Saturday 18 April 2020

Foreign Legion: Always Working Class ALBUM REVIEW

Rocking through the years - Welsh Punk band, Foreign Legion have been around now for decades and are a much respected part of the independent music scene - the band have been raising musical hell since 1984 and have remained fiercely independent ever since - not for them the interference of a major label....They have their own vision and they stick to it. That's something that deserves  respect.

The band have an impressive back-list  and now their fifth album, Always Working Class has just had a welcome release on old school vinyl. I've owned this album for several years on CD but was eager to get the vinyl edition because well, any audiophile knows vinyl is just so much better.

Bored during this lockdown then visit   LAKETOWN RECORDS

Foreign Legion were formed in 1984 out of the ashes of several other punk projects, and are very much a product of both their environment and times. Hailing from Merthyr in the South Wales Valleys the young band were there; witnesses to the industrial culls of the 80's - the miners' strike of 1984 obviously colours their world view and it's a view that this writer very much agrees with. I come from the Rhondda Valleys which is now part of the same unitary boundaries as Merthyr and like the band's valleys my own has been forgotten and ignored by politicians. Those same politicians who took all of the wealth out of the valleys - these days the valleys are run down but the people remain strong, defiant and angry...And always working class.

We are the legion
and we don't care
combat boots and spikey hair
we are the legion
and the die has been cast
we are the legion
built to last

The lyrics are typically political and angry...boy, are they angry. But then how could not be? Foreign Legion are the real deal - there's no false posturing here. They mean every word they say, and they are all the better for it.

The set opens with the anthem, We are the Legion and it's a suitable call to arms. Power chords intertwine with a driving percussion while lead vocalist, Marcus Howells delivers the bands mission of intent with gusto.

This is then followed by by Dogooders and a few minutes of bile thrown at liberals who seem to always make excuses for all manner of ills. You must take responsibility for  your own actions is what the band seem to be saying here. Musically, it's a great track with an infectious beat that had this reviewer's feet tapping.

Next up is Nowhere Left to Hide, which for me is one of several stand outs on an album that is jammed packed with excellent tunes. The middle eight to this song is every bit as infectious as covid 19 and will bring down anyone who comes within range of the sonic exclusion zone. This song is truly brilliant and could stand proudly alongside the greats on any collection of punk/indie music.

Drugs for Mugs follows, a driving beat brings the bands message home. It's an anti-drug song that doesn't shy away from telling it like it is. There's nothing pretty about this track, but then neither is there anything endearing in the many many working class lives that have been ruined by substance abuse.

Oi, we've got a message for you all
It's at this point that the first side goes into overdrive with three incredible tracks that are among the best rock tracks every pressed to vinyl - Bare Faced Lies, Justice and Criminally Insane. Thematically the three songs almost work as a medley of anger and despair.

The CD version of the album featured a sample of a David Cameron speech to introduce the track, Bare Faced Lies and that's been removed from the vinyl version but the exclusion makes not a jot of difference because the anger explodes from the speakers - bare faced lies, bare faced lies, as the country dies - From there we go into Justice in which the band champion the cause of the working class and scream for justice. Scream at the top of their voices, it's a powerful scream that should strike fear in the heart of the political authorities - we are the working classes and we are legion.

Justice for the children
who ran away from home
justice for the war widow
who sits and cries alone.
Justice for the underdog
the likes of you and me
Justice, Justice - always working class.

fluid fingers on the fretboard
And the track Criminally Insane rounds out an effective and powerful first side. It's a powerhouse track with some amazing guitar work and lead vocals that hit the spot like a marksman. 

Foreign Legion have, over the years  gigged around the world, and have shared the stage with some legendary names - Stiff Little Fingers, The Ruts, GBH, Cockney Rejects. They are the only Welsh band to play the legendary CBGB in New York and have given storming shows at many festivals including the likes of Back On The Streets, Punk & Disorderly and the Rebellion Festival. They are also no strangers to the legendary 100 Club, and have torn up the venue many times.

Flip the vinyl and side two blasts into action with Nev's Birthday Bash, a feelgood track which seems to be about nothing else but having a good time - Saturday night, don't give a shite - and the song is owned by some truly stunning guitar riffs and incredible drum work holding it all together.

'We are asked every year to play nevs birthday bash Hunwick. Near working class Durham great people great crowd well looked after...' Lead vocalist, Marcus Howells

After that the band are politicking again with Fat Cats, and the song contains sentiments that we can all agree with. The old war veteran who sits in his flat, unable to afford food or heating; the old lady who forgets to lock her door and is visited by a mindless thug.

Rocking tunes, dude!
Know Where you are, the third track on the flip side is another effective track that looks back at the early days of the punk movement and name-checks several greats - not least of which are The Clash and this is followed by This is Our Music, which I love - it's a melodic, catchy tune with great lyrics that anyone who has followed this genre of music will identify with.

The album winds up with, Still No Punks in my Town which is a great album closer and gives the impression that the sequencing of tracks on this album was considered in great detail. Like the political powerhouse trio that winds up the first side, these three songs are thematically linked - almost wistful and sentimental, seeming to represent a longing for Punk's glory days. It seems odd to say given the genre of music but there's something poetically beautiful about these three introspective classics.

The vinyl though actually closes with a reggae infused bonus tune, Back on the Piss Again. And it's a great, groovy moment to bring down the mood on what has been a great set from a great band.

I can't recommend Foreign Legion highly enough, and in this modern world of downloads and streaming it is nice to see a band that remain true to themselves and their fans. They deserve support - so buy an album, go see the band at one of their gigs; they are one of the hardest working bands out there.

Their official Facebook page is HERE
Laketown records are HERE

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