Boxset review: Discharge 1980-85 (Cherry Red/CaptainOi!)

Discharge 1980-85 (Cherry Red/CaptainOi!)
Discharge 1980-85 (Cherry Red/CaptainOi!)

I remember hearing Discharge for the first time as an impressionable teenage punk, and being absolutely blown away by the sheer power of their sound.

I saw them live last month, and little has changed.

The current incarnation of Discharge in action at North East Calling last month in Newcastle.

The current incarnation of Discharge in action at North East Calling last month in Newcastle.

With little by way of melody – no, actually, make that nothing - just a brutal full-on assault, they’re an acquired taste, that’s for sure.

But with the exception of the Sex Pistols, few punk groups can have influenced so many others. Their distinctive drumming even helped create its own sub-genre, D-beat.

For the uninitiated, Discharge picked up the heavy metal noise created by the likes of Motorhead, played it even faster, and turned all the dials way past 11.

The list of bands who have covered their songs is impressive: Metallica, Sepultura and Machine Head are just a few of those who have covered their songs, and their influence has been felt across the whole punk/metal crossover scene.

Bass player Rainy is one of three original members who still play in Discharge today.

Bass player Rainy is one of three original members who still play in Discharge today.

Formed in 1977 in Stoke-on-Trent, they didn’t release their first record, Realities Of War, until 1980; but what a record.

That debut release, and all the tracks from their next two singles, the scuzzy classic Fight Back and the frantic Decontrol, make up the 12 bonus cuts on disc one of this set, which for some reason starts non-chronologically with the 1981 mini-album Why.

In an age when nuclear war seemed a real threat, Discharge (like fellow anarchists Crass) were overtly political, with many of their lyrics addressing the failings of ‘the system’ and the possibility of Armageddon. Powerful stuff, and these early recordings packed a real punch.

The second disc contains 1982 debut LP Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, which reached No.40 in the UK National Charts as well as No.2 in the then-important Indie Chart.

Its production shows a real step up in the band’s still-relentless sound, and songs like Protest And Survive, Drunk With Power and A Hell On Earth still sound stunning today.

Five tracks from the singles Never Again (an Indie Chart No.3) and State Violence/State Control (No.4) have been added as bonus tracks, and the album still checks in at just over 38 minutes for 19 songs.

Disc 3 is 1985’s Never Again album, a compilation which includes the singles The Price Of Silence and The More I See, as well as remixed versions of 10 of Discharge’s best known tracks, such as The Nightmare Continues and the utterly magnificent State Violence/State Control.

The final disc is a 16-track live recording from 1983 which captures the band at the height of their success. Not originally released until 1990, it shows that they were more than capable of producing their sonic assault on stage, as well as in the studio.

Still featuring three original members, Discharge are going strong to this day, and are regulars at punk festivals around the world (they played at North East Calling in Newcastle just last month – reviewed here). This set will remind you why they’re still in such demand. 8/10.