As shown by their new album Light At The End Of The Tunnel, Welsh punks Foreign Legion has never strayed too far away from their roots but continue to invigorate and push their core sound with a passion and energy which never becomes tiresome. The band’s latest riot bridges their old school punk/oi background with a modern punk ‘n’ roll confrontation resulting in twelve songs which make swift anthemic stabs with contagious endeavour aligned to antagonistic intent.
Formed in 1984, Foreign Legion has built an attention grabbing presence which has endured and widened over the years. A trio of full-length releases continued to set the band apart from the pack, especially the acclaimed Mick Jones produced What Goes Around Comes Around of 2002, whilst split releases with Major Accident in 2000 and Sledgeback in 2010 amidst their own EPs and compilation gracing songs, have proved the band a potent encounter within the modern era of punk rock. On stage again the quartet has forged a formidable reputation, the band playing across over 15 countries and sharing stages with bands such as Cockney Rejects, Guitar Gangsters, Control, The Warriors, GBH, The Ruts, Stiff Little Fingers and many more. They are also the only Welsh band to play the legendary CBGB’s in New York which makes an additional potent mark on their career’s CV alongside their numerous festival appearances including the likes of Back On The Streets, Punk & Disorderly and the Rebellion Festival, where the band is set to ignite the crowd again in 2014. Released via Aggro Beat in Europe as a Green With Red Splatter vinyl and Rebel Sound in the US as an equivalent in Mint Green with both issues limited to 250, Light At The End Of The Tunnel provides another feisty and tasty morsel from Foreign Legion to enthuse over.
Light At The End Of The Tunnel makes a strong and appealing start with opener Jenny and its successor What A Place To Be, if neither really inspires a greedy appetite in the emotions. Both tracks still grab attention easily to set things off promisingly, the opening song entangling ears with welcoming guitar strands of melody from Simon Bendon punctured by the firm beats of drummer Glyn Bendon. Soon into its stride with the track’s narrative unveiled by founding band member and vocalist Marcus Howells, the restrained and easy to access stroll makes a simple and catchy romp before the second song on the album similarly has feet and voice in tandem with its infectious if undemanding beckoning, the bass of Steve Zuki the most irresistible lure.
The album catches fire from here on in with firstly the excellent Regenerations (Council list. Riffs and rhythms bring an instant entrapment of the imagination before soon being reinforced by the swiping vocals as the song looks g at local governments and the decline of British towns and all that inspires. The track is a contagious two minutes plus of uncomplicated but thoroughly inciting social commentary in the renowned Foreign Legion style, though again maybe there is a spark missing in comparison to the following tracks. There is an undeniable greater potency to the song which the band and album expands further through songs like My Radio. A great bass intro from Zuki sets the track off in compelling style, its swagger and groove matched by the hooks of the guitars and the effect rubbed vocals. Infection again wraps the song, its virulence at new heights for the release with riffs and rhythms an additional thrilling toxic bait.
Both Hey Girl and George Best continue and elevate the new plateau of the album, the first a Peter and the Test Tube Babies meets The Clash like provocation which takes mere seconds to seduce senses and passions whilst the similarly bred second creates a terraces like anthemic quality for an Serious Drinking mixed with Angelic Upstarts eyeballing, both songs enlisting full physical and emotional participation to its recruitment drive. As probably recognised, Light At The End Of The Tunnel just gets stronger and more impressive the further into its body you delve, the likes of Stalker with its deviously addictive bass hook, another striking offering from Zuki who adds something extra to the album arguably lacking on earlier releases, and the excellent Market Trader adding to the weight and bait of the release. The second of the pair again deals with the decline of towns, this through the intervention of supermarket chains and the likes, whilst raging and infecting with resourceful invention. #
The uncompromising Three Years, and its unbridled assault on child abuse and feeble punishments, scars and provokes with greater venom and passion within the album before Miners and Drunken Heroes uncages a raw, caustic sonic grazing and belligerent defiance respectively. All three songs stalk and coax with spite and energy before the closing song covers them with its shadow. Phoenix from the Flame is a pure punk rock anthem, a band banner which alone places Foreign Legion band amongst the highest echelons of British punk, its body holding all the cards and bait to ignite crowds and recruit new hearts.
Closing on its finest moment Light At The End Of The Tunnel is an outstanding punk quarrel and maybe the best thing Foreign Legion has set loose to date, certainly the rival to past glories. Punk right now feels like it is moving to a new heyday and records like this only reinforce that notion.
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