Ed Wood – The Violent Years

Ed Wood - The Violent Years coverThe low-budget genre director Ed Wood is much-beloved of fans of so-bad-they’re-good films, particularly those involving cheap monsters and wonky flying saucers. The man was so widely recognised for his complete lack of filmmaking talent that he was posthumously awarded with a Golden Turkey Award for being the worst director ever. The only comparable artist I can really think of is Wesley Willis, whose dedication to writing the same terrible song over and over again was deeply admirable and, let’s face it, really fucking funny.

Did Ed Wood recognise how bad a director he was? I couldn’t say. What I can say is that whatever one thinks of his meagre talents, he left behind a legacy much richer and broader than a dozen directors who were merely competent. Human beings like to celebrate the bad. We enjoy the beautiful failures. We enjoy the ugliness that results.

So what better name for an aggressive, raw and determinedly D.I.Y. band than Ed Wood? I admit, it took me a little while to really think about why the band might have taken the name, but hasn’t punk rock always been about people doing what they want to do and to hell with the critics? Punk rock and hardcore have always had an emphatic fuck-you inherent in everything they do, and you can’t get a fuck-you more emphatic than a thirty-year career spent making terrible films in complete defiance of taste or competency.

So yeah, that’s enough about the band’s name and a deceased director, fun as the comparison might be. Ed Wood the band hail from Portsmouth and formed back in October 2010; they’ve just gotten done touring parts of the UK and released The Violent Years to coincide with said tour. They also toured back in 2011 and released a 7-track demo around that time. Two of the demo tracks reappear here in re-recorded form – ‘It’s Just a Ride’, retitled ‘Just a Ride’, and ‘Blood Money’ – while the other three tracks on The Violent Years are all new. The production is a considerable step up. I’m quite happy listening to shoddy recordings–downloading obscure crusty anarcho punk rock in the 90s will do that to you–but it’s preferable to hear recordings that reflect the energy and solidity of a live performance rather than sounding like they were recorded in one of the crypts of which Ed Wood the director was so fond.

The Violent Years is a compact affair, clocking in at eleven and a half minutes for five songs, but like all the best hardcore punk what it lacks in duration it makes up for in intensity. We open with ‘Dead Ends / Open Roads’, which opens with a pounding, driving rhythm before changing pace to something slower and chuggier with more of a 90s US NYHC groove. The occasional little lick of tremolo lead shivers through the song here and there as it winds to a finish. Then we’re into the eponymous ‘The Violent Years’, opening with an, uh, classic refrain: “I don’t like people / They make me sick”. Things once again start off speedy before slipping into a steady chug, though this time the opening chord progression has more of a hook to it and the steady chug feels pugnacious rather than brooding.

‘Curtain Call’ is structured a little differently, sandwiching an extended staccato-rhythm verse between two shorter, simpler chunks of hardcore. Over said verse the lines ”the whole world’s a stage / and i’m sorry your part’s been played” are repeated. The vocal delivery shifts slightly on each repetition which, deliberate or not, helps the lyrics stick in the mind – backed by that stop-start rhythm, of course.

‘Just a Ride’ and ’Blood Money’ close out the EP. They’re older songs, but in their new guise they feel fresher and slightly tweaked as well as considerably meatier. ‘Just a Ride’ is at its best when everything drops out but the bass and the song is gradually reconstructed for a bruising outro. ‘Blood Money’ is the longest track present at almost three and a half minutes long, and at times feels slightly meandering, but it’s still a solid and varied tune with plenty of floor-stomping, air-punching moments.

In terms of south coast UK hardcore, Ed Wood aren’t carving out any new territory like Bastions, The Long Haul or Let’s Talk Daggers, but at the same time it’s refreshing to hear something a bit more purist. That said I wouldn’t say no to a bit more experimentation; Norwich’s Jackals, for example, keep things generally straight but throw in occasional more dynamic moments, or there’s that brutal hardcore infused with pillaged rock & roll riffs from Toronto’s Burning Love. Still, with D.I.Y comes D.W.Y.W* and who the fuck am I to tell Ed Wood what to do?

All that aside in the 15 months or so that they’ve been active Ed Wood have played with bands like OFF!, Attack! Vipers!, The Plight, Crocus, Bastions, The Smoking Hearts, No Second Chance, Our Time Down Here, Ikari, Kasa and Rasputin. Between that live cachet, their ferociously D.I.Y. attitude and this solid second EP, I’m keen to see where Ed Wood head next.

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* Do What You Want, clearly.

Full disclosure: Damo (guitar) has been a friend for some years now, and at my band’s (Wrecktheplacefantastic) first show we shared a stage with Bunny, Damo’s old ear-brutalising outfit. WTPF will be playing Brighton in support of Ed Wood in a couple of weeks – Feb 26th at the Hope if you’re up for it.

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