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Subhumans: Anger As Unity

30 September 2020

Subhumans remain one of the few groups to consistently maintain their convictions for over 40 years. Singer Dick Lucas continues to craft timeless lyrical content abhorring oppressive policies only seeking to divide, while the group expanded its songwriting to ultimately confront these crucial times globally impacting communities. Crisis Point, their aptly titled 2019 record eerily signaled a culmination of unrest but nobody could predict the global COVID19 pandemic and the responses that followed.

“For all the dumbed-down nature of the digital age’s achievements, being able to communicate ideas so globally has created a situation where all and every perceived or actual wrong in the world is being brought to the attention of anyone who gives a shit, for free. Ignorance is now a reason, not an excuse. It is a quandary though, as to whether this information overflow nullifies the specifics and impresses a sense of hopelessness in the face of so much imbalance or acts as a major injection of hope and determination, with the news that we are not alone in our mental turmoil,” stated Lucas.

Hailing from the UK, Subhumans emerged amidst the perfect storm. As the first wave of Punk was wrongfully dead and buried by the media in ’79, Subhumans became part of its second wind of groups espousing uncompromising DIY ethics supported with more musical aggression. Lucas penned direct lyrics with anarchist convictions yet his depth revealed a lyricist unlike his peers. Lucas reflected on the burgeoning ‘second wave’ of the early ‘80s UK Punk community.

“A lot of first wave bands toned down their speed and popped up their music (and hair) to be more chart-appealing, like Generation X, Stranglers, and Boomtown Rats and disarmed from their original anger by the lures of contractual fame and money. Roughly speaking, groups highly inspired by punk from 1976-79 who saw the rise and fall of their favorite bands and learnt the lessons. With the music press having written punk off as a dead horse, the idea of mainstream ‘success’ was a thing of the past.”

He added, “If you wanted to keep any integrity intact, and keep control of your creativity away from the men in suits, the example first set by bands such as ATV and continued by Crass, DIY self-management was the way to go.”

Subhumans released records under their Bluurg imprint and booked and participated in many underground shows. As Subhumans carried on the genre and expanded it, the press quickly lumped the new artists under convenient monikers.

“The second wave was compartmentalized by the press, to no one’s gain into ‘Crass Bands’ and ‘Oi Bands’, which omitted 60% of punk bands in the early ‘80s. Any resentment at the ‘cop-outs’ of the first wave was subconsciously influential on the way newer bands operated, no doubt,” reflected Lucas.

As the UK continued to struggle with crumbling infrastructure, cultural division and rampant unemployment perhaps one can draw parallels from the group’s early days to the current uncertainty plaguing world economies, as civil unrest demanding equality has now reached a fever pitch. The UK Punk scene in the late ‘70s and ‘80s certainly took notice of the rising neo-fascist organizations such as National Front and English Defense League and the current U.S. political climate has revealed some regressive and hostile responses from its citizens that cannot be ignored.

“It does seem that people will be attracted to nationalism in times of national depression, as it provides a visible scapegoat, that being anyone who isn’t in the white majority, and therefore (often wrongly) deemed ‘not British’. Racism disguises itself as patriotism when it enters politics and racists can then avoid the term as they stock up on flags. There was never any chance of the NF getting real political power nor the British National Party that followed in the late ‘90s, but they made a lot of noise and attracted a lot of fascists, nationalists, and patriots(there’s a fine line) spouting the most extreme, right-wing tribalism the UK had heard since World War II and the Nazis,” reflected Lucas.

Asked to draw any parallels from the divisive, nationalist propaganda of yesteryear and the current events continuing to divide communities today, Lucas did not shield his disdain for political officials and the responses to the global pandemic. Additionally, Lucas took the collective, political strategies of the UK and the U.S. to task.

“The UK has become even more of a small mirror version of the USA. We have shared levels of political turmoil. Two of the most incompetent, destructive and psychologically flawed leaders in modern history have fueled the insidious rise of the extreme right wing in both politics and social media, Facebook especially. In these very disturbed times, people have looked to leaders for guidance and support both practical and emotional, and have been fed denial, obfuscation, lies and platitudes.”

The shuttering of U.S. businesses, misinformation surrounding COVID19, school closings, and increased clashes between police and citizens has created more division while sadly giving rise to intolerance and ultimately, violence. Protests across the U.S. for equality have not been greeted with as much solidarity as organizers hoped but instead, inadvertently galvanized conservative officials and community leaders to fervently resist and discredit calls for accountability in the wake of deaths resulting from excessive police force.

