Facing down an oppressive system with a sense of humour
Grace Almond
15:48 4th August 2020

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Anti-colonial queer punk band Screaming Toenail have arrived with their new album Growth. Stinging in its critique of oppressive systems, it's completely unapologetic in its delivery. The road to Growth has been filled with praise, with Celeste Bell - daughter of Poly Styrene - stating that “Screaming Toenail continues the legacy of Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex”. 

The intro samples bees, accompanying former Prime Minister David Cameron’s infamous comments aligning migrants and "swarms". It introduces the opening track perfectly: frontperson Jacob V Joyce highlights the work aspect of the immigration row in the UK, singing “I’m a good worker/ I’m a good bee/ Say welcome and humble me/ I’m a good soldier, I’m a good serf/ Watch me fight to prove my worth / In a swarm”. The cut is really upbeat, even whilst it presents a subject that is rarely approached with a sense of humanity.

Jacob’s charming vocals continue on ‘White Saviour’ as guitars mellow out and the bright atmosphere continues. On ‘IOU’, they take shots at modern work culture with the lyrics “call in sick and say you can’t/ go in today, I’m sick ok/ just take your time and make them pay/ do the task and wear the mask/ pretend to care and if they ask/ tell them I O U nothing”. This one is for fans of The Chats’ ‘Smoko’. 

‘Sever’ takes the record in an empowering direction, referencing being “severed” from yourself by the cruel words and actions of bigots, and having to “sew” yourself back together. The track weaves intelligent lyrics with complimentary guitars, and a strong bassline. 

‘Crystal Queer’ samples Eartha Kitt’s famous words on love and compromise, creating a strong backdrop on this break-up track, with the lyrics “reclaiming my time!”. Final track ‘Giant Woman’ has a softer intro compared to the other tracks on the album, launching into a confident, bouncy, encouraging conclusion to the album, filled with hope as they reel off the names of incredible women including Diane Abbott and Reni Eddo-Lodge.

Every song is punch in the face to the system, inspiring unity and positivity. Growth is a raw, unpolished album with guitars working hand in hand and a real focus on the core message of the band. On Growth, Screaming Toenail face down an oppressive system with a sense of humour and love, reversing the discourse and ripping the mask off bigotry. 

Growth is out now. 

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Photo: Ciaran Frame