Strike Anywhere [I]To Live In Discontent[/I] Review

The Richmond, Virginia boys of STRIKE ANYWHERE have made their career by delivering hardcore anthems peppered with a radical worldview and a sincere musical/political understanding of the last 30 years of punk rock lineage. The five-piece have been bubbling over and with the release of To Live In Discontent the band offers a rare insight into the history of their undeniable hooks and ferocious energy. A collection of rare and unreleased material including the long out of print Chorus Of One EP, outtakes from last year’s Exit English, and an assortment of classic cover choices including Cock Sparrer, Dag Nasty, and of course the Gorilla Biscuits. To Live In Discontent is a must have release for any fan of the band’s raucous rally cry; a definitive insight into what fuels a revolution, and a glimpse into the history that will thankfully keep it burning.

Strike Anywhere’s Rarities Cleaned Up

Strike Anywhere’s collection of B-sides and rarities now has an official release date.

The band’s To Live in Discontent will hit stores Jan. 25 from Jade Tree Records. It follows last year’s Exit English (Jade Tree) (read Aversion’s review).

Although the band has a handful of dates scheduled in Japan, no North American tour has been revealed to support the compilation.

Strike Anywhere [I]To Live In Discontent[/I] Review

Really nice to catch up with all of Strike Anywhere’s non-album tracks, from the Exit English outtakes to their harder-to-find vinyl tracks. Heck, throw in covers of Gorilla Biscuits, Dag Nasty, and Cocksparrer and this is a winner, all the way. I’ve always said the truly great bands are the only ones who can pull off these collection-type, odds and sods CDs with grace, and that is certainly the case with To Live in Discontent. Also of note is that this CD includes one of Strike Anywhere’s best songs ever, the awesome "Cassandratic Equation". When it comes down to it, anything that this band touches turns to gold, the frenetic guitar chords of double Matt (Smith and Sherwood) and the positively endearing vocals of Thomas Barnett setting the foundation for one of melodic hardcore’s finest. Fitting that this Richmond, Virginia band sounds so much like Chicago’s Rise Against and vice versa (is it just me, or is there an uncanny resemblance?), considering they are the best two bands going in this genre right now. Those who missed any of the Strike Anywhere rarities along the way owe it to themselves to pick this up as soon as they can.

Planned Parenthood Goes Punk

The Locust

What do bands like the Locust, Strike Anywhere, the Blood Brothers, Liars, and Daughters have in common? If you answered that they all belong to subgenres of punk rock, you’d be only partially correct.

These bands are also Planned Parenthood supporters and have invited Planned Parenthood to table outside their concerts. These rockers who tour nationally also will announce to their 1,000-plus audiences that Planned Parenthood is on hand with, among other things, free condoms. Punk rock music tours plus Planned Parenthood? This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

It all started with music lover Katie Knoll, former administrative program associate for Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU). Among her musical friends is Justin Pearson, the bassist for the Locust, who encouraged her to invite Planned Parenthood to one of its concerts. PPAU distributed health information and gave concert goers voter registration information. A large percentage of the audience is composed of young men. "It’s great to reach this audience," says Knoll, "because they don’t usually go to health fairs and they now know that their favorite bands are pro-choice."

After the first successful event, Knoll coordinated with other Planned Parenthood affiliates, such as Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, and Planned Parenthood of New York City. Knoll helped the affiliates get the OK from the concert promoters, the band managers, and the headlining bands to table outside their concerts. So far, Knoll has helped bring Planned Parenthood to seven concerts, with headlining bands such as Andrew W.K. and Dillinger Escape Plan. Some bands invite Planned Parenthood for their entire tour.

Now, Knoll says, the bands are coming to her instead of the other way around. She has moved back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she continues to hook up local Planned Parenthood affiliates with touring bands. She herself may hook up as a staffer or a volunteer with Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. Along with friends she will also be running the independent label, Collective Records. In the works is a benefit CD collection of all the bands that support Planned Parenthood, along with information about the groups and their histories.

Strike Anywhere Save Animals, Storm a Bush

Richmond, Virginia’s Strike Anywhere stopped in for the Hellfest show in New Jersey before their recent Toronto show. When they weren’t playing, they were hanging out at the FaunaVision and Oasis Sanctuary booths.

The non-profit groups set up tables at the festival to raise awareness about animal advocacy and offered a place where bands could drop by and speak to fans about these issues.

“We met the people from Fauna and Oasis actually at a show. They had a table set up at a venue we were playing at and we just became friends through talking to them and believing in what they were doing,” said Thomas Barnett, Strike Anywhere’s lead singer. Their mission is to rescue animals that are victims of abuse, whether it is intentional or because of neglect, rehabilitate them and finally find a suitable home for them through adoption.

The band is no stranger to rescue missions. After hearing a neglected dog barking day after day in his neighbourhood, Barnett walked into the dog’s owner’s back yard and cut the pooch free from his chain. Barnett’s friends subsequently adopted the dog. “I still get to see the puppies, which is cool.”

He is so outspoken about these issues that PETA2 tracked him down at a show and asked for this thoughts.

“I’m not the most attractive spokesperson, but they cornered me, shoved a camera in my face and I was somehow more articulate than I’m being right now,” he said when pressed for details about the public service announcement.

The relationship with PETA2 came about because the band’s hometown of Richmond is close to PETA2’s headquarters in Virginia Beach. Other relationships are a result of touring and demoing. Mike Burkett, AKA Fat Mike of legendary punk band NOFX and the co-owner of FAT Wreck Chords, is friends with the band.

“The people at [FAT] are like our west-coast family,” Barnett explained. “We would record our demos in our bedrooms and post them online, and that’s when Fat Mike first heard us.” Fat Mike put together a compilation on his record label featuring bands that supported the movement to oust American president George W. Bush from the White House called Rock Against Bush.

“Every citizen of the world should be able to vote for the American president, because the U.S. effects so many people globally, more than any other nation,” Barnett stated. “If Bush gets re-elected after several weeks of counting this time, riots will last weeks, not half a day. American punks will rewrite American history.”

The band put on a great, politically charged punk rock show that night. A predominant mix of mohawks and fluorescent hair colour speckled the crowd at the Fun Haus and set the stage for an electrically charged set from the band.

Mexican Disaster Squad, Engine Down and Rainer Maria kicked off the evening and Strike Anywhere rocked the stage to the point where the ceiling began to sweat and the floors became slippery. They even incited a mosh pit in the Fun Haus’ limited space, where brave souls flipped gravity and chance the bird by body surfing in a pit that consisted of far fewer individuals than any self respecting crowd surfer should cruise on. Barnett, with his long blonde dreads, bounced around the stage in a fashion that was reminiscent of video game character Sonic the Hedgehog at times. He whipped the pit into frenzied waves of grinding punk hysterics.


