London-based quintet Belter have been shaking things up since 2007 with their eponymous blend of politicised lyricism, Clash inspired melodies and vocals that are evocative of both Dead Kennedys and bizarrely enough, Little Man Tate. Belter are punk without the spit and the safety-pins and all the nasty stuff your parents warned you about. Their unusual sound has earned them stage-time across a multitude of countries an continents including London’s 100 Club and Brooklyn’s Trash Bar.
Earlier songs in the band’s repertoire are particularly indebted to seminal punk bands such as Buzzcocks and the aforementioned Clash. Indeed, ‘Rubber Bullets’ could quite easily be their ‘Police and Theives’ albeit with a distinctly more upbeat and optimistic feel to it. There’s none of the snarl here that was present amongst the leather, bristles, studs and acne of the 1970s, but that isn’t a bad thing by any stretch; instead what we have is a band with a punk ideology but the intelligence to convey it in a manner that isn’t abrasive and nor is it clichéd.
The inclusion of an organ within the songs is something I feel punk bands can benefit from massively, you only need to look at some of Rancid’s more ska-infused tracks to see that. As it happens this is something I share in common with Belter, and particularly their earlier tracks like ‘TV Junkie’ use an organ to great effect.
Their most recent EP Invisible Cat sees the band expands it’s sound and instrumentation. The inclusion of slide guitar and string sections along with some brass allows the band to maintain a similar aesthetic while diversifying their overall sound to quite an extent. ‘Good Times Can Wait’ is a slow and mournful lament which sees the aforementioned brass and strings take prominence. The politicised lyrics are still present but with a band that has so much to say, could you expect any less.
‘What’s Your Excuse?’ is evocative of both Gogol Bordello and Sonic Boom Six. Effective use of upstrokes and brass make this a song that would be fantastic live; something you can really get your knees up to and almost definitely spill most of your pint over the person in front. What could be more punk short of a 3ft Mohawk and forehead piercings?
Punk certainly isn’t a genre for everyone. It’s antagonistic image and quite often, lack of talent is something which doesn’t do anything to appeal to newcomers. However, Belter have managed to combine a shiny veneer with punk sensibilities and made what is quite possibly the most radio-friendly politicised music I’ve ever heard. There’s elements at play here which suggest that there’s an intelligence behind the band’s music and they don’t just want to smash the state or swear on national television, they want to educate and illuminate rather than preach and ‘destroy’ and their music is all the better for it.