I’ll go ahead and say it, 2016 was a lousy year for most of us. Trump, Brexit, Syria and the rise of international terrorism (Don’t even mention that damn gorilla) cast a dark shadow over our everyday lives, an ever-present reminder of the appalling state of the world we live in. It’s this kind of chaos that VANT relish, turning it on its head and wielding it like some sort of angry, garage-rock pitchfork. Just when you thought rock music had become another cog in the grey, corporate money-spinning machine, VANT are kicking back at the world, recalling the heyday of politicized punk, from The Clash to Rage Against The Machine.
‘Dumb Blood’ is the London (by way of County Durham) indie-rockers’ mission statement, their open letter to humanity, 40 minutes of frantic, angst-driven, ear-pounding garage-punk that helped changed my worldview, and could make politics accessible for our generation. I’m not here to be patronizing, this isn’t a politics essay, but I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe you’ll come to realize we need bands like VANT more than you could ever care to think…
Loudmouthed and opinionated frontman Mattie Vant has never been one to shy away from tackling some fiercely controversial issues from racism to religion, environmentalism, social media induced ignorance, and the all round self-destructive idiocy of the human race. On record, this is exposed as a raucous blend of jagged punk and melodic alt-rock, clinging to a choppy pop groove. And if you’ve ever witnessed VANT’s incendiary live show, you’d probably agree that this musical ferocity is only matched by their compelling, relentless, and satirical lyrics.
This is an album that doesn’t waste time in laying down its ballsy agenda. Opener ‘The Answer’ bears a clear anti-war message that attacks our questionable ‘special relationship’ with the US (dick-sucking jokes aside). It’s explosive and gutsy, with grunge overtones and an irritated, confrontational chorus that has Mattie demanding “Won’t you give me the answer? The answer”. Likewise, the biting attack of ‘Put Down Your Gun’ hammers home a bitterly relevant truth surrounding police brutality and the oppressive ‘climate of fear’, Its lurching guitar melodies and spiky surf-rock dynamic echoing both the Pixies and The Vines at their most agitated.
Elsewhere, ‘Lampoon’s’ disgruntled chorus cry of “Everything is dumb with this generation” has never felt more relevant in the age of social media indoctrination, whilst the 100-mile-an-hour punk-rock smash of ‘Do You Know Me?’ lashes out at our mind-numbing complacency towards the slog of life, love and work. “It’s about doing the things you hate in order to do the things you love” says Mattie, a call to arms that deserves to be blasted from the rooftops at full-volume.
Some songs are blatantly directed at particular issues. ‘Parking Lot’ seethes with an almost ‘In Utero’ styled aggression, its clamouring instrumentals and raring lead riff confronting sexual assault and ‘rape culture’ head on, “She’ll look so pretty, like a kick in the teeth…just admire her” the track demands. It’s something of a vision for an ideal world… ‘I Don’t Believe in God’ revels in Mattie’s own atheism and his nervy attitude towards life and death, urging you to get out there and live your life to its full potential, without the accompanying cheesiness. It could be ‘Dumb Blood’s proudest moment – “I think I’m in love with the world and what it was” Mattie calls, it’s stuck to me like glue.
Still, VANT aren’t exactly the ones to do miserable and morbid. ‘Fly-By Alien’ and its blistering skate-punk riffs offer up a hilariously satirical judgment on the “tick tock time bomb” (that’s us by the way) from the viewpoint of a passing extraterrestrial, while sneering B-side ‘Parasite’ hurtles by in a whirl of crashing percussion and lightning-fast lyrical hooks.
It’s reassuring to see VANT haven’t lost any of their celebrated live energy between here and the studio. To them, playing live isn’t just a performance, it’s a form of activism; a chaotic, sweat-drenched protest against the socio-political shitstorm outside. Power ballad ‘Peace & Love’ effortlessly lives up to this reputation, delivering a hopeful message that ditches the bitter, apocalyptic tones and urges us to reconnect with their true meaning as its final lines play out.
‘Headed For The Sun’ has all the makings of a massively anthemic hit, and carries the hard-hitting stadium-rock edge of Biffy Clyro. It’s a more brooding effort that gestures towards a change of mood found on album closer ‘Time & Money’, a song that incorporates a suspiciously Libertines-like acoustic element, and although it’s not as charmingly poetic as anything Pete could write, it resounds with the last pleading hope for Planet Earth – “All we’ve got is time”.
To me, VANT feels like more than “just a band”, it’s an idea, a movement, a revolution. VANT are here to evoke a reaction, to get people talking and to inspire an idle generation to give a damn about the shameful state of our world. They’re not alone, finding themselves amongst a formidable generation of politically energized artists, from Declan McKenna to Cabbage, INHEAVEN and Slaves. ‘Dumb Blood’ is VANT’s manifesto, a battle cry that questions authority and the selfish truths of human nature. So what are you waiting for? Buy, stream, download, share and play the hell out of this record, get out there and make the change you want to see. Not bad for four boys from “Planet Earth” eh?
VANT are setting out on their biggest headline tour yet this March to promote their debut album, ‘Dumb Blood’! They’ll be joined by Devon grunge-rockers Black Foxxes and London alt-rock outfit Dead!, as well as a host of top local bands. I’ve listed all the dates below so why not grab a ticket?. You can also stream the standard edition of ‘Dumb Blood’ on below, whilst you can find the deluxe edition, containing live rarities and some wicked B-sides on Spotify and other streaming sites.
VANT, February/March 2017 tour dates:
24th February, Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
25th February, Leeds, The Wardrobe
26th February, Dublin, Academy 2
27th February, Belfast, Oh Yeah Music Centre
1st March, Manchester, Gorilla
2nd March, Sheffield, Plug
3rd March, Birmingham, O2 Institute2, Digbeth
4th March, Swansea, Sin City
5th March, Oxford, O2 Academy2
7th March, Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
8th March, Bristol, Thekla
9th March, London, Electric Ballroom
Words by Joe Bulger
Featured image courtesy of DIY, photographer unknown