Punk thrives in a vacuum. The earliest acts had nothing but a love for great rock'n'roll, a few chords and the desire to wreak musical havoc. To this day few bands can compare to the class of '77. Some of the best post-hardcore sprung up from Midwestern towns that were previously unknown for having top-shelf punk scenes. Despite some world-class bands from California and New York City, both regions have produced enough pure, unadulterated crap to cover Rhode Island with a two-inch steaming glaze.
It shouldn't be too much of a surprise, then, that there's some pretty classy punk outfits turning up in London clubs. No, punk hasn't been extinct in the Empire, nor will it ever probably ever really be, but in a year the British punk world doesn't release as many albums as Southern California pours out in a matter of weeks. Things couldn't be better for punk fans with a fetish for a transatlantic accent.
Ikara Colt's Chat and Business proves that punk works best when it works alone. While there's no doubt that the four Brits in the band have nothing but the spite for the mainstream music world that fueled everyone from The Sex Pistols to Rancid, there's no need for the band to jump anyone else's train on this record, or buy into a thriving scene. It's got its own sound, and, frankly, it's ready to rain holy terror down on the clouds of 100th-generation Bad Relgion wannabes, UK82 thugs, anachronistic hardcore acts and every other flavor of band that's tried to become punk simply by imitating its ancestors. The past is dead, Chat and Business screams, so let it rot. Punk's still living -- and not just on some sort of traditionalist, preservationist ventilator, either -- and ready to rock you.
No offense to American punks (a few of whom really do rock the roof off), but Ikara Colt's got fangs, venom and a striking speed that make this record much more deadly than 95 percent of Yankee three-chord rock. While the act blasts with the same scratchy migraine guitars as bands like The Hives, it's a long, long way from the garage. Between the nagging guitar work that calls to mind The Clash and Fugazi, without sounding much like either ("Bishop's Son" and "Here We Go Again") and howled male/female vocals that sounds exactly like that of X's John Doe and Exene Cervenka -- had they recorded while being tortuously stretched on the rack -- with desperate passion ("May B 1 Day"), it's hard not to give Ikara Colt your attention.
Then again, Chat and Business is anything but a relaxed record. The best punk albums -- The Clash, Minor Threat's Discography, The Birthday Party's Prayers on Fire -- aren't exactly user friendly. They take a bit of warming up to for listeners to really get into them. While Ikara Colt is a few grades shy of deserving comparisons to such acts, this album is certainly the first step down a road that will land the band top-rate status.
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