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Fawn Spots: From Safer Place

I do love me a bit of punk rock, and more and more in recent years I have especially come to love the righteous fury and brute force of the hardcore scene – bands like Fucked Up and Pissed Jeans and others less swearily-named. But I find myself lately becoming decidedly less enamoured with one particular aspect common amongst many hardcore punk bands: the screaming vocalists. Now maybe I’ve just burnt myself out on too much of it (lord knows I’ve been hammering the new Sick Feeling, Gay Kiss and Halshug albums), but at the moment the idea of hearing yet another grown man yelling himself hoarse like a tantruming toddler is something of a turn-off. Praise be, then, to York trio Fawn Spots, whose debut album From Safer Place not only recalls the sublime savagery of hardcore forefathers like Black Flag, Rites Of Spring and Mission Of Burma but also introduces in the shape of Jonathan Meager a singer with a voice so listenable and yet so powerful, so authoritative, so commanding that it’s actually giving me a bit of a boner. Seriously though, dude’s got this gruff but stark thing going on like Ian Curtis channeling his inner Springsteen, a skinny white boy whose spirit animal just happens to be a big brown bear; a bedsit poet with something worthwhile to say, some of which (unusual for the genre, this) is actually intelligible. There’s no vomiting up marbles here, and if perhaps things do get a little squawky when fellow guitarist Oliver Grabowski contributes backing yelps, it’s fair to say that enough of the album feels like the kind of fairground ride where you’re hurled around at high nosebleed-inducing speed that some small degree of hysteria is understandable. No, this is just first-class punk, of the variety that makes you want to throw yourself against the nearest human body or brick wall rather than bloody your knuckles on it; a perfectly paced and proportioned bundle of old school simplicity and full-blooded future-rock. From Safer Place is a master-class in what hardcore should be: a stronger, sleeker, faster version of the original mohawk-sporting, held-together-with-safety-pins punk sound, drawing too from the sharper angles of those bands’ post-punk and new wave counterparts. There’s a thin veil of doom and gloom hanging over songs like “I’m Not A Man I Never Will Be” and “Black Water” that comes as no real surprise given the fact these guys grew up in the North of England (and profess in interviews a love of Joy Division and Factory Records), but rather than wallowing it takes its cues from the groups from the other side of the Atlantic that ended up beating the Brits at their own game – Fugazi, Husker Du, At The Drive-In – and packs tightly-wound highlights like “Basque Knife” and the title track full of whiplash momentum and almost-pop melodies. Hardcore is and always has been a very American sound, and as such From Safer Place may sound about as English as “The Star-Spangled Banner” but Fawn Spots have made that rarest of things – a great British hardcore record; in fact, they’ve made one of the best rock albums – full stop – to come out of the UK in a long, long time.
From Safer Place is out now on Critical Heights; listen to “New Sense” below.

About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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