Friday, May 23, 2014

7 Seconds- Leave a Light On

I have long maintained that hardcore punk rock is essentially an exercise in formalism. I don't usually phrase it that way, but the thought is there- the tag "hardcore" implies a rigid adherence to something, right? As you might recall, part of the appeal of punk rock, in general, is in a deconstruction of pop song formats- the idea that anybody can play three chords. Now, the absolute best of hardcore defied that expectation, to be sure, bands like Articles of Faith, Die Kreuzen, and The Refused would be hard to pin down to any formula, but there is an exemplary in "playing to the rules", and I can think of none finer than 7 Seconds. Even when they tried to experiment, they experimented by playing yet more pop rock. This might seem like some kind of ironic slam on them, but I assure you, this is sincere praise. From Youth Brigade to Bullet Treatment, super tightly structured hardcore punk rock is one of my favorite things in life. It even informs my tastes in more "avant" musical genres- for example, I can't stand Noise rock that doesn't have precise structure at its core- I'm not a big fan of free form improvisation, nor do I like "ambient" music types- I do believe that music should at least partially be about imposing will, intellect and yes, structure over expression.
So, bringing it back to 7 Seconds, a difficulty in imposing strict formalism to relatively simple formats, like pop music ( or Punk rock, if you are offended by the term "pop") is that the discipline required to keep coming up with variations that sound fresh goes up exponentially upon each completed song.How do you keep from turning into a joke I heard about Kiss, then AC/DC then the Ramones ; "One great riff, seven great Albums"? I really think this degree of difficulty killed off many truly great bands- how often do you hear bands say "Well, we felt we'd said all we had to say"? What  I hear in that statement is "We just ran out of ways to approach the problem of sticking to our self-imposed format"- and there's no shame in that. But, here's the phenomena of 7 Seconds- they're still going, sticking to that 120 BPM, guitar, drum, bass, voice, big chorus, short fast song format, and still coming up with new wrinkles. That degree of discipline, and creativity needs to celebrated. I cannot think of anyone else who proves so consistently the sturdiness of the Punk Rock Formula. On top of that, they add the additional rigor of keeping a positive lyrical stance- no blues allowed. Every song on here is honest, open, positive, and affirming.  If you don't see the achievement in this, I would challenge you to re-examine your criteria. I know I couldn't do it. No way!  I would have repeated myself, or gone cynical and bitter, or gone off the formula a long, long time ago. On top of that, I don't think Kevin has ever been in better voice. Seriously, even Peter Murphy is starting to lose his voice, but Kevin has an even purer, more sweet tenor going that when 7 Seconds started. Yes, they have slowed on a few tracks, but I don't count anything on here as below 120 BPM, which still places all these songs as "fast" in my book. Again, for guys in their 50's, that's incredible. I mean, Kevin and I bonded a few years back over mutual gallbladder problems- think about that- what could be more middle aged than that- yet, here 7 Seconds are, fresh as ever, playing loud, fast hardcore, like the 1990's and 2000's haven't come and gone- "Young until I Die" wasn't an idle boast. So, am I somehow ashamed, or ironic, or apologetic about still loving Hardcore Punk Rock, as played by 7 Seconds? Absolutely not. I'm here to tell you not to sleep on this, because we will not likely see their ilk again. I'm telling you, these guys should have a monument....

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