“In prehistoric times, mankind often had only two choices in crisis situations: fight or flee. In modern times, humour offers us a third alternative; fight, flee – or laugh.”, so states comedy writer, Robert Orben. A video for a song vehemently condemning a dangerously callous government systematically hellbent on privatising the NHS, should not be making me laugh. However, Belfast-based DIY feminist queerpunk quartet, Problem Patterns, do just that with their latest video for “Who Do We Not Save?”.

The band play paramedics racing an unfortunate patient to hospital in an ambulance with a suspension as lively as a bouncy castle. Ultimately, they don’t have the tools with which to save their patient’s life who dies amidst a flurry of confetti replacing fake blood, as inspired by the film Dave Made A Maze. There are cuts to dodgy boardroom meetings, as band member and video director, Alanah Smith explains, “there’s a shady business deal to sell off what little is left of public healthcare, big menacing grins and all. I wanted to approach this with a bit of comedy, because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry”. The band play guitars made of cardboard and yarn, a stark reflection on our impotent government that paid millions of pounds to their mates for expired and ultimately useless PPE sourced for healthcare workers during the height of the COVID pandemic.

Musically, the song is an exciting and gnarly shout-along anthem but delivered with some humour and compassion – which is an often overlooked component in punk circles. Yes, we’re angry and we demand political change, but we also need art to elevate and provide a release from the overwhelming despair which surrounds us.

We look down on those who struggle to survive /

When they put up a paywall could you pay to stay alive?

– Problem Patterns: “Who Do We Not Save?” lyrics

Commenting on the single, the band say, “Our healthcare system has been falling apart for years due to cuts, and the pandemic only sped up the process. We constantly see campaigns telling people to ask for help, especially in regards to mental health, but the reality is that the services we need are under too much pressure. The line “We’re one or two paychecks away” refers to the fact that many of us will be in a lot of trouble if privatisation becomes reality here. The title itself is lifted verbatim from Dominic Cumming’s photo of the white board used to plan the UK government’s early response to COVID. We thought it would be fitting to use it for the single’s cover art, too.”

Problem Patterns recently signed to Alcopop! Records and “Who Do We Not Save?” serves as a acerbic taster for what’s to come from the band’s debut album, due later in the year. Judging on this single, it will be an absolute riot!

Problem Patterns will be playing the following shows over the coming months:
17th March: London – The Garage (supporting Fight Like Apes)
7th April: Belfast – Friday Fest
@ Oh Yeah Music Centre
30th April: Salford – Sounds From The Other City Festival
15th July: Berlin – My People Fest
@ Ost Hafen (with FAIM, Dying For It, etc.)
22nd July: Liverpool – CrapFest
@ EBGBs (with Crapsons, Yur Mum, Piss Kitti, etc.)
19th August: Glasgow – Core Festival

Follow Problem Patterns on their socials for more info and music: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube.

Review by Mandy Bang @mandybang
Cover artwork by Alanah

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