Does Ashley Reaks ever sleep? Continuing his prodigious output with his ninth (?) album, his second of the year and his third in just twelve months, This is Planet Grot sees him shift from his distinctive anarchic blend of dub, ska, punk and experimental mash-up with a straight-up punk album. It’s a style that suits him well, and somewhat ironically, may stand as his most commercial album to date. Reaks’ dissatisfaction with people, politics and the world at large has been vented extensively over previously releases, but to hear him actually singing and yelling over driving guitars and thumping drums really pushes it all home.
Having recently toured as support for The Dickies (and covered vocal duties on occasion), Reaks’ knowledge and appreciation of the school of ’77/’78 is displayed abundantly here, and his knack for a chorus while still spitting bile over choppy chords owes everything to the likes of 999, The Vibrators and The Adverts and nothing to latter-day pretenders of punk like Green Day. ‘Freaks of the World Unite’ is a perfect example of an accessible yet fully punk, fist-pumping, pogotastic song which has ‘single’ written all over it, while the terrace chanting ‘Manipulator’ is, quite simply, a quintessential punk song, and clocks in at under two and a half minutes.
The production captures the vibe, too. There’s an indefinable quality to the way the instruments and vocal are mixed which (not being an engineer or producer myself) that recreates the ragged sound of the seventies without sounding artificial.
Some of the zanier, off-kilter guitar lines, coupled with the cover (one of his deranged collages) share common ground with the dark derangement of Rudimentary Peni, but for the most part, This is Planet Grot plays it straight, hard and fast, and is abrim with nifty bass runs and straining guitars. And, because it’s Ashley Reaks and because it’s a proper punk album, This is Planet Grot is unswerving in its sociopolitial contents, the anti-establishment sentiments delivered with sincerity and rabble-rousing gusto.