What a Magnificent Purpose: Modern UK Post-Punk, Playlisted

Author: Matt Jarosinski

Since its emergence in the late 70’s, post-punk has been a genre marked by deviation and experimentation. Taking influence from the sound and praxis of the initial wave of punk rock, as well as venturing into a vast list of genres including funk, disco, experimental and psychedelic rock, early electronic music, and various forms of dance music, post-punk was absolutely essential in paving the way for the subsequent formations of alternative rock and its many subgenres. In addition, acts from the genre, such as The Cure or Joy Division, still to this day present an aura of influence through their prevailing presence in popular culture. 

Today, the genre of post-punk is very much still alive and well, in fact I would argue that post-punk plays a very important influence among the rock scene present in the UK today. Thus, I have constructed this playlist to provide a brief glimpse into some of the country’s acts both well established and emerging of this bold and often esoteric genre.   

bmbmbm: Black Midi – With influences ranging from Beefheart and Can, to Shellac and Danny Brown, Black Midi has turned more than a few heads with their interpretation of the genre. The track “bmbmbm” may just give you a sliver of what the group has set out to accomplish, with unconventional vocals, frantic instrumentation, and unhinged noisy breakdowns, Black Midi has come to provide angular art-damaged tunes for everyone to enjoy. 

Television: IDLES – Being one of the forerunners of the current iteration of the genre, IDLES have proven to be no strangers to attention. Combining elements of post-hardcore and post-punk, this track showcases lyrically some of IDLES’ teeth-smashing positivity and reaches out to cathartically remind you to love yourself in a world of media that wants you to be flawless.  

Goodnight: Dry Cleaning – London’s Dry Cleaning sets out to invite us into their incredibly eccentric vision of the world of post-punk in the track “Goodnight”. I would argue that while you could describe the overall delivery of vocalist, Florence Shaw, as apathetic, doing so would be a disservice to the incredible personal lyrics the track brings forth, detailing Shaw’s experience of attempting to adjust to normal life after a near-death experience.  

Sunglasses: Black Country, New Road – Clocking in at 9 minutes, “Sunglasses” is less of a song but more of an experience, or perhaps an odyssey. Being only Black Country, New Road’s second single, this track with its multi-sectioned dive into insanity featuring anxious shouted and spoken word vocals as well as very creative and intense uses of both the violin and saxophone, shows that Black Country New Road may just be the post-punk band to look out for in the next coming months. 

Houseplants: Squid – One of several artists on this list signed to the label, Speedy Wunderground, Squid strongly differentiates themselves by embracing bizarre and surreal imagery. “Houseplants” is not a typical post-punk song by any means, nor is it a typical song in general. With instrumentation varying from distant sounding synths to a muted trumpet, the song moves at a brisk motorik pace and offers seemingly playful passages as well as expressions of abject terror.  

Petty Thieving:  FEET – One of the more overlooked bands on this list, FEET provide with their track, “Petty Thieving,” what I feel is a very convincing reason for any fan of post-punk to explore the band’s skittish and witty sound further, with energetic and blissful instrumental performances from the band and an overall suave performance from vocalist, George Haverson.  

One Rizla: Shame – To say that “One Rizla” is completely representative of Shame’s overall sound would just simply not be true. Shame have definitely shown to be more analogous to an act like IDLES, with a heavy disposition to post-hardcore and art punk rather than the dreamy undertones created by this track. However, what the song does accomplish is showcasing its dignified atmosphere before eventually descending into confrontational and shouty vocals at the climax of the song.    

Blood Brother: Heavy Lungs – “Blood Brother” is an expression of vast admiration for the frontman of IDLES, Joe Talbot, who traded his own praise for Heavy Lungs frontman, Danny Nedelko, in the eponymous track, “Danny Nedelko.” “Blood Brother” is just as ferocious and unrelenting as Talbot himself, but just like him as well, the track proves to be very human and unceasingly optimistic.  

Vitriol: Sistertalk – The track, “Vitriol” may very possibly be all we will ever hear from London’s Sistertalk with the band announcing disbandment on July 22nd of 2019. However, as a display of potential, “Vitriol” makes me feel like we may have missed out on some excellent material, with its borderline misanthropic and oppressive atmosphere. Sistertalk may have only released one single, but that single is still among the greatest post-punk singles of this decade. 

No Face: Savages – Coming off the group’s debut album, Silence Yourself, “No Face” is a particularly energetic romp through the jagged and combative side of Savages sound. In addition, the track’s gothic atmosphere and influences truly allow for the listener to picture the track’s macabre soundscape.     

The Man: Goat Girl – Goat Girl’s “The Man” takes us on a stark detour from the rest of the songs of this list. Taking cues from garage punk and punk blues, this track supplements its spirited attack with an ambience I can only describe as rustic. 

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet: Sleaford Mods – Originating from Nottingham, the duo, Sleaford Mods, may be minimalist in instrumentation but certainly not in intent and passion. Fiercely political, the group exhibits influences of hip-hop, spoken word, and electronic music in their serrated and poignant sound and direction. “Tweet, Tweet, Tweet,” may provide audiences with just a taste of the bands vast discography dating back to 2007. 

Apple of My Eye: HMLTD – At first listen, “Apple of My Eye” may sound like a corruption of the new romantic movement of the 80’s. Appearing on the band’s debut EP, Hate Music Last Time Delete, the track includes strong glam and synthpop influences and serves as a strong preview of the band’s unhinged and surreal sound. 

Gilded Cloud: Drahla – “Gilded Cloud” gives the listener a view of post-punk at its most angular and neurotic. The track in its 3 minute and 33 second runtime shows both Drahla’s no wave influenced sound as well as the band’s ability to quickly transition from complete dissonance to tense yet somewhat melodic guitar passages.  

Letter from Hampi Mountain: Snapped Ankles – The track, “Letter from Hampi Mountain,” can be described in many ways, danceable, hypnotic, almost dadaist, these are all terms I might use to describe this particular cut. The track’s appropriately shrill synths and eccentric vocal performance allows for one to understand why Snapped Ankles find themselves as exemplars of the modern dance-punk scene.   

Listen Out: Melt Yourself Down – Melt Yourself Down truly have one of the most unique  approaches to not only post-punk but to rock as a whole in the 2010’s. Combining the genres of afrobeat, post-punk, and art punk, as well as elements of jazz rock and jazz funk, “Listen Out” and to a wider extent, the band’s first two albums, are an unorthodox and vibrant experience that will leave you asking for more. 

Petrol Blue: Sink Ya Teeth – Minimalist and groovy, “Blue Petrol” is a look into Sink Ya Teeth’s heavily synth infused sound established on the band’s self-titled debut released in 2018. Having a bit of a lively yet cold sound, the track’s lively baseline and atmosphere may appeal to fans of both synthpop and indietronica. 

Tinfoil Deathstar: Fat White Family – “Tinfoil Deathstar” is quite possibly the most psychedelic track on this list. The song, with its demented organ sounds and reverb drenched vocals shows Fat White Family’s often unearthly and haunting approach to the worlds of post-punk and neo-psychedelia.