Violations by Snapped AnklesRelease date: June 29, 2018
Label: The Leaf Label
Violations was Snapped Ankles‘ special record store day release earlier this year. At this point there are a lot of obvious problems with the whole RSD thing, you probably have an opinion or two on it yourselves, but this is not the place to get into it right now. Violations is a strong example of how it should work, or at least one of the things it can be good at. Not a bloated heritage repackage but a successful new release from a young independent band. It went so well that it’s now getting a black vinyl repress to assuage demand from the nation’s pop kids for shrubbery generated dance grooves. Still, as ideas for limited releases go “lets knock out a few covers” is pretty much route one basic so let’s not get over excited just yet.
Something about Snapped Ankles has always bugged me, perhaps most of all because I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. They offer up plenty of reasons but it isn’t the Jack-In-The-Green outfits, half arsed men of the woods mythology or the arboreal techno-logs shtick. It’d be easy enough to pin them as a bunch of wretched east London hipster twats dicking around, amusing themselves to death and hate them on that basis alone. But that doesn’t ring quite true either. Maybe I just wish they were better. My suspicion was that a lazy EP of rickety covers would drag them out of the dim forest, exposing their flaws to bright sunshine and allowing me to indulge in some mean spirited cackling and finger pointing. It didn’t play out at all like that though because Violations is great. A crawl through the undergrowth exposing the roots (sorry not sorry) of the band’s sound and kicking off a joyous dance party in a forest clearing.
As a title Violations hovers between ‘we are not worthy’ celebration or flippantly destructive intent towards the material but is best read as a joke. They do neither, or both, making these tunes their own with an obvious love for the originals but free of excess reverence. The righteous political mischief, sleek euro new wave, banging techno and exploratory krautrock of their chosen sources are like gateposts along the perimeter fence around the deep dark forest from which Snapped Ankles grew. All these elements twist around each other in their own sound. The Fugs nihilist, proto-punk, anti-surveillance rant ‘CIA man’ is updated to NSA man with lyrical references to Edward Snowden. It is irresistibly groovy, like Von Sudenfed in a good mood. The minimalist garage synth of Comateens ‘Ghosts’ gets a thicker bass chug and some cowbell action. It sounds exactly like something they’d have written themselves but with an added pop punch. If such things still happened, or mattered, you could just about imagine it being a weirdo summer hit.
So far, so obscure. On side two they get into the swing and take on the big boys. Joey Beltram’s ‘Energy Flash’ is right up there in any greatest techno anthems . . . ever list. A tune so well known and beloved it’s hard to see any point in remaking it or how such an attempt to could end in anything but embarrassment. Amazingly then, they pull it off, seemingly by playing it their way and not worrying too much about it. There’s something appropriately ‘One Night In Hackney’ about the vocals too. They reserve their most strident assault for ‘Bel Air’ turning up the heat on the expansive kraut groove of Can’s original to a rattling, urgent stomper. As a whole the EP is a smartly chosen and brilliantly reworked set of tunes. It appears I have underestimated a band dressed as shrubbery, how could such a thing have happened? I’ll be digging out Come Play The Trees again with newfound respect.