When Frank Carter announced his departure from Gallows a couple of years back, I was enraged. The iconic hardcore punk band had soundtracked my life from the day they released Orchestra of Wolves to the day I watched them with Frank for the last time, and no-one could dispute that while the band as a whole were an incredible force, a landmark even, for the underground music scene of the UK, Frank was a big part of that. His stage-presence suitably obnoxious, his lyrics blunt and to the point, and his take-no-shit attitude towards people who pissed him off made the band what they were. That’s right, what they were. However, as I am now sat listening to an ‘exclusive’ stream of Anthems – the debut album from Carter’s new outfit, Pure Love – I can’t decide what is worse: Gallows without Frank Carter, or Frank Carter without Gallows. Unfortunately, “Pure Love suck” goes a very short way towards a legit record review, so I will be forced to go into the details of just why they do suck.
The record opens with ‘She (Makes The Devil Run Through Me)‘, and if I am honest, it’s a difficult opener to refuse to enjoy. The riffs are in full force, and Carter’s unique singing voice – something which to my knowledge first arose via a guest vocals spot on ‘Hospital Corners’ by Welsh outfit, Bastions – has an element of rugged yet suave charm to it. You know what, this is not a bad start, I think to myself. And for that, I hate myself.
Alas, once I had ventured past the first rousing ‘stadium anthem’, I began to realise just how banal the average ‘stadium anthem’ is. The previously released tracks, ‘Bury My Bones’, ‘Beach Of Diamonds’, and ‘Handsome Devil’s Club’, are by no means bad. I would listen to them if I had acquaintances around (not that anyone would willingly visit Bencraft). But that is the very issue with the record. It is the sort of music that you would suggest to people that you were not too familiar with in a hope that they would find you inoffensive, pleasant, normal. However, without wanting to sound like that guy, I am neither inoffensive, pleasant or normal. In fact I would consciously refuse to listen to this garbage lest someone mistake me for any of those three things. ‘Stadium anthems’ they may be, but I imagine that that says more about ‘stadium anthems’ than it does about Pure Love…
My main qualms with Anthems though is the intense average-ness of the entire affair. Sure, the riffs will make you nod your head, and the solos will make you want to grow your hair and rip holes in your jeans. But above all, listening to it made me want to listen to AC/DC. For their generation, Angus Young and Co. were arguably at the cutting edge of ‘alternative’ music, and had Pure Love been conceived in the ’80s by four dudes in a basement wanting to rock out, as opposed to in 2011 by two self-proclaimed disillusioned punk dudes, I might have been convinced. But Frank Carter has gone from scathing vitriol against date rapists, abusers, muggers, thieves, politicians and child abusers in Gallows to half-hearted lyrics about a “beach of diamonds” (what?) in Pure Love. Do not let them fool you, they are not AC/DC. If you want air-guitar, and cringe lyrics a la “We are the young and unimpressed / We are the Handsome Devil’s Club”, listen to Back In Black, not Anthems.
In fairness to Carter though, the track ‘Bury My Bones’ does address this enormous discrepancy between what he was doing then and what he is doing now, where he sings the words, “I’m so sick of singing about hate / it’s never gonna make a change.” And in fairness, maybe that was what got to him about Gallows and their relatively serious subject matter; playing in front of a bunch of sweaty kids in basements or even proper venues doesn’t stop any of it, so why not let it go? And after all, who am I to tell an extremely cool guy with some incredible records to his name what I think he should be doing? I can’t pretend that I’m in a position to do so. But what I can tell you is that Anthems, unfortunately, is not one of those incredible records. It’s definitely no Orchestra of Wolves, but then again, Pure Love are definitely no Gallows.
All things considered, my advice would be to give Anthems a chance and listen to it. But while you do, bear in mind the powerful stuff that Carter has created before; if Pure Love had come first, my teenage years would have sucked a lot more than they did already.