The relative commercial success of Pulled Apart by Horses in recent years has mercifully allowed the Leeds music scene to crawl out from underneath the suffocating carcass of the Kaiser Chiefs and show everyone that it has a thriving underground scene to rival any city in the UK.
An integral figure in that scene over the past ten years has been pint-sized firebrand Neil Hanson, who is stepping up to the punk pulpit this time round with his merry band of misfits in Kleine Schweine (which literally translates to Small Pigs) who are determined to educate the sweaty, check-shirt clad masses on former Eastern Bloc dictators and assorted oddballs, set to a backdrop of lightening quick punk.
Firstly, it deserves a mention that ‘The Party’ was solely funded by donations on website Pledge Music, which suggests there is a certain level of demand for Kleine Schweine’s historically-infused punk preaching. Or perhaps it was something to do with the tantalising proposition of band members dressing up as dictators for each donator’s amusement? Hanson as Hitler? Go on then.
Former Czechoslovakia president Gustav Husak, despised Romanian Communist Nicolae Ceausescu and first class fuckwit Zeljko Raznatovic are just a selection of the colourful characters whose stories, and quite often demises, dominate this album, and in doing so, ensure Kleine Schweine stand apart from many of their contemporaries.
Opener ‘The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Husak’ delivers the first of many gang vocal refrains that are scattered liberally throughout the album in the form of “If it ain’t broke then don’t fuck it up, we know what’s best for you.” And it appears what Kleine Schweine think is best for us is 11 more sneering stabs of punk goodness delivered mercilessly and without consideration for our mental welfare or, indeed, eardrums. They needn’t have worried – they had me at ‘The’.
‘Ceausescu Let The Dogs Out’ delivers a withering assessment of the former Romanian leader’s treatment of his country’s citizens, while ‘Breakfast in Albania’ takes a humorous look at the mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama’s frankly bonkers decision to paint many of the city’s old buildings in outlandish colour schemes because, simply, he could. These short, sharp history lessons are played out against frenetic, almost schizophrenic guitars and high-octane, pummelling drums. If only my history lessons at school had been delivered like this.
While this is undoubtedly a punk record to its rotten, spazzy core, there is still a pop sensibility on show throughout which makes it more accessible to those listeners whose ears might not be quite so attuned to this less nuanced end of punk.
While it’s unlikely they’re going to carve their own niche into punk history, there’s certainly enough on show here to suggest they’ll still be dishing out alternative history lessons to Leeds’ willing students long after the bell has been rung on the Kaiser Chiefs’ career.