“Martyrs and Prisoners” 7” (Different Kitchen Records) 2013 
By Rich Cocksedge

My first encounter with Rations was very much by chance; I was sent some specific review material by 86d Records and for some reason the label also sent me a copy of the album For Victory.  This sat around for some time before I got my act together and actually listened to it.  For some reason the album grated on me a little and it wasn’t one I could listen to from start to finish very often.  I liked the general sound of the band which was lo-fi and distorted but the songs seemed to hit a nerve too often for my liking.  Then this little slab of white vinyl dropped through my door and there was something different about the sound, something that I could listen to without any need to cut it short.

For me the change between that album and this single is that the production adds a bit more of a punch to the music, and also the songs are much better and this was evidenced by the recordclocking up eight successive plays from when I first heard it.  Yes, it’s along the lines of a lot of what one might hear if you pay attention to the more middle ground of punk rock these days (think The Fest), but within Rations’ output there is enough to mark them apart from the masses, and allow them to shine, albeit in a lo-fi, fuzzy kind of way.

Opening track “Leaves of Grass” is up front and catchy from the off, with a strong and steady rhythm that is easy to get caught up in and I’m totally locked in from the moment I realise that the band has stepped up its game and the subsequent five songs do nothing to alter that conclusion.

The one really off the wall comparison that came to me when listening to “Occasion for War” is how much it made me think of Titus Andronicus; I think it’s something to do initially with predominantly the drum beat but also the vocals to a lesser extent, with the track having a touch of a more indie rock sound in it.  (I consider that to be a positive comparison and not a negative one. )  On “Magnificent Sea”, which clocks in at 46 seconds, there is a similarity to Dan Webb and The Spiders with the vocals clearly being in the same ball park in terms of styling and sound, although it comes in very short order especially with the last ten seconds or so being more noise than more ‘normal’ music.

“(No More) Warheads” begins as if you’re listening to the band inside a venue, so it’s all muffled and distorted but then kicks into a clearer sound akin to being inside the venue, and the song has a beefy and punchy, yet quite loose and rambunctious feel to it.  In “The Profiteers” and “Relived/Replayed”, Rations save the best until last, with two very strong songs, both managing to outdo what has come before.

The band is quite liberal in its use of noise, beats and sounds before, during and after songs, all of which helps the tracks flow well, especially when they’ve been downloaded (a DL card comes with the release) onto an MP3 player.  The lyrics tend towards the short and concise with both “(No More) Warheads” and “The Profiteers” displaying the art of brevity in getting a message across.

Beyond the actual music, what is both remarkable and pleasing about this release is that there was a significant and co-ordinated effort to get it released around the world using a large number of more accessible record labels/distros (released concurrently in 11 countries).  Furthermore, Rations wanted to ‘use the occasion as an opportunity to strengthen our relationships with the international DIY punk conspiracy and to help further connect the network of ideas, music, and trade that happens outside the mainstream. We’re aiming for counter-culture, not sub-culture.’  Given how difficult and costly it can be to source releases these days with increasing postage costs and limited production runs, this could not have been an easy task so this approach has to be applauded and if nothing else, serve as an example of how co-operation can help band and fans alike.  (My copy came courtesy of the UK’s Different Kitchen)

Whether you like the music or not, it’s hard not to admire a band that seems to be walking the walk in addition to talking the talk in respect of a worldwide DIY culture and perhaps this is a new blueprint for how things could be.  For the record, I like the music too.