Saturday, 23 March 2013

Hungarian Punk - I can't get enough

Regular listeners to my Dandelion Radio show will be aware that, for the last year or so, I've rarely been able to get through a three hour programme without playing something new from the vibrant Hungarian punk scene.

For some reason Hungary - and in particular Budapest - seems to have generated a whole slew of great bands who are combining the best of that original punk spirit with something a bit different and idiosyncratic and it's making for an explosion of hard-edged guitar music with qualities quite unlike those from anywhere else in the world.

There may be a reason for all this, but there's no point me speculating because I don't know what it is.  All I know is I keep finding punk bands, discovering they're from that part of the world and, in about three-quarters of cases (which is a tremendously high proportion), realising that they sound quite unlike any other band I've heard.  Which is saying a lot, because the vast majority of punk I find elsewhere tends to be uninspired, unoriginal and formulaic.  Why is Hungary different?

Maybe it's something to do with elements from an eastern European country that were prevented from flourishing fully at the time of western punk's flowering coming to the surface and fusing with an alien spirit to produce something new and different; maybe, as with Japan a couple of decades or so ago, the bands themselves have an unabashed raw love for what they do that's untainted by the cynicism you often find among British or American practitioners of what is, after all, a pretty well-mined seam of music; or maybe there's something about Hungary, something deeply immersed in its rebellious socio-economic spirit that came to life so dramatically in the fifties and which now resonate through the music of so many remarkable bands.

Whatever it is, its most consistently brilliant recent practitioners are probably Opus Null, although it's a close thing. The brash brilliance of their Alkotmanyos Anarchia album thrilled me even more than any other Hungarian album last year and their follow-up split release with Szijj Ferenc continued to showcase this remarkable band in all their unrefined, ragged glory.

But before I'd even discovered Opus Null, I was thrilling to the sounds of Amstatten Bedroom Punk, a band whose style has a more experimental and slightly darker edge, as displayed on their unpronouncably brilliant vxcfsxa EP which was followed up last summer by the even more experimental (with free jazz bonus track) Epische Krankheit release.   After this the varied Hungarian punk gems seemed to swarm in from everywhere - the existential sub-Joy Division mood pieces of A PART, for example, whose Tavol mini-album reached our grateful ears in September last year, or the murky thrash of Wormkids whose fascinating and sinister Inzen album remains, as far as I'm aware, their sole creative outpouring.

And it hasn't just been about Budapest.   Check out the excellent Youth Violence, from Savarra, whose anti-establishment diatribes come hard and fast in the speed-rush that is their self-titled EP, or Veszprem's P.F.A., whose Pigheart album from last year has recently been followed up with the, to these ears, strangely named Less Talk, More Oi album, which has firmly embedded itself into my heart as one of the best albums released this year and placed that band, for the moment, even above the venerable Opus Null in my affections.

It doesn't stop there.  Check out the surf-punk of Summer Schatzies or the off-kilter delights of R. Vomisa Caasi; and in my Dandelion Radio show this month, you can hear a demo from the full-on Back Off!! while coming up in April I'll be playing a demo from Mudpie, something from the self-titled Diskobra album and of course a track from the P.F.A. release mentioned above.


The great thing about all this is that I know there are still bound to be many more gems as yet undiscovered.   I look forward to showcasing as many of them as possible in forthcoming shows but, until then, check out the links in this article - almost all of them are available as free download - and get yourself acquainted with the most productive and fascinating punk scene for many decades. 

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