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The Bruisers
In The Pit (Live and Rare)
TKO Records

The East Coast hardcore scene is a strange beast. Unless your name is Ian MacKaye, you will always be the new guy. After 10years, the Bruisers called it a gig, and Al Barr took over pipes for Dropkick Murphys. This overview of their early years (1989-1993) shows slight changes in lineup and sound. From street punk to oi, but mostly a consistent sound and dedication. At it’s best, In The Pit is ferocious, bloody, and live. A-l beseeching stagedivers to mind the equipment, "You almost broke my fucking tooth!" Those are the moments that put you there. The lows are unnecessary alternate versions, which are better raw and sloppy. The collection is also somewhat of a tribute, as most tracks feature late rhythm guitarist Rick Wilmert.

From a ’90 session for Independence Day, the selections show the imperfection that led to another take. While the aggression shows through, "Bloodshed" loses energy during the break. The rhythm section is waiting for a guitar that only shows up as a scratch-down. "Society’s Fool" is frenetic and seamless. With fast-track mumbled rant, I still prefer the imperfect live version. Barr loses steam on "Never Fall." Scottie Davies’ bass dominates "Eyes of Fire." The vocals are still inferior, and the silly cowbell is distracting.

Recorded for an AIDS benefit CD, the Bruisers gave new life to "Live For Now" by Motorhead wannabes Iron Cross. They made it an exciting piece that gears down and builds back up. "Independence Day" from the same session, shows the band maturing. They have gotten a better feel for each other and can play tight. The vocals are gruff and urgent. Barr trusts the band enough to let loose more.

WUNH broadcast the Bruisers live in ’92. The mix on these tracks is good, save vocals fading in and out. "My Pride" has Barr unsure of the mike. The guitars rip, courtesy Jeff Morris. A cover of Blitz’ "Nation of Fire" has a different feel which showcases Dan Connors drumming. Bassist Ritchie is the most consistent element of the band. Morris is branching out with his playing as he goes along.

The gut-level ’92 set has exactly the sound quality you would expect from a DAV hall. Snare and bass guitar are too muddled. Background vocals overtake the lead many times and are wonderfully off, fading in and out at a whim. If you want slick production and on-key harmonies, you’re in the wrong genre. The energy is fed by the skankers. When they take a song and wrap it around a real-life event, it gives it depth. "Never Fall" is dedicated to a friend who lost a fight with a bus. It’s brutal and heavy-handed Gang Green style. Terrifying speed carries "21 Years." Barr’s rap is like a percussive device, skipping over the waves of the music. "Intimidation" is high-speed and convincing. Surrounded by a story of pure oi unity, thanks to DC band Patriot. The crowd in the hall helps out with the chorus. Ritchie gets his due on "Eyes of Fire", having just been released from the big house. This is where the onstage hooligans try to help out with singing, and bust Barr in the grill with the mike. Things get rough and out of control just as they should. "Independence Day" is messy, and tight. Connors keeps everything together nicely. Barr is essentially unintelligible, barking out words on "Bloodshed." This could be G.B.H. Angelic Upstarts’ "Police Oppression," is naturally dedicated to the security at the show. More great beats from Connors rile the crowd as much as the message. Morris keeps his solos to an accent, which is always nice. The metal breakdown on "American Night" is cool. Barr has nimble lips to scat so fast. Lovely monotone vocal acrobatics. The background hollering is laughably bad. "We Will Survive" is like a runaway train with hangers-on flapping in the wind trying to keep a grip. Everyone is deaf and hemorrhaging at this point and can’t hear themselves screaming. I wish I had been at this fierce show, but at least I have the recording.

"In This Country," as the earliest recording, is a threadbare sketch of a song. Revealing and sickly, this is a poor choice for a closer.

-Ewan Wadharmi

Track Listing:

  1. Bloodshed (Unreleased Version)
  2. Society's Fools (Unreleased Version)
  3. Never Fall (Alternate Version)
  4. Eyes Of Fire (Alternate Version)
  5. Live For Now
  6. Independence Day
  7. My Pride (Live)
  8. Nation On Fire (Live)
  9. Never Fall (Live)
  10. 21 Years (Live)
  11. Intimidation (Live)
  12. Eyes Of Fire (Live)
  13. Independence Day (Live)
  14. Bloodshed (Live)
  15. Police Oppression (Live)
  16. American Night (Live)
  17. We Will Survive (Live)
  18. In This Country

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