Many of you love Strike Anywhere, and with good reason – their intense blending of hardcore punk with an intelligent, political message is incredibly important in today’s post-9/11, pre-election world. But Strike guitarist Matthew Sherwood might be having a few more adoring fans in the coming months, as he has been dubbed as having the most “completely irresistible” face in America, according to Gillette. The shaving company had been conducting the talent search for the past few months to help launch their line of skincare products, and Sherwood was crowned the winner after receiving a nomination from his girlfriend Aran. So how did Sherwood find out he beat out over 1200 entrants, winning a $25,000 prize package and a chance to be in an upcoming Gillette commercial? From tennis superstar Anna Kournikova, of course. The sexy celeb surprised Sherwood at his Richmond home with the news. Don’t believe us? Well, good thing we have an exclusive photo of the meeting of the minds, which you can view [dial-up users beware; it’s a big one]. So what does Matt have to say about all of this? “I never thought of myself as irresistible – so this is pretty cool!” Be prepared to be signing a lot more autographs on future tours, dude.

Strike Anywhere

Some bands do it for the money. Some do it for the girls. And then there are those, such as hardcore punk band Strike Anywhere, who are motivated by something a wee bit deeper.

"These public servants, from presidents to senators to mayors, we’re their bosses. We have to hold them accountable for the murders that they commit in our name, for all the different levels of betrayal, for the money that they give the corporations who own them, and all of those things," offers vocalist Thomas Barnett, who, intense as he is, remains one of the sweetest teddy bears in punk rock. "It’s becoming proven as every issue comes out in our media week after week how corrupt and aristocratic and just filled with malice the current administration is."

So, to sum up, the Virginia-based punkers in Strike Anywhere have spent the past four years campaigning for the republicans. No, just kidding. "Yeah, we’re the punk wing of George Bush’s campaign contribution," the 30-year-old Barnett laughs. "He’s always supportive. We wanted to give back to him and Cheney and Rumsfeld." Strike Anywhere actually spent the past four years touring the planet, spreading their message of peaceful resistance, and otherwise proceeding linearly towards their masterful new album, Exit English, an opus packed with rocking, socially charged anthems that raise your pulse enough to count as exercise. It’s got the blast-beats of punk, the stutter-start rhythmic punches of hardcore, and an arena-rock scope of both melody and content that can incite moderates of any party to revolt.

"As well as the urgency and the catharsis and the fire of the previous records, we needed to bring something positive and a little more hopeful," Barnett says of the album. "People, especially in these times, they need something that has an apocalyptic resonance, and hardcore music, punk music’s always had that, that strange doorway into other worlds of optimism and fighting injustice and kind of saving yourself from becoming the mediocre cartoon that our system wants you to be. The need for something positive and optimistic as well as something honest – at least for us, that’s what the record has delivered."

There’s something a little precarious about trying to affect change through something like punk, which is often associated with violence and therefore dismissed. That’s why it’s important to note that Barnett is playing on his fans’ intellect, not their emotions. "I think a lot of the violent context of punk, all of it has been more like a modified cancer on the face of what punk originally meant and how the best purveyors of it still define it," Barnett insists. "It becomes really macho and it’s really senseless and cartoony. We’re not really supportive of that, we don’t understand it, and we don’t think it has any lasting power to change people or even inspire people."

On indie powerhouse label Jade Tree, Strike Anywhere has been able to impact audiences around the globe, albeit sometimes a handful at a time. But that’s the definition of grassroots, and that’s what Barnett and crew are all about. So, at least for now, to hell with the major labels.

"Sometimes in our weaker moments, we’re like, ‘Goddamn, it’d be nice to have health insurance,’" Barnett laughs, "but we can build this band from the independent point of view. We don’t need four lawyers and three managers, people that would have to call my bandmates for me."

Strike Anywhere will make a stop in the area this month with the Jade Tree United Tour, complete with booths from PETA 2 and Music For America, a non-partisan, non-profit voting registration group. "It’s gonna be hopefully a comprehensive alternative culture symposium," Barnett explains.

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

Beginning with a short string-based intro, this record then kicks itself straight into life, inspiring this reviewer to do the same.

Exit English, the band’s second full-length, shows Strike Anywhere at their fastest, heaviest, and most melodic. The band’s political edge on this record is as apparant as ever. Vocalist Thomas: "the songwriting on Exit English has more to do, I feel, with giving an outlet for the necessary catharsis each of us needs. To project and reflect the hope of people worldwide – organizing and communicating against this unilateral action, and the long wake of corporate penetration and the further denigration and circumvention of international law that we fear is soon to come."

Big words aside, this record is 12 chant-along choruses, 12 bloody screaming messes, and 12 songs loaded with imagery, exploding into the global with a personal base not so well documented in the past.

As your reviewer writes, a track called "’Til Days Shall Be No More" begins to burst out through the speakers. Could this be a sign that said reviewer should get on with the review?

"Blaze" begins with a shout along, tempo changing, lead-guitar laden track. Even on first listen, SA’s lyrical standing becomes apparent – this is not a band you will find singing ‘boo hoo my girlfriend dumped me’ songs.

"Extinguish" is a lighter-at-times slice of SA, possibly single material. This writer’s knowledge of SA is not very extensive.. does this band release singles? If not, the Richmond, Virginia based group may want to think about doing so. Breaking out from the RVA scene to bigger things could be what this record will bring them.

"Fifth Estate", one of two songs on this record that are just over a minute long, is a pretty forgettable song. As much as I am trying to like this band, this song fails to stand out vastly from the last track.

"In The Fingernails" is described by Thomas as "(celebrating) the internationalist, peace movement, using imagery and ideas from the very successful Anti War March we had in our hometown on November 9 last year."

The song rocks into life, a fast drumbeat carrying the song along. The vocals in this especially stand out, this is really the kind of band you need to see live to really be a fan of. These vocals justy beg for that front-row choir to be screaming along with them.

"Infrared" could almost be a punk song, as opposed to SA’s normal hardcore blend. However, SA blend this type of sound with their own, making a hybrid song that clocks in at 3:30, second longest on this record.

Death By Stereo/AFI fans might enjoy "Modern Life", a super-fast, ‘whoaaa-ohhh’ filled yell along.

Notice how I keep using clichéd phrases consisting of the word ‘yell’, ‘scream’, ‘shout’, ‘chant’, and others (if only I could think of any more verbs)? Yeah, that’s a slight problem with this record. Although RVA scenesters will deny this allegation, SA suffer slightly from that age old syndrome, the curse of similarity and repetitiveness disorder. Not that this is all bad; SA have a good, strong sound and lyrical base. However, listening to the entire album several times over reveals the fact that some tracks can be skipped over in favour of the more varied ones present on this record. There are similarities between several tracks, meaning that this record is not the most wholly original record it could have been.

Not that I’m asking Strike Anywhere to write a ska-punk-jazzcore-death metal tune, however. It’s a confusing job, writing reviews. I liked this record. I just didn’t like it. At least in parts. Well… some parts… so maybe a 7. But then, the 4 minute long track ("’Til Days Shall Be No More")was good.. maybe an 8? Hell, I don’t know.

7.5, because I’m a pacifist.


