In the interest of full disclosure, we completely missed the 2022 debut album from Newcastle’s Boudicca. If we hadn’t, it would have been high atop our best albums of the year lists but to be fair, Tapestry really is one of the best albums we’ve seen come out of the last twelve months. Considering the band is now poised to launch from the momentum kicked up from the release, we’d be remiss to not tell you straight-up to put them in your ‘stop whatever you’re doing and listen’ pile — don’t make the same mistake we did.
Released in September, Tapestry comes off the back of a demo in 2017, a split EP with Styggdød in 2018, and crucial singles ‘Emma’ and ‘Ellen’. A meticulous, detailed labour of love, Tapestry is a considerably threatening release to all those who consider themselves peers of Boudicca – this is rage music, but with the brain power dialled way up. Self-confessed history nerds, Boudicca use punk as a lens through which to tell stories from the past – both near and far – but as we see with Tapestry, this isn’t your average history lesson.
The easy reference would be the super-sharks from 1999 movie Deep Blue Sea, but we throw down with history too. During the 1600s, the Swedish army’s secret weapon was its Finnish regiments. The most culturally and linguistically alien of troops, the Fins wouldn’t waste time with pleasantries or manners – they’d just unleash ground-shaking chaos – not unlike Boudicca.
Pick your point of reference, but simply, Tapestry gives the listener a chance to either get lost in the gears and levers and learn how the watch works, or to get the exact same satisfaction from sitting back and watching the time.
Before we get into the brain, we’ll cover the brawn. That’s not to say the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but I’ve come up with a fun angle for this one, so humor me. The unfortunate reality with punk drums is all too often, if you do the job right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all. Boudicca posits if you do the job great, you damn near steal the show. The beats are ruthless yet cheeky, keeping up with, or showing off in front of, the guitars for much of the record. The bass joins the drums in that the low end seems to want to rile up its counterparts, pushing them out of the way to take the lead at times.
The riffage runs from knuckle-dragging chug to head-spinning solos, often with very little warning, and as a loyal subscriber to the idea that Frente were the first band to popularise the Australian accent via song, I can’t help but feel Angie Hart would love to hear Boudicca.
The punk bones are there, and the unwritten laws are being honoured, but Boudicca bring a unique panache to punk that really does help explain the genre’s current boom. Boudicca’s oeuvre consists of unearthing stories from history and smashing them open using punk to expose their modern-day relevance.
Now for the brain power and I admit, that extended metaphor isn’t really translating, but we’ve come this far. Tapestry touches on stories of a 61CE Celtic Queen, their namesake, known for destroying 70,000 Roman soldiers in opening track ‘Millions of Dead Centurions’, and with ‘An Cailleach Béara’ they recall harrowing 1000 CE Irish literature.
Album centrepiece and personal favourite ‘Tapestry’ tells the 8CE Greek tale of Philomela and Tereus, who cut off her tongue to force her silence, and ‘Emma’ is an ode to leading figure of anarchist thought and practice, feminist, activist, and general thorn in the side of early 20th century prevailing wisdoms, Emma Goldman. ‘Ellen’, named after Ellen Kelly, speaks to urgency still felt reading Ned Kelly’s famous Jerilderie letter.
At a distance, it may seem like like a random tapestry of stories, some more factual than others, but Tapestry has a clear throughline – that we share more in common with dark days of the past than we might realise, and what history proves will happen when the downtrodden don’t want tolerance, they want revenge.
With an upcoming show with Frenzal Rhomb and scheduled appearances in Sydney and Newcastle, there’s no better time than the present to get your head around the Newcastle group, and word from their recent outing with Terminal Sleep and Volatile Ways strongly suggests you should run, not walk, to your next Boudicca gig.