‘Considering I saw them 30 years ago there’s been a lot of angry winters in between’ – Niall McGuirk on Paranoid Visions‘ recent collaboration with Steve Ignorant “When will we take back the power and walk into the sun?”
I will never forget the first time I saw Paranoid Visions. I have this story on repeat. It was my cousin’s wedding but my brother and I escaped after the dinner celebrations and got the bus into the Ivy Rooms for Paranoid Visions and Napalm Sunday and a whole host of others. Even before the bus arrived we were confronted by a guy cycling around with baseball bat in hand. Idly cycling down the road, ready to use the bat. He was on first base but we were ready to throw a dodgeball before dodging on to the bus.
We made it into the Ivy Rooms in one piece and the night got scarier and scarier. With all stories the tides of time can make way for great exaggeration but I can state here and now I was terrified that night. People seemed to be falling around, fights were breaking out and the tension in the air was like the smog that used to envelop the city in Winter time.
I’ve never taken drugs but I guess punk rock was my drug of choice. It was terrifying yet beautifully appealing. I had to get my band together and we had to play with Paranoid Visions. This I did over a short time and got to know all the members of the band. They were always friendly and I got to realise that behind the spikes and sneers were good people. Good people who seemed as annoyed with the world as I was and wanted to sing about it. I have said in my book about the gigs we put on over the years (Document: A Story of Hope) that when Deko and PA from Paranoid Visions came to see my band, Vicarious Living, play I was starstruck. When Deko grabbed the mic and sang along to “We Must Reject The Superpowers” I felt I had made it. It couldn’t get any better.
I got more and more involved in music and our paths intertwined over the years. I never lost my respect for the outspoken punk words of the Visions. Lead singer and spokesperson for the band was Deko. He is Ireland’s John Lydon, the outspoken one and much misunderstood because of it.
There’s always been a contradiction to Paranoid Visions, no doubt they would be happy with that. Songs about the future stating there is no future. Songs about the death of punk while they and others still hold that punk flame. I’ve no doubt it’s the shoot from the hip style of Deko. More Sex Pistol than Crass, Deko has never been afraid to court controversy. He enjoys it. When I was a kid I used to spend most of my Saturday afternoons going on marches, being ready to change the world and believing it was all about to happen. My Dad used to call us the Anti-Gang, ready to jump on any bandwagon. If there was an Anti-Gang Deko would have been its cheerleader… and then would call it a waste of time.
When I went to see the Visions in the Ivy Rooms, Crass were close to splitting up. An example of the dangerous times we were living is was when Poison Girls played in the Lourdes Hall hall in Sean McDermott Street. My parents refused to let me go, no way. I remember enviously watching my brother troop into town with his pink socks and newly mail ordered bondage trousers getting ready to go to battle just to see Poison Girls. Poison Girls were label mates with Crass, a band I was writing letters to and receiving written replies (sometimes 12 months on due to the volume they were receiving). These were our bands, this was our movement.
There’s been so many version of Paranoid Visions down through the years but the glue (or maybe Pritt Stick) that has kept them together is guitarist PA and singer Deko. There’s 9 of them now and have been pretty stable at this for a while. Considering I saw them 30 years ago there’s been a lot of angry winters in between, and now they have released 2 albums in a year, the latest being a collaboration between the band and Steve Ignorant who is well known as singer from Crass. Steve has been doing some interesting stuff lately as part of Slice of Life but it is more back to guitar, bass drum assault here. And who would have though that it would come to this now. I’m sure Paranoid Visions can’t believe it.
Of course it would be just sentiment if there was no substance behind the record. Thankfully that substance is there. It is a Paranoid Visions record, one with a slight difference but still has that Visions sound. If you don’t know what the sound is, here is where PV’s are in the 21st Century: Angry young man Deko has been replaced by angry man Deko, ably assisted here with Steve, Sarah and Aoife (PV’s other 2 singers ) and the message is as angry as was delivered way back “When will we stop talking and start listening again, when the people say “enough us enough, my friend”. That is the message right throughout.
Of course it has its controversy. Take ‘Charity Begins At Home’ Deko states that “the one thing I know about charities is they’re riddled with hypocrisy”. Maybe a bit too one directional in the sentiment but their punk rock was never anything but slogans and hard hitting words. I don’t agree with that statement, but I do find myself singing along whilst thinking of my friends involved in charities trying to make the world a better place. ‘United Left Annoyance’ is Crass-like with Steve’s vocals to the fore as it hits out at politicians. Politicians have always been to the fore in the Visions’ assault and that hasn’t altered. Instead of telling them to face reality and see how the other half lives it is those on the left who are being told they are ‘scabby and ingrown’. Noone escapes here. In ‘Independence Day’ we are asked wwhat would do you do with your independence as a country? Is this the future those who fought for the country foresaw? The stained glass windows that the band have been singing about since their first tape release has had an interesting 30 years. The religious institutions have had some damaging revelations and PV’s have always been to the fore singing about them. I was thinking ‘Sex Kills’ should be the anthem of Turn Off The Red Light campaign. A bruising killer attack on the sex industry that is exploiting people at an alarming rate. But then again, that is a charity.
In ‘Changing Times’ we have a good sing along chorus “Where the fuck is all the revolution that all those records sang about” We are told the flames of punk are dying out but the fire will not be extinguished if P.A. has a guitar in his hand. As for ‘Rock’n’roll Revolution’, well this is his anti-punk song. As powerful as ever but sometimes it feels the words are there to fit into this aural assault. It is the ‘Punk Is Dead’ of 2013. Memories of Steve singing about CBS and the Clash has now been replaced by Epitaph. But that’s where the contradiction continues. Back in the early 80’s Crass sang that punk was commodified, 30 years later that message is still coming out but the spirit of punk rock is still there. That spirit is in Paranoid Visions by their actions. Releasing their own records, putting on their own gigs and looking after young bands 30 years after they did it first. The spirit is there in abundance amongs fanzine writers, bloggers and record labels. There have always been bandwagon jumpers or people who see it as a career move but it is no different now.
Musically The Visions have always portrayed a good mix in their influences. There is a dangerous brooding element at times to the sound. Definitely part Killing Joke part Sex Pistols part Crass even but there is a departure here with ‘Log On Bog Off’ This is a bizarre acoustic off kilter song about privacy being eroded with all our online activities and “sell joe public what he wants and fill his head with product”. The sentiment is spot on, but playing this to my kids and the message is diluted. This is the way of the world, the dangers are part of life. We have to be careful that it’s not seens as us old fogies telling the kids it was better in our day.
Paranoid Visions are still as good now as back in the day. Great record.