Interview with: Strike Anywhere on February 14th, 2004

Strike Anywhere have become an extremely influential band in the punk scene in the last couple years, playing with a blend of 80s hardcore and straight punk rock infused with motivated political lyrics with a positive attitude.  Their latest effort, Exit English, continues to show their dedication to making good music and keeping a constructive social agenda.  I had a chance this last weekend to ask guitarist Matt Smith a few questions about their music and their message.
PunkBands: What are some of your big musical influences?
Matt Smith: I would say probably…most of the guys in the band grew up listening to older hardcore, like gorilla biscuits, minor threat, dc stuff, all the discord stuff.  a combination of the California 88 sound with the dc sound.  also, like billy bragg, pretty much everyone likes him.  there’s not too much that everyone in the band likes, but billy and dc punk are good overlaps.
PB: What was the Richmond scene like when you started?
MS: The Richmond scene comes and goes, it will be really really good for a few years, and then theres kind of a lull for a few years before it gets started again.  when we got started it was kind of a lull, but right before us there was this really good scene with bands touring the country and stuff, like inquisition, Thomas old band, engine down, etc.  I remember sitting around listening to Lifetime with eric and our drummer, and I was like man I want to start something upbeat and positive.  avail too, we all grew up listening to avail going to all the shows and everything.  we came up on the tail end of a strong scene and now its on the upswing again I think.  Richmond is a really small city, so we’d usually have to go to DC for the big tours and such, but there’s always tons of bands from the art school and stuff, lots of quirky eccentric people in it.
PB: What’s the creative process like?
MS: When we first started out we just like practiced all the time, we’d come up with a riff or two and figure it out, then Thomas would work through his little book of poetry and stuff and find something to work with it.  Now Thomas lives in Vermont and I live in Baltimore so we have to kind of bring everything in separately.  I have a recording studio in my basement to record local bands and stuff, so we’ll demo stuff and then send it to Thomas.  we find a way to make it work.  its hard when you are not all in the same town, but we find a way I think.
PB: Do you feel like anything has changed between this CD and the last?
MS: Umm…I think so, its funny because we never really realized how fast the last album was until after the fact, because now on tour we don’t play the songs as fast.  we hadn’t listened to it forever, and we put it in now and listen and are just like “god its fast.”  we toured for like 2 years basically just playing those songs, and theres such a wear and tear on the body to play songs that fast.  on the new album we were more conscious of being experimental and trying out new tempos and rhythms.  on the new album its definitely more experimental with tempo, maybe a little less traditional punk, but a lot more fun to play live.  we have some songs with different tunings and stuff, which is fun too.  we didn’t want to make the same record over again.  I mean some bands, not to mention names, make the same record over and over again, and they end up with four cds that sound exactly alike.  I think this album is still recognizably us but also pretty unique in its sound.
PB: You guys are known for a really energetic and entertaining live show, is there any secret for keeping the energy up on a long tour?
MS: I think it just kind of comes natural for us.  the last tour we did we were over in Europe and everyone got really sick, Thomas lost his voice and I came down pretty ill, and I remember thinking we should take it easy and just go out and play our songs, but we still did the exact same things we always do.  Once you get into the show you almost can’t hold back, the crowd starts getting into it, and its kind of like a feeding frenzy of energy.  we don’t try to do it, it just comes natural I guess.
PB: I saw you on MTV2 the other day, has growing popularity changed anything?
MS: It’s weird because we kind of see it and we kind of don’t.  I mean, we made the video because we have a friend who works for FUSE, and he was like if you guys make a video I’ll play it.  so we kind of made it for that and like Europe and Australia who have smaller independent stations that just play videos.  we didn’t expect to see it on mtv2, because so many bands we know who make awesome music and videos don’t get played.  its kind of interesting, as far as popularity its been so gradual that its not something that we just go on tour and notice and say “wow this is crazy.”  It’s been so gradual that its not like just because we got played on there that we are huge now.  every tour has been a little bit more successful than the last.  its cool that we can only do the band now and not work, we can all survive on a small budget.  So yeah, its just been really gradual.
PB: Is there a chance for a release on a major label?
MS: To this date we still haven’t talked to any major labels at all.  I don’t think that we ever would.  But I dunno, right now we are comfortable and everything is going good with us and its not to the point where we feel like we’ve outgrown the capacity for the labels we are friends with now.  We are really happy with the way things are going, we are all really grateful for what we have, I don’t think signing to a major label will be the solution for any problem we have because we don’t really have any problems right now.  it’s a weird time for punk right now, so many of our friends bands are on major labels, but I dunno, I’d rather be like with jade tree where we are a priority rather than being a small band on one of the huge ones.  Instead of being such a small priority because they’ve got the new Britney Spears album to release.
PB: You guys are pretty unique as a political band because the music and message is
overwhelmingly positive, where do you draw inspiration from?
MS: Well…Thomas is one of the most positive guys you’ll ever meet.  He’s always looking out of the van talking about how beautiful everything is–he’s kind of a hippy.  He has such a positive outlook on life that he kind of just channels it into his lyrics.  Our influences, too, have such a huge impact.  The old bands like the Gorilla Biscuits, Bad Brains, and the old hardcore scene were so concerned with being productive and positive, I think that’s rubbed off. 
PB: How would you like to be remembered as a band?  How would you like to influence music and society?
MS: Actually saying something that’s positive and means something is important in music.  I want to be remembered as a band…we get emails from young kids who are really influenced by our music, and its cool because you’ve touched that person and made them question and really changed how they look at things.  I think its cool that there’s something other than singing about girls and mindless pop music.  It’s cool we get to tour around and meet friends and get to offer some inspiration as well.
PB: What would the ideal political situation be?  How do you envision getting to that point?
MS: As far as me, the whole meaning of the title of the new album Exit English just kind of means in a very simple way is just like when you tour around…recently we’ve just done a lot of international touring…thinking for yourself and not embracing American ideals worldwide.  everything is just becoming so Americanized, our culture is taking over the world, our language and everything is becoming so international.  something I find very important is the phrase “work to live, don’t live to work,” think for yourself and don’t just embrace what you’re told to embrace.  it sucks that people have to work so much just to support their families.  in Europe businesses close by 6 and have month long vacations and hour lunch breaks.  I don’t see why the American lifestyle has to be so different.  one of the things I’m really passionate about is the living wage movement.  its hard to ever escape the poverty line when you have to work 70 hours to pay for a meager apartment or health care or child care.  Thomas is the guy for the in depth political questions, I’m more of a simple guy.

Strike Anywhere [I]To Live In Discontent[/I] Review

As far as punk albums go, Strike Anywhere’s To Live In Discontent is slightly above-standard stuff, with chants of "Oi!" adorning its anti-capitalist lyrics and buzzsaw rock. True to its title, the album is contradictory in nature, advocating self-sufficiency in the face of societal oppression. "In this world you must say no," shouts Thomas Barnett on "Earthbound," "In the eyes/In the heart/In the mind/Freedom starts." On "Cassandratic Equation," he chants a "dream" about the Seattle protests: "So we go into the Underground/America, 1999/It could be any year, anywhere." Strike Anywhere is hopelessly optimistic, and one wishes there were a little more realpolitik in its politics. But its songs are undeniably hooky, and its message is too appealing to ignore.

Strike Anywhere: The Evolution of Punk Rock Angst

Thomas Barnett, the 30-year-old, dreadlocked lead singer of Richmond, VA’s Strike Anywhere immediately comes across as polite, apologizing for a botched phone interview, and offers an alternative time to reschedule it in the blink of an eye.

