Wednesday, 14 February 2018

California Screamin' (part 5): Resist and Exist "Ad Liberty" cd, 2010

Jurassic Park left a lasting impression on me when I first watched it as a kid in 1993. The parents of my best mate actually took the both of us to the movies in Paris for the occasion. We were 10 and overexcited at the prospect of seeing proper dinosaurs on screen. Of course, like all boys our age we loved dinos and had been playing with colourful plastic versions of these long-gone reptiles for years so the movie felt a bit like a consecration for us. We were aware that the special effects were amazing and I can still us in the queue chatting noisily and obnoxiously about how awesome it was going to be. Of course, we had seen the trailer on telly and we knew how realistic the dinosaurs were going to look. Or rather we thought we did. Jurassic Park scared me shitless and I was absolutely petrified, grabbing my seat like a sloth on its branch. I even thought of leaving the premises during the infamous kitchen scene but I was literally too afraid to move (The Grudge had the same effect on me many years later, though this time the reason why I stayed was that I was too hungover from the night before... oh well...). To this day, I still feel a little uncomfortable and nostalgic whenever I watch Jurassic Park. 

The other thing I took from the movie then was how ace it was to be an archaeologist because you got to wear a hat, be on your own and look for old things in the ground. Though I have always been too shit at biology to become a proper one, I sometimes feel like Professor Grant when I do my research for Terminal Sound Nuisance, digging endlessly to find fossilized pieces of information about punk bands from past eras, dusting them, showcasing them in this digital museum. Only I do not really see the point of wearing a hat indoors. That'd just be silly, yeah? 

This one was a piece of work. Which may seem quite strange since Resist and Exist is not like an obscure dinosaur that no one, apart from the usual bitter nerds, has heard about. They are pretty well-known and respected in the punk world for their longevity and their unwavering political commitment. I would even argue that, along with Aus-Rotten and Resist, they are the most influential US anarchopunk band from the 90's. If their mid/late 90's vinyl releases are pretty much classics, little do punx know (or care to, but that's an other matter) that R&E have had two existences, related but distinct, during the decade. Their first incarnation was rather short-lived but meaningful and relevant in the history and development of OC peacepunk at a pivotal time, what we often and wrongly see as the end of the golden punk era: the transition between the 80's and the 90's.

I have already written about R&E before (about a '03 live recording here) but I will not try not to repeat myself, pretty much because I love being redundant and raving about bands I love dearly. Besides, this post will closely focus on the band's first run and origins and how they are tied to the peacepunk scene. 

The Ad Liberty cd contains 24 songs taken from five different recordings. There is an eight-song demo recording from 1991 (it might be the very first demo but it is unclear as the Music For Social Change demo was recorded the same year and I don't know the precise month), one song from their very first gig in '91, two songs from the aforementioned Music For Social Change demo, two songs off their '92 demo entitled The Oppressors and a live set from the same year.  If you want to be thorough about early R&E (and why wouldn't you?), I strongly suggest you get the Music For Social Change cd (released on Fight For Your Mind in 2005) which includes additional songs from the demo of the same name as well different versions (mastered differently I presume) of the two songs from The Oppressors. The booklet of Ad Liberty tells the story of the band from the point of view of Chris who was, along with Jang and Cyhndi, the original singer. R&E was formed in December, 1990, when Jang offered Chris to join the band. The former had been working along with Jayd (from Media Children) on a song called "The system remains the same" (which makes it the very first R&E song I presume) and I guess they were looking for like-minded punx to form a band.

Now before I go on, let's point out a crucial element in the genesis of R&E, one that is made up of two words: Media Children. I have already touched upon MC previously (when writing about the S.I. One compilation Ep here) but have come across significant intel since. I suppose that MC epitomized, during their lifetime between 1988 and 1992, the third peacepunk generation in California, after the second one (basically made up of bands like The Iconoclast, Another Destructive System, A State of Mind or Diatribe) folded. They were peacepunk's third wind if you like. However, if you take a close look at the first lineup of MC, as indicated on their first 1988 demo Slaughter of the Innocent, you will realize that along with singer Tammy (one of peacepunk's most recognizable voice), the band was made up of Jang on vocals, Jayd on guitar and bass, and finally John on drums, all of whom were part of the first R&E lineup. Therefore, it would not be irrelevant to see '88 MC as some kind of precursor or sketch of what R&E would do just a few years later (or perhaps equally as the first personal experience of mates making punk music together). The first MC demo is, on the whole, not completely similar to R&E's first demos as it was a more melodic and slow-paced effort, somewhere between Atrocity, A State of Mind, Icon AD and Alternative, but then R&E also had moody, tuneful punk songs in their setlist along with their fast dischargy peacepunk sound. MC would go on with another lineup and a faster, Bristol-meets-ASOM sound, but both bands remained very close partners in crime, touring together and even sharing songs (R&E's "Anti war" and "The women song" were originally MC songs).

