England has a monumental amount of history associated with music, with considerable achievements, genres, and movements having a vast influence on music worldwide. England is known for bringing us many musical scenes that have reached various heights of popularity since the twentieth century. One groundbreaking scene to emerge during the seventies was the British Punk scene, a genre born out of the youth’s anger and frustration. Musically, Punk is characterized by its simplistic and fast approach to heavier rock music and its DIY aesthetic of recording. Still, as a movement, it was an outlet for the repressed youth at the time to express their feelings about society. Lyrically, Punk often expresses an anti-establishment attitude and advocacy for equal rights among the people, appealing to a more politically progressive audience. Punk continued to blow audiences’ minds in underground scenes years after its inception, with scenes emerging worldwide, and eventually, new styles of the abrasive genre would begin to form in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. One such genre to adopt the Punk attitude and aesthetic is the genre known today as Post-Punk.
As with any genre, there will be daunting bands and artists that attempt to make something new out of an established genre. Post-Punk is a subgenre that isn’t afraid to be just as abrasive and forward-thinking as original Punk but elevates the genre to new heights of bold experimentation. Post-Punk was born out of the U.K. during the late seventies and essentially diverged from Punk’s simplistic nature and experimented with more sounds and lyrical themes, forming more sophisticated style instrumentation and songwriting. Various bands that are considered to be Post-Punk pioneers have garnered mass acclaim and success throughout the world, a few notable ones being Joy Division, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, and The Smiths. The sound of Post-Punk isn’t specific to one style but utilizes other styles of music to lift the music off of the ground and make it overall more powerful. All of the mentioned bands from above have different sounds and song composition styles but share the same intensity and honesty in their delivery. The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths differs significantly from let’s say In the Flat Field by Bauhaus, with the latter being a lot heavier and raw than the former. Still, both records are reminiscent of the Punk energy that came before as both are incredibly abrasive in their own right, despite being very far apart from each other instrumentally, and that’s where the real beauty of Post-Punk is created. Not every band under the Post-Punk label was able to achieve others’ admiration in the genre though, one of those bands being called This Heat.
This Heat was formed in 1976 in Camberwell, London by Charles Bullen, Charles Hayward, and Gareth Williams. Before forming This Heat, all of the members were in different bands that dissolved fairly quickly, and Bullen and Hayward were able to bond over their similar music tastes and formed the band with visual artist Gareth Williams. The band wasn’t able to get much radio play throughout their short career but are now regarded as Post-Punk pioneers because of their unique songwriting and experimentation. This Heat only released two records, but their sophomore album titled Deceit, is a staple of 20th-century experimental music.
This hellish concept record takes a trip into humanity’s darkest and deepest anxieties, as it reflects the fear the band felt of an impending nuclear apocalypse. It’s almost fruitless to try and explain Deceit’s depths, as there are many ideas to be explored both lyrically and instrumentally, but that same idea is part of what gives it its charm. What Deceit does best is creating a dark and fearful tone that is tied together with the lyrics and instrumentation, making the record feel consistent and cohesive. Deceit features some of the most bizarre instrumentation I’ve ever heard, with a heavy emphasis on percussion which provides a jumbled tempo on most songs with jangly cymbals and a tight snare. The guitar and bass work on here is just as confusing, as it’s continuously shifting on all fronts, being just as messy as the drums. During this record, the vocals are just as spontaneous as the other instruments, as they can go from a low chant to a piercing scream in only a few seconds. Lyrically, this is a peculiar album that explores an impending nuclear apocalypse and its aftermath while also reflecting on humanity itself. The song “Paper Hats” dives into human ignorance, and when we’re confronted with things that we don’t (or are unable to) anticipate and starts off asking “What do we expect? Paper hats? Or maybe even roses? The sound of explosions?” The group leaves it up to the listener to try and answer these questions, making the listener think more clearly about what they really value. In “Makeshift Swahili,” the singer screeches out lyrics describing the loss of language in a supposed aftermath of an apocalypse, depicting humanity continuing to sink into chaos and despair. The track titled “Independence” is literally the opening lines to the American Declaration of Independence, where the entire band chants “We hold these truths to be self evident, That all men are created equal, That they are endowed by their creator with certain rights, That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I found that these lyrics described the irony of an older society before the apocalypse, where people were supposedly equal and could pursue anything they dreamed of, but when faced with death, the nature of mankind shifts entirely.
Overall, a simple review couldn’t do this record justice, as there are many layers to explore and many things to take away from it. I recommend just going and listening to the record, it’s really something that should just be experienced.