Hailing from dystopian Sydney, the punk rock trio known as ARSE arrived at the end of 2017 with their acerbic debut Primitive Species on a cassette tape, sounding like the bastard lineage of Feedtime and Black Flag with an uber-modern spin. Equal parts dumb, terrifying and fitting for the times, Species copped the full vinyl treatment six months later courtesy of German punk label Erste Theke Tontraeger. By years end it had crash-landed on The Quietus’ best of 2018 punk round-up alongside Hank Wood and The Hammerheads, Geld and Amyl and The Sniffers.
Never content, as their music attests, ARSE have since opened for Cosmic Psychos (AU), No Age (US) and released a split seven-inch record with Sydney noise-assassins Party Dozen. The forthcoming Safe Word EP, a stop-gap on the road to long player glory, is four tracks of future-fried punk the world truly deserves.
I like bands that fall on the dividing line between noise rock and hardcore, and Arse are right in that pocket, using pogo beats, wild and noisy guitar solos, and a nihilistic vocal bark that will appeal to fans of Geld, Gay Kiss, Walls, and other bands that trace their lineage back to Black Flag’s My War. Far from just a copycat band, though, Arse strike me as more artsy and ambitious than any of the aforementioned groups.
I hear this in the guitar solos (which are particularly unhinged, like Ginn and Hendrix on a bunch of bad drugs), but even more on the two songs that end each side of the EP. These aren’t so much songs as abstract noise / electronic pieces that flesh out the world hinted at in those guitar leads into a full-on post-apocalyptic soundscape. Far beyond your typical “dude stringing together a bunch of guitar pedals and hitting them at random,” these intricately composed pieces scratch the same itch as Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream.
This EP is fascinating.
Our take: Debut 7” from this band from Sydney, Australia. If I had to guess, though, I would have thought Arse was from the UK as they have a similar noise rock meets hardcore sound to bands like Bad Breeding, No Negative, and Denim and Leather. The label describes their sound as broadly in the tradition of Black Flag’s My War, and given that record set the template for noise rock, I’d say we’re more or less on the same page here. The sound is heavy, desperate, and grinding, the tempo never exceeding a jaunt. My favorite moments are when you get some skronky lead guitar (as on the closer, “Stooged”), but the whole thing is an exciting listen.