Trying to convey just how important Discharge were, and continue to be, to anyone who grew up in the punk scene in the nineteen eighties is an almost impossible endeavour. Discharge, more than any other band, wrote the rulebook and laid down the blueprints, in terms of sound, attitude and ideology, for what would become the UK Hardcore scene. The late seventies and early eighties, for the majority of people in good old Blighty were a grim and ghastly time as mass unemployment, the constant threat of nuclear Armageddon and an increasingly would-be authoritarian government intent on cutting social services, the welfare state, the NHS, the power of the Unions and all manner of other “bothersome” things that people had come to depend on in a modern, supposedly forward thinking democracy took their toll and pushed the country to breaking point. Much like the ridiculously stupid, suicidal, xenophobic, blinkered, vacuous and unforgiving monster Brexit is doing at the moment. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Discharge were a product of their time, voicing their rage and frustration at how badly the system had let down the people it was supposed to help while propping up and rewarding the rich, through their furious, seemingly barely in control, anger driven punk rock that upped the ante and turned the punk-o-meter up to eleven. You could hear their barely suppressed contempt for the society that they felt betrayed by in every word that Cal barked over their songs that were driven by Bones frantic and heavily distorted buzzsaw riffs. They were the antithesis of everything that the mainstream was trying to enforce by hook or by crook and for every disenchanted, disenfranchised youngster who felt the same as they did, they became a clarion call, a howl in the bleak wilderness that that served as a constant reminder to the lost and lonely generation that they weren’t alone and that they didn’t have to roll over, beg and give up their individuality because some corporate shill in Westminster said so.
1980 – 85 collects everything, each and every tune that you’ll need, from Discharge’s golden era, cutting off just before they embarked on their incredibly ill-advised foray into the world of metal; a period that the band and fans alike would rather forget*. While everything on 1980-85 has been, and still is, freely available everywhere records are sold, having it compiled in one, easy to access boxset makes life a little easier but also feels like it’s indulging middle-aged laziness , something that Discharge would no doubt rail against if they weren’t part of the whole middle aged punk scene that it’s catering to. A case could be made for this boxset being merely a nostalgic indulgence for the bands aging fanbase, but in this fraught and dangerous political and social age, I’d argue that Discharge are as relevant today as they were when they first emerged from Stoke-On-Trent. And given the failure of any modern band to capture the Hardcore zeitgeist in quite the same way that Discharge did, that makes this boxset mandatory for punks, young and old alike, everywhere. Unless, of course, you’ve still got all of your original Discharge vinyl, then it’s irrelevant and really is the sort of previously mentioned misty eyed indulgence that punks of a certain age (myself included) are happy to buy into . But if you do have to buy into something, 1980 – 85 is pretty good place to start. After all, the world needs Discharge more than ever, because in this crazy age we constantly need to be reminded to keep fighting against the “messed up, fucked up, fucking system”…. Tim Cundle
*Hit YouTube and search for Grave New World. It’s the bands darkest hour and a proper “Oh dearie me, what on Earth were they thinking” moment that’s best avoided at any cost.