By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Sugar and salt
Last Beat Records
With a record industry at the zenith of its powers to control, exploit, and vulgarize any genuine ideals--or ideas--left in rock 'n' roll, it stands to reason that there should be a resurgence of underground punk rock bands. Twenty-one years after punk's initial explosion, the music scene is again in dire need of a Rotten kick in the pants. It echoes the myth of Sisyphus, but punk rock needs to be revived--and remade--on a constant basis. Thankfully Riot Squad is just as disgusted with the world's state of affairs as the original punks were in 1977, and has just put out a CD that is full of discontent, pathos, meaningful lyrics, and riffs that will shake people awake.
Following the vinyl release of The Undying Breed in 1995, Riot Squad has moved a few miles ahead: The songs are more mature, and the sound got beefier--a big, pounding powerhouse that defies MTV-endorsed fashion-punk. Joe Blow delivers lyrics with the urgency of a 10 o'clock news broadcaster, as if the time is near and there's no time for poses or poseurs.
"Thomas Jefferson" is a statement of purpose: "Let's take it to the streets/In the end we will win." "Lambs to the Slaughter" is equally anthemic. The locked-jaw determination of "My Life" leaves no room for doubt: These guys mean it. Blow speaks for all those who feel betrayed by the government, the press, neighbors, even friends. Riot Squad captures this feeling of discontent and speaks volumes about the integrity of its creators. Even when they seek temporary escape in horror flicks--"2000 Maniacs," "The Bride"--their personal stamp remains.
The Tomorrowpeople get their subconscious clues from yesterday: Pink Floyd, Love and Rockets, and early Shamen echo in their work. "Youth in Orbit" is a sly remake of "Space Oddity," and its spacey, ethereal, mushroomy ambience permeates the entire disc. Samples and jungle beats mingle with trippy-dippy psychedelia on an album that is partly contemporary and partly a collage of golden moments from the past. "Mercitron" and "Favorite Song" rock out with the blissful lunacy of the Flaming Lips.
It is hard to believe that the sweet, angelic voice that sings lines like "love is such a beautiful feeling" ("Theme Allison") or "on the wings of desire" ("Queen of Earthly Delights") belongs to Gordo "Buzz" Gibson, one-fifth of the (deceased) mean metallic machine that was Brutal Juice.
Golden Energy orbits through all time and space and ends up landing on a planet where genres and categorizations mean nothing and the good vibe is everything.