Rivalry – Sometimes You Have to Look Back (Brassneck Records, 2023)

It’s 2023, and Coid related lockdown seems almost like a bizarre memory, almost like it’s still an “actual thing”. To me, at least. I’m still sat on the same arse, gazing out the same window as I write this. “What does this even have to do with anything?” I hear you cry. “Probably nowt”, quoth I. Well, not entirely true. Rivalry are yet another lockdown-spawned correspondence project.

I’m sure at this stage people are probably sick of hearing about “lockdown projects” or whatever, and yeah, I get it. But, park your boredom. It’s another part of the evolution of this punk rock thing that we all love. It’s a testament to people having a need to let out their creative urges in the face of adversity. You don’t have to look that far or hard to come across some great stuff that came out of that very strange and challenging period of time (both psychologically, sociologically and economically).

Thus we have Rivalry, comprised of Mark Magill (Down and Outs / SSS – bass and guitars, vox), Mackie (Blitz / Epic Problem – guitars and back-ups) and Pete Wright (Millie Manders & The Shut-Up / Ducking Punches – drums), who collaborated on this project in an effort to keep sane at the time. Whilst many collaborative projects have fallen by the wayside like so many dogs eggs dangling from bushes in little black bags, Rivalry has borne fruit that you’d actually want to pluck from the tree, innit.

Given who’s involved here, obviously what you are going to get is distinctly British sounding melodic yet gritty punk rock. This will of course be down to Mackie’s buzzsaw riffing (which recalls previous work with Epic Problem, not to mentionmy US faves The Slow Death), which is well complemented by Magill’s “rough diamond” (see what I did there, any Down and Outs fans?) vocal delivery.

Lyrically speaking (from my probably incorrectinterpretation), key motifs here are (amongst others) being held like some kind of captive audience to a downward spiralling car crash of socio-political misery from a government that thrives on contradicting it’s own rules and exploiting the masses as they flounder in a morass of misery (fuck the Tories always). The painful cycle of existing in a dead-end job, where you are constantly beaten down by low pay, shit bosses, but being too doggard to just lay on the ground and take the beating (all the while feeling guilty about watching the clock). I feel like I’d be hard pushed to name folk that can’t relate.

The quality of penmanship speaks for itself, so I’d urge you to have a blast of this on the player below. I was so immediately conviced by this that I put in a pre-order on the strength of the first teaser that was put out there. This is now out there to pick up on vinyl from Brassneck Records on red with black smoke, or you can pick it up from a gig (yes they are actually a real band, not just a project) for example they play Boom in Leeds with the legendary Pegboy (amongst others) on 6th June as part of the Killed By Hardcore festival. Mackie informs me that there will be more dates forthcoming…

For my money, this is thus far the best UK punk rock album of 2023, and earns a well deserved Tony of Nurgle rating of 10/10. Pick it up, you fool.

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