It feels like political hardcore is slowly becoming a relic of the past, or it’s at least returning to its former underground roots away from the mainstream gaze. Perhaps not enough people are listening, forcing bands to adopt new lyrical ideas to capture the hearts and minds of our youth. Maybe they could start writing about conserving energy (on your smartphones) or taking down the extreme right-wing (during multi-player war simulations on your laptop).
On a serious note, I believe the world needs punk rock activists now more than ever. Luckily, bands like Anti-Flag and Rise Against are still finding a platform for their political messages and I hope more acts will follow. One band that had a huge impact when they charged onto the scene is Strike Anywhere. The Virginia five-piece formed in 1999, naming themselves after the song, Strike Anywhere, by frontman Thomas Barnett’s former band Inquisition. Their debut album, Change Is A Sound, came out on Jade Tree Records in 2001 and is comprised of 11 tracks of sincere punk rock. The traditional hardcore sound, coupled with melodic punk, make this record an instantly satisfying listen.
**Strike Anywhere’s Thomas Barnett, live at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2010 **Photo: Marc Broussely/Redferns
Opener You’re Fired perfectly sets the pace for the rest of the album. Eric Kane’s frantic drum fills show early signs that this isn’t your average punk record, crossing genre boundaries as he adds technical prowess to the faithful formula. Guitarists Matt Sherwood and Matt Smith fire out different chord structures at an alarming rate, whilst Garth Petrie’s subtle bass lines glue the music together. Barnett’s vocals blend furious rage with razor sharp hooks as the music roars and switches tempo. It’s hard to comprehend how much just happened in the first 2 minutes but the band’s energy is undeniably infectious. Track 2, Timebomb Generation, is more your everyday street punk with a “1, 2, 3” count in and a few ‘Oi Oi Oi’s thrown in for good measure – similarities to bands like Rancid are prominent throughout this record.
Any fan of the popular Tony Hawk skateboarding video game series will recognise the driving guitars and anthemic chorus of third track Refusal. It was featured on the game’s soundtrack in 2003, along with Mastodon, NOFX, Alkaline Trio, Kiss and another 30 or so bands. Later releases of the skate series featured a further two Strike Anywhere songs: Question The Answer and The Promise.
Throughout the album, Strike Anywhere complement their sophisticated musicianship with insightful lyrics, calling for change. Sunset on 32nd Street examines police brutality in America (‘Half of our lives dissolved in fear, half of our rights they disappear’) and Chalkline explores women’s rights (‘Don’t let the crosses and dollar signs, the symbols of man unkind, make you feel that you’re not real’).
For more information on Strike Anywhere, click here.