Put simply, The Exploited's first album is perfect evidence of a band being so much more influential in terms of their concept than the music itself. Thirty odd minutes of simple, fast paced, furious Punk Rock may not sound much to the common listener, but it's with these thirty minutes and seventeen songs that “Punk's not Dead” is surely proved to be a worthwhile album. Comprised of no other than an aggressive ex-soldier from Scotland in Wattie Buchan, alongside three other equally as “politically correct” musicians who barely sound as if they so much as knew what the names of their respective instruments were, The Exploited began as a political statement. That statement can safely be summed up thusly:
“PUNK IS NOT FUCKIN' DEAD!”
Whatever you would expect from a Punk Rock album released in 1981 can probably be found in spades on this particular album, as it is musically one of the simplest and unsophisticated releases ever made. However, it is also a very organic and live-sounding record. Right from the opening title track, rowdy chants of a menacing yet youthful following of the band literally take place of the guitars, drums and bass work, until a chainsaw riff cuts through your ears as easily as a knife would through butter. This, if you haven't yet worked out, is indeed the staple of The Exploited's sound. Every one of the following sixteen songs generally follows in the same way, and for every change in tempo or every lyric that includes the well known 'F' word, there is always innocent, youthful banter between each member of the band or even a devoted fan of Punk Rock.
Lyrically speaking, it both sounds and reads as if a six-year old could have done it easily, but at the same time, all you need to do is look at this album's title, and discover the answer to that question, or the solution to whatever problem or quip you might have. In the very satirical 'Royalty' Buchan orders you to “Sign me a picture of the queen now/Dirty little Bitch, fucking little Cow”, whereas in the equally as aggressive “Son of a Copper” all known innocence of any individual is scoured when Wattie spits out “I won't end up like my Dad/And I won't end up being a Screw/Working with animals in a Zoo”. As said before, these could be advantages or disadvantages to any budding listener, but it is the idea that this album is nothing more than staple of classic Punk Rock, and quite rightfully so. Even when songs such as 'Exploited barmy Army' and 'Sex and Violence' literally depend on out of control repetition of their respective song titles, it works in such a way that, although hard to forget, can be forgiven when reviewing this album professionally. This may well be part of the fact that not only Wattie Buchan, but also every other member of the band contributes to vocals, whether it is the soulful group shouting/singing/screaming or the sole example of any member's voice. It's all heartfelt (!), menacing stuff, but it's stuff that manages to stay directly in contact with the 'Back-to-Basics' approach of playing Punk Rock.
The instruments themselves however are probably the main problem here. It's not exactly a well concealed fact that the band had tried to emulate the rawness of albums such as “Never Mind The Bollocks” or The Clash's self-titled debut, but “Punk's Not Dead” could well have benefited more from a clearer and more definitive approach to practising instruments more than was perceived upon the album's release. For instance, the guitar work, whilst it does have a couple of tempo changes, never really attempts to show off to the listener with its plain existence, whereas the bass is more than just a little prominent. As well as this, the bass proves its worth on the album by introducing many of the album's tracks in 'Mucky Pup' and 'Free Flight', the latter of which basically centres around the instrument's performance.
The only other thing that hasn't been said so far about the album is the significance of the song structures themselves. The song structures in “Punk's Not Dead” can be perceived as a 'Love/Hate' relationship by each respective listener. Whereas the more straightforward, battering ram approach of 'Cop Cars', 'Army Life' (an ode to Wattie Buchan's life prior to The Exploited) and 'Blown to Bits' constantly impresses those who lust for classic Punk, the more tense likes of 'Dole Q' and the extremely sinister 'Out of Control' serve as two of the album's true highlights, offering not only an unsettling sound but also a deviation from the norm. However, the last point simply points towards the fact that whereas some listeners love this difference in structure, others may be disinterested simply because of the fact that they are used to short bursts of Punk Rock, speeding along at eighty miles per hour.
If ever you wanted to know just why the phrase “Punk's not Dead” is thrown around as much as it is, this album is definitively the answer. An erratic and chaotic collection of simplistic Punk Rock tunes, some sub-par, some above average, it is something that has been on this planet for the last thirty years, and has played a wonderful yet somewhat unnoticed part within three, perhaps, four decades of fast paced, furious and politically charged Punk. This album is honestly for everyone to listen to, but may only be kept like a prized possession by those who love and strive for the very existence of Punk Rock.