Born Shit Stirrers – Scratch n’ Sniff (Serial Bowl Records, 2023)

The year is 2023. The musical state of play seems to suggest that hardcore punk, let alone the broader punk scene is suffering from a shortage of people complaining about stuff, particularly in a humorous yet scathing way (Sleaford Mods and Propagandhi notwithstanding). Not saying there’s anything wrong with singing about failed personal relationships and any existential navel gazing that goes along with it. Not saying that there’s owt wrong with your typical meat n’ spuds hardcore band barking on about betrayal and being wronged and being vengeful, but face it, it’s a bit one dimensional and totally playing to a typecast role innit.

Thankfully, the universe, in a fitting pique of contrariness has given us Born Shit Stirrers, ostensibly from Japan. One of them seems to be almost definitely Japanese, the others most definitely ex-pats, with one or more hailing from the North East of England (“I used to live in Hartlepool, but now I live in hope…”).

Anyway, yes. In previous times, the world has seen no end of “joke” punk and metal bands of various stripes. From the very un-politically correct and down right offensive (see – or rather don’t – The Macc Lads and Anal Cunt for example), to the other end of the spectrum (Good Clean Fun), taking in the utterly absurd along the way (Lawnmower Deth and Wat Tyler etc.). Seeing the state this country, and indeed the world is in at the moment, I’d posit that it’s probably time for everyone to have a good laugh at themselves, warts n’ all. Whilst saving some time for serious stuff, too of course.

With Scratch N’ Sniff, Born Shit Stirrers have brought forth a 26 song voyage into the preposterous and the sublime. Well, maybe not, but let’s just say they’ve had a fair crack at taking the piss, anyway. Seemingly, they have roped in some pals to help out, too. One notable inclusion here is vocal duties from Mark Magill (of Liverpool bands Down and Outs, SSS, The No Marks amongst others), on a song about being in love with Karen Grant. Said object of affections being a character from long defunct Scouse soap opera, Brookside, no doubt of some other notoriety than just being related to Barry Grant. I have no idea, if I’m honest.

Whilst we are shouting out collaborators, I clearly ought to mention my old pal Chris Charlton (of Chopper, Pylon – the Wakefield band, not the other one, St Cyrus, Protectors, blah de blah). Here, he resurrects his old acoustic comedic alter ego, going by the unlikely moniker of Keith Burton & His Beef Curtain, for a full band punk take on the classic Alcoholic Lesbian Vet. Said song celebrating Zoe Tate from Emmerdale and her personal struggles with alcohol and her sexuality. She is indeed, not afraid to get her arm wet.

But hey, it’s not all soap opera related, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear. Fair old swipes are taken at everything from InCels (that’s involuntary celibates for the thickos at the back); arrogant loud mouthed know-nothing music snobs; crap bands; entitled little babies in bands that seem to be in prolific supply in the music scene, and/or on social media these days; people with OnlyFans sites. No one is safe, it’s all fair game innit.

Revisiting the intro paragraphs, there is an amount of carping on about failed personal relationships friendships that time forgot and so on and so forth. It’s all delivered with enough caustic fury and irreverence that familiar subject matter such as this feels utterly alien. It’s probably not entirely fair to pigeonhole this lot as a joke or comedy band. There’s more to them than that, judging by the acerbic self-loathing that seems to underscore much of the material on offer here.

It’s about time I probably said something about what the record sounds like. The songs are fast, short and to the point. Although it’s pretty abrasive stuff, plenty of consideration is given over to melody and hooks. There’s nothing boring about this record. Probably ought to chuck some names about as some kind of frame of reference, I suppose. I feel like whoever listens to this record is going to hear different things in it than I do, but for what it’s worth I’ll place this in some weird Venn diagram of The Dwarves, Circle Jerks, Poison Idea and Born Against. Fuck knows, I’d probably say something different if I was writing this review on a different day.

Tony of Nurgle rating: 9/10

You can get this from Serial Bowl Records on opaque yellow vinyl, digital download or CD from Serial Bowl Records

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