Review: Apologies, I Have None- Pharmacie (Animal Style/Holy Roar)

Posted: September 6, 2016 in Reviews

Pharmacie cover art

Apologies, I Have None are one of the most creative and consistently fascinating punk rock bands around and their second LP Pharmacie pushes the boundaries of what you thought the band were once again. I say ‘punk rock band’ in a loose sense and in the sense of their core, underlying ethos, but musically, while there are certainly punk elements to their sound and Apologies straddle multiple genres, this feels largely like an angst-y, emo record. I mean that as a compliment, because it was totally the natural next step in the band’s evolution. The band clearly push themselves continually, reflected by the difference between Pharmacie and the acoustic two-piece folk-punk that Apologies played on those early EPs.

London was great, a heart-on-the-sleeve melodic punk LP, that is probably comparable musically to Hot Water Music and Menzingers, etc, while retaining a clear identity of its own. “The 26” was one of the highlights of the album, partly because of the bare-bones, visceral gut-punch of the song-writing, and partly because it sounded unlike anything Apologies had done before. In some ways, the ‘new’ Apologies has built on the sheer desperation and anger in “The 26” on the Black Everything EP, and now latterly on Pharmarcie. Pharmacie is grungier, dirtier and more inventive than anything Apologies have attempted previously and is certainly the next logical step from Black Everything (indeed, there is a re-recording of “The Clarity of Morning” on here). They really do want to ‘black everything’ by this point, as lead singer Josh wails from his gut at one point on “Wraith”.

Minus the piano, the song-writing and a punk-y, sing-a-long chorus on “Love and Medication” mean that the opener is the track which is most reminiscent of London-era Apologies. After that, they teeter between the grunge-y, heavy rock of “Wraith” (this certainly would have been at home on Black Everything) and slow-burning indie rock, like “Anything Chemical” and “Crooked Teeth”. In fact, the heavier, faster moments where Apologies really let loose are few and far between, perhaps reflecting the ticking time bomb of mental health. If those angry, visceral bursts of energy were present throughout, they wouldn’t have nearly the same effect that they do here. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the brooding, electronic-backed, build-up in “Everyone Wants to Talk About Mental Health” before the gut-punch pay-off in the last quarter, which contains perhaps the best lyrics on the record:

“Everybody wants to talk about mental health/ Like everybody thinks that by talking, they can work their problems out/ But I’ve never been one for talking about myself/ So, if talk is the only way to solve this, I don’t want to sort it out/ I’ll keep it in, chew it up, spit it out with unwanted aggression”.

On “Crooked Teeth”, there is a sociological reasoning offered for this: “…and a real man never backs down, he keeps his fears close to his chest”. Males have it drilled into them from a young age that they shouldn’t cry or be emotional or vulnerable, so of course certain feelings are kept inside, to be one day unleashed. There is an unsettling vulnerability on Pharmacie, with these songs arguably acting as a way of releasing these inner demons. I feel like Apologies have always been pretty direct and heart-felt, but on Pharmacie, the mental tortures and isolation are laid bare. Just examine these lines from Crooked Teeth: “Go, go find your feet/ Before the rush of youth evaporates and vapour seeps into your hips and knees/ Reminds you that you spent your whole trying, but couldn’t outrun defeat”. Fucking hell. Similarly, the closing lines of “The Clarity of Morning”: “…when I said I didn’t love you, what I meant was I hate myself”.

All of which would lead you to believe that this record is a massive downer; a gloomy, emotional draining, angst-fest. Essentially hopeless, where London wasn’t. That may be the case for a significant chunk of the record, but Pharmacie dangles some hope right at the end, on 6 minute-plus closer “A Phamarcy in Paris”: love. A loved one, a soulmate can be the medicine to one’s ailing mental health. The song opens with the lines “this confession has meant nothing”, in reference to ‘talking about mental health’. I see it in this way: acceptance and talking only gets those suffering so far; there has to be something else for the person to hold onto and I think it is that which Apologies are alluding to here: “You and I level each other out/ I was the pills that kept you steady/ The opiates that talked me down/ All we had to do was makes each other laugh and let love and medication get us through the harder parts”. Brilliantly, they bring back in ‘love and medication’ after the opener (I also like that Apologies reference ‘London’ and ‘Concrete Feet’ at other times on Pharmacie); everything comes full circle. Love acts as medication. Holy shit. What a way to end the album. Basically: this is proper stuff, a punk album for the ages, a Pharmacie to live by.

Listen here: https://apologiesihavenone.bandcamp.com/

DB

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