Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hardcore Stalwarts Ever True

I really do view most of music and the music biz as "stuff my friends do", and that sometimes leads to odd places. Just like any circle of friends, if it gets wide enough, it includes people who vary greatly from yourself, so I end up counting people like Dave Smalley and Joey Keithley as "People I've had friendly chats with"- these are both guys that I'd gladly have drinks or dinner with, yet both would disagree with me on a number of subjects. Both are in bands, and both just released CDs- Joey's band DOA just put out "We Come In Peace", and Dave Smalley's band Down By Law put out "Champions at Heart". While I like both, musically, I prefer Dave's band, while politically, I guess I'm closer to Joey's band.
DOA, of course, pretty much invented Hardcore back in the early 1980's, but really, they're a second generation Punk band. That means they throw in basic punk, some hard rock, some reggae, a little Celtic folk, and whatever else comes up at the moment. Still, for the most part, it's roaring Sex Pistolish punk, with Clash politics, and some Clash styled white boy reggae. Good stuff, and starting off with "He's got a Gun" makes it pretty topical. But, the problem with DOA is history. They've got enough of one that it's starting to constrict them- they have to carry the Flag for the music they made 30 years ago, and the strain shows. Especially on "Walk Through this World" which has world-weary lyrics set to a tune nicked from "Bankrobber" by the Clash. It just makes Joey sound so infinitely tired that it serves as a downer, even if it wasn't meant to be. Likewise the duet with Jello "We Occupy" just sounds a bit like two stalwarts cashing in on something they may have helped to inspire, but have no real connection with, which makes them sound older than they are.
Which brings us to Dave's Down By Law. The guy was in DYS, Dag Nasty, and All. On top of that, I know the guy is smart- like multiple degrees type educated smart. So, while I know I've had personal disagreements with him, and even a serious fight with a former band of his, I respect the guy, a lot. Musically, this is top shelf California style pop Punk. Lyrically, it's a Seinfeld episode- they songs ultimately aren't really about anything- sure, they have themes, like "if the kids are united, they will never be divided", or " it sure does suck that sugar has calories" which is about how Pop Punk usually ends up, so I'm not mad that Dave's not using that massive brain to write a song that fully explains the Israeli position on Syria or some such, but still, it does become a drag- he's got 9 minutes of a 45 minute record about the topic of "Unity", explicitly, and said pretty plainly. Still, for sing-a-long boisterous Warped Tour Punk, you won't find better. They guy was in All, after all. Pop Punk is his forte. It is a wonder that this style still connects with so many kids, but I'm grateful that it does because it means that a whole host of stuff that I like gets dragged along, too.
So, bottom line, I think it's good that there's still a place for Stalwarts like Joey and Dave, and I just wanted to support that....

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