Review written by Bryan "Jonesy" Jones
Australia isn't really known for its punk, but it should be. Today, The Chats single “I’m On Smoko" is very popular, and Amyl and the Sniffers have recently made appearances on late-night talk shows. There's Brody Dalle, who tore through punk venues with The Distillers in the early 2000s and The Living End had some memorable tunes in the '90s opening for Green Day.
Still, Australian punk seems like a secret just about to be discovered by larger audiences. Occasionally, Australia throws out a ska punk band, like The Porkers, but most Australian punk is delivered with blistering, lighting-quick bolts and Civic continues this trend. Two guitars, drums, and a shouting singer with just the right amount of distortion on his vocals. Loud. Fast. And cool. They’ve been around a while, but just beyond the periphery of most rock listeners. Even many punk enthusiasts may not recognize the name. But their latest album, Taken By Force, not only places them among the best of Australian punk acts but among the best punk has to offer in general.
Lots of comparisons have been made between Civic and classic punk bands. A lot of other writers make the comparison to Cleveland’s The Dead Boys. I see that and raise you an Iggy and the Stooges. It might sound like an oversell to namedrop Iggy, but I really believe The Stooges are the best band to compare to Civic. And, Iggy even put out a great album just last month, an album that stands toe-to-toe with the rest of his catalog! Like, why even listen to Civic's Taken by Force when Every Loser just came out in January, right?
It would seem like any band would instantly turn to dust in the presence of Iggy Pop, but I promise you the comparison is apt. Civic delivers hooks and licks with all the frenzy associated with Iggy's sound. Lead guitarist, Lewis Hodgson, sticks to classic, pentatonic scales while strangling his Mustang nearly to death on several solos, and singer, Jim McCullough, delivers his vocals with an energy and intensity that matches Iggy's early work with The Stooges. The touch of distortion added to his voice is the chef's kiss. That rhythm section must have superhuman abilities that allow them to read each other's minds.
Where Iggy explores moody spoken word interspersed with tracks that explode with evocative and expressive punk energy Every Loser, Civic opts to blast it all out in jam-packed tracks that seldom drop tempo. Civic is not a "Modern Day Ripoff!" Civil is the real deal!!
There are 10 excellent neo-proto-punk tracks on this album, which is book-ended with mood-setting sounds. The album begins with blaring sirens and ends with pounding waves. And in between, you get tracks like "End of the Line", "Taken By Force", and "Fly Song" which set the mood for an all-night bender.
The band hits their stride with "Trick of the Light," where the mood hits just a little different, before picking back up with "Born in the Heat" - a track that comes close to Buzzcocks melodies, but it gets there by way of something reminiscent of Gang Of Four. We get a lot of Iggy influences from here on, as the party sets its pace for the rest of the night.
By the time the album finishes its final third, you are exhausted, left behind, clinging to consciousness on the beach as the sun rises. Your last sight is a blurry image of the band hitting the waves -- never seeming to lose an ounce of energy.
If Taken by Force is your first Civic album, its 36 minutes might leave you wanting more. Fortunately, their catalog includes another full-length album, an EP, and several singles with B-sides, all of which are available on Bandcamp. Check out Future Forecast and New Vietnam.
If you've been with Civic for a while now, you might miss some of the more experimental stuff found on offerings like Future Forecast. There's no brass section on these tracks, for example, but this new album delivers full-bodied, stripped-down punk that doesn't let up, so there's a lot to get excited about with this effort.
Civic fans are positioned in that sweet spot, just as a wave of Neo-Proto Punk crests and there's still time for new fans to paddle out and catch Civic.
Review written by Bryan "Jonesy" Jones