He’s expressing a humility rarely found with musicians of today. And like most kids who have spent their entire lives living in and around a punk rock community, he’s eager to speak because he wants to share his love of music, educate the oppressed, and fulfill the ideologies he’s learned through his alternative lifestyle.

At fifteen, Barnett was booking shows at a Reconstruction-era, two-story granary on the outskirts of Richmond. By 1991, he was fronting punk stalwarts Inquisition. When Inquisition broke up, its members went on to form Ann Beretta and River City High. Barnettt wasn’t as quick to jump to another outfit, but by the fall of ’99, Strike Anywhere had formed.

Mixing the best part of ’80s acronym punk rock (DOA, MDC, DK) and ’77 street punk (Oi!) with youth crew optimism, there’s little not to like about Strike Anywhere’s fiery brand of anthemic, politically-charged sound.

"Something about it spoke to me immediately," says Darren Walters, co-owner of the Delaware-based Jade Tree Records, the label that the band calls home. "I was 30, and it sounded like the kind of hardcore that was missing in today’s environment. It hit me instantly and left me wanting more. It was derivative of everything I loved about punk, but yet sounded fresh at the same time."


And the band’s newest release, Exit English, delivers exactly what Walters says. Exit English offers a fresh take on melodic hardcore and anarcho-punk, yet the common thread of punk rock’s various ideologies weaves through it, making the record both nihilistic yet endearing. Not since Youth Of Today have I felt so positive about feeling angry, so good about fighting the man.

Interview by Greg Barbera
Photos by Retodd

Greg: It seems like there’s some sort of incestuous thing going on with the Richmond scene where almost everybody has worked or played with one another in some shape or form.
Thomas: Yeah, it’s always been everyone helping each other out. That’s been the Richmond ethic for as long as I’ve been involved in it. In high school I was setting up shows at this old barn – a Reconstruction-era two-story granary – on the outskirts of Richmond. And guitarist/singer Matt Sherwood has toured and traveled and worked with bands like Avail. He’s been on all ends of the DIY music community.
Greg: Why do you think that Richmond has that sort of tight-knit scene as opposed to other cities which tend to be divided by genres?
Thomas: I think Richmond might be just big enough and at the same time just small enough that there’s a balance. Everyone still wants to have parties together. It’s a cheap place to live, a cheap place to try to go to college, drop out and still live there [laughs]. That makes a punk scene vital. There’s a lot of punk inspiration, as far as what it means, that comes from Richmond and it contributes to the body of punk culture.
Greg: Would you say there is a connection between your locale and activism?
Thomas: Richmond’s activist culture really weaves through the punk rock community. But punks can be just as lazy and accept the worst; they can become lazy sloganeering cheerleaders without any sense of irony. There needs to be something almost sound-bite worthy or a graphic that has shock value to it. The deeper values and ideals of rebellion experienced through family life or choked out of culture add a sense of suffocation. That’s what drew all of us into this music.

Then you can take it to a larger level with society and people who are really suffering and what values the American Dream talks about and who it’s built on and who is still suffering and what that means to you as a person. Those connections are pretty easy to make in Richmond. It’s not an academic activist scene. It’s a very visceral scene. You see segregated neighborhoods. Poor African-American and poor white communities cut off from bus lines, cut off from ways to even get to jobs. The education that goes from almost Third World to elitist Southern aristocratic class-as-culture, which is even more ridiculous than the way that the upper class manifests itself in other parts of the eastern seaboard.
Greg: In the past year, I’ve done some work for a private investigator who is hired by the public defender’s office to dig up mitigating circumstances for persons facing capital murder charges. For instance, say a group of black men break into a house and one of them has a gun and kills somebody. The whole group can now be tried under the felony murder law. Yet few involved had any idea about the gun or the gunman’s intentions nor were they educated enough to know the consequences of their actions. It’s like sex education. I believe you need to be teaching that in school along with basic civics classes, too. Things like: "If your friend has a gun and shoots someone to death and you are with him, you could go to jail for the rest of your life or be put on death row to be executed." I’m a middle-class white guy with a college education and nobody ever told me about genital warts or felony murder until it could have been too late.
Thomas: Totally. It’s like during the Civil War when both the Union and Confederate armies burned Richmond. All the people knew was the town across the way was burned by some people from the Union army. So they’re like "Fuck that, those guys just killed my cousin." That’s exactly what’s happening in poor, urban communities with the level of crime that occurs. It’s crime based on illiteracy.

In Richmond, there’s so much ruin and decay right along the river; right along where the slave auction blocks were, these haunting reminders of this incredible history that public school education doesn’t cover very well. But you can see it. It’s like, "There was so much more to learn, why wasn’t I taught this?" There’s so many things that I can find sympathy and solidarity with. Every one of us needs a greater truth. Every one of us knows it’s emotional before it’s even academic; some things we weren’t even taught.
Greg: Is it difficult to write socially charged music yet still have it be about dancing and singing along?
Thomas: We don’t entertain thoughts of being on any of the pedestals, or conceits that we’re all scholars, or that we even have a party line. It’s more like the folk tradition where we have stories in our songs from personal experience. We see this and we can filter it through our social consciousness, our sense of outrage, our sense of disconnection in American society and wanting to make a connection. The only way you do that is through putting your arm around your friend and singing along. Or stage diving.
Greg: So you’re not really involved in local politics, per se, or having any political affiliation. Rather, you’re just documenting what you see.
Thomas: We do, on occasion, play a benefit show or even as individuals work with a coalition for the living wage through Food Not Bombs. Our friends are activists and these are the people that we write songs about and inspire us. So we are involved, although not very often.
Greg: Punk rock has become much more homogenized over the years.
Thomas: Yeah. People are making money off of its look and the most superficial elements of punk. Every 7 or 8 years some A&R guy from some major label decides he’s discovered punk… again. It’s laughable, but that doesn’t mean anything to everyone in the cities, to the kids. And you and me, in our 30s, being kids as well. The "kids" being part of our vernacular that doesn’t actually have to do with physical youth but with mental youth. We are not apolitical; we definitely have social viewpoints and we are connected with activism in different ways. But we’re not leaders. We don’t have instant leadership cards. We just happen to be musicians and songwriters and that’s our humble contribution.
Greg: Do you consider yourself patriotic?
Thomas: No. Of course not. I’m probably more patriotic toward Richmond. I don’t hate America in a ham-fisted way. I definitely see the positives. But it’s a nation and national identity is such a horrible thing to buy into.
Greg: Being that Strike Anywhere has toured in other countries, I’m sure you have gotten feedback from fans and bands abroad. What’s their perspective on what the United States means or represents?
Thomas: It’s such a big monster to so many people, but there’s some great traditions and some good things that are still alive in the U.S. like dissent and protest. Yet these are becoming luxuries that our leaders cannot afford us anymore. We’re seeing exactly just how much control can be exercised. And how flagrantly people can abuse civil rights and rights of speech and just that the cultural conditions are being manipulated against the people. A lot of people aren’t going to want to accept this, they think it’s hysterical and some ridiculous left wing banter. Yet in other countries it’s something quickly taken away.
Greg: What do you think is the biggest hurdle this country has to overcome?
Thomas: I could tell you what I think the best parts of America are: I think the civil rights movement was incredible and had a very American quality to it. The way it brought together ideas of non-violence, earthy religious overtones and things like the Highlander folk schools where people were taught how to bring ideas of freedom to people who didn’t know how to read yet, how to mobilize people for voting and be supportive of grassroots democracy. People having education stolen from them in the poor working class is probably the biggest hurdle. Our educational systems, for the most part, are inconsistent and poorly orchestrated.

