"Be My Feet" by Septic and the TanksReview
Some artists develop & evolve at a steady rate. Such is the nature of music though that some are phenomena who appear as if out of nowhere apparently already fully formed & dominate the zeitgeist they form part of: as Bar Pandora did in 2022. This year, Septic and the Tanks are on a similarly vertigo inducing trajectory which started so very recently when they considered themselves as music fans rather than practitioners & has progressed via well received live performances, an effervescent & unique debut single "Dog's Birthday Party" to today's follow-up "Be My Feet" which is another track which will in time grace their debut album and is another Moonbase creation.
On the way, their "Get In Line" appeared on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Ten' and is a breakout hit: within three weeks of becoming available, it is in the top echelon of all the HMLP featured tracks since the project's inception in terms of most streams. This band have certainly caught people's imagination.
The curiously name "Be My Feet" is one of their oldest songs (which is a relative term of course: it dates back as far as 2021) and as such has featured in every live show and even been the subject of experimentations (with a synth) in arrangement. Owing its genesis to one of Sarah's first original basslines, their collaborative approach to composition & creation brought it to where you hear it today. That Sarah has gone from neophyte to joining her second band (of which more in a future article) in two years is a telling metric of the arc we are contemplating.
Not only am I not entirely sure what it means, the band aren't either: which is a good thing in my opinion. Personally I invest much more in songs I need to process and as a reviewer, my heart sinks at the sound of clumps of old clichés being thrown at the wall to see what sticks. Lyrics need to engage in my opinion and if they concern well worn subjects with no new perspectives, how can they? I'd never thought at all about dogs' birthday celebrations until I heard Septic and the Tanks and now this song which definitely is about relationships but quite possibly strays into darker areas around co-dependency (as suggested by one of the band): it certainly is a strong and emotional subversion of the traditional lyrical trope of synecdoche: identifying the ambition to be part of the loved one in order to demonstrate profundity of commitment (not that the foot is the usual starting point is it?). Since Robin is made "sick & tired" with a huge emphasis on the former (I kept on expecting to hear her throw up with the intensity of her feelings on the matter), you get a feeling that the devotion may have tipped over into dark obsession & that she'd prefer autonomy. Not least because she says so. It's very strong stuff with the instrumentation not just matching the intensity of the words but egging them on.
So what is responsible for the Septic success? Well I think I'm beginning to identify some elements at micro & macro level. One might be how quickly the rhythm section (with Sophie on drums working with Sarah) has become this good: this is always the foundation of any band and to reach this point so soon underpins the rest. James' relative experience playing guitar too must have played a part offering elements while the others were working towards it. The particularly unusual inclusion of the banjo, played by Lucy has been really well handled: this instrument has a long history of involvement in musical genres: just not this one. Since no-one else has really made it work in punk before, that tells a story, but Lucy, her colleagues & producer Jon have found a role of meaning within the arrangements where it's neither a vanity element nor a distraction. Finally there is the role of singer Robin whose level of confidence drives the songs forwards with panache & huge energy: like a great rhythm section, a charismatic front person sets a tone. Equally, I understand that she leads on lyric writing & her ability to aim for odd themes and words capable of multiple interpretations elevates the material: top punk has always produced superb lyrics but I'd be the first to admit that forty years of third rate bands have generated some trite and formulaic songs: unlike Septic and the Tanks.
However, the band is more than simply the sum of these five parts: their collective attitude is the key here: an obvious love for what they are doing, an equally obvious sense of comradeship and community plus a multi-level approach which is high on humour (thank goodness) yet capable of covering serious subjects via this route. People respond well to these sorts of things, especially when they arrive wrapped up together.
The Tanks are not just musical artists: the artwork for the single is courtesy of Sarah & I understand that Lucy is hard at work on the album sleeve.
You can catch Septic and the Tanks live at Covtember at the Tin in Coventry on Sunday 24th September.