All punk cons

Riot Squad breathes old life into a rotting corpse

As individuals, the four band members couldn't have more disparate influences: Schrader listens to Led Zeppelin, NOFX, and the Police; Blow prefers his Hank Williams records; Blitz loves old country and rockabilly; and Bollocks indulges in reggae and Dixieland jazz. "But our main meeting point is the love of punk rock," Schrader says emphatically.

Just as the music they love so much landed in their hands and on their turntables in the form of scratchy LPs and 45s, The Undying Breed was released on vinyl as an attempt to be as genuine as possible. It may seem like commercial suicide, but Riot Squad prefers it this way, and it hasn't necessarily hurt sales: Last Beat's Tami Thompsen says the album has sold about half of its initial pressing of 1,000 albums.

The Undying Breed is a worthy slice of old-fashioned vinyl--a fervid, diverse, even fun record. What could have been a hodgepodge of empty punk cliches is instead a feast of varied themes: Blow, who writes all the songs, has an affinity for horror B-movies that's evident in such songs as "Dracula's Daughter," "Book of the Dead," and "Catwomen on the Moon." Then, with a wink and a blink, he can turn around and pen a dead-on hate letter to a deadbeat dad ("Forsaken"), a condemnation of corporate greed that destroys small-farm owners ("James 5"), or a preachy little ditty about true justice ("Rapists and Murderers," with its rather to-the-point chorus of "Castrate the rapists/and mutilate the murderers").

The more you listen to The Undying Breed, the more you realize it sounds like an album on which the gesture is often more important than the musical content. It's both a labor of love and a defiant attempt to justify itself, to prove punk is not dead--which is perhaps a moot point in 1996. As pop music constantly reinvents itself, every genre is up for grabs and due for a facelift, and ironically or appropriately enough, the album's inner sleeve includes several drawings of mohawked skeletons hoisting guitars.

It is the mix of that adrenaline and idealism that propels the members of Riot Squad, that keeps them making those punk-rock fliers for yet another show that may or may not make enough money to buy a six-pack. "We play gigs for nothing," Bollocks says. "We just wanna do it because we believe in it. Kinko's has made more money from us than we make from our music." He laughs. "Some people may call it a sacrifice--you spend your resources, time, and money--but we believe in doing it.

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