Bob Vylan – ‘We Live Here’ review: anarchic London punks that the music industry deemed “too extreme”

After being told their latest EP was ‘too extreme’ by the music industry, Bob Vylan have self-released an ear-splitting contribution in the fight for equality.

Last week the Black Lives Matter movement reached new heights following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, an African-American man who was killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. This murder mobilised the world with millions of people marching for systematic change, including here in the UK.

It also forced the music industry to follow suit. Distribution service Bandcamp waived its revenue share to help artists raise money for BLM causes and while Warner Music Group announced that they were setting up a 100 million dollar social justice fund to combat industry racism. 

Bob Vylan – a London duo with a potent mix of punk and grime – have always shouted loud about the systemic injustices here in the UK. Their direct and raw sound has already seen them collaborate with Slaves and assert themselves in the punk community.

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But having been told by the music industry that their new EP ‘We Live Here’ was too extreme for release – with themes spanning from police brutality through to fear-mongering in the media – the band have decided to go it alone. Upon release, frontman Bobby Vylan said that “this project is scarily relevant to the climate we are living in right now and we didn’t want to wait another day!”

The significance is rammed home with lines like “We didn’t appear out of thin air / we live here” on the anarchic title track ‘We Live Here’. Behind a menacing distorted guitar, Bobby vents, “Remember Stephen Lawrence / he too was free to roam / eighteen years-old at the bus stop / murdered on his way home.” This reference to the unprovoked racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence over 25 years ago, is a reminder of the injustices committed here on UK soil. The song delves deeper and details some of their more direct experiences in the face of racism. The frustration is palpable and the performance spectacular.

Elsewhere ‘Pulled Pork’ brings the outright Rage Against The Machine screams of “Officer, officer / get up off of us / no need for your cuffs / just go about your day.” Crunching guitars and thrashing vocals keep the energy rife as they continue; “Who’s the next lucky winner for a free date with death / not me / wrap the pig before they kill me.” This sharp delivery with tried and tested punk elements feels apt to be flashed against footage of thousands marching the streets across the world right now. ‘Lynch Your Leaders’, offers up low bass notes and minimal musicality, while ‘Save Yourself’ quickly leaps between hip-hop and frantic hardcore. It’s bracing, brilliant stuff.

Despite being recorded months ago, ‘We Live Here’ is now a reflection of the frustration being displayed right now – it’s painful in its directness and that’s exactly the point. The release ends with ‘Moment Of Silence’ which plays out dead air. It’s an ‘over to you, we’ve said our piece’ moment. As their namesake once sang, ‘the times they are a-changin’, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Details

  • Release date: June 5
  • Record label: Self-released
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