Sample This, Too!
Back in 1982, a then-fledgling independent label debuted with the compilation Someone Got Their Head Kicked In. It was Better Youth Organization’s (BYO for short) vociferous proclamation that punk still had a pulse despite the words of detractors who espoused the form had met its maker several years earlier, sometime soon after The Sex Pistols exited the stage at Winterland. It was a gritty and honest compilation that featured early recordings of Youth Brigade, Social Distortion, Seven Seconds, and Bad Religion. Someone Got Their Head Kicked In represented an important moment in punk’s history. It was before punk become a convoluted – and eventually meaningless – moniker; before the form became polished and found a place on the shelves of suburban record stores, comfortable alongside Britney Spears and Eminem. In 1982, the emergence of BYO offered hope for the continuation of one of the most important post-modern cultural expressions. In the years since, the label continued its valiant mission, releasing some of the finest punk music from artists such as Youth Brigade, Seven Seconds, Aggression, and even some non-punk albums from the ska kings Hepcat and the swingin’ kids of the Royal Crown Revue.
Sample This, Too! is a celebration of BYO’s twentieth anniversary. Although a few of the album’s sixteen tracks have previously been released in the past year or so (including a Rancid song performed by NOFX and a NOFX song performed by Rancid and something from Filthy Thieving Bastards), most of the material offers a preview of forthcoming releases from Anti-Flag and Bouncing Souls (who will share a full length as part of BYO’s Split Series), Youth Brigade, One Man Army, The Unseen, and a handful of others. Unfortunately, this compilation falls short of the label’s admirable intention to disseminate some of the most brazen and uncompromising punk of the past two decades. It is an uninspired and stale release that betrays the ideals of Someone Got Their Head Kicked In. The message of Bouncing Souls’ “No Security” may be apropos, however, it is undermined by a song structure and perfomative style that corroborates the notion that many of the bands who sign to Epitaph inevitably sound like a feeble interpretation of Bad Religion, who have themselves in turn become a pathetic impersonation of Bad Religion. One Man Army’s “Victoria” is a blatant rip-off of The Clash. Even Youth Brigade sounds a bit flaccid when compared to what they were doing in 1982. While Anti-Flag’s “No Borders No Nations” insists that punk has not forgotten its politically confrontational roots, they become a little too didactic. Although Anti-Flag’s take on our nation’s dire situation (corporate greed, terrorism and a litany of other evilisms) seems more credible and less contradictory than inane ramblings of Zach de la Rocha, they need some new fodder. Well intentioned and necessary as it may be, “No Borders No Nations” sounds like almost every other song the band has performed. They are aware of the problems, but seem to have few solutions. The cities have indeed burned, and Anti-Flag is glad. But, what are we to do now?
Sure this compilation costs a measly $2.99 – reminding the listener that at least the dictum that punk is supposed be cheap has not been compromised. Yet, it is one’s time that is ultimately wasted listening to this pulseless drivel.
BYO Records: http://www.byorecords.com