Cimexleaks: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth
As I look at the photos below, I can't help but be struck by the utter normalcy of it all. Normalcy not in the sense of "norms," the people punx love to hate. But in the sense that these punx are like us punx. They are freaks, to be sure. No high-school popularity contest would be won by one of these goons. But they are so recognizable. In breaking the mold, as punx do, they fit the punk mold that had begun to coalesce by this time in the early 80s (for better or worse). Anyway, the reason I point to how recognizable and familiar these characters are is to point to what is so goddamn special about punk: if these ugly fuckers could make the best music ever, so could you, so could I. And so it went.
But that's not all there was to it (it being "easy/cheap/go and do it") because even though nearly every town had a bunch of ugly kids making ugly music in the golden eras of punk and hardcore punk, not every town had Anti-Cimex. That is the strange alchemy of the object of this obsession we share: how could it be that these teens, just like you and me in so many respects, were able to pick up instruments, steal all their ideas from Discharge and Black Sabbath—the bands everyone else also loved—and create something that stood out so remarkably? For some Anti-Cimex would be only a place-holder in that formulation. You would insert your own favorite band. But I will stand firm and argue that there is something singular, something specific about Anti-Cimex. That's not to say that Anti-Cimex beat out Discharge (or Shotgun Solution or Agent Orange or SOD or Sid-forbid some US band) in some grand cosmic contest. It is to say that after all these years of listening so closely to Anti-Cimex, of compiling their archive, of writing and thinking and talking about them, I still can't figure it out.
Sure, for me and my friends, the distinction turns on something like the word "idioty." For those who don't speak English as a first language, such as Anti-Cimex and their friends and fans from Mariestad, that word likely doesn't register at all. So I am not claiming an objective truth transcending the positionality of the person uttering it—me. But I nearly am.
And it's a lyric like "I feel your democracy kicking me to death." Again, I like to think my friends share my politics, but I know I can't always count on it. So maybe that line doesn't move you. For me, as I wrote about OTAN, one of the amazing things about punk is its ability to distill through the vessel of pure rage the most obvious truths but also those most obscured by ideological flimflam. Thus, at the late Cold War moment when democracy became that which could no longer be criticized, a principle only intensified in today's politics, Anti-Cimex blundered into a lyric that expresses what we all know: it's "democracy" that is and has been murdering so many people around the world. To keep going with this line of thought, I think an analogy can be drawn between what an important dialectician said about Marxism and how I feel about punk. Now that capitalism has ostensibly triumphed and there is no substantive opposition to it available, Marxism becomes all the more essential. Shouldn't we use the one mode of analysis that doesn't presume the inevitable triumph of capitalism to understand what looks like just that? Punk is the same: just as the possibility of a "subculture" that is actually oppositional seems to have been extinguished, whether by social networking, the music industry, file-sharing, or a lack of imagination—whatever the cause—should we not look to punk, listen to punk, because it so resolutely believed that even if it wasn't going to kill off the mainstream, it would offer a viable alternative? Anti-Cimex foresaw almost none of this; understood still less. And that is the alchemy.
And then there is that solo in "When the Innocent Die." It is the solo. It is the solo that undermines the the rock-hard principle of hardcore punk, that it would be music that abjured soloing and all the pretense that goes along with soloing.
Some might be tempted to argue that what I am calling alchemy is "art." Art, after all, does all of this work of transcendence. Perhaps. At least artists imagine it does. But we would have to account for the weirdness that is the fact that the kids in these photos could so accidentally have stumbled into art. For they may have been pissed off about "democracy" in a conscious way; self-conscious artists, however, they were not. Even for the most esoteric folk/outsider art, and even for a lot of other punk-related music then and now, there is a desire to make art that I simply do not detect with Anti-Cimex.
In the end, I suppose I am willing to listen to the case that any number of classic 80s hardcore bands could be substituted for Anti-Cimex in what I have written. And as I age, I have days when "Raped Ass" is not my favorite record (the type of internal monologue you either have or you don't have—the two types of people in the world). But it's never far from the top. That there is so much ephemera for me to document only increases the magnetism of Anti-Cimex and Shitlickers. (Trust me, despite the 5 years I have been compiling this archive, I feel like I have much still to do.) And the ephemera makes my relationship to the band(s) exciting. It increases the sense of wonderment. But my point would be to say that because of the normalcy of these freaks, any similar band is deserving of a close look. The Shit-Fi project is concerned with giving a look to the bands and subgenres that we generally understand not to deserve a close look.
Although Anti-Cimex may have once struck me as slightly exotic because they were Swedish, it is clear that there is nothing exotic here. How much of our collective fascination with Japanese 80s hardcore over the years was fueled by a belief, however disavowed, in its exotic character? So maybe what needs to be done for us to finally be able to appreciate the recognizability of, say, GISM, is for me to dig up photos of Randy Uchida sleeping.
Admittedly, there is something prurient about these photos (a feeling generated also by the jävla amazing lost Sixten Cimex documentary). Maybe in addition to giving us the sense of the familiar, they give us the sense of incomprehensibility, of strangeness. That's OK. If all the strangeness were to wear off, we'd be able to grasp fully what makes listening to Anti-Cimex (or GISM) so pleasurable so many years later. And then it would probably cease to be pleasurable (in the broadest, somatic sense, for sheer joy is not what Anti-Cimex elicits, nor what I seek in listening to "Raped Ass"). So here's to intimacy, strangeness, ugly teenage boys, leather jackets, spiky hair, acne, cider, glue, ladder-laced boots, the d-beat, war scientists, atomic bombs, idioty, sucking your own cock, and jordens undergång.
First, a photo that probably should've been included in the post on Tomas Jonsson's pre-Cimex bands. He's in the beret. This photo is from 1980, taken in Mariestad. I didn't include it with that post because it's not of a band exactly. It's just kids being kids, really.
Mariestad punx are wigging out
Jocke, OG LBS&A
Reading is for punx.
So is sleeping.
Conrad Cutting, the most stylish member.
You axed for it!
A field trip.
Punx, chillin' out.