Bob Vylan always jump in two feet first; never ones to sugar-coat their words, the punk duo have a track-record of releasing venom-injected reality checks. Their debut EP ‘We Live Here’ saw the punks dive beyond the British façade of ‘Greatness’, their intimate accounts of day-to-day racism, class conflict and oppression cutting, honest and vital. Their new album manages to go a step further - rather than focusing on introspective reflection, the scope is wider, reflecting on Britain as a whole. This album explores food prices, the education system, law enforcement - huge issues tackled with brutal honesty and a sharp, morbid wit. Every track slowly rips apart the union jack, making you question just what there is to be patriotic about.
The true mastery of this album lies in the lyrics. Bob Vylan have penned absolute punk-poetry, not a single word wasted. Tracks like charged ‘Wicked and Bad’ and the ferocious 'GDP' jump between issues with each line, every dose of reality building and building as the song progresses. The duo’s lyrical approach is like a patchwork of brutality, brash soundscapes weaving elements together with ease, Bobby Vylan’s flow absolutely impeccable.
Perhaps the most exhilarating moments on this record are where Bob Vylan outright provoke those who might stand against them. ‘Big Man’s raucous calls of “Where are you going? Where are you going?” and ‘Bait The Bear’s dark, hilarious depiction of fornication with Bitch Britannia on the waves to “fuck the borders” are some of the greatest moments on the album. There’s a true sense of power that Bob Vylan hold on track - dominating those who dare to question how enraged they are. And, even as they are baiting patriots, there’s a sense of humour bubbling just beneath the surface - the notion that they’re going to ‘pull aside [the] panties’ of the Britannia makes you howl, and knowing just how mad it might make some people makes you laugh even louder.
Outside of the more exaggerated, sarcastic lyricisms, the social critique on offer throughout ‘Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life’ is no laughing matter. The idea of the “£2 chicken and chips” is repeatedly addressed, particularly on the track ‘Health is Wealth’. The convenience of unhealthy, cheap food is seemingly designed to kill those who buy into it - to oppress those who turn to it when they're overworked, or see it as all they can afford. The track shows what punk music has the ability to do - speak up on issues that often go under the radar, but are equally as important. And, of course, the push for making healthy options more accessible is topped off with a classic sprinkling of Bob Vylan sharpness - if the poorer folks get healthier and fitter, “a pig can’t kill what a pig can’t catch”.
Bob Vylan’s cutting approach is addressed on the track ‘Pretty Songs’, and the track truly speaks for itself. It’s easy to be palatable, to sound sweet and digestible - but Bob Vylan want to turn people’s stomachs. As 'Turn Off The Radio' also notes, they're not the squeaky-clean, weak-willed 'two white boys [on the] New Punk playlist' - if you’re offended by their very existence and what they stand for, you’re the kind of person they want to bait, the person that they definitely do not want to serenade with some dulcet tones. Interlude ‘CENSORED’ is perhaps the most important, telling track on the release, despite being only 35 seconds long. A weighted punch of slam-poetry, ‘CENSORED’ says it all - showing how much people have tried to silence the band throughout their career, some in the music industry even calling their debut EP ‘too extreme’. The track highlights the vitality of giving the middle finger to censorship, as it restricts the voices that need to be heard the most.
‘Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life’ is a post-mortem of ‘Great’ Britain. It’s exactly what punk should be, tearing apart the disillusionment of the masses and forcing you to acknowledge just how broken society is. Speaking up on issues that desperately need addressing, Bob Vylan are the mouthpiece of those often silenced by the industry. The duo have created something extraordinary here - something that definitely needs to be heard.
Words: Emily Swingle
- - -
- - -