By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
White laugh riot
The Undying Breed
Last Beat Records
There's no writing off Riot Squad as just another punk band, though they try hard on The Undying Breed to pander to punk cliches and caricatures--drawings of the Anarchy symbol and mohawked men, which ar scattered throughout the disc's inside artwork; dated "oi!" choruses, which are starting to sound less like the chants of the angry young man and more like the moans of the grumpy old man. Riot Squad are too clever to be lumped in with the generic punks, too witty to be dismissed as just another band of cartoon white guys shooting the finger at The Man who bought their Sega Saturns for them. Like Ethyl Merman, Dallas' other "punk" band worth considering, Riot Squad reclaims their heritage by infusing it with sincere angst, humor, even a sensitive touch that makes it all seem more real and less contrived. And if they sound like early Clash along the way, then it's probably because they'd rather be a rockabilly band in the first place.
The Undying Breed begins with a battle cry that's more a shrug, a thin-sounding call to revolution: Molotov cocktails, anarchy, smashed windows, chaos--all the shit out of the punk-rock handbook. It isn't a promising start, the words sounding hollow and empty like they were memorized. This isn't the poetry of rage, but it rhymes: "Don't turn around, there's a gun in your back/You have to fight, you have to attack."
From there, Riot Squad begins to rewrite their history book: "Catwomen on the Moon" borrows Grade-Z shlock-horror imagery to tell of a guy who's kidnapped to outer space to repopulate a dying race of, well, catwomen on the moon ("and it was all up to me," sings Joe Blow)."Unicorn" is another song that comes from nowhere, situated between songs about the "Book of the Dead" (as opposed to the Book of Love, which the narrator couldn't find) and "Scary Picture Show" (which plays like a cross between the Flesh Eaters and Joe Bob Briggs).
"Unicorn" recounts how the animal came to be extinct: When God told Noah to build his ark, carrying those animals two by two to higher ground, the unicorns stayed behind "kickin' and splashin'" on their rocky perch. "Then the ark started movin' and it drifted with the tow," sings Blow, "and the unicorns looked up from that rock and cried/And the water came up and sort of floated them away."
Perhaps the song's meant as metaphor, yet another your-generation-ruined-my-generation anthem masquerading as biblical fantasy. Perhaps not. Either way, it's a striking moment --more provocative than obvious, more effective in some ways than the jackhammer lyrics to songs like "Foresaken" ("a father's love I will never see") and "Big Fat Baby" ("gonna cry to mom and dad").
Finally, a punk band that understands you need not scream to be heard.