Time to delve into slightly more obscure territory this time round. The history of punk is littered with bands who did a good single or two before turning a bit rubbish. Anti Establishment on the other hand started off as a bit mediocre (imho) then split up just as they were getting interesting.
Anti Establishment started out in Epping under the name Cardiac Arrest, when they apparently briefly included Matt “The The” Johnson in their line up. They changed their name to Anti Establishment, not as you might cynically think because it was a generic punk name, but because, according to an interview in Ian Glasper’s Burning Britain, singer Gavin was “a fan of the Rolling Stones who were widely regarded as being anti establishment”. They became associated with the oi scene, although I’m not exactly sure why as their singles weren’t really in that style. There are a few demo tracks released years later that are suitably yobbish such as Life Is A Rip Off (disappointingly not on youtube) but their early releases were closer to a 77 punk sound. Not that it matters, these genres are generally made up by music journalists as they go along.
Anti Establishment managed to pull off a bit of a coup when they cornered a certain Rat Scabies at a gig and persuaded him to produce them, and sure enough he produced all three of their singles. The first 7” 1980s/Mechanical Man was pretty basic. The second single, Future Girl/No Trust was better, with No Trust being the best of the two. However No Trust isn’t on youtube so here’s Future Girl instead.
After hearing these singles years later I didn’t pay a lot of attention to them until a mate who was into broad range of punk but generally had little interest in 80s punk started raving to me about their third and final 7”, Anti Men. I was intrigued and checked it out and I’m glad I did because it’s one of my favourite oddities of the period. The A side is surprisingly groovy rocker “about friendship and beer drinking”. Scabies role as producer may account for Gavin’s Dave Vanian style vocal…or maybe not, as at the end there’s a studio aside where he admits “I was trying to do a bit of a Jim Morrison”.
The b-side Misunderstood is better still and probably one of my favourite b-sides ever. It’s a weird mix of early 80s indie, Pete Townshend chords, and Gavin’s rough vocal, full of restrained anger at “jumped up schoolboys with hero’s ideas” (Punk scene backstabbers? Straights picking fights with punks? Music journalists?).
Punk Lives magazine reviewed the single and described it as bad heavy metal meets The Jam – what did they know? Anti Establishment split soon afterwards but interviewed years later in Burning Britain Gavin seemed happy enough with their small part in punk history..
“We just wanted to make punk music as we thought it should be played. Nothing more, nothing less”