Saturday, March 24, 2012

Red Rockers - Condition Red

We're gonna rock with revolution!

Condition Red (1981) **1/2

As a counterfactual alternative history scenario, imagine if American hardcore punk had followed in the path of the first Clash album instead of Black Flag and the Ramones.  If you are among those (such as myself) who consider the Clash's 1977 debut to consist of the hottest slab of rock'n'roll ever recorded on either side of the Atlantic, then this laughably second-rate, second-hand imitation from the shores of the Gulf Coast will serve as a sneakingly guilty pleasure after you've worn out "Janie Jones," on the 10,000th listen.  New Orleans in 1981 was not London in 1977 by a insufferably long dole queue's stretch, which makes the Red Rocker's protests somewhat rather silly when not frustratingly scattershot and generically vague.  Musically powerful as it might rock, it's hard to get past the laughable poseurdom of "Guns of Revolution," - the idea of an American proletariat rising up in armed revolution against the 1% was as impractical in the early '80s as it would be today, more a product of a juvenile angry young late teen's "fuck the system," fantasies than a practical political program (just ask the MC5 about "guns, dope, and fucking in the streets").  Peaceful protest on Wall Street is one thing; advocating chasing and gunning down rich people, as if America needed a replay of the French Revolution, is quite another.  These Rockers are much more lyrically tolerable when they tackle subjects closer to the actual mean streets, such as the anti-drugs, "Peer Pressure," and the album's poppiest moment, the generically anthemic "Teenage Underground," which is as meaningless as it is rousing.  Of those attempting to tackle issues of greater political import, only "White Law," which tackles a subject that these Deep South whiteboys would possess a heartfelt understanding of, makes much of an impression - but even then, its rhetoric is overblown and overheated.  The heaviosity and intensity of the track make up for it, however, and actually, about half of these dozen tracks possess a white-hot intensity that make up for the revolutionary silliness and Strummer-worship (though pretty-boy lead singer John Griffith is closer to the wimpy Mick Jones vocal style).  The other half - well, don't.  But only on a lame-o cover of "Folsom Prison Blues," (guest hee-haws courtesy Jello Biafra) and the unintentionally self-parodic "Dead Heroes," do they truly get obnoxious.  Oh, and the finale, "Live or Die," which seems to patriotically contradict "Dead Heroes," seriously blows.  One more point in their favor:  as this was 1981 not 1977 and this is American hardcore punk, the Red Rockers are indeed heavier in their assualt than the Clash's brittle bite.  Which is to say that in an objective sense they rock harder but not harder if you know what I grok.

Judge for yourself --

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