Is a revolution even possible? On their new records, Martim Monitz and Jad offer a direct, no-bullshit commentary on current events. And although they’re not trying to be innovative, they’ve still managed to fill an important niche on the Polish music scene.
Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska
I first heard and saw both these bands live, both of them at festivals (Spring Break and Soundrive, respectively) – I mention that because had these been club gigs, I might well have missed them, as from a strictly musical perspective, what they do is not really within my radar. Nevertheless, the concerts made me want to reach for the recordings and although both albums follow a slightly old-fashioned format, they are extremely articulate and outspoken, a fact that sets them apart from most of the Polish scene.
Martim Monitz’s Alba reminds me of Ewa Braun and Guernica Y Luno. This solid, aggressive music is firmly rooted in punk and hardcore, but occasionally reveals additional influences. I first played the album while driving, and travelling definitely improves its reception. Alba’s evocative potential thrives on the road: it tells a long and complex story, whose meaning only really comes through if you listen to the whole record in one go. The running time of the pieces is also important here: given the fast-paced drumming, it allows the listener to absorb the atmosphere and become immersed in Piotr Szczepański’s lyrics. The best example is “Nikt nie jest” (Nobody is), which opens with a relatively easy post-punk motif and gradually becomes denser, ultimately transforming into raucous noise, which gives way to powerful riffs and the title lyrics screamed over and over again. I like to hear such diversity within a single track: there’s no way to lose the attention span. The band skilfully avoids monotony, crafting a wide array of guitar sounds. Another amazing moment comes with “Wilki z miasta” (Wolves from town) – the longest piece on the album, slightly reminiscent of post-yass, particularly when saxophonist Tomek Gadecki takes centre stage. One can really hear that Martim Monitz are not about simple protest songs, but fully-fledged suites, absorbing, spacious and demanding the listeners’ focus. Most importantly, though, Alba is a compositional tour de force, which highlights its sinister lyrics. The journey culminates in “Droga” (Road), whose rhythmical, drawn out text questions the meaning of existence; it gets loud, but it’s still possible to lose oneself in these lyrics. And while this kind of music often ends up swallowing its own tail, Martim Monitz are able to build attractive pieces with a diversified sound and make loud guitar arrangements interesting (although, admittedly, sometimes they are a bit on the long side). The lyrics are important too – whilst avoiding direct references to current reality, they use intriguing metaphors to touch upon various aspects thereof, such as the senseless nature of everyday existence or the political situation we’re in. The latter is brilliantly conveyed in “Nowy Hymn Polski” (The new hymn of Poland), which tackles various bias currently eating away at the Polish society (Reach out to a faggot / take him in your arms / don’t let go until he dies or Reach out to a refugee / place your hand on his head / until the sea swallows him dead). Martim Monitz are all about a dense punk sound, fast-paced repetitions and an atmosphere that draws you in and carries you throughout. Their music is full of anger, sometimes mixed with resignation, and the words shouted here have considerable power.
JAD, made up of members of Calm the Fire, The Stubs and Government Flu, have a similar point of departure: anger and refusal to accept the world around us. Yet the execution is entirely different (in spite of certain musical similarities, such as the finale of “Outro”). What is more, when we’re just two songs into Alba, the entire Strach will already have played out – JAD intensify their sound, condensing their hardcore lineage in 1- or 2-minute long pieces. When the music itself is neither refreshing nor does it have any such ambitions, this choice of format is catchy and articulate. The mercurial pace and changeability of the pieces, the instrumentally skilled band, their fury and anger are what makes up the gist of the album – which, while calling for a revolution, is very bitter. Is the revolution not in fact overdue? (See The time has gone / and so have we / too many opportunities in “Czas” [Time]). Krzysiek Paciorek has by now fully switched to Polish to shout out his anger, and he’s getting better and better at it – his manifestoes about the current reality are short and poignant. You will find no nauseating advice here – Paciorek simply puts himself forward against the noisy, cascading background of sounds and shouts his stuff, end of story. Lyrics-wise, one can find a number of similarities between JAD and Martim Monitz. Take “Droga” (Road), for example: where the Poznań-based band sings There is a goal / but there’s no road, here, JAD take no prisoners: the road is long / no end in sight / the road is long / you won’t see the sun. Theoretically it’s rather hard to believe that such a message may influence the listener in any way: the slightly archaic form will probably be appreciated by the most die-hard fans only. On the other hand, though, this is old school, this is the old guard: even when faith is fading, they remain steadfast, taking a mighty sound and involved lyrics as their weapon. And even if they never get to swim in deeper waters (and they won’t) with their niche language of expression, I’m on their side.