The disintegration of the family would be another big hurdle.

As a superpower, we have a complex just like "Fuck everybody, let’s go in there and get what we want and then we’ll manipulate law later on to pretend to have justification." You know, let other countries try to justify it for us when they jockey for position in the shadow of the movement of our wealth, our armies and our politics. You could look at everything in a really Marxist way or really crass way from these times. One of my older friends said that its becoming easier to relate punk’s extremism to the apocalyptic view of these times. It’s more like the ’80s again.
Greg: It’s totally Reagan-era all over again.
Thomas: Yeah, where you could have whole concept records about Pol Pot and Cambodia. [laughs]
Greg: Lately, I have been going back and digging out the old punk records more these days. I guess it’s because I just recently read Dance of Days about DC hardcore. I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of DC and had been at some of those shows they talk about in the book, one being a Circle Jerks show. I decided to break out their album Wonderful and Keith Morris is singing about Afghanistan and religious zealots. That was in 1988. Nothing’s changed in fifteen years.
Thomas: I know. It’s insane. It’s an illusion that we make a lot of social progress and how we’re all marketed stagnancy and the illusion of social progress. Then it turns out that punk is the only thing that has given you an honest reflection. Your Circle Jerks analogy is perfect – the same powers are oppressing and destroying the same resources. The same people, they’re moving the same positions into politics so that twenty years later their sons can reap the harvest. And all this time we think that we have this progressive society.
Greg: This brings up something that I saw on recently on television. I saw Dick Cheney on Meet the Press. He said the military’s pre-war plan was to protect the oil wells from being set afire like what happened in Kuwait. It threw them for a loop. The subtle point here being that he basically admitted the whole conflict is about oil.
Thomas: Right, they were basing their military strategy, which was wrong, on oil.
Greg: Back to civil rights, which you mentioned earlier as something good about America, I had a similar experience recently while bartending at a wedding reception. My co-worker is black and I’m white. We were working this large Southern wedding at this turn of the century mansion – a local landmark in Durham, North Carolina, called Greystone – and I couldn’t help notice how interracial the crowd was. I made a comment to him about it. He said the same thing, then added how peculiar it was that we’re conditioned to notice such things. Here we are talking about the civil rights movement and the Civil War in this interview, yet it’s still an odd occurrence to see blacks and whites mix so freely together in the south. It was equally uplifting and disturbing at the same time. He went on to talk about how the Latinos are the backbone of the economy in the southeast – especially in construction, food service and hospitality – yet you never see them out socially, or that they haven’t fully integrated into our culture here in the south.
Thomas: Right. They are still an immigrant population in the classic sense, where they have their own neighborhoods and bars and if you don’t know any of them then you don’t know where it is. I find that true in the southeast especially.
Greg: He asked if I still think there’s racism in the south, and I said yes. It’s extremely understated but it’s still floating around. I added the white community is extremely divided – trailer park folks don’t drink at the same watering holes as the country club set nor do the country club set fish or camp like rural, blue collar white Americans. Neither are trying to embrace each other. He pointed out that it’s the same with black culture in big cities like New York where Jamaicans don’t get along with Nigerians.
Thomas: I think on some levels race has clouded people’s minds. In Vermont, where I am now, there are a lot of rural, blue collar white folks here and there isn’t a lot of people of color. Which is crazy for some kid like me who grew up in Richmond.
Greg: Are they confused by your dreads?
Thomas: Well…
Greg: I guess there’s plenty of hippies up there.
Thomas: Yeah. There’s enough hippies [laughs]. It’s weird being the only punk rocker in say a 50 mile area [laughs]. So you said you grew up and went to shows in D.C. in the early ’90s?
Greg: More so the mid- to late-’80s. I saw the Bad Brains and Government Issue and Beefeater and Scream and all those bands from that era. I always thought, at least when I was in high school, that every town had some sort of punk rock scene. And maybe they did but not with quite as much of a historical impact that D.C. punk had.
Thomas: Fugazi came down and played this reggae club in Richmond called New Horizons, so for me there was a lot of overlap between the punk and reggae scenes. Much like the way punk in London was shepherded and allowed in the reggae clubs for awhile. Like the rastas had some kind of sense of solidarity with their wayward, younger, paler cousins.
Greg: You can look at any reggae documentary and you see them pressing their own records and bringing sound systems to towns to play freshly-pressed cuts to the people. How punk is that?
Thomas: I think the Caribbean culture can easily get inside of urban art communities for the same reasons. They can transform it and give it a lot of humility and spiritual aggression. Richmond had a good deal of that when HR had lived here for a stretch between break-ups and had the Human Rights band going and they played a lot of shows that I snuck into.

So Fugazi came down and played this reggae club and then I went up to D.C. to see Fugazi a lot and every show was a Positive Force benefit and they played with bands like Fidelity Jones. It was awesome. That segued into the more hardcore scene like Worlds Collide or Four Walls Falling and a lot of that was just as meaningful because it was really political. It was straight edge and the sub-cultural kids that went to the shows were different than say, the conscious Dischord punks, and it was nuts to melt, like, straight edge as a lifestyle and let’s-beat-some-people-up with other issues like compassion.
Greg: It’s kind of weird how straight edge became like a bad jock fraternity beating people up who were smoking at the shows or wearing leather when punk rock was born out of a bunch of boozed-up derelicts tired of bad FM radio. When I got into punk rock it was mostly displaced goth girls and old bald guys tossed together with divorced latch key kids from suburbia. Everybody was a freak and there was some solidarity in that we were all freaks.
Thomas: And that’s the same thing from the beginning of this conversation. There’s just not enough to have that much separation in Richmond. It was just too ridiculous to not have shows where the nihilistic drunk punks would play alongside the straight edge kids. Our band is made up of drunk punks and hardcore kids [laughs]. We are definitely a product of Richmond where we would be at the same shows together and have the same musical tastes. I love Turning Point, Judge, and Gorilla Biscuits as much as I like the Subhumans and Conflict and Flipper and D.I. We have a lot of shared tastes but our lifestyle choices have been based on some of the differences in the shared taste.


#13: STRIKE ANYWHERE – Exit English (Jade Tree).

The best thing about STRIKE ANYWHERE is that they bring "the show" to you on their releases. With the assistance of producer extroadinare Brian McTernan, every track on "Exit English" feels like it’s being played live in your bedroom. With a greater emphasis on diverse song tempos, and a stronger recording of Thomas’ vocals, these guys seem well on their way to becoming the BAD RELIGION of the next generation.

SHOW REVIEW: Strike Anywhere, N.M.D.S, Call David | Katakombe Karlsruhe

After a pretty hard weekend, I decided to go to Karlsruhe for a nice chill-out Sunday watching a couple of bands. But in a completely packed club, chilling is not as easy as one might think.

