Reviews

Physique, The Evolution of Combat (Distort Reality, 2019)

To me, it all starts with the Buzzcocks. Putting out your own records, brutal punk snark, d-beat—it all starts with their release in 1977 of Spiral Scratch. It opened the door to so much possibility for all of us—the veil around releasing records had been torn away. Anyone could do it and suddenly we didn’t need record companies dictating the documentation of our culture. Suddenly, the doors were kicked down and all the niche and bizarre takes could be recorded and shared with the world. The power was ours—for better or worse! 

Here we sit, 42 years later with Olympia drill press to the head hardcore punx Physique and their latest release The Evolution of Combat and I can’t help but be fascinated how we went from the simple, punching beat that provided the backbone to the Buzzcocks’ “You Tear Me Up” to the noisier than a motorway sounds of these modern raw-punk heroes.

Discharge gets all the credit for the D-beat but the impetus for this cacophony of eardrum destruction goes back to a few folx in Manchester singing about boredom, burgeoning sexuality and a sense of wistful misery. 

So let’s talk Physique—a mind-melting whirlwind of disorienting, distort-o-rama hardcore that initially comes off more like a blender being played by a jackhammer than anything musical on first listen. They represent a current perfection of the evolution of a winding pathway through punk rock history that starts with the aforementioned Buzzcocks, winds it way through England to pick up notes of Discharge, Disorder, and Chaos UK, to then jump over to Japan where the form is further mutated by Gai, Confuse, and Swankys and finally landing in Portland where we see Atrocious Madness pick up the mantle and continue the march forward. 

This is not for everyone, obviously. Shrill guitars and rapid fire drumming backing vocals that sound like they come from deep in the darkest corners of Broadmoor dripping with a primordial ooze of hopelessness probably isn’t going to appeal to the average hardcore fan concerned with stage dives and high fives. But it might—while the initial listen of this comes off like a swirling mess of noise not music a couple tumbles down this rabbit hole finds layers of hook-laden breakdowns and pummeling speedy hardcore becoming more apparent.

To be honest, the second song on the album (“Combat”) comes off more like a reverb and static-soaked Youth of Today than pure Disclose worship and I fucking love it. 

Photo: Michael D. Thorn

All in all, The Evolution of Combat is a perfect more honed follow up to last year’s Punk Life is Shit—while it lacks a bit of the burliness evident in the prior release, it replaces it with a glass shattering short sharp shock attack that represents a fierce and primal auditory backlash against the ills of the world and one that’s well worth your time.

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