By Andrew Stevens.
Having watched others have a go recently (Cass, Rise of the Footsoldier), Nick Love clearly couldn’t help himself, hence his ‘remake’ of Alan Clarke’s The Firm (1989), which opened last weekend. When Clarke was casting around for a track to underscore the nihilistic fury of Made in Britain (1982, made for Central Television’s Tales Out of School series), as visceral an on-screen denuciation of early Thatcherism as you can get, the relentless ‘UK82′ by The Exploited must have appeared like a precipitative gift from above. Trevor Griffiths’ Oi For England (1982), a screen adaptation of his stage play, is sometimes held up as a companion to Clarke’s better effort, but the music here is indicative of how, as with Romper Stomper (1992), depictions of the far right in film can easily veer into wholly inauthentic Blood & Honour as Spinal Tap territory (though it does feature ‘Allo ‘Allo/Eastenders’ Gavin Richards as a highly convincing Geert Wilders lookalike local fascist leader.)
Made in Britain documents (as per Clarke’s by now honed signature style) much of the bleak era as I just about remember it, the UK’s recession-hit urban centres, as shown through glue-sniffing, the far right, government schemes, the criminal justice system, though this went past the mid-80s rather than just 1982. Its consideration of conformity, through the depiction of the trajectory of the wayward yet resourceful Trevor, was not only brutally realised but also precient given the Conservatives’ later coherently-formed desire to “condemn more and understand less”. A sign of things to come again?
‘UK82’ became more than just an Exploited song, it later came to define the second wave of punk, the resolutely non-style mag-friendly and anti-fashion ethos from the likes of Conflict, Riot Squad and Vice Squad, themselves equally rooted in the nomenclature of Authority and the British State. I will leave the last word to another:
A part of the Exploited’s micro-mystique is that they were one of the bands, along with Conflict, Discharge and the Subhumans who took punk in a different direction, away from its co-option by the mainstream, into a subaltern world of anarchist commitment. They weren’t fashionable, they weren’t post-punk in any of its currently understood senses, there were very few major labels sniffing round them, and besides, a part of their commitment demanded that they would tell them to fuck off. The Exploited signify a kind of anti-plastic-punk Real.
First posted: Friday, September 25th, 2009.