Thursday, September 9, 2010

Down By Law - Punkrockacademyfightsong

Title: Punkrockacademyfightsong
Artist: Down By Law
Year: 1994
Had since: 1997/2007
How I got it: Borrowed/Greywhale in Provo
Why I have it: My brother and I went through a major punk rock phase when I was 14. In the summer of 1996 we bought the first "Punk-O-Rama" CD from Epitaph Records which included bands like Bad Religion, The Offspring, Rancid, NOFX, Pennywise and Wayne Kramer. But the best song on this thing, standing out among this slew of angry, slashing guitar attacks was a cheery, sunny-sounding pop anthem called "Bright Green Globe."

This song made a Down By Law fan out of me instantly. From the beginning, a shimmering guitar noise with a soft voice singing "Aaaaaah" over it, to the "AYYYYYYY!" scream that brings in the rhythm section and the drumroll that begins each verse, to the final, hanging "Nobody knows it allllll...." ending, I was hooked. Down By Law were exactly the type of punk band I was looking for. They even had a cool logo: An arrow cutting downwards through a rectangle, suggesting an aesthetic that breaks down boundaries and thinks outside the box.

So we borrowed (it is uncertain if we ever returned it) the disc from a relative of ours who liked cool music. And the full album was a bit of a letdown. There are at least five or six other songs as good as "Bright Green" on this thing, but they're buried amidst a bunch of formulaic punk and jokey filler, epitomized by a stupid cover of the Proclaimers' hit "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", listed simply as "500 Miles" here. It lacks the raw passion and musical variation of "Blue". Frontman Dave Smalley replaced the entire lineup of the band prior to this record, switching out former members of The Chemical People with guitarist Sam Williams III, bassist Angry John Di Mambro and drummer Hunter Oswald. The result is better cohesion as a unit, at the expense of exploration. "Blue" sounded like a band still trying to figure out exactly what it wants to be -- the song title "Looking For Something" says it all. "Punkrockacademyfightsong" is the sound of a band settling into an identity, and for better or worse, it's the template they've followed ever since. I say "a band settling into an identity" is always for the worst, but those are my prejudices.

Down By Law - Hit Or Miss

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