Trash Talk

There’s a lot to be said in defence of musical proficiency, tightness and complexity around the hardcore scene nowadays, especially given its frequent dalliances with metal in all of its pristine, precise forms. This show tonight is NOT about celebrating dizzying guitar runs or championing finesse. This is a latter-day throwback to the agitated, bloody-nosed spirit of hardcore as popularised by the marginalised, reactionary likes of Black Flag and SS Decontrol.

Cerebral Ballzy

This is as far away from the likes of Unearth’s (to pick a band at random) contemporary spin on melodic death metal as it is from Gregorian chanting. Instead, it brings to mind classic HC tropes such as Bad Brains playing music at least 10% faster than their comfort zones or Black Flag finishing shows in a tangle of sweat, guitar leads and blood – no suburban white boys practising their Slayer-inspired leads on expensive guitars here!

Cerebral Ballzy

With just a mere 7″ to their name, Cerebral Ballzy took to the stage and it was immediately apparent that their recordings would most probably be the optimum way to get an indication of their sound, as they stumbled onstage in a state noticeably the wrong side of ‘arseholed’.

Cerebral Ballzy

Having heard their name bandied around for seemingly ages I was taken aback to discover their relatively minimal recorded output, which could have attributed to the lack of action down the front. But a lack of pit didn’t sway the band from delivering a punchy and aggressive set that compensated for what it lacked in tightness with humour and energy.

Cerebral Ballzy

With vocalist Honor smashed out of his face, lurching atop the PA stack whilst rolling himself up in the decorative awnings, it leant the affair the slight element of danger so lacking in many of todays homogenised, contemporary hardcore acts. Their sound is a ramshackle blend of heads down, see-you-at-the-end sprint a la Millions of Dead Cops and Suicidal Tendencies skate anthems – upturned baseball caps and all – a sound unashamedly eighties without aiming for the lowest-common-denominator nostalgia dollar.

Cerebral Ballzy

In fact, if you were to catch CB live without a cursory background knowledge of the mid-eighties punk and hardcore I’d imagine they could be quite a hard sell, such is their lack of contemporary production values or catchy hooks. But Cerebral Ballzy aren’t interested in following the trend. They have crawled from out of the gutters of NYHC, flicking boogers at the likes of Animal Collective and scrawling obscene graffiti on Black Dice’s tour bus (metaphorically of course, although such ideas wouldn’t entirely be out of the realms of possibility!) and are a refreshing (beer)breath of fresh air in todays scene. Hopefully the growing buzz around these guys will result in a swift return back to these shores, as no band I’ve seen in the last few years has successfully evoked the spirit of 1982 HC as well as these guys.

Trash Talk

And so to Trash Talk, again riding in on a wave of bristling hype and ‘have-you-seen-that’ controversy. Having read numerous reports of their chaotic shows on both the printed page and under the glow of the interweb, one constant was always made clear – that these guys never fail to GO THE FUCK OFF – so when this gig came up for review, I simply had to be there to witness it for myself.

Trash Talk

In the cold light of day, the half-full crowd and the ubiquitous crowd barrier seemed to pose a particular problem for such rampaging japery, although under the dimmed house lights what was once a potential obstacle was now seen as yet another piece of the bands venue-sized adventure playground. With three of the Sacramento quartet taking to the stage to rip out the Melvins-on-downers riff to ‘Hash Wednesday’, it definitely gave the impression of the calm before the shitstorm; and with bassist Spencer Pollard taking centre stage and front vocal duties it built up the tension for the appearance of livewire frontman Lee Spielman. Once he appeared from the wings like a crusty, booze-riddled Bert McCracken and the band kicked into their signature blend of raging hardcore punk and ragtag thrash, it was blatantly obvious that – to quote Schwarzenegger from Commando – ‘all fucking hell is going to break loose’.

Trash Talk

And break loose it most certainly did, with the condensed but ridiculously up-for-it crowd doing their damndest to ensure the night was a memorable one, with windmilling arms spinning past our faces and multiple pile-ons occuring every time Lee came into the crowd. Its worth pointing out that such divides as ‘band’ and ‘crowd’ were rendered into dust within five minutes, with the lunatic frontman singing from beneath a pile of bodies at my feet before perching atop the merch table with the die-hards converging at his feet, screaming along with the lyrics.

Trash Talk

It was also comical to watch ‘junkies snapper Gobinder trailing this carnage across all four corners of the room with camera in tow, although all I could foresee happening was the expensive-looking gear smashed across the floor amongst the crumpled pint glasses and whichever audience member was flat on his arse at the time.

Trash Talk

With such a gleefully anti-muso stance, the riffs aren’t fancy, in fact you could probably play the whole set in one-finger barre chords but to judge Trash Talk in terms of musicianship is wholly unfair. As with Cerebral Ballzy, riffs are honed with one intention in mind – maximum impact – and not a single pointless note could be found throughout the set.

Trash Talk

This is the sound of hardcore, honed and distilled to its purest form, informed by the kineticism of crust and the fuck you spirit of first wave UK punk rock; a no-frills bag of riffs played with careening abandon, aimed to activate the dancefloor and to cause as much carnage as humanly possible. Whilst there were no incidents akin to their last Birmingham show at the Flapper – “last time we were here we knocked out the DJ”, Lee boasted at one point – at the end of the show there was a silence, that disquieting murmur you hear only occasionally. The sound of people swiftly coming to terms with what could very well have been one of the gigs of the year. Pretenders – back to the drawing board. This, my friends – THIS – is fucking hardcore.

Gig Review by Duncan Watkins
Live Gig Photography by Gobinder Jhitta

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