Post-punk legends the Membranes put out this jagged slab of industrial noise as a wholly unexpected comeback single back in 2012. And what an invigorating way it was to end a couple of decades of inactivity. Great title too, no?
If You Enter The Arena, You’ve Got To Be Prepared To Deal With The Lions builds up from a base of clanging, metallic guitar chords and stream of consciousness vocals into a chaotic, surging blast of irregular percussion and adrenaline. Think Killing Joke collaborating with Fugazi and Big Black and you’ll be somewhere close. The video has bass player, vocalist, frontman and all-round nice guy John Robb jumping around in the woods dressed in gladiator gear like a mohawked Maximus with no budget for CGI. Obviously there are a couple of lions in it too; one real, one stuffed.
So, after the Membranes split in 1991 John Robb formed another couple of bands – Sensuround and Goldblade – while simultaneously becoming a successful music journalist, commentator and critic. He appeared regularly on British TV whenever insights into the punk scene were called for.
Having reformed to release If You Enter The Arena, You’ve Got To Be Prepared To Deal With The Lions in 2012, the Membranes surprised us all again by putting out a brand new, full-length album in 2015. Dark Matter/Dark Energy was a concept album about the structure of the universe, apparently inspired by the vaguely sinister work of CERN, blasting atoms around in the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss Alps. Amazingly, Dark Matter/Dark Energy became a critical success and the Membranes biggest-selling album.
Despite being an inspirational rant with nothing to do with space, If You Enter The Arena, You’ve Got To Be Prepared To Deal With The Lions made it on to Dark Matter/Dark Energy. It looks a little out of place on a track listing that includes titles like The Universe Explodes into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light, Do The Supernova, Space Junk and The Hum Of The Universe, but the band made a good decision including it, because it stands out even more as an electrifying track.