Any band which attracts the label of “Craptastic melancholic punk” has got to be worth investigating. In the case of Johannesburg’s Atom Band, we have a group made up of members called John Gonzo (lead guitar), Ryan the Toyota (the bass guitar), Riaan Nirhoo (guitar) and Vasane Sinatra (vocal). It’s possible these may not be their real names but the music they make is as convincing and raw as you could wish for.
Upon listening to ‘Betsy (Stalker Sympathy)’, there is certainly a wild 1970’s vibe about the band. The murky production doesn’t help but give the impression that the band members are not necessary on the same page, with post-punk bass clashing with howling feedback and the Sinatra’s almost state of consciousness wailing. Yet despite the crazed nature of it all, there’s something very thrilling to behold here. Imagine Suicide’s Alan Vega performing a cover of Department S’s ‘Is Vic There?’ and you wouldn’t be a million miles away from the truth.
‘Flies In The Marketplace’ is a much more haunted affair; the band this time work in unison to create a claustrophobic shroud of a song which captures the essence of 1979. Then comes the equally fine ‘The Panic In Needle Park’ which combines rattling punk with Postcard Records-era funk/post-punk. If these songs sound dirty then ‘Description Of A Struggle’ is positively filthy with the South Africans summoning up the rawness and visceral energy of a live performance on their strongest song.
It’s debatable whether this is a proper EP since their site info suggests the four offerings here are individually produced songs. This might explain the lack of cohesion between each track but it matters little because The Atom Band are clearly on to a winner based on this brief but compelling evidence.
Suicide, Department S