‘Painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy’.(1) – Picasso. The same can be said of all art.
Schnews used to have a strap line that read something like ‘If you’re not pissed off you’ve not been paying attention’. Eagle Spits has been paying attention.
Eagle is probably not his birth name but it does seem to suit a character who 40 years after his initial involvement in punk is still going strong- still angry, hopeful, humorous, militating for change. He started writing poetry when he was fourteen and while some of the subject matter may have changed over time the themes have stayed pretty constant because the problems in a hyper capitalist, racist, militaristic, patriarchal society remain pretty constant.
Seeing The Stranglers on TOTP performing ‘No More Heroes’ was Eagle’s introduction to punk but he didn’t settle for a punk culture of fast music and studded leather jackets, he hung round with The Clash at a gig in Peterborough, got Feeding of the 5000 by Crass discovered anarchism, met the ‘Agitator from Nazareth’, and decided that changing the world was a much better option than giving up on it. And that went for punk as well as he wrote in 2014 “…’Yes’ I am a punk if punk is an attitude but ‘No’ if it’s someone who just consumes generic, unchallenging crap.. I’m still naive enough to want to change the world and despite it’s problems believe the punk scene can be a major part of that” (2).
Eagle quotes one of his heroes Joe Strummer as saying “I thought we were a fucking punk band. I thought that meant we could play what we wanted!” (2) Eagle has followed the same path, a book of poetry Slap Bang In The Middle of a Contradiction, The Poor Geezers, Spitune, Eaglespitshexx have given expression to spoken word, industrial noise, collaborative cacophonies. But he hasn’t just made lots of noise he also runs ‘Punk 4 The Homeless’ putting on gigs each month, raising money to take kids off the streets of South America and into the safety of orphanages away from the hands and feet of local cops.
But all Eagle’s hyperactivity, all his thrashing around is with a purpose, with an aim; He wants you to WAKE UP! In the Old Testament there were prophets who railed against the injustice and inequality of their time. Often ignored and misunderstood these figures challenged the powerful, spoke up for the weak, and were occasionally confrontational. On the album Empires Fall Eagle also manages to achieve all three! The album consists of 52 tracks of political, social and spiritual comment; a commentary on the contemporary world. You won’t agree with it all, at times you’ll be annoyed but you are likely to come away from this album with a more accurate understanding of the UK in the early 21st Century. This isn’t the Guardian telling you what it has heard, via a third party, life is like for the JAMs and the not at all managing this is the voice of someone who is well acquainted with life at the bottom of the pile. This isn’t pretty, it isn’t slick, it’s dark, you’ll find it uncomfortable but it does have an authenticity, immediacy and integrity you just might find arresting.
Much of Empires Fall is readings from Slap Bang In The Middle of a Contradiction with about another twenty rants/poems/tracks. Of these later pieces ‘One Million Houses’ (mix), ‘NHS’ (read by Rachel Joy), ‘Glimmer’ and ‘4George’ (with Asa Thomas), ‘Faceless Killers’(mix) and the humorous ‘Musteloid Menace In Our Midst’ particularly stand out.
Intense and with a sense of slightly fractured continuity even in its form this album manages to mirror the lived experience of many and if you think punk can include a DIY diversity of expression that militates for progressive change, if you think punk is at its best when it’s informed, pissed off but hopeful, then you might want to give Empires Fall a go.
Empires Fall is jointly released and distributed by Thumper Punk Records and Raven Faith Records and should be released summer 2017.
Cover by John Dean.