By: Eric Greenwood
As evidence of the fact that punk is a meaningless term, take the gulf that separates a band like Guyana Punch Line from, say, any emo band you can think of and try to reconcile any semblance of commonality under the punk umbrella. It can't be done unless you zoom out far enough to argue that, well, it all uses guitars; therefore, it must be similar.
Much truer to the punk ethos set forth by England's socio-political cadre (Crass, Rudimentari Peni) and even its cartoonish forbearers (Sex Pistols) than any contemporary hardcore act, Guyana Punch Line exudes its revolutionist bent with such fury and rage that you will never misconstrue its motivations or intentions. And it makes Refused sound like your mom's punk rock to boot.
Direkt Aktion is this South Carolina quartet's third full-length, and it is even more violently brutal than its predecessors, if that's even possible. The formula hasn't really changed much, but the execution has been finely tuned. The band makes a mockery of the overused loud/soft dynamic, utilizing such extremes on both ends that it practically reinvents the idea. When bands are this brutal, musically, they often walk a fine line, bordering the realm of caricature and silliness (all black metal comes to mind), but Guyana Punch Line always manages to remain grounded by never taking itself too seriously.
Just listening to the music might lead one to believe that Guyana Punch Line is a one-trick pony because the music is only one sampling of the band's complicated bag of tricks. Harshness alone is no longer shocking; nor is precision. To experience Guyana Punch Line fully takes some effort. Lead singer Chris Bickel's lyrics and illustrations could stand on their own as some sort of terror shock zine, but when taken in context with the music they make listening to Guyana Punch Line a vital experience.
That is not to downplay the music at all. Guyana Punch Line's battery of riffs and explosive dynamics rival those of the any of the finest hardcore bands of the past fifteen years. Bickel barks his lyrics ruthlessly and furiously- like his life depends upon it. On "Not Right" the band juxtaposes a panicked onslaught of blistering hardcore with a nursery rhyme melody. Well, melody might be too strong of a word, as Guyana Punch Line rarely ventures down that road, but the rhythm changes in such a way to suggest something tangibly familiar and childlike.
With thirteen songs totaling a mere nineteen minutes, Guyana Punch Line never allows for complacency. The goal is to get in, do as much damage as possible, and get out. On "Obligatory Naïve Anti-Sellout Song" Bickel rages that "the sound of hardcore gets sold out a little more/bands getting signed on the sound of our scene/playing politics while moving units for the machine." You'd be hard-pressed to understand a single word without the booklet (and even with it you're often still scratching your head), but the sentiment is certainly not misconstrued. And then on "Null Transmission" Bickel shrieks "trees are killed so poets can write odes to trees/sometimes I can't tell if it's raining gold or if the world is pissing all over me" to show that his sense of humor comes with an ironic punch.
Guyana Punch Line is the closest thing to performance art the hardcore world has ever seen. A winking tirade of caustic humor, bleeding heart politics, and calculated hardcore, Direkt Aktion pummels the brain as much as it makes it think.