Too Young To Die
Too Young To Die is an album from North East street punks Zero Tolerance reflecting a working class voice that is rarely heard in the media.
The problem with punk band names is that if it’s a good one, someone has probably nabbed it before. Hailing from Durham, Zero Tolerance are not to be confused with the Hackney based band from the late 90s (and mates of mine!) who released a split LP with The Restarts.
This album of working class punk rock tunes doesn’t hold back. Zero Tolerance pull no punches but alongside righteous anger and discontent their voice displays working class compassion – rarely given an opportunity to be heard in the media. They care about people sleeping rough, living on benefits, animals being hunted, communities being ripped apart. They want people to have homes rather than “sleeping, begging, dying in our town”.
They’re pissed off with religions of all manner. The extent of surveillance is laid out in the song Big Brother. “I’m Angry” they sing, of a country that has let them down and spies on them. They know where much of the blame lies and politicians are the target for much of their ire. “I despise the party to which you belong”, “People On The Streets see through your disguise.” in People On The Streets. “Claim on expenses for all that you can, picking the pockets of the working man” in Fuck The Politicians. “You promised us a better future, gave us hopes and dreams….your lies I don’t believe” in Cross Beside Your Name. These lines could have been lifted from countless conversations across the country.
Hold Your Banners High is a celebration of the Durham Miners Gala, one of the last visible manifestations of the solidarity tradition that once defined working class communities. It clearly means a lot to these lads and is a huge annual event for Durham locals. The rear cover also shows an image of the Gala in full flow. The frustration at people failing to tackle their ills displayed in Rise Up.
Rhyming “If You Hunt” with “You’re A C***” may not be the most eloquent way of putting it, but it is to the point! (disclaimer: I wrote a song based around the same linquistic mischief myself). There’s no hidden meanings with Zero Tolerance – they tell you it how they see it.
The gruff vocals are focused and accusatory with some punk rock crooning at times. This undulating style of singing is something of a trademark for bands like The Damned, Bad Religion and Terminus. Now, I mention Terminus specifically as I am reminded of their style on numerous occasions when listening to this CD. They will be known to anyone active in the UK punk scene in the early 90s and were a vastly under-rated band. In turn they achieved something akin to cult-like status. People who like them REALLY like them.
The North East accent seeps through on the odd occasion. This, combined with the overall feel of the songs, make a comparison with the Angelic Upstarts inevitable – particularly their Bullingdon Bastards album. There must be something in the water up there or perhaps there is a regional folk memory at play – miners songs maybe?
The drums are solid and steady and the guitarist clearly knows their way round the fretboard, but it is the bass that really stands out in the Zero Tolerance sound. There is plenty of top end while still sounding like a bass. The bass lines themselves wander all over the shop like the work of J.J. Burnel, Tony James or William Mysterious. If you liked the bass ramblings of early New Model Army the bass sound will appeal to you. There are times where the bass arguably provides the lead and the guitar provides the rhythm.
Zero Tolerance tend towards singalong choruses and try to emulate the roar of the terraces with some of the backing vocals. This, combined with their lyrical approach and delivery at the mid-paced speed you’d expect from UK Subs and their ilk, makes their self identification as street punk a fitting label.
Within these songs there is anger and passion but I also hear a yearning for a time when working people worked together in their own shared interests. The inclusion of a classic photo of a striking miner wearing a copper’s helmet facing off a line of cops inside the jewel case speaks volumes.
A self released effort, Too Young To Die can be obtained from Zero Tolerance via their Facebook page.
All words by Nathan Brown. You can read more from Nathan on his Louder Than War archive over here.