The fact that half the title of Utilitarian’s new release is appropriated from CRASS (all property is theft) gives you an idea of the political slant and moral compass of this lot from Sheffield . The band name is shared with a punch to the throat album by much beloved noiseniks Napalm Death and a cover of Instinct of Survival is featured within the albums 14 tracks. Talking of covers, how about Woody Guthrie’s “All you fascist (Bound to lose)“? This is a track that was brought to a lot of people’s attention by Billy Bragg who kept the folk stylings intact. Utilitarian however, have updated the fascist killing arsenal from acoustic guitars to rampant angry, mask covered, spittle spraying, beatdown pummelling UKHC call to arms. Lovely.
That’s the covers out the way now to the band and the originals. If you purchase the album on Bandcamp you will receive a PDF which contains a lot of interesting info. First off the manifesto of the band.
“Use extreme music as a force for good Make our shows welcoming and inclusive spaces Value our community over our profits Respect the planet.” This is followed by lyrics presented over collage of related images – it’s a little bit basic sixth form ezine but I suppose that is 21st century photocopy zine style and it is easy on the eyes. Then onto some of their beliefs and philosophies and info for those planning direct action at demonstrations. All written succinctly and easily understood. I must say, as an old git who has read through many Anarcho zines and album inserts over the decades this is the most easily accessible and most inclusive I have seen. The band are not afraid of the dreaded “doxing” as there are individual profiles of each of the bandmembers complete with suggested reading and personal thanks. It’s like a Class War version of the old sections in Smash Hits back in the day with Mark and Hunter S Thompson instead of Grange Hill and Adrian Mole.
If you buy the cassette tape it is made from recycled plastic and any booklets sent out from the merch section of their page is printed using veggie ink on recycled paper. I can feel Daily Express readers and Proud Boys convulsing with rage! Ha. Good.
So, I have discussed the ethos and aesthetic now onto the reason I am reviewing- the music.
Utilitarian are a three piece without a drummer – the drums appear to be programmed and if you have a problem with that (as the bass player in my band does) then this may not be for you. Shame though coz Utilitarian have the chops and attitude musically to back up their beliefs. All the spunk and energy of CRASS and Subhumans with the full-frontal attack of Discharge. Add in some big hardcore riffs and metallic chugs that offer a transatlantic mix of Noo Yawk and late 80’s Britcore. Jon Crowder’s vocals are unique and may divide. On the opening track “Unaccountable” he sounds like a gruff cockney – little bit Angelic Upstarts with a thrash edge. As the album continues, he picks up a squawk making every track sound like he is forcing the last bit of air out of his lungs in the desperation to get his message out. I am reminded of John Connelly from Nuclear Assault. Once I am attuned to his style I started loving it. The passion is evident and each song whether it be about jingoism, landlords suffocating the young, the madness of modern war or the rise of the right is crystal clear in message. Jon Addams on bass and Andy Wears on guitar take no prisoners with the accompanying cacophony. Each track is angry, passionate and rabble rousing but with a sense of hope. The fact that things could be better, that rebellion doesn’t just have to be wearing a t shirt or putting studs on a cut off but is about making a conscious decision to do things differently, to improve things for everyone in society. Talking of t-shirts the band are currently selling one where all profits go to the Big Issue Foundation as sellers are off the streets due to the Covid-19 lockdown. This isn’t Michael Buble crooning into a camera or Gal Gadot torturing us with a Lennon cliché.
The album is paced well, a mix of blasting chaos like “Wall of Debt” and looming slabs of hardcore like “Riot Act” and “Power” plus a modern take on crossover on tracks like “Marching to Your Grave”, this is no one trick pony.
Put your rebel yell to use and get on board with these guys. They seem to have big hearts in the right place.
(8.5/10 Matt Mason)