Accelerator - Reaction (Tarbeach Records)
Blimey. You wait years for a great new British punk band to appear, then two arrive at once. Hot on the heels of the scorching Heavy Drapes debut EP, New York’s Tarbeach Records drops another essential release by a Scottish punk band.
Reaction first formed in Airdrie, Lanarkshire at the tail-end of the original UK punk explosion and embarked on a chaotic career trajectory that embraced drunken gigs, mayhem and (for at least one band member), some serious scrapes with the law. The only thing Reaction didn’t do was record any songs.
Having reformed for a benefit gig with long-time band associate Joe Whyte joining on guitar, the line-up finally stabilised with the addition of ice-cool bassist Scot Van Den Akker. Pugnacious singer Carson and drummer Bryson remain from the original late 70s/early 80s incarnation, both eschewing their first names when on rock and roll duties. What started out as a one-off reunion has snowballed into something else entirely, as the new line-up quickly gelled, the songwriting flowed and the group started winning over audiences with their no-holds-barred live performances.
A debut single, “Faster”, gave a taste of Reaction’s high-tempo punk/garage onslaught, but ‘Accelerator’ raises the bar massively. Opener “Dead Boy Race”’ sets the tone: jackhammer beats from Bryson driving a ghoulish tale of a joyrider’s demise that delights in off-kilter gallows humour, yet is drawn from grim reality, as Carson's yell of "What a waste of young life" makes clear. https://www.reverbnation.com/reaction77/songs
Reaction rock hard, but they also rock weird. “Accelerator” sounds like a breakneck-paced punk thrill ride through small-town surrealism, drunken boredom curdling into sick kicks, all in the pursuit of something- anything- to bring some fleeting respite from the crushing monotony of seeing the same bars, the same faces, the same shitty nightclubs every weekend.
The album is front-loaded with barrelling punk salvos with the feel of early Black Flag, The Ramones and The Damned. “(I Wanna Be Your) Dee Dee Ramone’”mines the New York band’s surf-punk pop classicism with aplomb, and “Weekend Offender” is another early highlight, an autobiographical tale drawn from Carson's earlier years with irresistible singalong hooks. As the album progresses, LA punk in the vein of The Gun Club and The Weirdos emerges as another influence, on tracks like the Chicano-punk flavoured “Puta Madre”.
It’s a bracing first half, but the real treasure is buried mid-point in the album, as Reaction dig deep into their more rootsy influences, garage-psych and country-rock marbling the killer three song sequence of the brooding “F.U.B.A.R.”, “Crystal Radio”’’s hallucinogenic cow-punk, and the Stooges-tinged “Johnny Weismuller's Blues”.
Joe Whyte's intelligent and creative guitar-playing adds subtlety and variety to the sonic assault, while Bryson maintains the ferocious pace and looming bassist Van Den Akker displays his fondness for Mike Watt's skilful bass-lines as much as Dee Dee Ramone's pummelling attack.
Frontman Carson's vocal style is highly distinctive, reminiscent at times of Joe Strummer and John Lydon, spiked with the quirky edginess of David Thomas of Pere Ubu/Rocket From the Tombs. Over the course of the album’s fourteen tracks, the ebullient singer displays a wide and effective range of vocal tics and tricks.
“Accelerator” benefits greatly from the sublime and sympathetic production skills of Johnny Smillie, one of the Glasgow music scene’s unheralded heroes. The album finishes strongly with the Ron Asheton-influenced wah-wah firestorms of "No Man's Land" and the rocket fuel punk-pop of Fireball XL5, capped with a very effective dub remix of the latter track by The Warped Plan.
It may have taken them 35 years to finally get their act together, but Reaction have captured all the fun and fury of the original punk explosion on this riotous debut- crack open some beers, play it loud and try not to get arrested.
Tags: punk, scottish, accelerator, reaction, tarbeach records