Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Good for You-Life Is Too Short To Not Hold a Grudge; SST, 2013; digital download

As Disaster Amnesiac has come to understand it, Hardcore Punk Rock was largely the result of the urban, arty Punk Rock smashing into the very male wall of suburban skate and surf culture, wherein elements of the latter who were so inclined took up instruments and used the stripped down aesthetic of the former, injecting it with a bit more blatant Heavy Metal and macho. The ensuing sounds got harder, along with the lyrical content of many bands. Subject matters seem to have gotten more serious, turning from a more good time partyin' focus to darker subjects, often of a personal, subjective bent.
Good For You singer Mike V. nicely evinces the Hardcore aesthetic (as defined here, it may be different for you) on Life Is Too Short To Not Hold a Grudge. The title alone throws off a pretty Hardcore attitude! His lyrics deal mostly with bad deals, back stabs, disappointments and a defiant, stand alone world view. The knife gets moved from the back right into his face on Knife in the Face, the LP's dark opus, with V. screaming "you're a fucking liar!!!" at some weasel he's had to suffer. Disaster Amnesiac gathers that most people can relate to that sentiment at some point or another, Hardcore Punk Rocker or not. Life's tough, and Mike V.'s lyrics, barked with a gravelly growl, deliver that point with conviction. It's not all bad, as he gets downright encouraging on Dreams, the song's lyrics having an almost New Age (if New Age means personal realization) effect on this listener. For the most part, though, on songs like Good Sport and I'd Rather Die, V. sticks to the Me vs. The World point of view that so defines Hardcore. He does so with style, and it's fun to listen to him as he documents his struggles.
Hardcore architect Greg Ginn's musical quest pre-dates the initial explosion of even 1970's Punk Rock, but his renown will most likely come mainly from the work that he and his compadres at SST did within that scene. Greg's double-time riffing and manic soloing influenced every band within the nascent Hardcore movement. He brings his entire bag of tricks to the table on Life Is Too Short; as Disaster Amnesiac has listened to this LP, I've often felt that his riffing on it is better than that of those on the new Black Flag release. It's a Heavy Rock feel, with hints of Prog (cut with a Ginn-su knife, of course), filtered through the atom smasher of Hardcore. He rocks his signature dramatic riffs on I'd Rather Die and big, anthems on Blaze of Glory, and delivers classic, skewed soloing on No Plan B and True Companion. As is often the case these days, Ginn's bass playing alter ego Dale Nixon takes over on bass here. Anyone who has read Disaster Amnesiac pieces dealing with Greg's music will know that I feel his bass playing is highly developed, almost on par with his six string assaults. Nixon does a fine job holding down the lower ends of the tunes on Life Is Too Short, playing thick and funky underneath all of that discordant Ginn-tar.
The act of drumming seems to have suffered a bit during and post-Hardcore. By that, I mean that a kind of cookie cutter approach to forming rhythms took over at some point. Pure speed, for the sake of speed, has been the defining mode of drumming for decades now. That's understandable if one is mostly concerned with moving bodies in the crowd of a live show in a circular slamming motion, but somewhat less so if one is concerned with enjoying rhythms and beats. Thankfully for Disaster Amnesiac, drummer Matthew Cortez moves Good for You's tunes in very effectively rhythmic ways. He plays back beats as opposed to blast beats, slamming groovy throughout the proceedings. Even on up-tempo tunes like Good Sport, the listener can feel him shaping and moving rhythm. One of the hallmarks of SST bands has always been that they've had fine, expressive drummers, in spite of Hardcore's unspoken rule against that kind of playing, and Matthew Cortez keeps that tradition alive on Life Is Too Short. He even commits the ultimate sin of hitting some cowbell during the intro riffs of It's Just Business. Shocking stuff!

With Life Is Too Short To Not Hold a Grudge, Good for You have crafted a fine, heavy Hardcore Punk Rock record. In light of the recent melt down of Black Flag, it will be interesting to see if Mike V., the logical choice for new singer for Flag, keeps this group going. Then again, it's a long-established m.o. for Ginn to have multiple groups going, often with the same personnel. Perhaps in 2014 we'll see another Good for You/Black Flag tour, with Mike out in front for both sets. Disaster Amnesiac would gladly go to a show that only featured Good for You. Hopefully one of these scenarios happen this year.

No comments: