When Plaids called it a day last year, it was a sad moment for the UK underground punk scene. After all, their self-titled album was one of last year’s best, and that’s to say nothing of their long list of EPs and split releases; nor of the fact that members were involved in running JT Soar, a hugely important space in the Nottingham underground scene (that, thankfully, remains very active). Thankfully, the various members haven’t been quiet since their split, with Soul Structure being one of several new bands members are involved in – in this case, former vocalist Joe C – and the one that picks up right from where Plaids left off. As such, The Body Of Man is seventeen minutes of chaotic, energetic emo-punk, full of passion and intelligence, with clear inspiration from 90’s emo, yet never feeling regressive or nostalgic.
Whilst The Body Of Man is a clear continuation from where Plaids left off, there’s more to the record and to Soul Structure than just Plaids v2. There’s a greater sense of chaos at parts, as on opener “Druyan”, as if the band simply can’t play fast enough, and they hit that sweet spot for punk rock where things sound as if they’re on the verge of collapsing, whilst still just about remaining under control. Straight from there, “Dovedale” demonstrates the variety on offer, moving in to a rather pretty mid-tempo section after the first minute, as well as showcasing some of the more self-professed “hippy shit” lyrics that run through the record (and just to be clear: this is a good thing. It’s a refreshing change to hear lyrics that are both environmental and metaphorical in punk rock).
From there, The Body Of Man rarely sits still. The EP is full of changes of pace and tempo, which helps contribute greatly to the frantic energy that keeps it moving onward even during its more reflective moments. Nor does the EP keep its lyrical themes constrained; personal and political themes are all touched upon. “Sharpening” is especially worthy of praise, in that it’s that rare thing, in that it’s a song about extreme politics that does not fall in to cliche or self-parody. It may take some careful listening to pick all of the lyrics out, though; the production really pushes the guitar to the front, and whilst it’s not to the detriment of any other aspect, it mean that the guitar dominates, and gives The Body Of Man quite a sense of volume and loudness. And much like on the self-titled Plaids album, when the band step back and give the music some room, they succeed in creating the desired feeling of space and openness.
Whilst there are many small details that have gone in to The Body Of Man that contribute towards its success – small turns of the guitar or bass, inventive drumming, and subtly placed background samples all abound – there’s no sense in discussing them in great detail. That’s because The Body Of Man is the kind of record that feels as if it is racing by at a considerable speed, even when it isn’t. The energy it transmits even during its slower moments is infectious, and it’s that feeling which is what really stands out. But what’s really worth highlighting to is that, whilst the musical influences here are clearly rooted in the past – most notably, Moss Icon, Assfactor 4 (who wrote the greatest opening lyric of all time, arguably), and Ordination Of Aaron – there is nothing nostalgic about The Body Of Man. Bands who can pay homage to the past whilst still looking forwards are rare, but based on The Body Of Man, Soul Structure can count themselves among that number.