Punk duo Blowtorch has been around for thirty years, but never released an album. They’ve just been too busy. First they ended the Cold War, then they took down Bush and his cronies, and most recently they got Obama elected. That’s if you believe them at least. They tell the band’s story in a fantastic poem:
While sipping tea in ancient Thebes Blowtorch was conceived.
Blowtorch came to be during Reagan’s revolution-of-the-rich presidency.
From Nectar’s and Burlington’s 242 MAIN to Gotham’s CBGB’S Blowtorch blazed.
Blowtorch brought an end to the Cold War, called it a day.
Summoned by George W’s international aggression, Blowtorch sparks did fly.
Blowtorch smoked out sanctimonious evangelical xenophobic neocon lies.
Taking Vermont’s Higher Ground, Blowtorch had their New York Cake Shop and Brooklyn Galapagos too.
Blowtorch insured the election of a black president, was hoping to be through.
But with trumpets blaring off-key, and white-wingers reigning supreme,
A woke Blowtorch must regretfully announce its return to America’s fractured scene.
“No love songs, no swear words,” the Blowtorch Doctrine decrees.
Blowtorch takes no grief, no prisoners; racist sexist haters take heed.
The duo of Clark Russell (vocals) and Bill Mullins (everything else) first met at the University of Vermont in the early ’80s. After some earlier collaborations fizzled, they reconnected on a trip to Egypt – where they accidentally ate lunch near a crocodile they thought was a log – and hashed out a plan for a socially conscious punk band. “We were punks without earrings or tattoos,” Russell told Seven Days about those early days. “We sort of had our own niche that wasn’t quite as harsh as what a lot of people think punk rock is.” This was the era of bands like Dead Kennedys and Suicidal Tendencies writing short and punchy songs against Reagan, and Blowtorch followed in the footsteps.
The difference was, those other bands actually released their songs. Blowtorch didn’t. Over the next three decades the band would come and go, performing the occasional show before disappearing again. Now, over 30 years after they started, they’ve finally released their debut album. And over the course of 16 songs in 35 minutes on the well-titled Justice or Else, they follow their longtime credo: “No love songs, no swear words.”
Justice or Else is a throwback in the best way possible, a revitalization of the sort of loud, raw, take-no-prisoners punk rock that was more prominent when the band first formed but needed more than ever today. But not far beneath the sound and fury lie well-written and tuneful songs. They bring in some non-punk influences like country harmonies on “Breaking” and surf rock on “Mirror” (Mullins also fronts an instrumental surf band called Barbacoa), but at its core this is punk rock as it should be. And well worth the wait.
Here’s a bonus video of them performing “Thank You” back in 2008:
Buy Blowtorch’s debut album ‘Justice Or Else’ on Bandcamp. And if you do it tomorrow, Bandcamp will donate their share of the proceeds to the ACLU. And check out frontman Clark Russell’s other art here.