There is absolutely no need, in 2012, for another snotty punk band.
In a world of unprecedented precarity the violent aloofness of the ‘70s-indebted three-chorders is laughable. They still stalk N postcodes by the handful, of course, but theirs is a scene defined by anachronism, orbiting a form so neutered that not even the High Street fashion chains think it’s dangerous anymore.
And yet the essence of that form still has a rare power. The fundaments of punk, that bombast is bullshit and DIY trumps all, retain totemic importance – and as Zulu demonstrate, when those fundaments are wedded to a desire for forward motion, rather than reductive historical re-enactment, the results are remarkable.
Zulu have heritage; their bassist is the son of Paul Simonon, one of the most enduring icons of an iconoclastic genre. But in fact Zulu’s roots are buried further back than the record that bears a photograph of their famous relative smashing his guitar. Sure, there is something of Strummer in intimidatingly chiselled vocalist Luke Brennan’s delivery, but the walking guitar lines of ‘Sistine Chapel’ and ‘Incarcerated For Thrills’ speak more of a filth-laden reinterpretation of ‘50s surf than of the jukebox Clash renditions favoured by so many of their less adventurous peers.
Zulu clatter through a succession of two-minute cataclysms, barely keeping control of songs that seem to have an energy all of their own. But this is much more than a group of lads with more anger than ability. Yes, there is aggression aplenty – aggression that is mirrored by the crowd, many of whom happily barrel around in what must be the first mosh pit Dalston has seen in some years – but in Zulu’s guitars, which marry the dystopian bleakness of contemporary London with an unsettling, inventive melodicism, there are clear indications of a band with a better understanding than most of what it means to be young and angry in the city. Proof that in the right hands, punk can still matter.