Punk rock from the U.K. and punk rock from the East Bay—who knew they made such strange bedfellows? Pure Drivel, Kicker’s third album, goes to show that the Atlantic Ocean is but a small pond to jump when it comes to sneering punk rock.
Consisting of current and former members of Neurosis, Dystopia, and Operation Ivy, and fronted by Pete the Roadie, renowned road dog and U.K. transplant, Kicker is a band with international pedigree carrying the attitudinal torch of punk rock invented by Crass in the 70s that continued through the 80s hardcore scene on labels such as Dischord and SST.
Over the course of its eleven tracks, which clock in at just 26 minutes, Pure Drivel is pure surly disposition, thick with heavily distorted guitar and lively basswork. Pete the Roadie’s presence as a front man is commanding if not polished, as he barks out lyrics much like a drunk shouting down fellow patrons at a smoky English pub.
While his voice is heavy in personality, it doesn’t carry much in the way of range. There remains just enough cheekiness behind his cussing and hollering, however, to keep the listener invested, at least for the majority of Pure Drivel’s run time.
The album begins with “Intro,” an instrumental reminiscent of 80s hardcore in line with Agent Orange or the Adolescents, complete with surfy lead guitar and energetic bass. It is a strong start and sounds unlike anything that follows it on Pure Drivel.
This is followed by “Mrs. Arnold,” a song about an axe murderer. Pete the Roadie’s holler kicks into high gear, lobbing f-bombs with abandon as he spits out the song’s surprisingly brutal lyrics. New drummer Dave Mello, formerly of Operation Ivy, plays this song with an off-kilter, swinging beat, instilling the song with a different, less driving vibe than most drummers of the genre would opt to play. The switch-up in beat does much to keep “Mrs. Arnold” fresh.
Other highlights of the album include “Oxycontin and Vodka Pills” featuring a killer guitar riff and the catchiest chorus of the album. “Wanker on the Bus” is about . . . well, a wanker on the bus. It is one of the more amusing songs on the album and features Pete the Roadie at his most cantankerous. It also affords him an opportunity to say “fuck” many, many more times. “Down in the Bunker” is Kicker at their most straightforward, sounding something like the Ramones if Steve Ignorant were the lead singer.
Not all of the songs are successful, however. While I might not exactly call “Shit Song” a shit song, it is rather repetitive and not clever enough to merit many re-listens. Album closer “Goodnight and Fuck Off” is a bizarre send-off, sounding like a weird soft rock song with goofy keyboards and Pete the Roadie attempting to actually sing, all while still cursing like a belligerent sailor. Initially funny, the song goes on a bit long and is a bit of an unusual choice for the closing of a punk rock album.
It is unclear exactly how seriously Kicker take themselves. Behind the gruff facade, I believe there is a pretty strong sense of humor, and taken in that spirit, Pure Drivel has its good moments and its enjoyable songs. But for those looking for their old-school, hardcore punk rock on the more incendiary side, Kicker might be more of a light snack than a meal to be revisited very often. That said, I can only imagine Pete the Roadie getting his hands on this review, raising his middle finger to the heavens, and telling me to fuck off from afar. And I accept that.