. “One of the things we rally against,” explains frontman Chris Dodd, “is chauvinism.” Musical chauvinism, does he mean? “Show-off music. Music that is too sexual and chauvinistic.” Demeaning to women? “Have a listen to their lyrics and see.”
Bad Breeding’s lyrics are hard to make out, which is fine because they’re buried beneath one of the most impressive walls of noise we’ve heard in a while. Age of Nothing opens with an ominous squall, before the drums, then the guitar and bass, kick in. The results are not unlike Motörhead’s Ace of Spades, only with a social consciousness. BB sound more dour than the Class of ’76, less posturing, more cerebral, somehow, which is a strange thing to say about music whose words are virtually impossible to make out beyond the odd stray phrase (“Hate to say I told you so”). Certainly they are far removed from the Oi! bands that followed ignominiously in the punk bands’ wake.
Maybe because of their ideals and the importance they put on charity and community, they remind us more of “positive anarchists” such as Crass and Flux of Pink Indians (Dodd’s father used to run a hostel “for people with mental health issues and drug addiction – we didn’t have much, financially, but we always had that sense of duty of care for people”). Burn This Flag is noise, but well-organised noise, Dodd’s voice commanding, demanding of attention and answers. Chains is punk without frills, just a howl of interrogative noise. BB are of the few interesting “punk”/”rock” bands to have emerged in the lifetime of this column, which has generally been more interested in developments in electronic music, rap, and so on. And they’ve done it by being entirely unelectronic. Let’s hope they carry on this way – their three recorded tracks to date are a year old. The great thing about the best punk bands was the way they evolved into other areas so quickly – the Clash into dub and rockabilly, the Pistols into PiL – but strangely we would argue not for BB’s progression but regression: if anything, we’d love to hear them becoming even more stripped-down and raw, elemental and unadorned, basic and primitive. Their version of Two People in a Room by Wire is a good way forward: airless, brutally simple and efficient monochrome noise, intense and compacted.
“We want to empower people,” says Dodd. “We want people to come to a show and feel that you don’t have to float meaninglessly in the margins. You can get involved.” Should we be dismayed that the methods they’re using to express discontent at the political system bear comparison to sounds and strategies from 40 years ago? “We do what we can,” he says. “Being in a band gives us the chance to say something. It’s an opportunity for more people to hear it than if I was shouting from my bedroom window.”