Like Bill Cosby introducing Fat Albert cartoons by saying, “and if you’re not careful, you might learn something,” the debut album from Proudflesh blends a rocking mix of punk and hard rock to accompany their anti-war message. Proudflesh is a logical continuation of Crucifix, one of the first US bands to embrace the anarcho-punk style of British punk bands such as Crass and Conflict. Vocalist Sothira Pheng and guitarist Jimmy Schmith favored a blistering sound heavily influenced by early Discharge and talked up anarchy, nuclear disarmament and the peace movement in interviews and liner notes. While many punk bands mentioned like-minded themes, Pheng’s family leaving Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge for California gave Crucifix’s message an added weight.
In Proudflesh, Pheng and Schmith embraced their inner rockers and joined forces with drummer Erik Lannon, releasing a ten song self-titled CD that betrays quite an influence to Overkill-era Motorhead. The songs are powered by heavy, catchy riffs and generally avoid the basic verse/chorus/verse structure in favor of repeated riffing. While not exactly a concept album, the disc focuses on the futility of war and colonialism, with a special focus on Indochina, as in “My Lai My Love,” “French Indochina 1954” and “High in the Clouds.” The funky drum breakdowns on some of the later songs are a nice surprise and the production is clean and crisp. In fact, a case could be made that a muddier production might have made the album sound a bit more menacing, although with songs like “And Not Fashion,” which ranks with one of the best Motorhead songs Motorhead never wrote, that is a minor fault. Filled with catchy, memorable hooks and impassioned vocals, the debut from Proudflesh heralds the beginning steps of a great band.