Irony. When The Exploited released Punks Not Dead in 1981 the genre had well and truly already gone. Whereas the Sex Pistols for me have always been a band that had disbanded before I’d heard them, The Exploited are one of the very first bands to turn me onto music as it happened.
So. The Exploited really were at the forefront of the much touted 2nd wave of Punk. A kind of Punk : Take Two if you like. In some ways they are now both over credited and under rated. A guitarist who would play for Nirvana (yes, that Nirvana) and the less credited (and fairly awful) Blood Uncles. One can hear hints of Metallica in The Exploited even on their first album. The band would mutate and although distant from the thrash scene at the time (later in the 80’s) there was not a lot of musical difference. Initially the sound of The Exploited ranged from Oi to what would become a far more credible dirge punk sound with the likes of Discharge, etc. The first album released on Secret Records (a great sounding name for a record label if ever there was one) was at the time a breath of fresh air. Punk was dead but whatever this was, was pretty electric.
The Exploited had a gang / let’s just do it feel. Not the gangs of nowadays but a fun muck in feel. Their striking imagery, record sleeves and actual appearance turned a lot of heads. Their sound made tangible energy and frustration pour out of record players across the U.K and beyond.
To highlight a few songs from Punks Not Dead lets start with the album opener ‘Punks Not Dead‘. A chant along with the kind of energy levels many bands could never dream of. That stabbing vocal delivery is far more influential than it’s given any real credit for.
‘Mucky Pup‘ is a cover of the relatively unheard of Puncture. Rattling bass gives way to a fast droned up epic blast. Brief guitar leads and a glued up chant that gets more blurry and addictive as it rolls.
‘Free Flight‘ really is a serious pre cursor to Thrash that would emerge over 5 years later. Images of nuclear war and 80’s themes fill the song. Probably the bands most under rated song ever.
‘Army Life‘ is, with reflection written about the lead singers (Wattie) time in the army. The Exploited are blunt and they both lyrically and musically aren’t the Dead Kennedys – but that somehow is their appeal too.
‘Sex & Violence‘ really shouldn’t work on the level that it does. Real simplicity. On first listen it’s almost too daft but it drags on and on (in a good way) and travels from laughable to strangely hypnotic.
‘S.P.G‘ has one of the most unintentionally comical intros I’ve ever heard. That’s not to knock it. It’s an Exploited classic.
‘Exploited Barmy Army‘ when I first heard it as a 10-year-old filled me with energy. It’s massively simple but there’s something about it. Again that street gang punk thing hits the listener and at the time The Exploited were in a pretty unique place.
‘I Believe In Anarchy‘ is as far removed from Crass as one could get despite what others may say. The Exploited are largely brawn over brains, but again, that’s their appeal. Straight up rock and roll guitar breaks and an earnest if not over thought lyric.
Had The Exploited called it a day after their first two albums I belive they would have left a groundbreaking legacy. That’s no criticism – just an observation. The Exploited circa their first two albums were one of the most exciting bands of their time I can recall. Trips to record shops just to look at the sleeves when you couldn’t afford them is something long gone but never forgotten…