"Angela’s Secret" by Seattle band These Arms Are Snakes is exactly what Barbara Ehrenreich’s book ‘Nickel and Dimed’ would sound like if it were a hardcore punk rock song. Both highlight the struggle of a single mother barely getting by: "When I eat it’s with my kids and if I dance it’s when they’re asleep. When I shop it’s not for me and neither is when I breathe," vocalist Steve Snere snarls before launching into the screaming chorus of "some ain’t got no luck."
The other ten songs aren’t much brighter. And no wonder. Snere began writing the lyrics for the songs that would become the band’s first full-length release as part of a short story while he was working at a check cashing service in Seattle.
The result is "Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home" (Jade Tree Records), a collection of songs culled from the underbelly of life that reflect a disillusioned view of our greed-based culture. Songs about working too much, getting screwed over, and getting drunk or lost in the city to try to forget it all, at least until Monday at 9 a.m.
"So use your body as the engine for your weekend because this is no time to sleep," Snere demands on "Big News," "I’m sick of working all the time for someone else’s needs."
With a band name like These Arms Are Snakes you better be tough, lest you come across like a group of B-grade horror movie geeks. Not only are they hardcore, they’ve got an openly gay member, bassist Brian Cook, proving once again that being gay doesn’t mean being fey, and gay musical tastes aren’t limited to show tunes and Streisand.
TAAS makes music that is challenging, confrontational, and difficult. Loud guitars, screaming vocals, and a palpable sense of anger and hurt are TAAS hallmarks. They’ve been called everything from emo to punk to screamo to hardcore. But it doesn’t matter what we call them, because they’re calling us and the social trappings of our lives to the floor and taking us to task. May we live better for it.