“In the face of futures postponed or cancelled, the underbelly of civilization shows itself in increased violence and racism while caution, politeness and caring are disregarded without a thought by those who feel freed to do so by the examples set by their leaders. The killing of George Floyd would sadly have been just another statistic in a country riddled with racist armed police but in this fragile and angry atmosphere, it was the final straw in the never silent but rarely mainstreamed fight for black lives to be given as much respect and consideration as white ones. Anger that invokes unity is in a moral war against anger that would keep us divided,” stated Lucas.

The natural question that may arise is what do we collectively do with our anger? For groups and artists that are political in nature, almost none escape without being frequently questioned if their intentions are sincere and how they support their lyrical themes. For Lucas and Subhumans, it’s fair to say they will continue to grapple with this line of questioning as Lucas’ brazen, in-depth lyrics continue to address challenges while supporters and critics quickly label them anarcho-punk. Is it possible that supporters demand too much from artists?

“That anarchist label is slightly misleading if it implies the assumption that the band are full-on activists and/or deeply involved in the revolution, so to speak. With us, that isn’t the case. While all band members are politically aware (it’s hard not to be) it is mostly my personal outlook on politics and social issues that supplies the lyrics and hence, the label. And while we have all marched and done benefit gigs our day-to-day activism, compared to bands like Crass or Conflict, is fairly minimal. So it goes,” said Lucas.

In response to the idea that supporters may demand too much from artists in regard to offering solutions to challenges, Lucas stated

“People shouldn’t demand solutions from bands who question and point out the problems we all face, as we are all as freaked out and angered as anyone else. The obvious solutions are there; stop supporting capitalism, be kind to people, and so on, but as these solutions often edge towards telling folks what to do and no one likes that! Perhaps the best solution of all is to up the levels of awareness and communication.”

Despite taking political systems in general to task, as they continue demonstrating inherent corruption, Lucas stated there are some individual candidates that he recognizes as positive.

“Candidates like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn get my support, as we don’t live in a vacuum and the alternatives were a million times worse on all levels, as we are now seeing.”

For Lucas and Subhumans, they continue their career on their terms and with the support of Pirates Press Records, the group has even stronger footing in the U.S. The group is still challenged with releasing records in a more timely manner but Lucas attributes this to their drummer, Trotsky residing in Germany.

“Making Crisis Point was unusual as most of the songs were invented only weeks before recording and they were still in their raw state. The songs were largely politically charged up by the increasing amount of chaos that came with Trump and the inception of such things as ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative truths’- the usual targets in a sense, but it all felt more immediate. The dark sides of life were all getting normalized, and all the dystopian nightmares were now becoming daily headline,” said Lucas.

One could argue that technology’s evolution could offer more opportunity for individuals and families to build upon their education, and perhaps alleviate ‘the dark sides of life’ but Lucas dismissed this due to ongoing economic disparities, stating such economic gaps were by design.

“The wealthy pull all the strings to ensure the rest of us stay poorer. Nepotism, racism and sexism dominate the job application success stories and the majority of bosses are white and male. The manufacturing industry has been destroyed, which means stable employment has been replaced with minimum wage insecurity, as the bosses award themselves millions in bonuses. State education has suffered from financial cuts while the rich send their shiny offspring to private schools, who then churn out a bunch of selfish, privileged jelly heads with superiority complexes, who then end up running the country,” exclaimed Lucas.

So where do we collectively go from here? If the ‘ruling classes’ have created a media juggernaut to espouse messages detailing class wars reinforced by economic disparities and limited access to equal, educational opportunity than the Subhumans have the ability to respond by sharing their timeless message with insightful records such as Crisis Point.

“Keeping up with politics is necessary, albeit dull/frustrating/maddening mainly because that’s where almost all ‘the bad’ and ‘the wrong’ emanate from. They’d love it if no one paid attention to detail! Up to your current fuckwit of a president, I despaired of the rise of online petitions, as good as that is, seeing it as replacing the physical mass demonstrations that were so much more prevalent in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Trump and his fascistic ego has sparked a near continual string of mass protest in the streets of every U.S. city, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite the viral lock down, when things get this low, the only way is up,” concluded Lucas.