Sunday, 1 September 2013

Resist And Exist "Human, Earth, Animal Liberation (HEAL)" live cd 2003

Resist And Exist is certainly one of the most politically genuine and active US anarchopunk band ever. Although it is hard to tell from a European point of view, I suppose they have not been as globally influential as bands like Aus-Rotten or Resist (but then R&E unfortunately never toured outside of the Americas). For some reason, I often think about these bands together, as some sort of unholy American anarcho trinity that really epitomizes what US anarchopunk was all about (not that there weren't other worthy anarchist punk bands in the US in the 90's (Antiproduct, Mankind? or Civil Disobedience were all top notch too). R&E rose out of the prolific late 80's/early 90's Californian anarchopunk and crust scene that birthed such terrific bands as Apocalypse, Glycine Max or A//Solution. Remarkably, R&E survived all the trends and the decades and are still active today, although they don't play as much as they used to. In fact, along with the very under-appreciated Armistice, they are the last band standing of that once glorious scene.

The R&E story is a little complicated but here is what I understood from my research. They originally formed in 1990 in LA and appeared to have been quite close to Media Children, an older fellow anarcho band whose sound was not dissimilar to Welsh band Symbol of Freedom and with whom R&E shared a member. The name is a reference to an early Antisect song, an influence that will always be felt in R&E's music, ethics and aesthetics. This early incarnation of R&E existed for about two years and released two demos, "Music for social change" in 1991 and "The oppressors" in 1992, and they even toured with Total Chaos (back when they were still part of the SoCal anarcho scene and covered Antisect and Disorder instead of doing cheesy music videos). At the time, R&E's music wasn't as heavy as it is now and was closer to local bands like A State of Mind or aforementioned Media Children than the heavy metallic crust punk that a lot of bands went for. Heavily influenced by bands such as Chumbawamba, Alternative or Lost Cherrees, the presence of a great female vocalist gave the band this old-school British sound that I am a sucker for. They also had a couple of faster songs that reflected a love for early Antisect/Anti-System, Potential Threat or, on their own side of the pond, Iconoclast and Crucifix. In 1992, the band split up. Later on in the mid-90's, some members did Autonomy, a band that can be seen as a continuation of the first R&E and an introduction to the final version. Autonomy must have stopped playing around 1996 and in 1997, the new R&E appeared and released their first Ep, "Korean protest".

The "HEAL" cd contains a live performance recorded in San Fransisco. Although I have never had the joy of witnessing the band live, judging from the pictures and videos floating around the internet, R&E gigs are proper anarcho feasts: banners with political slogans, signs, videos, some stage-acting as well, in the great tradition of Crass and Chumba. The cd was released in 2003 but it is safe to say that the recording is probably 2 or 3 years older as the line-up still had members that left just before the 2002's split with Phobia. Beside, the setlist is entirely made up of songs from the "Kwangju" Lp that was released in 2000 so situating the gig in 2000 or 2001 makes sense (now, that's academic precision for ya!). Sonically, R&E were not quite as metallic as they are today but were harder-hitting than in the late 90's. This is bass-driven, heavy hardcore punk reminiscent of Antisect/Anti-System (but with a distinct 90's feel), with heavy mid-tempo moments like Exit-Stance or Aus-Rotten, and epic metallic bits that remind me of Nausea and indicate the direction that the band would take for their next recordings. The sound is quite good, you can hear everything, and you know what, maybe it is too good and some extra roughness would have made it sound less polished. I wouldn't consider this cd a crucial R&E record but it is certainly one worth listening to if you are into the band and too far away to actually see them.

Lyrically and politically, R&E are one of a kind. Definitely more radical and politically motivated than the myriads of bands happy with paraphrasing Disclose, R&E deal with actual political issues and, seeing themselves as anarchist revolutionaries (that's what they claim during the gig anyway), are not afraid to advocate direct actions and even armed struggle (the song "Aeons upon aeons"). They have a song about a Black Panther political prisoner, one about race and self-hatred, one in Korean about the Kwangju uprising, an interesting piece of revolutionary history that is largely ignored (learning history with punk-rock: what else?). You also have a song about animal rights, a topic that is usually seen nowadays as being quite clichéd but one that the band has always been very concerned and, above all, very active about. You may not agree with everything the band says but, at least, it will provoke a reaction, make you think about real issues. R&E have always genuinely seen punk as "a movement for social change" and their lyrics reflect this idea. It may be an idealistic idea and cynical, bitter bastards like me would even say it is a cheesy one (even "soy-cheese" cheesy). Nevertheless, it is a beautiful, powerful one and it makes me feel good about myself. Punk will not change the world, but it could help changing it, be part of a more global revolutionary movement, or something epic like that. I'd rather listen to a band who believe in this ideal than to meaningless indie-rock or pseudo misanthropic blackened crust or whatever.

This particular cd was a benefit for an animal shelter in Arizona and other worthy causes that have to do with ecology and animal liberation. It was released on Mediattack Records, an obscure label that I know one other release from (the Kismet Hardcore album) but apparently did some more stuff as well (not only punk-rock though).

Now to serious matters: who's buying a ticket to LA?