Fun Fun Fun Fest Live Shot: Subhumans
UK vets span punk mortality in 16 minutes
By Tim Stegall, 9:42AM, Sun. Nov. 10, 2013
Kevin Curtin was excited about the Subhumans. Apparently, it was cool that the British anarcho-punk vets were playing the entirety of their second LP, 1983’s From the Cradle to the Grave. According to the Chronicle’s Music news columnist, this was a sign of real musical development, right down to the 16-minute-long title track.
This conversation was the moment I realized I ought to take the task of reviewing Subhumans a lot more seriously than making a bunch of jokes regarding their having stolen the name from a superior, more rock & roll-driven outfit from Vancouver.
There is, after all, something interesting about the Subhumans, who've been around for 30-plus-years. Guitarist Bruce – no Subhuman has a surname, save for vocalist Dick Lucas – has an inventive way around a Stratocaster, involving much usage of delay effects and shrieking animal noises. Lucas complements this with an angry bawl that he uses to great effect, complete with British prole accent.
Honestly, though, Subhumans keep my attention best when they keep their electric shocks short and sharp. One- and two-minute outbursts get it done – get in, get out. “Forget” and “Reality Is Waiting for a Bus” were especially effective.
The 16-minute-long “From the Cradle to the Grave” was an ambitious undertaking live, mixing thrash, reggae, straight-up 1977 pogo punk, waltz-time reflection, and several other styles across its various movements. It might’ve been better as separate songs, but the Subhumans range demonstrated lots of life.
For more Fun Fun Fun Fest coverage, see www.austinchronicle.com/fun-fun-fun-fest. For photo galleries from the fest, see austinchronicle.com/photos.