Here we go again. New month, new crucial records. As always, I didn’t know what to do for this new issue. There’s a lot of records I want to review, and the more I review, the more bands there are. Maybe I could organise myself and try to do a schedule. But hey, it would be too easy !
Maybe you saw it on your facebook feed, but REFUSED put out a new song. And honestly I won’t extend myself on that issue because I don’t want this to turn out into a hateful post about the Swedish band. But if I’m telling you this, it’s because I had to chose between ARTICLES OF FAITH and REFUSED to review. Yes it is, because I still think Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent is a great piece of a records. But it’ll wait, I might be too hateful and sour for now and it is totally not the point of those reviews.
You may ask yourself why I tortured myself to decide between those bands, which are damn far from each others in a lot of aspect frankly. Well, because I wanted to review a “politicised” band, as THE PROLETARIAT were for example (That being said, they both appear on the P.E.A.C.E compilation), and those came up in my mind instantaneously. And specifically ARTICLES OF FAITH because we can all agree Vic Bondi was a genius guitarist, but he also could wrote some in depth lyrics and sometime I found myself reading them without the music and still find it awesome.
Even if the discography of the band isn’t that huge, it wasn’t hard for me to choose the records to review. I basically love this records, but it’s also a cornerstone for everyone into bands like SWEET JESUS or GIVE.
Let’s be honest here, In This Life is the first records I listened to from the Chicago-based band and this could legitimately influence me on writing an article about it, just because it blew my mind. As I wrote something about Sarah Kirsch and sure love STILL LIFE, I was easy to conquer though, the album being ahead of its time in terms on how emotive hardcore punk can be. But now I went through their discography a couples of times, I can say there’s something more than just a visionary view on music, as if they took their already great work to a new level, not only an evolution but a real revolution.
As the previous effort, it was produced by the one and only Bob Mould (HÜSKER DÜ, SUGAR) and put out on Lone Wolf Records, the first release of the label, in 1987, being the last one they put out before going on hiatus until 2010, when they recorded New Normal Catastrophe. As far as I know, I don’t think there’s any other versions than the classic, black one. Neither alternative covers that being said, but there might be some bootleg running somewhere that I’m not aware of, nor multiple pressing, but for the last information I’m not quite sure and the internet is not helping me much. Well, since putting out a records in the eighties seemed pretty hard, there’s nothing weird about that. I’m also glad it doesn’t coast tons of money nowadays and if you can, grab yourself one copy while it remains a well kept secret, because when it’ll become popular, who knows how wild the internet will be.
For many people (and wikipedia too as it seems), it’s one of the records that gave the blueprints of the emo sound, and maybe you will choke on this, but it also shaped the Dischord sound of the nineties. I swear, I’m not saying that to be provocative, because I pay a lot of respect on the work of those bands and their powerful influence, and of course I recognize Ian MacKaye’s sound as unique and give a lot of credit to that on the emo/90’s DC sound. But, where EMBRACE emphasized a more thin-skinned approach musically and lyrically wise, ARTICLE OF FAITH was already a step ahead from that, because they already made it with Give Thanks a couples of years before, writing in depth lyrics with a more thoughtful twist musically, without killing the rawness of the whole thing.
Here, with In This Life, they made a crucial move, which was to be able to create heavy songs, musically and emotionnally, without making it sound clumsy or misplaced. Because there is no “heavy riffs” as we know it, like Metal brung to the sound. It’s like if they couldn’t go deeper than they did previously so they just placed a new level on how deep you can go with song writing. Just listen to the intro of the record, when this drum comes in it just settle the thing already : you got yourself a classic emo song, with a raw yet melodic riff on a lighten but hard enough drumming and this voice, just this voice. Even with tons of bands doing it today, it just shakes me up everytime when Vic begins to litterally cry on that mic. I think I can find a similar feel when I listen to HEROIN for exemple, and I’m pretty sure they took a lot of inspiration from this album.
Also, the band didn’t follow the over melodic way some other did at the time, like DAG NASTY, to catch some more emotions. In fact, they went for something more “psychedelic” if you may. I can’t help but think about HÜSKER DÜ playing at BAD BRAINS pace here with all their crazy riffs supported by a lot of delay. Wasn’t I Right is a good exemple. How powerful is this song and yet, those riffs could be straight up from the 70’s for some rock’n roll hit. Actually every songs is here to show you how great composer they are, with surprising ideas each times. And to top that, they keep up without any problems with the raw punk sound, thanks to the drums for that frantic job and again, to this heavy sound, this totally controlled heavy sound, that never goes wrong, even on the crazy instrumental Wheedle Dee. Not totally instrumental though, with Vic shouting out loud in the middle of nowhere. This is a bit a scary but I gotta admit at least it’s well done and gives a even more deep atmosphere to the record.
