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,
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
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.
- Youíre Fired
- Timebomb Generation
- Laughter In A Police State
- Sunset On 32nd
- Riot Of Words
- Three On A Match
- My Design
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