First of Call David from Stuttgart tried to get the crowd going with their screamo sound. They weren’t bad at all, did their best on stage to not look lame and some of there songs even made people dance. Luckily they didn’t look like you streotype emo kid with black dyed hair, tight shirts and buttons all over their clothes. After about 35 minutes they finished their set and it was time for New Mexican Disaster Squad a band which got their record deal with AF records through a Strike Anywhere’s guitarplayers recommodation, being one of the best unsigned bands. Now they just released their album on AF records, which I really enjoyed. Live they weren’t as convincing. The songs didn’t have the stright forward drive they have on record and the melodic singign parts didn’t just sound as good, although that might have been due to the sound engenieer, who knows. In comparison Strike Anywhere were able to fully convinve me from the first chord on. They’re simply pure energy one stage rocking an almost one hour set whit most of the “chours of one” and lots of new material, with which quite a large number of people in the crowd seemed to be familiar with. The place was just going crazy song after song. Somewhere in the first part of the song, some crowdsurfers tears some electric cords from the ceiling, which looked pretty scary. The sound engenieers pleads to stop crowd surfing where heard for about 2 songs, but then hell broke lose again. After Strike Anywhere did their anchor song, they left the stage, and we left the club, but as we were walking out, we heard som more music coming from within, and I read in other reviews, that NMDS came back on stage to play some Minor Threat songs. Damn I’d love to have seen that, but anyway, a nice end of a nice weekend

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review: 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Richmond, Va., seems to churn out great political punk bands like a factory — a factory controlled by the workers, of course. And Strike Anywhere is the latest to rise from the scene. The way the quintet mixes tight hardcore punk with moving melodies makes every song an inspiration.

The drums and guitars bounce off each other like moshers in “Infrared” as singer Thomas Barnett bemoans the world’s lies and sings of “children’s lives spent sewing up our cheap disguise.”

“To the World” is a call to action where Barnett goes from singing to full throat-shredding scream and back as he pledges his allegiance to the world because “until the last lock breaks, none of us are free.”

My favorite might be the restless “Extinguish” with a melancholy chorus rising from the ashes that urges us to be “united by what we do, not who we labor for.”

Inspirational lyric: “Though there’s blood on the nightsticks, it’s never too late.”

Time code: 12 songs in 31 minutes.

Recommended If You Like: Thursday, Avail, Hot Water Music, Good Riddance, Kid Dynamite, Rise Against

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

First of all, I’d like to point out the fact that Strike Anywhere toured Australia not too long ago, and I of course, only got into them a matter of weeks following said tour. Good times. Anyway, ‘Exit English’ is the follow-up to their quite amazing ‘Change Is a Sound’, and it sees a release with the sort of hype you would anticipate when a band is expected to match a potentially classic album. Not surprisingly though, rather than sticking with a proven formula, Strike Anywhere have taken a chance and altered their sound to a less erratic, and more structured form of melodic hardcore.

Of course, one of the main factors in Strike Anywhere’s rising popularity is their awareness of political and social issues shown through their lyrics, and ‘Exit English’ continues the benchmark they had already set. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the lyrical content, but you should appreciate the fact that they have chosen to address relevant issues, rather than subside into the teenage break-up tedium that so many other bands have adopted in recent times. The lyrics also allow for an anthemic quality to many of the songs, particularly the sing-along choruses of tracks such as ‘To The World’, ‘Infrared’ and ‘Blaze’. It’s an increased liking to pop melodies that has given them the ability to engrave their songs in the head of the listener, as opposed to grinding it in with blown-out aggression.

That’s my major quarrel with Strike Anywhere’s new direction. ‘Exit English’ is better than most punk albums that you’re likely to hear this year, but it just doesn’t have the same belligerence that ‘Change Is a Sound’ had, and apart from the excellent pop-elements, is simply an inferior album. Still, if I hadn’t already experienced their previous work, my opinion of ‘Exit English’ would definitely improve, as that’s where most of my skepticism stems from.

Despite my own disappointment, ‘Exit English’ is a top punk album. It has enough melody to hook in the pop-punk crowd, and enough integrity and heaviness to lure in punk purists and the hardcore crowd. The main reason why I wouldn’t label this as a must-have punk album is that your money would be better spent on ‘Change Is a Sound’. Regardless, you’ll still find your money’s worth in this album.

Rating: 6.7 out of 10.

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

Richmond, VA’s Strike Anywhere have quietly crept up on the punk scene, diligently traveling around the country and beyond, leaving listeners worldwide in a daze of anthemic hardcore intensity. Their debut album, the invigorating "Change Is A Sound" documented a punk band that provides a powerful crunch, and still they have found it necessary to push themselves further. Looking to enhance their melodic leanings and delve deeper into their worldly beliefs, the band have enlisted the help of producer Brian McTernan (Hot Water Music, Cave In) who has uncovered new layers of depth and pop accessibility for the band to arm themselves with. Their latest triumph, "Exit English", shuns the lackadaisical stance of turning a blind eye towards the world’s problems in favor of the easy to market break-up odes so common with the pop/punk genre, and instead speaks out on modern society and war with intelligence and intense determination.

Strike Anywhere have truly blossomed into one of today’s most accomplished punk rock units, deftly embodying the rebellious punk spirit of discontent with the world as it stands, while instilling trace elements of pop and hardcore into the mix. By using their ability to catch one’s ear the group have been endowed with the chance to postulate on society and its complications through an upbeat sing-a-long style that always feels on the brink of combustion. The structural stability their music displayed on "Change Is A Sound" is still prevalent this time around, courting rambunctious hardcore anthems with a pop sensibility. Vocalist Thomas Barnett brandishes a fiery tongue that partners vicious screams with endearing melodies, creating a verbal discourse that eschews the traditional mode of placating the masses and instead confronts society’s woes head-on. This is exactly how such songs as "To The World" and "Fifth Estate" succeed in entrancing the listener in an idyllic haze of tumultuous political themes with saccharine sweet punk rock. His bold vocal stance combined with the group’s increasingly melodic hardcore sound conveys a feeling of turmoil outlined with hope, and their keen sense of repetition drives these sentiments home.

Considering the sparse number of socio-political punk groups that exist today with the ability to also champion radio coverage through melodic pop deliveries, the band should be proud at just how fluid this pairing has worked. The template used so effectively here seems unusually similar to that of recent Boysetsfire, yet these men have allowed themselves to fully embrace the radio-friendly design; speaking of injustice in relatable terms that are pleasing to the ear while retaining their explosive edge. The thoughts that are expressed here are arguable and may prevent some listeners from getting caught up in the enthusiastic struggle on display, but the band are still capable of overwhelming with their infectious melodic punk. With this effort Strike Anywhere have expanded upon their aural tapestry and captured the very essence of where America finds itself today: caustically fragile, yet positively aware of its struggles and intent on finding a way to persevere. In that sense, this is an honest, unflinching album of punk rock patriotism, and another scintillating effort from one of the indie scene’s hidden gems.

