Tuesday, 16 February 2016

"S.I. One" compilation Ep, 1991

This compilation Ep is a rather obscure one that is perhaps more interesting for its historical relevance and for its significant snapshot of a particular time and place than for its musical content. I am not saying that the bands are bad, just that "S.I. One" is a really wonderful artifact of the second generation of OC anarchopunk despite being the only release of S.I. records.

Although rigid definitions of "punk waves" in strict terms of years are usually bound to misguide, I suppose you could say that there were two waves of Southern California anarchopunk, two generations of bands that interconnected but didn't coexist. I would situate the first one between 1983 and 1987 and the second one between 1988 and 1992. I am aware that some bands overlapped and that others kept playing well beyond 1992, but for the sake of analyzing and identifying this record, I feel that conceptualizing two different waves is useful. The first wave is certainly more famous and probably punkier-sounding and corresponds to such bands as Crucifix, Body Count, Iconoclast, Diatribe, A State of Mind, Trial, Treason, Bitter End, Another Destructive System, Atrocity or Final Conflict, while the second one saw the prominent local rise of crust with bands like A//Solution, Apocalypse, Mindrot, Confrontation or Glycine Max, but also Media Children, Resist and Exist, Total Chaos (I know), Holocaust, Armistice or Autonomy. Although you could easily situate some important differences between both waves, the feeling of continuity and fluidity between them, in terms of music and aesthetics, is overwhelming and definitely validates the existence of an "OC anarcho sound" (or SoCal anarcho sound if you want to avoid geographical arguments): British anarchopunk basis infused with US hardcore and varying levels of (usually thrash) metal. This second wave can be also linked on a national level with many other places like the Squat or Rot scene in New York (Nausea, Jesus Chrust, Insurgence, Apostates...), the Minneapolis anarcho scene (Profane Existence, Destroy!, Misery...), the Portland anarcho scene (Resist, Starved and Delirious, Deprived...) and many others. Overall, it was a transitional moment, the watering of the 90's anarchocrust wave's seeds (the actual planting was done during the first SoCal wave I presume).

The first band on the compilation is Media Children, one of the most active local bands of the era. They epitomized the radical anarchopunk politics of the time, like Resist and Exist with whom they toured a lot and even shared a member then. The song "Forever scarred" is about rape, rape culture, gender violence and women's self-defense and the band did not take the subject lightly. They provided a lot of information about sexual abuse (data, statistics, advice...) which I feel is important when one tackles such a difficult, sensitive topic. Media Children were this kind of band that offered more reading than listening on their records and I am pretty sure that it was also true during their live performances. The sound on this pretty direct punk song is rough but it works fine for the genre (and for me anyway). They remind me of Symbol of Freedom jamming with Ad'Nauseam in Chaos UK's local. The high-pitched vocals of Tammy will probably be a Marmite deal: love them or hate them. I think they work well when the music kicks in as they are really expressive but not so much on the spoken parts where they tend to sound too strident and shrieking. If you have never heard Media Children, I would suggest starting with the very solid 1991 Ep "But still they ignore..." that has a better sound, dynamic male/female vocals and, of course, a lot to read. Three members of Media Children went on to form Litmus Green in the early 90's who proved to be a prolific band and one that was influential musically (if not intentionally) for the so-called "streetpunk wave" of the mid/late 90's.

The next song is "The ultimate end" from Holocaust and to be honest, they were the reason why I bought this compilation Ep in the first place. I got to listen to their brilliant 1989 demo "Our anger has turned to rage" a few years ago through the great Crucified For Your Sins blog and needless to say that I was suitably impressed. The demo was an energetic and snotty blend of Final Conflict/Crucifix hardcore punk and UK bands like Instant Agony or Death Sentence. Pretty glorious stuff. "The ultimate end" was unfortunately Holocaust's sole vinyl appearance. The song was not recorded during the same session as the demo since the composition has a different feel. There is a definite metal influence in Holocaust's song that is strongly reminiscent of local metal crust heroes Apocalypse, Glycine Max and A//Solution and also of the thrashy hardcore sound of Bitter End and Final Conflict (who were possibly the biggest influence on the band). "The ultimate end" is just glorious: crunchy, metallic, crusty punk that the second wave of SoCal anarchopunk was renowned for. I have no idea if this song was part of a longer recording session, it seems likely but it may be wishful thinking too. Apparently, after the demise of Holocaust, some members went on to play in a band called Arise (I got this information from the booklet of Resist and Exist's "Ad liberty") and I have got a feeling (also triggered by the Amebix reference, truth be told) that they played something very similar to late Holocaust. Could "The ultimate end" also be an Arise song after all? This song has huge similarities with the 1989 demo but it is also quite different in terms of intent... Who knows? And I mean this literally: WHO KNOWS?

Social Insecurity are next (not the 00's heavy hardcore punk band from Scotland obviously). Information about them is scarce and I have sadly never heard their 1992 Ep, although I know it came with a great-looking newsprint lyric sheet and cracking anarcho artwork. I know just one other song from SI, that is not dissimilar to Media Children actually, that appeared on the "No lip service" compilation Ep that was released on Mass Media records in the early 90's (1993?). MM was possibly the label that was the most connected with the second wave of SoCal anarchopunk during the first half of the 90's (it was responsible for records from Media Children, Autonomy, Firing Squad and even Dan) and after a long period of silence, it looks like it has been back in business since 2010 or so, with a more postpunk/new-wave approach, and has released some convincing records from Moral Hex, Vivid Sekt or Cemetery. But back to Social Insecurity. The song "Fuck all powers" is about, well, resisting the powers that be. It is a sloppy and fast punk-rock number with a very rough and ready production and an early Disorder influence. A full Lp of it would make for a long listen but it does just fine on a compilation Ep. Social Insecurity records (aka S.I. records) was the band's label and I suppose it was created for the release of this compilation.

The final song is "Constant struggle" from Unauthorized, a band from Pasadena that also recorded a full Ep, 1991's "Cheated". While I like the sentiments behind the lyrics ("Constant struggle" is a positive song about anarchy), I guess it sounds a bit too much like a "proper" US hardcore band for me, especially the vocals, but the fast-paced music makes up for it and after all, it gives more variety to the compilation.

The object itself looks stunning: a huge fold-out poster sleeve with plenty of lyrics, arts and political writings in the grand anarchopunk tradition. I must admit that I have some troubles folding it out and up but then I am not the handiest man. More than a genuinely great record, "S.I. One" is a loveable testament to a particular scene and that is what makes it relevant and worth examining. And of course, it has that terrific Holocaust song...  

  SI One


  1. I hadn't heard this track. Thanks for another interesting rip and write-up.

    The SI 7" and split LP are great, heavy crust. I'm still surprised that band didn't gain more traction in the crust realm. I suspect a different label would have been the difference. It didn't affect my interest or enthusiasm, but I do feel it was of consequence. -ZM

  2. Whoops. Missed that parenthesis and date! Sorry. -ZM