all bad all the timeAll Bad All The Time – Mad Brother Ward and The Abrasives (Ruined Records)

You have to feel sorry for Punk Rock. Nobody can work out when it was born, so you can’t celebrate its birthday. It’s obviously of advanced age, so it seems a bit woolly around the edges. Everybody claioms to know what it is, yet nobody can agree on a definition.

You’ll know that Mad Brother Ward is Punk Rock as soon as the stylus hits the groove on “All Bad All The Time” and that opening sustained guitar note plunges into Downstroke Heaven. There’s no mistaking the anger in Mad Brother Ward’s delivery, either, as he launches into lyrics about self-loathing and this fucked up world. 

Anger is an energy and this North Carolina punk has plenty of both. Dunno a lot about his history outside of hjim playing guitar with Antiseen, American punk’s most determinedly anti-fashion scumbags, and he seems to be active on his local scene somewhat sporadically.

(Like most places, the demand in Charlotte, NC, for scummy punk rockers with an attitude problem is probably outstripped by the appeitite for safe cover bands playing class rock or staying home and streaming to a TV, so you can understand the occasional bout of career hibernation.)

While not a stranger to his music, it was a search for a Mad Brother Ward biography that led down a rabbit-hole. Why “MRR” (it’s supposed to swtand for “Maximum Rock and Roll”) gave this record a dissing like something the oh-so-ironic-and-cool-but-clueless dickheads at “Pitchfork” would have dished out is a total fucking mystery. I won’t dignify it with a link. 

So here’s the skinny: “All Bad All The Time” is old school punk rock to its combat boots (laced or otherwise). Mad Brother Ward (let’s call him MBW) has a gravelly yet rich drawl - like surpressed vomit on the way back up - that suits the songs to a tee, and he sings the shit out of every word like he means it.

Guitarist Brad Fury lives up to his name with only the occasional lead break. The  engine room of John Marlow on drums and Tim Killough are up to the job of keeping a streetcar called hate on the tracks. Jack Endino (yeah, him) mastered the record in Seattle after it was recorded and mixed locally by Jimmy Tutterow. It sounds great.

Opener “Let It Burn” sets the scene by going for the throat.  Second track “Why Am I Such a Freak” doesn't let go. It might be rhetorical but if lyrics like “I can’t do anything right/Gonna Kill Myself Tonight” were taken literally then “All Bad All The Time” would have been a posthumous single.  

“Everything Is Going To Hell” is a song about being up against a wall to be read your rights written by someone who sounds like he’s heard them a few times. “Ain’t All There” is the pick of the bunch for mine, a rise and fall melody and lyrics that are self-deprecating 

The going can get a little samey but with no track topping three minutes (only “Why Am I Such a Freak” goes close at 2.50) there isn’t much chance to be bored. The stinging call-and-response kiss off “Never Wanna See Your Face Again” breaks things up by adding a dash of colour, and of course its shade is “angry red” crossed with “white hot”. 

“The dirge-y Days Like These” is the obligatory pause for air with some nice Brad Fury chording, but this is otherwise a pedal-to-the-metal trip. 

There’s a lyric sheet with the LP and at first glance you might think the record is divided into misanthropic and marginally more optimistic sides. Give it a few plays and you realise, no, MBW hates the world and it hates him back.

Give the record some love on Bandcamp.