This is Unity Music
I figured I’d just address the three burning questions on everybody’s mind about Common Rider.
Who are these guys?
They’re the best band that you probably aren’t listening to. Jesse Michaels, the singer from Operation Ivy, disappeared after Op Ivy’s breakup in 1990. According to a 1999 Ink 19 interview, Michaels studied Buddhism and traveled around the country. He started Common Rider with Dan Lumley and Mass Giorgini from Squirtgun and Screeching Weasel as an outlet for all the songs that had built up in him over the years.
Dude, does it sound like Op Ivy?
Not exactly. This is Unity Music is uptempo punk with mostly ska style guitar, but the similarities end there. Whereas Op Ivy’s appropriately titled Energy consists of short bursts of frantic ideas, Common Rider’s songs are a more regular length and are fully developed. It’s more polished and definitely more slickly produced than Op Ivy. Michaels’ ability as a songwriter really stands out, as he alternates from urgent cries of distress about today’s youth in “Firewall” to fast rhyming that could compete with any reggae artist in “Long After Lights Out.” So if you’re expecting Op Ivy Part Two, hold on to your lunch money or else you’ll be disappointed.
Yeah, I’m already a fan, is it better than Last Wave Rockers?
I prefer Last Wave Rockers. The songs on that album were so much more diverse. Almost every song on the new album sounds like “Rough Redemption.” It’s amazing how Michaels takes different musical styles on Last Wave Rockers, from the blues style laments, jazzy sax solos, and even the backup female vocals, and infuses them with his punk energy. I hear that energy in the new album, but it’s from a smaller palette of musical elements and tempos, and I don’t think that’s as interesting.
I also really missed hearing love songs on this album. “True Rulers,” “Deep Spring” and other songs on Last Wave Rockers are some of the most personal and touching love songs I’ve ever heard, punk or otherwise, and while This is Unity Music has one or two relationship type songs, the lyrics seem to come from a completely different set of Michaels’ experiences. And while this new album is higher production quality, I think it’s the slight sloppiness of Last Wave Rockers that makes it so honest and touching.
Jesse Michaels is a pioneer in punk music as we know it, especially for a generation born a little too young for the likes of Black Flag and Minor Threat. He expresses the sentiments of this generation clearly and eloquently and it’s easy to relate to. This is Unity Music is definitely worth a listen, but definitely not without taking the extra time and effort to find a copy of Last Wave Rockers.