But back to the early R&E entity. The band played its first gig with MC (obviously) and Arise (a band with former Holocaust members that I am honestly dying to hear) and did some touring with Total Chaos, back when they were part of the OC peacepunk scene and did Antisect covers (this historical fact is known to have given a few self-proclaimed streetpunx a heart attack). In 1992, Jang left the band to form Autonomy along with (I believe) some MC members (R&E singer Cyhndi would join the band later on... I think!). But there was no hard feeling since R&E played their last gig in April, '92, with Autonomy. Of course, Jang would resurrect R&E after the demise of the latter, bringing with him songs from their first incarnation and even an Autonomy number ("Korean protest song" is basically a reworking the song of "Autonomy").  

So, after all this background information, why choosing to talk about R&E in this peacepunk series? I mean, apart from the fact that their moniker was taken from an Antisect song? I am fully aware that the time gap between my last post, which explored the Naturecore's 12'' recorded in 1986, and these recordings from 1991 and 1992 can look suspicious. Did nothing happen in this five-year period? Of course not. OC crust happened. Essential bands like Apocalypse, A//Solution, This Bitter End, Mindrot, Glycine Max and, of course, Final Conflict emerged (though the latter were never technically a peacepunk band and inbetween scenes). But although they shared the values and the politics of peacepunk and can be seen as the logical sonic and aesthetic extension and continuation of it (just like in the UK really), they also reflected the birth of something new with a different artistic perspective and as such cannot be said to represent the "classic peacepunk sound". While R&E, at that time, were THE ultimate synthesis of the preceding decade.

If you were to be asked (say, during a fancy dinner party at the embassy or something) what 80's peacepunk is then look no further and play the early R&E demos. How ironic since they are actually 90's recordings but they concentrate what 80's peacepunk is all about musically, lyrically and aesthetically. The real strength of the band is how effortlessly they managed to synthesize the two schools of peacepunk while never losing sight of the structural British influence. You will find furious dischargy hardcore punk songs that nod lovingly toward The Iconoclast, Crucifix, Body Count, Against or Final Conflict, as well as moody and catchy anarcho numbers reminiscent of Atrocity, Trial, Naturecore or A State of Mind (yes, my evil peacepunk master plan was to write about four bands that the fifth one would perfectly summarize!), and all this with the intense versatility of Another Destructive System. I know I haven't really mentioned all the faster, more hardcore-sounding side of the scene in this series (because I already have before) but of course it played a major role in the shaping of the classic OC peace sound. As I said, the UK sound and inspiration are also very much present in R&E's songwriting and early Antisect, Anti-System, Liberty, Civilised Society?, The Sears or Potential Threat are obvious points of comparison. However, I would argue that they were a band heavily influenced and primarily motivated by the local historical peacepunk, in other terms a peacepunk-influenced peacepunk band (that's a lot of peace and a lot of punk, I know) which was important in and of itself.

As you can expect from demo recordings, the sound quality is not exactly crystal clear. It is raw punk with a sense of youthful urgency and spontaneity and that's precisely how it should sound. The presence of three singers gives the song a polyphonic vibe that conveys the collective identity of the band as well as a cracking vintage anarcho feel. The fast and furious hardcore numbers are brilliant and their ferocity is actually reinforced with the catchy and moodier, darker punk songs that Cyhndi's haunting voice make so poignant. Through these songs (as well as the inclusion of some poems), the band expressed a wider ranger of emotions, like melancholy on "Self destruct" or "When we meet again" or dignified outrage on "The oppressors" (perhaps one of the most uplifting anarchopunk songs of the period with fantastic male/female vocals and a terrific singalong chorus). The song "The system remains the same" (that the band would turn into "Movement" in the late 90's) may be my favourite with its tribal Crass-like beat and layered vocals and its deliciously melodic and poppy Chumbawamba conclusion. Genuine anarcho magics here. The live set (without Jang) is pretty rough but you can tell how receptive the audience is to the band's message and music and they cover BGK and Crass for good measure. The low point of the cd is the absence of lyrics (apart from the reggae-tinged "Ad liberty") which is a bit of a missed opportunity, especially with such a political band with a positive anarchist message. 

This was released on Mass Media Records, an OC-based record label with an ace dove logo that was close to the peacepunk scene of the early 90's (they shared the same address as Media Children actually) that released Ep's from Autonomy, Social Outcasts, Dan and of course Media Children before going on a hiatus for 15 years. Ad Liberty appeared to mark the return of MMR in 2010 (or is 2009?) since the label went on to release top shelf anarcho deathrock and postpunk in the following years with very convincing records from bands like Masses, Moral Hex or Silent Scream. By the way, this cd is still available, so you know what to do.

Since there were annoying gaps between tracks on the cd I did my best to blend songs when necessary (for the live set mostly as the gaps were too distracting). /And before wrapping it up, I strongly suggest you take a good look at Jang's youtube channel (here) if you want to learn more about these peacepunk years.


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