1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 238

What’s Next, by The Filaments
Suggested by Alex Hamilton

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with punk.

I quite like the energy. It’s bold, brash, bouncy and brave, ready to take names and kick ass and hopefully entertain along the way. On the other hand, I can’t see the artistry in the genre, and I find the punch-your-throat rhetoric rather grating on the nerves.

Personally, I think I prefer a small dollop of punk in my trunk rather than a wardrobe full of the stuff. The style is best as an ingredient in a heady musical cocktail, not downed in pints to kill off your tastebuds and get you leathered as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I feel The Filaments are very much in the latter camp, blasting out short sharp stabs to the audience’s collective testes, two fingers raised to the sky.

The Filaments are a well-established fiery punk ensemble from Essex, with a mean streak and a classic attitude. What’s Next is their 2004 album, and it houses their most enduring song, Bastard Coppers. This standout track is punk at its purest, with a rollicking raucous mash of distorted guitars, pounding drums, and barked smash-the-state chantable lyrics. I do sympathise with the sentiment on display – my brother is a copper, and he is indeed a bastard – but I find myself balking a touch. Vocalising your anger directly seems so very uncouth… what’s wrong with the time-honoured passive-aggressive tut of disapproval?

The band’s uncommon schtick is their brass section, which is a fine addition to this punk sound in theory. It brings more than a little two-tone ska into the mix, for which I’m grateful. However, The Filaments are a punk band first and foremost, and that means the sound skirts the borders of hackneyed and uncouth. I’ve a theory that punk is the refuge of wannabe musicians that realise they’ve little talent to bring to the table, so make up for it with shouting and sneering. It’s music created by people who hate music. As such, I feel The Filaments brass section is criminally underused and often inappropriate. If the band would drag the Punk Slider gauge a few notches toward funk, we’d have ourselves a palooza, but as it’s jammed on Maximum Punk Overdrive there’s little space for fun or joy.

Aside from Bastard Coppers, the songs are perky and snappish, but largely interchangeable. The ones in which the brasses sing are likely the best, such as Men of the Law or Western Double Standards, and there is a charm in the Pogueish vocalist drawling Essex snarl at times, but the album is rather flat-footed despite its galloping gait. It’s also exhausting to consume in one sitting despite the truncated 35-minute run time.

Despite the band’s swinging dick energy, I found What’s Next to be lyrically pedestrian, musically concussive and tonally boorish. The Filaments get 4/10 from me, as all this album did was make me ask what’s next.

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