Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy, aka the Joyful Gadfly! Musician, podcaster, writer, historian ... here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album is unique in some way. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Skrewdriver ~ The Strong Survive


(No official website.)
Style: protest, hard rock, British
Label: Rock-O-Rama
Year: 1990
Home: England (disbanded/deceased)

Members: Ian Stuart ~ vocals/guitar
Stigger ~ guitar/keyboard
Jon Herson ~ bass
Jon Burnley ~ drums



This might just be one of the best albums by Skrewdriver, featuring cult frontman Ian Stuart. It's the same under-produced highly distorted non-melodic guitars against an undescript rhythm section that marks much of their output. The secret being Stuarts's distinct crunchy voice & biting social commentary. Skrewdriver started as a typical anti-social angry punk band before a change of membership, predominantly in guitarist Stigger, brought a more hard rock sound. While Stuart's obsession with the British Nationalist movement & later his becoming a father figure to the White Supremecist movement turned his lyrical content from just anti-social to racial, eventually leading to his untimely murder. It put Stuart & Skrewdriver into the British & international spotlight & gave them a distinctiveness they hadn't had & probably wouldn't have gotten otherwise, but it also shrunk their fanbase & isolated them in the music community, let alone any community. Skrewdriver would be an on/off affair, while Stuart formed many side groups, such as work with Stigger, Rough Justice & the Klansmen, that would experiment with metal, rockabilly & folk or cracked country as its come to be known. The lyrics, though, always the focus over musical development. The problem is that most people, if they know Stuart & company at all, only tend to know him for his racialist views, the term used by the community versus the more common racist, but much of his recording output actually is not racialist at all. His beliefs on race were just one part of his personality & one thing to protest. Yet, people think that's all he knows & sings about & hate him fiercly for it. It's no different than saying everything George Harrison sang was related to Hare Krishna, even if "This Song" & "When We Was Fab" & "Sue Me Sue You Blues" have nothing to do with spirituality, while Hinduism has often been seen as a backwards pagan religion. The difference is nobody hates Harrison but many hate Stuart, so it doesn't matter if what they say about him is based on what he actually did or what they think he did. It's a case of not separating the stereotype from reality. But, then, those people are never going to listen to anything Stuart has done, no matter what, & its their loss. But, considering we iconize rap musicians who kill others or superstars who act like embarressing jerks in public, but yet Stuart who did neither is ostracized & murdered for his beliefs. This is sad how fame works, because much of his output, particularly with Skrewdriver, & certainly with the one-off Rough Justice, was actually aimed at universal problems, particularly the big brother government & the more modest disillusions of failed friendships. On this album there's not a single racialist line, while his pointed & unabashed criticisms are as powerful as Dylan, Baez & Guthrie, if not far more direct. His lyrics should be floated out at every protest. This is the album to float out. This album doesn't necessarily have the most poetic lyrics, the one album with Rough Justice is my recommendation for that, but the album congeals in a way that Skrewdriver albums don't always do. Stuart doesn't necessarily get as explicit on who he is talking about on some albums, but hits big themes such as pride in one's ideas & even teachers. In "The Strong Survive" Stuart sings: "However they hit us/we'll be back again/the strong survive/look at us baby/we're still alive". Or, in "Shining Down": "Don't tell me nothing can be done/with that attitude/nothing will be won." As for education, in "Voice Of Evil" he sings: "Crime in the classroom ... some call it a teacher/they'll try to tell you that north is south/they're making up stories ... they never stopped trying/to make you feel bad." There's also a cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", which is a nice little inclusion & feels like it lyrically matches though I haven't considered if it really does or not & far better than his take of "Back In Black" on another album. "Backstabber" & "Warzone" are Stuart's take on bad personal relationships, thus rounding out the album with some personal notes.


