Anti-Nowhere League: We Are the League: DVD/CD

For the longest time I never knew what to make of Anti-Nowhere League; they always seemed to get lumped in with the stalwarts of early ’80s Brit hardcore like Discharge, G.B.H, and the Exploited, however ancillary that relationship may have been. But they stood out in my mind because, unlike those bands, they never sported the officially sanctioned hardcore look. No colorful Mohican or porcupine hairdos. Instead, they wore top hats and gay biker hats with short hair and came across as slightly fetishy low-rent goons, each a walking menagerie of nits and unusual rashes. With their striped shirts and gobs frozen into exaggerated snarls, they had the petty criminal charm of any gang of henchmen on the old ’60s Batman show. I could even picture the ANL lair with floors tilted at angles no innocent person would architecturally allow. And of course, they were fronted by this loutish biker dude wearing crisscrossing chains like a vest and menacingly clutching a large ax for some reason, who would’ve seemed out of place at a punk show if he wasn’t surrounded by his similarly misfit bandmates. All in all, they seemed like Motörhead’s filthier little brothers, with a biker/skinhead/punk twist.

It eventually dawned on me that Anti-Nowhere League was a stubbornly out-of-lockstep representation of heterodox punk. I liked that. They were kindred oddballs, a subset of super-weirdos within the larger group of regular weirdos, and for that reason alone, I owed them a listen. It didn’t take long before I found myself in heated arguments with Metallica fans about whose version of the politically incorrect classic “So What” is better.

We Are the League is the ANL documentary I always wished existed. It presents the infamous oddball “anti-band” from Tunbridge Wells warts and all, including sordid carrots-up-rectum stories, frank recountings of racially-tinged band tensions, and even an unflinching look at their incongruous stumble into Tears-For-Fears-like sensitive, soft metal realms with the release of their Perfect Crime album in the late ’80s. Included with the DVD is a CD of raw live recordings from 1982 featuring ripping renditions of their early classics along with hilarious samples of snide audience baiting.

I would recommend, before sitting down to watch this DVD, perhaps cleaning the wax deposits out of your ears as the British accents presented are brogue-ishly thick and laced with sometimes inscrutable slang; not to the point of listening to a Wattie interview where you actually need subtitles, but attentive listening is probably required.

It could be said, given that the subject of this documentary is a band notorious for its low-brow crudeness, that this is a surprisingly well-crafted film. Even more surprising might be that the blokes in the band come across as genuinely affable chaps, whether having had their barbs shaved down by advancing age or clever editing. Seriously imposing and yet self-deprecating at the same time, Anti-Nowhere League is a grimy enigma in leather and this film gives you a gritty look at the goons behind the legend, free of any threat of being bit or gobbed on. Essential viewing. –Aphid Peewit (MVDvisual.com)