Sick Old Man: Tribunus Plebis

2017 Jan 14, 2017

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My faithful ol’ computer gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, and while a dead computer is an undeniable hassle, it hasn’t all been bad news. It turns out that being forced to live offline is kind of, well, fun –– who knew, m8! I mean, I didn’t think I was a heavy user of social media, but not participating in that solipsistic sphere at all for a few weeks is a potent digital detox. I almost like people again. Almost.

Best of all, though, livin’ offline means I’ve been spending loads of time listening to music undistracted, and I’ve hugely enjoyed rereading UK author Ian Glasper’s comprehensive tomes, The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980–1984 and Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980–1984. Both books dive deep into second wave UK punk, but there are also clear links to be seen/heard between the countless bands Glasper covers in his books and vitriolic new groups, like New Zealand-based crust and D-beat four-piece Sick Old Man.

The first thing that struck me about Sick Old Man’s recently released debut EP, Tribunus Plebis, was that the Auckland band exhibit many of the same aesthetic hallmarks that Glasper and the interviewees in his books say were key to underground punk’s ethos and sound back in the day. Glasper and co talk a lot about the intertwining of aggressive sonic attributes with an instinctively untamed and defiant tone. And there’s no question that Sick Old Man’s music features those characteristics by the truckload.

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It’s all kängpunk a-clanging and råpunk a-raging on Tribunus Plebis. But Sick Old Man differ from orthodox D-beat crews by also injecting a dose of raw black metal into the mix. That’s predominantly heard in the EP’s vicious vocals. But Tribunus Plebis also features an icier riff on occasion, and you can also hear elements of harsh, buzzsaw grind.

Sick Old Man make a corrosive, whirlwind racket, and Tribunus Plebis flies by at warp-speed. The EP’s running time is only around 10 minutes in total, but there’s more than enough musical mayhem therein to underscore that Sick Old Man are well worth keeping a close eye on.

Mind you, Sick Old Man aren’t the only New Zealand crust and D-beat band worth tracking down of late. Napier-based crust crew Life is Hate delivered a comparable barrage of unhinged punk rock on their recent 8-Track EP (which I covered here on Six Noises). Like Life is Hate, Sick Old Man are a purposefully strident band. They’re audibly hostile, and if the unruliness of contemporary outfits like Joy, Fragment, Piss, or Systemik Viølence appeal, then you’re going to love the jagged-edged chaos found on Tribunus Plebis.

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There’s a rawness and energy to the EP that reminds me a lot of bands like Skitsystem or Discharge, with some Darkthrone-accented crust thrown in. Sick Old Man aren’t necessarily taking direct musical cues from those bands. (Aside from Discharge’s obvious influence on every D-beat outfit.) It’s more that like those aforementioned bands Sick Old Man make a belligerent noise, backed by a primal punch.

In other words, Tribunus Plebis features gut-felt and gut-delivered music.The kind of filthy, visceral punk that’s so often instantly addictive. It certainly is in this case, and Sick Old Man do a fantastic job of tipping their hat to the hallmarks of punk rock’s past while forging ahead on their fierce debut. If you’re on the lookout for some abrasive, high-speed, and crusty D-beat, I’d recommend Tribunus Plebis in a heartbeat.

Tribunus Plebis is available on Bandcamp (for free), and is out on cassette via Hairy Palm Tapes (contact the band via Facebook for a copy).

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