Demonstration by Thugs and Terrorists
By Kristian Whittaker
When Cameron Muir, Joe Ferguson and Laurie Agar came together late last year to form a new rock-based punk band, they adopted the name Thugs and Terrorists. The name derives from a Canberra Times article by Sir William Keyes in which he labelled protesters at the 1991 anti-AIDEX demonstration "nothing but a bunch of thugs and terrorists".
Songs on the group's recently released cassette-tape, titled Demonstration, are inspired in part by the anti-AIDEX protest (the cover photo depicts drummer Agar atop a tripod at the demo), but also by the ongoing campaign against police violence. Since AIDEX '91 the group has been active in the Canberra branch of the Coalition Against Police Violence. On the tape, Sean Kenan, peace and anti-police violence activist, also lends a hand with backing fiddle.
The music is variously influenced, with elements of Planxty, Crass and REM. Originally "a rock-folk punk band", the band now incorporates so many styles, says Muir (songwriter, vocals, guitar and acoustic instruments), that "it's getting difficult to 'box'".
The trio perform with an impressive array of instruments: banjo, guitar, bodhran, bouzouki, mandolin, reflecting perhaps their experience with Kenan's Trash the New World Order.
"Media Lies", with its funky '70s punkish style, is a response to biased coverage of the anti-AIDEX demo. "Blackleg Miner", a traditional English anti-scab song, is reworked into a fast-paced Irish neo-trad. "This Concerns Everybody", straight but poppy punk-rock, gives four different accounts of black deaths in custody.
The "Apathy Song" criticises "the life-stylists in some of the social movements; people who embrace certain movements without bothering to find out the philosophic origins of those
movements", and for this reviewer calls to mind the cheeky comment by a character in Ben Elton's novel, Stark: "The appropriation of radical thinking by lazy, self-obsessed hippies is a public relations disaster that could cost the earth".
Other songs angrily take up issues relating to the tourist industry's effect on indigenous people and the environment, capitalism and more. However "the songs we play aren't just strictly political, but touch upon social attitudes and personal topics as well".
Not included on this first release, but definitely worth catching the band live for, are the songs "Cops are Tops' (written by Kenan and Agar), "On the Dole" and the "Advertising Song" (both by Agar).
Demonstration cassette-tape is cheaply priced at $8 plus $2 for postage (money orders only). Orders can be sent to Thugs and Terrorists, GPO Box 3056, Canberra ACT 2601 or ring Joe: (06) 249 8052.