When I was doing research for the best new music releases this month, I came across this band. I was looking back at what came out this time last year and thinking about how much great stuff there was: there was no anxiety about touring and ‘wasting’ a release and there hadn’t been stipulations on getting together to record in the months beforehand.
Really, a different time. Anyway, one of the bands I came across, who are being brave and putting out new music mid-pandemic (and keeping our spirits up I might add!) is LICE. I absolutely hate to admit it, since they’re Bristol-based and so am I, but I’d not heard of them before. So today’s music profile is not a brand new group, but new to me.
First of all, we have to acknowledge the genius name. LICE is such a classic punk band name, don’t you think so? It’s gross, and uncomfortable and thus, perfect for an Art Punk band as LICE are called on their record company’s page. The band is comprised of Bristol University graduate band members who met in uni, which is kind of a red flag for true Bristolians, but they seem no more pretentious than your average academic group (I’m thinking here about bands like The Libertines with their complicated literary references in their lyrics).
LICE happily inhabit a kind of stereotypical bumbling russell group poshness alongside a stylised punkishness (turning up late to interviews, advertising for members with posts saying: ‘Guitarist and drummer looking for singer willing to do and say horrible shit’) which makes them at once easy to make fun of as I am here, and comforting in a traditional real-instrument, patched-together, genuine-guitar-band way.
After years of (amazing, affirming, inspirational) glossy pop music taking centre stage, it’s really fun to engage with a group that embodies punkishness and clashy, English-accented, slurring music. The band sound like a serious version of what Vyvyan and Rick from The Young Ones (filmed in Bristol- Baader-Meinhof phenomenon!) would sound like if they had a band in 2021.
Often compared to IDLES, another Bristol-based punk band (but those band members met at UWE rather than BU), LICE are clearly influenced by the band, even so far as to stylise their name similarly. But LICE are more shambolic, more scrappy-seeming, perhaps less inhibited. Their music sounds genuinely like they make it for themselves, and a wider audience is incidental. It’s really concerning to think that as the music industry stands now, and even before the pandemic, success is by no means guaranteed, even for a band that in many ways really embodies the spirit of entertainment, artisticness and experimentation. Before the pandemic, lots of guitar bands were hitting a wall in which they were struggling to reach a wider listenership: not getting the airtime they once would have, or struggling to entice an audience to come to live gigs, where there is money to be made. As brilliant as it is to be able to stream music from Spotify and Tidal, it makes being a musician as a viable career a huge struggle. Bands like LICE make me feel really hopeful that people are still willing to take a risk, to dedicate themselves to expressing themselves and giving things a go. Do support this band and others by listening to their new music, buy their merch and physical copies of their records, so that we might still have scrappy, chaotic punk bands on the other side. (Their most recent release is an LP: Wasteland: what ails our people is clear).