4 comments:

  1. You can try to legitimise this guy and his band by turning a blind eye to some of the more "colourful" lyrical themes and views which they freely espoused, but you are unlikely to change anyones minds about Skrewdriver as a result.
    Because without these elements, their music, when judged on it's own merits, is piss-poor derivative 2nd division Oi, with little to distinguish their uninspired racket from most of their peers.
    The only reason they had any profile at all was because of their "controversial" views, which were half-baked reactionary rants at their best, and vile knuckle-dragging bile at their worst.
    Allow Skrewdriver to fade from memory please.
    Your writing's usually of a uniformly high standard, please don't waste it on bands who don't deserve to be remembered.
    -Rico Allotacokka

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  2. My 'uniformly high standard' of writing ... I'm glad you think that, but I consider this to not be reflective of my writing, a fact I've never been shy to share, but thanks just the same for the compliment. Please, check out my books to see what I do www.lulu.com/aronmatyas

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  3. I don't agree with his message & not advocating it or endorsing it ... but having lived in 4 countries & in a city that has a larger Jewish population than Jerusalem I know what he sees. I aim to understand him. As people we should aim for understanding, not condemnation, though that's certainly not the majority rule.

    I've posted videos on youtube by Jewish pianist Irving Fields who I work with & have been ripped for supporting Jews, all of the responses coming from Europe. Yet, I live in NYC where Hassidics walk around on 90 degree days in long black jackets & all Hassidic men dress the same. They don't help tear down prejudices my acting in a way many would consider crazy & anti-individual. Yet, I've also worked for a wonderful Hassidic woman from Israel (our office was full of Jewish stuff & folks thought I was Jewish too). In another job was fired for a making a sale to a drag queen as I didn’t know my boss was a Klansman. I've been around the block. Most people talk about understanding but actually don't do it. I try. "Man Of Understanding" also happens to be the religious mantra I chant daily.

    I talk about Stuart not to make him great but to learn about understanding & share that learning with others.

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  4. 1. Turning a blind eye to what? Yes, some of Stuart's albums are racist plus but, this one isn’t. This is one of his more political than racist albums. I’m not turning a blind eye to anything, I’m just not making things up about an album to match a pre-conceived idea based on his reputation. I don't discuss his racist views as much as I believe you would like because they just aren't on this album. Read the other reviews I've written on Stuart that go into much more detail on his racism, but I didn't want to repeat old blogs.

    But, it’s a situation of listening versus hearing. Most people don’t listen, they just hear. That’s REALLY what this blog is about. Most people take to music with pre-conceived ideas & don‘t really hear the music. Tipper Gore is the advocate of that. Bloggers who shit on a band out of style is another example. That to me is interesting & what this blog is really aiming at. Stuart just happens to be the example of choice. I could as well take the Satanic songs of Led Zeppelin or the sex of Madonna. So, maybe I am legitimizing Stuart a bit, but really that’s not my goal. I want to understand how people listen & why they do things. There's few bands that lend themselves to being a example to work with like Skrewdriver.

    2. "2nd division" Oi! - interesting, as some call Skrewdriver one of the earliest Oi! bands, if not at all. I don't call them Oi!. Skrewdriver shares similarities with the scene though & certainly they borrowed from him … like Hole shared similarities with Riot Grrrl, but like Stuart took things a step farther. Don't call all Oi! bands racists. Some are very very much not & are troubled by the stereotype.

    3. I don't review Stuart because of the controversy. I review him because in addition to the controversy he's turned in something cohesive here. Maybe it’s bad music but I’m not comparing him to the Beatles. I'm comparing this album to the rest of the Skrewdriver catalog.

    4. Since I started this blog my goal has been to look at interesting bands. This is one of the most interesting for their controversy & the fact that people hear things in the lyrics that clearly aren't there. That's what makes this blog a little different & unexpected. I'm also willing to be a reviewer that shares this horrible band. Few will or they just rip apart everything without listening. I don’t get rid of something because its controversial or hated. I don’t like censorship. I don't like being like other reviewers that don't listen.

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