Hands Off Close Shave!

Close Shave is the name of a burly, rough-edged rock and roll band composed of four old school skinheads from Birmingham, playing punk and Oi! with a vaguely right-wing and anti-PC attitude. They released their debut album well after the second wave of Oi! classics in 1988 (titled ‘Oi! Kinnock Give Us Back Our Rose!’) and apparently aroused a little controversy due to their right-wing lyrics in support of capital punishment, the SAS, patriotic chauvinism and (the ultimate sin) freedom of speech.

close shave

They were never RAC, never white noise, just gritty, driving rock and roll with the bite of Motorhead and the attitude of Ted Nugent, filtered through a hard-line Oi! sound comparable to Combat 84 or a beefier Last Resort. A friend of the band, I’m not exactly sure who but he appears in some of their home footage clips on youtube and bounces around the stage at their pub shows in Blackpool, can be seen wearing a balaclava and a black t-shirt printed with the perfect skinhead statement of intent:

“Fuck Antifa!
Fuck Adolf!
Fuck Offense!
Oi! Life!”

No better words describe the spirit of the Oi! scene. Most Oi! fans are apolitical skinheads that just want to get drunk and dance to no-nonsense pub-punk anthems, leaving aside the undeniably objectionable ‘Rock Against Communism’ scene as spearheaded by bands like Skrewdriver. Enter Antifa, who never fail to see such a distinction in their (ironically) black-and-white view of the world.

I say never, but I do maintain that there was once a time when certain groupings under the banner of Antifa made a valorous stand against genuinely dangerous neo-nazi movements in the 1980s and early 1990s, especially in Britain and France. There are some good documentaries floating around that demonstrate quite well that there was a time when neo-nazi youths were a genuine threat to those that did not conform to their ideology, and at least at one time Antifa made a reasonable stand against those sorts of groupings and did an honourable job of defending their communities.

However, just because these young and ignorant black bloc adventurists of today gather under the same name and flag does not mean they continue in the same spirit. Consider the Antifa groupings that have been making a huge embarrassment of themselves in Berkeley lately, or those that have nothing better to do than stalk a dissident like Lauren Southern, including the disgraceful act of hurling bodily wastes at her for simply not conforming to their ridiculous, hard-line standards of political correctness. Keith Preston uses the term ‘anarcho-bolsheviks’ to describe these sorts of tendencies, I think that’s as accurate as can get.

“Who made you the voice of the national conscience?
Kicking off and causing all the fuss
Who made you the voice of the national conscience?
The truth be known, you know fuck all about us!”

And this is where they collide with Close Shave; not just this band, but they serve as a really good example of how everyday non-conformists can fall victim to the new Antifa’s narrow-sighted, hyper-sectarian stereotyping and terrorism-lite tactics. The main accusation, from what I can tell, is that they once shared stage with English Rose or Razor’s Edge or some other more than questionable RAC band (Rock Against Communism – a term usually reserved for bands with an Oi!-like sound but featuring overtly nazi lyrics), and maybe had a band member that left to work with one of these bands, but of a career spanning three decades that’s the best indictment that Antifa and these zealous internet anti-fascists can come up with.

It’s funny, they also shared stage with Skin Deep too, but I don’t see anybody accusing them of being left-wing or socialists because of this. They did have an admittedly offensive homophobic line in one of the songs on their second record ‘Hard as Nails’, grant you, but nothing that even approaches the same sort of attacks made by celebrated MTV favourites like Eminem and Buju Banton. They since repealed even this lyric from their live shows anyway, as is evidenced on their 2012 live album ‘Made in Brum’.

(It shouldn’t have to be addressed because it’s so absurd, but in case I get accused of omitting a greater charge I will admit that I am aware of a bootleg DVD put out by some dodgy German web store of Close Shave and English Rose playing live, recorded by some fan in the audience, with a clearly offensive cover…it took me 2-3 minutes of snooping around to deduce that this was an unofficial bootleg release that has nothing to do with the band and is not acknowledged or endorsed through any of their official media or their pages at Discogs and Rateyourmusic).

Of course, the cowardly and excitable adventurists of so-called Anti-Fascist Action are not confronting the band members one-on-one as men for what they are deluded to believe are nazi sentiments, but the threat they do pose is to absolutely innocent bar staff and venue managers that are willing to book Close Shave alongside other punk and Oi! bands without knowing about this hysterical controversy that surrounds them. This ranges from online harassment to broken windows, death threats and molotov cocktails by masked-up teen-terrorists that sincerely believe themselves to be some kind of anarchist freedom fighters, completely oblivious to the irony of behaving this way under the guise of being opposed to fascism rather than actually serving as an embodiment of it.

“You’re the one I’m talking about
Always got something to shout
You’re the most self-righteous bloke I’ve ever known!
Your way or the highway?
We’ll do it our way
If you don’t like it, you know where you can go!”

There has been a bigger push than ever over the last year to have Antifa registered as a terrorist organisation, Rebel Media have been taking up this cause over the last six months or so. Apparently the state of New Jersey has now listed Antifa as domestic terrorists. I don’t know if I’m willing to go that far just yet, as I have to wonder sometimes if it’s just a minority of rotten apples that are souring the whole bag, but it looks like we’re going to have to go in this direction if black bloc tactics and anonymous death threats still persist under the red and black flag that once represented the ultimate freedom but now symbolises nothing but ignorance and suppression. I only wish these Antifa hooligans would at the very least acknowledge the fact that the more they drive bands like Close Shave away from playing ordinary shows and festivals, the more they push them into such a position that the only shows willing to take them on are RAC stages!

This is not a post about Close Shave, they just make the best example. It’s about Antifa, it’s about ignorance, it’s about black-and-white close-mindedness and its about the way that supposedly anarchist collectives treat true non-conformists. The more I browse articles by zealous, self-proclaimed anti-fascist bloggers the more I find the same accusation, that bands like Close Shave “sit on the fence” or even “refuse to denounce nazism”. The demand is that a designated target must openly sound the clarion call for whatever social justice value that a certain blogger might hold to be the most valuable, and whoever does not surrender to such a pressure is condemned, ostracised and treated (ironically again) like a victim of McCarthy’s red scare.

close shave 2
(for the record, those are Bob Marley lyrics…everybody knows Bob Marley was a nazi….)

I don’t know Close Shave, I’ve never met or spoken to any of their members, but as a libertarian I feel it’s my duty to defend the undefendable, especially when individuals and their private property (venues and their staff and owners) are treated as guilty by association by fanatical far-left extremists and are walked all over in an ignorant, bolshevik-like manner. The damage to the reputation of this particular band might already be too ingrained, but genuine free thinkers, non-conformists, libertarians, anarchists and whoever else need to work hard to weed out these so-called anti-fascists and expose their intentions for what they are, an expression of Marcusian ‘repressive tolerance’ targeted towards anybody that has the nerve to express remotely right-wing views, whilst ensuring that any individuals or organisations that are working to fight genuinely dangerous, extremist far right (and far left) movements are not tarred with the same brush. They had a good run, but Antifa are proving themselves to now be too short-sighted, narrow-minded and anachronistic for their cause to continue much further into the future, and unless they clear up their act very soon I’ll be joining the cause of Rebel Media to have them struck off as a useless and destructive terrorist organisation forever.

In the meantime, enjoy some good rock and roll

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