with Vision, The Crypt Daddies, and Mearth
The Hustler, Indialantic, FL • 11.14.97
Charles D.J. Deppner
Some call it a mistake, but in the eighties, Agnostic Front made some politically incorrect decisions in marketing the band (not that they were consciously marketing the band per se). The cover of the original release of one of the greatest American hardcore punk albums ever released, Victim in Pain, was a photo of a holocaust victim being executed, contemporary to the Dead Kennedys’ Holiday In Cambodia 12.” Definitely another example of how something that may seem thought-provoking to one could be quite disturbing to someone else. (A few years later, Ministry would use a photo of immense holocaust dead as mere background texture, and get little, if any, flack at all.)
The other major marketing mistake was doing a couple of songs with rascist skinheads (not to be confused with traditional skinheads) as a topic or lyric. Songs such as “Crucified,” that actually didn’t necessarily condone skinhead behavior, but actually addressed skinheads with temperance, gave the band a strong and loyal skinhead following. (Camper Van Beethoven made the same mistake with “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”) And like a lot of “get-in-the-van” hardcore shows of the mid-eighties, Agnostic Front’s were organized by a complex, grass roots network of small town punks which included a lot of skinheads. But so were the Bad Brains’ shows. A real paradox in a pair o’ Doc’s. Go figure!
Anyway, long after fading into obscurity via some lame metallish releases, and partially reemerging in what seemed like a perpetual second to third bill for Fugazi- Madball, Agnostic Front is back and in its old form, heavy on the Victim In Pain and Cause For Alarm. The new stuff is a return to the older, more solid, and relevant material. Age may actually breed wisdom for some. And for certain, living in an age of accountability, the current tour has a good dose of “settin’ the record straight” dog and pony acts about both metal and band politics.
Definitely the best thing about this tour is that Agnostic Front is going out of their way to touch back with the smaller towns they and other bands may have drifted through in their earlier heyday. Prior to the demise of former-format WFIT radio, the Melbourne area had a pretty unique, healthy, and legitimate punk scene. The Hustler was a host to some kinda class reunion of weirdos, give or take a few, who haven’t been out to a show in quite a while but probably caught Agnostic Front about ten years ago at the County Line or the PWP Hall. It was as if someone hit a crowd and band at an Eighties hardcore show with some kinda time/age mutation ray. Real dèjá vu. Skankin’ earplug!