After several decades of cross-pollination and lazy dilution, it’s become difficult to view punk rock as a focused and formidable genre.
But while wistfully pining for the life-changing electricity of the early hardcore scene will earn you a reputation as a joyless purist, there truly was something special about the US and UK scenes in the early 80s: a fact supported by the ongoing influence of Black Flag, Discharge, Minor Threat and The Exploited on modern punk.
Teenage Time Killers may not have been conceived solely as an exercise in dewy-eyed nostalgia, but it serves that purpose well. My Ruin guitarist Mick Murphy and Corrosion Of Conformity’s Reed Mullins have assembled a dazzling roll-call of punk and metal luminaries for this project, aided and abetted by Dave Grohl at his increasingly hallowed Studio 606, and the end result is an album that celebrates old-school values while hammering home the truth that this kind of music has retained its mercurial charms and searing relevance.
These kinds of projects are inevitably hit and miss, of course, but rather than being some self-indulgent rock star knees-up, Greatest Hits Vol.1 echoes the passionate fury of Grohl’s Probot album and Henry Rollins’ Rise Above fundraiser for the West Memphis Three: records that painted their creators as exuberant enthusiasts dedicated to celebrating heavy music’s diversity and fire. Underpinned by gritty ensemble performances, featuring a rotating cast of musicians, the ferocity of Randy Blythe’s turn on Hung Out To Dry and the incensed, twitchy-eyed lunacy of Dead Kennedys legend Jello Biafra’s _Ode To Hannity _(based, somewhat bizarrely, on a satirical poem by John Cleese) are just two of countless moments that make this potentially shambolic project seem so very focused and convincing. In musical terms, these 20 tracks have both feet planted firmly in the soil that spawned hardcore punk’s first, seminal wave, replete with bursts of gleefully metallic crossover grit and occasional detours into the lurching sludge of My War-era Black Flag. The short, sharp nature of the songs themselves ensures that no idea outstays its welcome and thanks to an almost flawless run of vocal tirades from collaborators both expected and less so, Teenage Time Killers seem less like some bloated supergroup and more like a thrillingly noisy love letter to a simpler, less jaded time in underground rock history.
Choosing highlights is a tricky task. Songs like Time To Die (featuring Eyehategod’s Mike Williams) and Clawhoof (featuring a rabid Tairrie B Murphy) will almost certainly turn you into a table-flipping, snot-spraying maniac, but whether it’s Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba channelling his inner Misfit on Barrio or Corey Taylor relishing the chance to let rip on the rambunctious Egobomb, the thrills, spills and showers of bloody sonic spit are relentless and genuinely exhilarating.
Whether this joyful explosion has any lasting impact and inspires a new generation of bands to kill the old way doesn’t matter. Teenage Time Killers are punk, proud and just what the hardcore doctor ordered.
HOW DID YOU PICK THE SINGER FOR EACH SONG?
“Most songs just shouted out for a particular singer or musician. Days Of Degradation sounds like a long-lost Prong song for instance, so Tommy Victor was perfect for that, but other than Jello’s song, none of them were written for people specifically.”
WHO SURPRISED YOU THE MOST IN THE STUDIO?
“There were a bunch of surprises. Corey Taylor’s song Ego Bomb was like that. He came at it from a totally different way than I would, but it turned out bad ass.”
WILL THERE BE A VOL. 2? WHO WOULD YOU ENLIST?
“You betcha! I had so much fun making that record it’s ridiculous. Mike Dean and Woodroe from Corrosion Of Conformity have said, ‘Hell yeah!’ so I guess that’s a start. Got any other ideas?!”