Since punk rock got started and really began to develop some momentum many years ago, there has been no shortage of upstarts who have come along certain that those who came before them didn’t know jack and threw out the existing rule book which was governing the genre in order to start fresh. That fact may be inconvenient, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The original scenes in New York and London started to dissolve/spread too thin, Cleveland and Los Angeles got some fire lit under them before hardcore torched everything – and then punks from Minnesota and Toronto started breaking through et cetera. Really, that doesn’t even really qualify as a superficial summary of the story; tiny factions manifested all over the world with a unique sound and set the world on fire for a minute before getting doused out – but they don’t exactly vanish completely. No, there are always traces of the bands and survivors of the scourge which sometimes rebuild an outfit and start making noise not for the notice, but simply for the love of it. Both Kicker and their new album, (ironically entitled) Rendered Obsolete, stand as perfect examples of that.
Fronted by Pete The Roadie with a line-up filled out by members of Neurosis, Dystopia and Filth, Kicker has always tried to spill some glammy, London-y essence on their sordid street punk sound and that sticky-sweet stink is undeniable from the second “You Can’t Take Me Anywhere” falls forth to open the record. What listeners get is exactly what they expect in the best imaginable way, right away; Pete garbles and drools out his lyrics (which are cut and dry in a ‘John Lydon circa ’78’ sort of way) with a gloriously sleazy, cockney accent and guitarist Mauz rolls out a line which sounds like a Steve Jones-inspired designer impostor piece, while the band’s rhythm section does more or less exactly what listeners would expect of a duo inspired by Paul Cook and Glen Matlock: a simple, sludgy performance which is needs first and nothing else. It’s a dirty, scruffy hard not to like for those reasons – some would say it’s just like mother used to make.
…And, after “You Can’t Take Me Anywhere” sets the template, Kicker never deviates from it for the next twenty minutes – about ten per side. Each track along the way brims with piss (largely due to a spectacular amount of alcohol consumption, presumably), vinegar and a big, fat, bad fucking attitude. That feels pretty great to hear, but it gets better as one comes to realize that each song is happily trampling on most of the recent fads punk has gone through (over-production, hardcore crotch-grabbing, California melodic meddling and so on) and just relies on good old fashioned frustration and some “fuck You” sneering to get itself over. Tracks like “Shit At Kicker” and the title track on the A-side and “You Suck” and “Timeless Cliches” on the B- all focus on just being crusty and that’s all it takes to get listeners singing along; it’s not brilliant, it’s bellicose – and that’s all it takes.
And after “Plastic Button” crashes through to close the album? All listeners will be able to feel is a strange form of bliss; the ride through both sides is long enough to really sell listeners, but there are no throwaway songs or phoned-in nonsense so those who go front-to-back with it will just be leaving energized and ready to start a fight. Whether that qualifies as some form of accessibility is unclear, but those who make the trip won’t care. Rendered Obsolete will have sold them on Kicker; a bunch of old cunts with nothing better to do than take the piss out of punk. That idea is most definitely not obsolete.