Screaming Toenail “Growth” Album Review
Punk rock has changed and evolved tremendously over the years, the genre is equally loved as it is hated. At some point the whole world was shouting that “punk is dead” and for a time that is how it felt. Punk had changed a lot, not necessarily in a good way. The genre that was once championed by misfits, rebels and anarchists with the sole purpose of ‘sticking it to the man’ was now chalk-full of pop influenced acts signed to major labels, aka the man, with the sole aim of turning a pretty penny.
But as we came to learn over time, punk ain’t dead. If anything you could argue that the current punk rock scene is at its strongest with bands such as Screaming Toenail leading the charge, one track at a time. The London based quartet burst onto the underground punk scene with their 2015 Territorealities E.P and have been at the forefront of decolonising the genre ever since.
Traditionally, punk bands have produced music that is reactionary to contemporary issues at the time. Growth, which has been two years in the making, comes at a time when black people, and marginalised communities, are fighting to have their voices heard on issues that quite frankly should not exist in this day and age, or ever.
The anti-colonial album kicks off with Very Testing, a sound bite from a nature documentary which describes the problem a community is facing with Africanised bees and a warning of how they can take over one’s space. It’s described as “a losing battle”. The narrative transitions, almost seamlessly, to a sound bite of ex-UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s July 2015 comments on the Mediterranean migrant crisis where he said there was a ‘swarm’ of African migrants crossing from North Africa.
David Cameron’s language and choice of words when referring to migrants and refugees was dehumanising to say the least, but you could also argue that it was almost representative of how black and African people are viewed not only in the UK but the world over.
Every African native has probably witness on a firsthand account the problematic ways in which the white saviour complex manifests itself on African soil. ‘Young and passionate’ white kids from all over the globe make their way to African villages for poverty-porn photo ops under the guise of ‘making the world a better place’. White Saviour directly addresses this issue and calls it out.
White Saviour, White Saviour/I see you dancing on the BBC
White Saviour, White Saviour/Colonial Mentality
The band has grown leaps and bounds since its 2015 release Territorealities. Their sound has matured tremendously but is no less direct as they refuse to tread a linear path by embracing elements of post-punk and shoe-gaze like in Sever. The band sings and plays with a cohesion and confidence that can only be amassed after several years of constantly writing and performing together, evidenced by the masterfully crafted Define and Conquer, easily one of the best tracks off the album.
One of the biggest strengths of Growth is the perfect arrangement of each song and the execution. Crafted to tell stories, each song has a beginning, middle and end and Joyce’s vocals help guide you through the anecdotes of the tales they tell like the “little old lady shoplifting from Boots/Stealing purple lipstick” on Get Cute.
The album also paints the picture of a hopeful future “when we destroy the empire and destroy white supremacist hetro-patriarchy and watch it all burn into the ground”. Fuck yes.
Recorded at Hermitage Studios in North London, the album is mixed and mastered to perfection by Margo Bloom. The record sounds refined and polished without losing the charming rawness that we all fondly admire punk for. In many ways the record is reminiscent of X-Ray Spex’s 1978 Germ Free Adolescents, an undeniable masterpiece that has influenced generations of punks, no doubt Screaming Toenail as well.
In my opinion, you could easily make the case for Growth being the definitive punk album of 2020 thus far. It is a well produced punk record that pushes all the right buttons and does what a punk album is meant to do. Screaming Toenail don’t pull any punches and true to their word the record is an anti-colonial statement.
It’s just punk as fuck.
Music by: Screaming Toenail
Recorded, Mixed & Mastered by: Margo Bloom
Recorded at: Hermitage Works Studios