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Strike Anywhere
Change Is A Sound
Jade Tree

For the first few minutes of Strike Anywhereís debut full-length, Change Is A Sound, the cynic in me smirked at the bandís sincerity and passion. I mean itís just not cool to be as serious and earnest as this band is. Thomas Barnett screams his heart out because his heart is in every word, while Eric Kane, Garth Petrie, Matt Smith, and Matt Sherwood pound out the herky-jerky, driving musical accompaniment. Itís laughable and cliché, right? No one shouts, "Oi, oi, oi!" in songs anymore, do they?

But the more I listened, the more carried away I got by this bandís drive and determination. Listening to Barnett rage against all the things that punks and hippies should rage against (injustice, greed, hypocrisy, etc.) took me back to a time when I was less cynical about this stuff. I havenít heard protest music this honest and dedicated since Zack de la Rocha and Chuck D first grabbed their mics, and it reminds me that music can provide a voice for a revolution.

The music is, to be honest, unremarkable. Stuttering guitars (provided by the two Matts), incessant snare (courtesy of the athletic Mr. Kane), simple, driving bass lines (thanks to Petrie), and conventional vocal harmonies (the Matts again) make this standard-issue punk as it has come to be known in recent years. Thereís even a taste of that post-punk, New York City metal edge (most noticeable on "Youíre Fired" and "My Design"). But Change Is A Sound is not primarily about music. As a title of one of the tracks suggests, Strike Anywhere is out to start a "Riot Of Words."

Although Barnettís vocal skills are also unexceptional, heís so passionate and committed to his words that you can just tell he means it, and that goes a long way. His songs for common folk about labor organization ("Youíre Fired"), police brutality ("Sunset On 32nd"), and other social justice concerns are most successful when they are most specific. When he speaks about specific issues, his words are more moving than when he screams vaguely about concepts such as "justice" and "hypocrisy".

However, Barnett also has a gift for coining vague and pithy political aphorisms. "Timebomb Generation" contains the memorable quote, We live in defiance of empty times, while "Refusal" contains the fist-pumping sing-along refrain, I refuse to run and I will die before I kneel. In "S.S.T.", Barnett observes that there will be No justice anywhere until we put it there. True enough, though frightening in its implication.

Fundamentally, Change Is A Sound is not likely to make much of a splash in the current musical climate. The music doesnít make enough of a dent in the norm, and the lyrical content just isnít what the kids are looking for. Most of what passes for punk these days is more concerned with relationships and parties, and I like a lot of it, but itís just not hip to care as much as Strike Anywhere does about whatís going on in the world. Rage Against The Machine was only able to pull off their shtick by taking the rap-metal fusion to a whole new level (later parodied, of course, by the jokers in all those misspelled bands). Public Enemy was successful because they could make you shake your rump and your head at the same time.

As committed and concerned as they are, Strike Anywhere just arenít unique and original enough to get noticed, I fear. Itís good stuff though. I hope some folks will hear this record, catch this band live, and let the words remind them that punk can be meaningful. Maybe Strike Anywhere can help harness all of the anger out there that is being directed at kids and spouses and fellow drivers and help direct it toward things that are worth being angry about. Then again, maybe not.

— Eryc Eyl

Track Listing:

  1. Youíre Fired
  2. Timebomb Generation
  3. Refusal
  4. Laughter In A Police State
  5. Sunset On 32nd
  6. Detonation
  7. Riot Of Words
  8. S.S.T.
  9. Chalkline
  10. Three On A Match
  11. My Design

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