(3.5 / 5)

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

This year Jade Tree is driving me really crazy. They put out such amazing stuff as Paint It Black, The Statistics, Kid Dynamite, Strike Anywhere and will put out the new Denali record soon. Whay a year! What a label! Speaking of nice bands, the new record from Strike Anywhere is just the bomb I was expecting. "Exit English" explodes from the first tracks: "Amplify" and "Blaze" really show what the band and their new record is all about: political aware fist-pumping anthems that will literally blow you away. Just like the previous "Change Is A Sound" and "Chorus Of One", the tunes are fast, melodic, with socially active lyrics and the world, the state of things, politics and relationships, but on "Exit English" the lyrics, which are always super active, are written less like anthems and more like poetry. Having such tunes about police brutality and class consciousness on the previous "Change Is A Sound", with raging chords all over their songs, Strike Anywhere’s balance of vegan politics and rock’n'roll just does not disappear on the new album: passionate lyrics about the class state, rebellion, revolution, solidariety, equality and personal lifestyle expiriences all sung perfeclty by dreadlocked frontman Thomas Barnett, whose voice is able to catch the melodies, to become anger ( on "Eitnguish" ) and even almost whispered (on "Lights Go Out") or softer, on "Modern Life". The 12 track on the album are all worth every second, with a lot of originality and the total absence of hardcore punk clichés: this record is just perfect in every way. "Exit English" detonate on September 30, so be sure to get your copy, because THIS IS THE ALBUM OF THE YEAR.

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

Ok, there’s no hiding this – I love Strike Anywhere. I love their music, I love their style, I love their politics (hell, I even like their taste in cuisine). Ever since I heard their last album, Change is a Sound, I knew that Strike Anywhere was going to permanently etch a place for themselves in my CD rotation. Exit English lives up to all my lofty expectations. Without abandoning their signature sound and style, this album gets a little bit more musically inventive, while providing you with a new set of songs you’ll be screaming with your every waking thought. The music will stay with you, too – this album wields a forcible energy, conveying the band’s experience without sounding overproduced.

One thing that separates Strike Anywhere from the pack of political punk bands is a tinge of optimism hidden within their unforgiving criticism of our government and society. The pace of the album is as fast and furious as they are, but does not rely solely on speed to provide a sense of energy and urgency – the lyrics are intense and direct, as are the melodies, in both their fast and more moderately paced songs. "Infrared" is a great and catchy song that flirts with the poppier stuff out there (noting a little more singing than screaming) but overall the band’s trademark sound is dominant. Worry not, I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be seeing this on MTV.

Early in the album we encounter a standout classic in "To the World." It seems a clear backlash against the flurry of "Proud to Be an American" bumper stickers out there. It hits at the truth that American lives are worth the same as Iraqi, French, or Afghani lives. I like the line, "I pledge allegiance to the world, nothing more nothing less than my humanity…under no nation will we ever be…" This album seems to me to have a more global outlook than their past work. Change is a Sound highlighted how the lives of American citizens can seem to be valued based on class or race. This work forces the listener to think not only outside the box, but also outside the continent. "Lights Go Out" again takes a look at the so-called war on terror – I can’t even pick one line to quote for you here, since the whole song is so good – you’ll just have to get the CD and hear it for yourselves.

Their global outlook still cries true at home in songs like "Aluminum Union" and "Modern Life." "In the Fingernails" looks at the class war, the battle between the "haves and have-nots" and makes you wonder how anyone could think tax cuts for the rich are a good idea (even the rich). Basically, if you know Strike Anywhere, you know what this CD offers – quality music and intelligent lyrics that is well worth your hard earned cash, and guarantees to piss you off (but hey, in a good way, man).

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

Strike Anywhere is one of those bands that I don’t think has it in them to put out a bad song. Once I heard their release "Change Is A Sound," I was instantly hooked on this Richmond, Virginia five piece. To make me love them even more, their latest release on Jade Tree, "Exit English," is nothing short of amazing.

I wouldn’t have thought they could have written a better opening track for an album than  "You’re Fired" off "Change Is A Sound." But their opening two-track combo, “We Amplify” / “Blaze,” is an excellent, hard-hitting duo that makes one excellent song. Throughout the album, every song is strong and forceful, leaning a bit more on the melodic side than their last record. And it sounds great.

The lyrics are brilliant . . . one of the biggest reasons why I love this band. Political lyrics that are true and well informed is a huge plus with me. Thomas Barnett’s vocals on this album are top-notch, as is the overall musicianship and production.

I’d have to say my favorite songs on this album are "We Amplify," "Blaze," and "To The World." If you haven’t heard any of the songs off of it, head over to and stream the entire album. If you’re new to Strike Anywhere altogether, check out for band info and streaming mp3s from their first full length. I recommend this album to absolutely anyone and everyone who is a fan of the punk scene. It is amazing.

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review: 9 out of 10

WOW! Plainly put, this is fucking great. Exit English is Strike Anywhere’s second full length and has been one of the most highly anticipated releases since their highly acclaimed Change Is A Sound in 2000. Hailing from Richmond, VA, Strike Anywhere entered the studio with Brian McTernan at Salad Days this time to record twelve tracks that are not just beautifully recorded and well written, but which hold a certain organic element to them that cannot help but show you how natural and sincere this effort is. An already great band made another great record through and through…in my top 10 of 2003. If you don’t go get this now, you’re REALLY missing out. For fans of: Avail, Good Riddance, Kid Dynamite, Trial By Fire, etc.

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

Richmond, VA’s Strike Anywhere have quietly crept up on the punk scene, diligently traveling around the country and beyond, leaving listeners worldwide in a daze of anthemic hardcore intensity. Their debut album, the invigorating "Change Is A Sound" documented a punk band that provides a powerful crunch, and still they have found it necessary to push themselves further. Looking to enhance their melodic leanings and delve deeper into their worldly beliefs, the band have enlisted the help of producer Brian McTernan (Hot Water Music, Cave In) who has uncovered new layers of depth and pop accessibility for the band to arm themselves with. Their latest triumph, "Exit English", shuns the lackadaisical stance of turning a blind eye towards the world’s problems in favor of the easy to market break-up odes so common with the pop/punk genre, and instead speaks out on modern society and war with intelligence and intense determination.

Strike Anywhere have truly blossomed into one of today’s most accomplished punk rock units, deftly embodying the rebellious punk spirit of discontent with the world as it stands, while instilling trace elements of pop and hardcore into the mix. By using their ability to catch one’s ear the group have been endowed with the chance to postulate on society and its complications through an upbeat sing-a-long style that always feels on the brink of combustion. The structural stability their music displayed on "Change Is A Sound" is still prevalent this time around, courting rambunctious hardcore anthems with a pop sensibility. Vocalist Thomas Barnett brandishes a fiery tongue that partners vicious screams with endearing melodies, creating a verbal discourse that eschews the traditional mode of placating the masses and instead confronts society’s woes head-on. This is exactly how such songs as "To The World" and "Fifth Estate" succeed in entrancing the listener in an idyllic haze of tumultuous political themes with saccharine sweet punk rock. His bold vocal stance combined with the group’s increasingly melodic hardcore sound conveys a feeling of turmoil outlined with hope, and their keen sense of repetition drives these sentiments home.