My favorite song on the whole record might be Trains, with their bassist on vocals who did one hell of a job. It’s the most impressive song they wrote, on all aspects. In some way, they managed to play some pretty blues rock riffs and turn it to a crazy punk orck song that doesn’t seem to stop ! And, at some point, you got yourself in front of a country part which even doesn’t misplaced and reinforce the power of the song, all the energy that supposed to come out of it. Definitly the best intro duction to a B-side ever.
There’s absolutely no songs to throw away on this record, and I really mean it. It’s only made of hits, every track has something special that makes you come back on it again and again, to grasp everything you could have missed the last time you listened to it. I literaly can’t find any lenghty parts, or anything written to fil an empty blank. But what blow me away, is the fact they wrote punk music that goes way far from that but you can easily appreciate, without any show-offs, which is even better considering how good of a musician they must be in this band. Plus, they took inspiration from so many genre of music and still managed to put out something coherent and audible, even created a genre out of it, and avoinding any kind of bad taste and embarrassing parts.
If this record is musically more than good, you got to check out the lyrics. Because right here you got some beautiful poetry that deals with important issues. I won’t go too far on that matter because I’m not sure I understood everything, but regarding the political background of the musicians and the previous lyrics they wrote, I believe there’s still some serious social issues discussed here and there, but what I could grasp is mostly a high level critiscism of the American society or the Western world for that matter. Some of them songs are amazingly well written, like Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, the sole way it’s written suffice to bugged me out, like a poem that you can read without the music, an artistic style of writing, post-modern/Andre Breton kind of. It’s not Bondi who wrote it though, but I can’t tell who it is because it doesn’t seems to be one of them members. Actually I think this song is about social cleavage, poverty and how the world is seeing it, but it’s only a guess and I can’t be definite on this.
Basically, all the other text were written by Dave Shield, playing bass, and Vic Bondi but they wrote two of them together, which are Wait For Me and In This Life. I sure did understand what I wanted here, but whatever is it you get from those, you can only fall on you knees on how beautiful they are. And I’m not even kidding. When thinking together, I’m sure those guys are a good team of genius. Just look at those rhymes and those verses and the images on the text. You can literraly use it as love declarations. Some emo bands from the last decades can’t even compete with that. But still, I’d love to know what they are really about. A song like Cambridge for example might about an event I’m not aware of and it’s kind of mysterious to me. But I rest assured there’s something political behind all that, because I can catch some ideas here and there. This is why those lyrics are really important, because it shows you can write beautiful stuff and still make it count. Even though you have to decipher it like a university essay.
It would be a long task to scroll through all the bands that might be inspired by the writing style of the band, but I definitly can say bands like ANTIOCH ARROW or TORCHES TO ROME, not to say a lot of the Gravity/Ebulition catalog, definitly paid some respect to ARTICLES OF FAITH on the way they wrote their lyrics. I think we can also look at DC bands of the nineties, but with EMBRACE, FUGAZI or RITES OF SPRING, they already had enough of good material to look at. I’m pretty sure outside the emo spectrum, In This Life influenced some other people lyrically.
I can say for sure this record is way more mature than Give Thanks, on every aspects. Musically, it’s way out of all leagues, flirting with so many influences and written with such thoughts, it’s still punkier than many records of it’s time and way ahead. You can hear how good those guys are, because they definitly wanted to touch the right spot, but it’s not pretencious and really accesible, doing what as to be done to write down a good record. And it avoid a lot of clichés of that time, like flirting with metal but without the skills. And this voice is incredible. It’s powerful and beautiful at the same time, like shouting and crying at the same time. It’s intense, and I’m not kidding here. Lyrically, as it’s foresaid, I can only admire the work. I mean, I don’t understand clearly what it’s all about, and some of you might say it’s a shame in a genre that focus on the message not to be able to understand it without searching, but it just fit the whole thing and it has to be this way. It couldn’t go otherwise since the music is already poetry by itself. And for me this is what makes this record greater than the previous, it’s not that obvious, it’s deep and has a lot of energy and emotions to deliver.
All in all, this record is crucial because it gave hardcore the sensibility it needed. It has a lot to show and is not outdated today. In fact, you can listen to it alongside BATON ROUGE last LP’s or SWIZ records and it won’t sound old and embarrassing. It’s the kind of punk records that remind me why I also love punk rock and hardcore alongside with the shelter it gives me from society, it’s because I’m searching for emotions and for thrills, for something that moves me, which it totally does. It spoke to me in the easiest way possible, through my feelings and showed, at it’s time and still today, how to write beautiful punk rock songs without making it cheesy. To write poetry that speaks to everyone.
Tomorrow Starts Today.