28th May | Rough Trade
Photos: Jess Greenwood
Before today, I had mistakenly lived under the impression that the halcyon days of political post-hardcore bile had died, buried alongside my youth in the black and red mist of the late-2000s. Now, I’m not so out-of-touch to believe that no artist has since scratched the floor of this once relevant and quite frankly banging scene, but I do believe we saw its last great wave in Enter Shikari’s Common Dreads way back in 2009.
There have been moments since, but it seemed the zeitgeist of this thread had all but receded. Personally, it had been quite some time since I had heard a band that not only created incredibly emotive music, but also employed such vital lyrical content with the utmost integrity.
It’s a double-edged sword that a band such as Petrol Girls can hold such relevance a heady seven years after its inception. We’ve enjoyed the brilliance of three stellar EPs and two equally impressive full-length outings. On the other hand, though, we’re forced to acknowledge the stagnant state of the social and political quagmire in which we’ve become entrenched. Given their clear musical talent and their obvious passion, that bleeds from every wound, the band’s effect is healing. I think they’ll appreciate the first breaths of relief in a world finally driven sane.
Instantaneously the band’s hallmarks become brilliantly palpable as they take to the stage. Brooding, ominous and vicious in their delivery, the room quakes beneath an avalanche of jagged guitar refrains and the unmistakeable shredding vocals of Ren Aldridge. I’m instantly blown away by her ability to drift between full throttle, venomous screams and pitch perfect chant-able choruses, like a young Corey Taylor without all the ego and a drastically more centred moral compass.
Holding up the back end of this beast, you’ll find a perfect symmetry of intricacy and power. Zock Astpai’s percussive ability can be both mesmerizingly delicate in its musicality and almost uncomfortably heavy in its realisation, transforming what could be an obvious fill into a movement of its own. The interplay between this and the swelling cadence of Liepa Kuraité’s wandering bass weaves an impenetrable canvas for the manic, yet calculated strokes of Joe York’s guttural, and at times math-laden, riffs.
Petrol Girls certainly aren’t confined when it comes to genre. Though the spine of their catalogue falls around post-hardcore and punk, you will find flourishes of mellow introspection. Poetic and refined, these breathing points allow the viewer to focus in on the subject of these cuts, which truly is the keystone to this band’s appeal.
In the space between tracks, Aldridge uses her stage to speak about the injustice and pain she hopes to help dismantle, without a sniff of gimmicky pandering. Channelling the true punk community spirit, Ren invites the crowd to actively help ongoing causes, Solidarity Not Silence being the most prominent, a crowdfunding effort to aid the legal fees for women fighting defamation lawsuits for speaking up against sexual abuse.
Ultimately this is music that hurls ice water over your head and forces you to seek out a purpose in life. This is about action not complacency. This is about movement not distraction, and in Aldridge’s own words, “We’re not finished; we never fucking will be.”
See the video for ‘The Sound’ here: