The Membranes - If You Enter The Arena You've Got To Be Prepared To Deal With The Lions [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Membranes

If You Enter The Arena You've Got To Be Prepared To Deal With The Lions [7-inch] (2012)

Louder Than War Records

I was fortunate to grow up in Newport, Wales a rather grubby city that was frequently referred to as the "New Seattle" due to the number of bands that came from the area. One of the main reasons that Newport gained such a worldwide musical reputation was due to the number of touring bands, from far and wide, that promoters Cheap Sweaty Fun managed to convince to play one of the many dark and dingy (but equally wonderful) venues within the city. The Membranes became a bit of a regular fixture in Newport, especially renowned for the raucous Christmas gigs they headlined. I got to see this band many times and despite enjoying the live show immensely, I never really got into the recorded output, which I found to be a bit too unstructured and random.

Therefore, this new release (the first in 22 years), a three-track 7" that is linked to Record Store Day, was greeted with some trepidation as there was every chance that I would once again fail to absorb and appreciate what John Robb (who went on to form Goldblade, become an author and also end up being the go to "punk rock expert" for all televisual documentaries) and his merry band would attempt to batter me senseless with.

However, time has helped both me and the Membranes in that my ears are now more able to take in the kind of discordant racket that many of the post-punk bands produced and that the Membranes excelled at, but also in that I get the impression the band has mellowed somewhat. Mind you "mellow" is perhaps not the right word to apply here, as this release features a rampant riff-filled punk-blues sound that is anything but sedate.

"If You Enter The Arena You Got To Be Prepared To Deal With The Lions" (or "Lions" as I'll refer to it as) opens with a choppy, edgy riff underscoring a preacher-like diatribe that descends into more rounded out track which refuses to follow a particular path, as it veers off into a number of directions. This randomness does create a powerful and noisy song that makes my ears prick up.

The AA track, "B.O.O.T.S.," is again built around some big riffs and Robb's vocals have a demented garage/blues quality to them that provides quite a warm feel to the song.

The triple A track is "Everything's Brilliant" and here the Membranes employ more melody than is evident in the first two songs combined. It's economical in its content but that does not detract from it being the highlight of the release and the one that sticks out to me.

This represents a strong comeback from a band that had quite a cult following a few decades ago. Whether this is purely a one-off or if there are plans to record more new material I feel that the time is nigh for me to seek out the Membranes back catalogue, and re-assess my misguided youthful dismissal of this band.