Considering the sparse number of socio-political punk groups that exist today with the ability to also champion radio coverage through melodic pop deliveries, the band should be proud at just how fluid this pairing has worked. The template used so effectively here seems unusually similar to that of recent Boysetsfire, yet these men have allowed themselves to fully embrace the radio-friendly design; speaking of injustice in relatable terms that are pleasing to the ear while retaining their explosive edge. The thoughts that are expressed here are arguable and may prevent some listeners from getting caught up in the enthusiastic struggle on display, but the band are still capable of overwhelming with their infectious melodic punk. With this effort Strike Anywhere have expanded upon their aural tapestry and captured the very essence of where America finds itself today: caustically fragile, yet positively aware of its struggles and intent on finding a way to persevere. In that sense, this is an honest, unflinching album of punk rock patriotism, and another scintillating effort from one of the indie scene’s hidden gems.

(3.5 / 5)

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

As much as one could love or hate this band, there is one thing that stands out in both minds; the sheer brilliance in this bands music, lyrics and the intelligence that they bring with it. Strike Anywhere are probably one of today’s best bands based on political and world reasoning. Exit English is a true spectacle on how a band can keep the streak going, what an astonishing record is all I can say. With more passionate lyrics than a love story this record should quite easily be one of the best records of 2003, easily. There isn’t a bad or out of place song on this album, each has its own brilliant sound with a set of heartfelt and justifying lyrics.

The album starts off with the first track Amplify; sitting in at just over a minute it is quite easily one of the best introductory tracks I’ve heard on a record. The next track "Blaze" is another awe-inspiring song that is greatly sung by front man Thomas Barnett, the song is amply like many songs off of Change is a Sound. By track three "Infrared" the band have already got you into the album, this song is also the song for the bands upcoming video, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be, this is a song where that sheer brilliance really shines. The brilliance doesn’t end yet with the next song "To The World" a song clearly about the world today that contains some very hearty lyrics "I pledge allegiance to the world until the last lock breaks none of us are free none of us are free we fight to balance our minds petty powers pushing profits over our lifetimes…"

New Architects is the next song on the agenda, this time a step down on the furious speed that the band are so very good at. The song isn’t thoroughly slower, but at times you will get the anger of a scream, which I find perfectly suit’s the album. Light’s Go Out is the sixth track on the album, and again is a full speed ahead fit of rage faced at the wars the world is faced with today. Fifth Estate is the next song, this is another song just over one minute long, but again has a story worth hearing in it.

The next two tracks are "Modern Life" and "Aluminum Union" both tracks are a great combination of bitter and fierce feelings to them, a raw sound that is undoubtedly a trademark sound that Strike Anywhere hold. The tenth track "Extinguish" has a very broad sound to it, with strong vocals and lyrics at the same time. The last two tracks on this album are "In The Fingernails" and "`Til Days Shall Be No More" both with a story of war and a sound of depth and emphasis that matches no other.

Exit English is and will remain to be my favorite album of 2003, with a great deal of intensity. This album is a plus for anyone that has been a fan of Strike Anywhere from when they start up until five minutes ago, and for anyone that like an intense sound with real meaning and heartfelt lyrics. The artwork is also a standout on the album, some of the best CD artwork I’ve seen for a CD in ages, or maybe ever?

Standout Tracks:
01. We Amplify
02. Blaze
03. Infrared
07. To The World
10. Modern Life

Rating: 10/10

Track list:
01. We Amplify
02. Blaze
03. Infrared
04. 5th Estate
05. Lights Go Out
06. New Architects
07. To the World
08. Aluminum Union
09. Extinguish
10. Modern Life
11. Life in the Fingernails
12. ‘Til Days Shall Be No More

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

Exit English is Strike Anywhere’s second full-length for Jade Tree Records; the follow-up to their very impressive debut, Change is a Sound. Change is a Sound, which came out in 2000, was a great album that personified the punk sound and spirit. But now it is 2003, and everybody wants to know: how does Exit English stack up to Change is a Sound?

Exit English is an album that really warrants praise. Every song on here is an anthem – something to make you want to get up and try to do something to improve your surroundings. Thomas Barnett’s lyrics are as poignant as ever with the world in a seemingly more unstable state. These aren’t your typical “fuck authority” lyrics though. These are very intelligent, thought-out commentaries, the very kind of music that the government doesn’t want you to listen to. It really gets back to what punk used to be about, actually having something important to say, and saying it with conviction.

Musically, this album just rocks. All the instruments sound precisely in place, most likely due to the fact that the man turning the knobs was none other than Brian McTernan. Recorded at Salad Days Studios in Washington, DC, the production on Exit English is really the icing on the cake; perfect sounding. All the choruses will have you singing along in no time and yelling “Oi Oi Oi” right along with Barnett.

Times change and tastes in music change as well, but an album like this really transcends change. It is something that you can play for your kids in 20 years and say “This is what I was listening to when I was growing up; this was when music meant something.”

If you liked Change is a Sound, then immediately go find Exit English and pick it up. If you’ve heard of Strike Anywhere before, but haven’t actually heard them, this is a fine place to start. We need music like this in times like these.

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

The second full-length from Virginia’s Strike Anywhere is a breath of fresh air into the punk scene. I managed to score this album a month and a half before the release date (Sept 30), and highly recommend it. This album picks up exactly where their first record, ‘Change is a Sound,’ left off with resonating, fist-pumping anthems for the world. This album is highly political, without coming off trite and forced like many bands that only use political lyrics.They stress unity and dissent; thinking and performing as an individual in a society which conformity and consent have become synonymous with patriotism. Standout tracks include ‘To the World,’ which screams out "I pledge allegiance to the world, nothing more, nothing less than my humanity," a powerful message that together we are all human in a time where our differences are stressed and exploited for ends which do not align with our own shared responsibility as human beings. ‘The Fifth Estate’ begins with the Strike Anywhere trademark whoa-oh’s and lashes out with only a minute and twenty seconds of anger, screaming "Our own truth." The lyrics have become more poetic as well, for example "wrap the silences around me" and "look how the ruts stick to my footsteps," showing a depth of thought unfound on the first full length. This is a great record, and fan of punk music or music in general owes it to themselves to give it a listen.

Strike Anywhere [I]Exit English[/I] Review

I think it’s getting to the point where the whole punk-laced-with-hardcore-screaming-and-bursts-of-poppy-melody is getting way overplayed, to the point of exhaustion. There’s nothing wrong with the style, especially when it’s done well (bands like Thursday, Haste, etc.), but more often than not, it seems to be a hackneyed way of expressing teen angst.

I’m split straight down the middle on Strike Anywhere’s newest release from Jade Tree. On one hand, it’s a tight, well-executed album of the aforementioned style, rife with political subtext and amazingly tight production. On the other hand, it’s not really any different from other bands that do this particular style. That’s what makes it so hard for me to review this album. It’s good, no doubt, and I’m entirely sure that this band is completely sincere, but it’s hard for me to take this album seriously because I’ve heard it so many other times. If everybody’s screaming, how are we to determine one voice from the next? If you want to be heard, sometimes you just have to try whispering.

Key Song: They’re all well written but none stand out among the others really.