After building up expectations with their excellent debut EP, A Chorus Of One, Strike Anywhere return with Change is a Sound and pick up right where they left off. It has taken the vegan punk five-piece from Richmond, Va. less than two years to establish themselves as one of the top-notch acts of their genre.
The band blends the forceful beats and rhythms of hardcore with the choruses and guitar work of classic punk. There is a little more melody now than on Chorus Of One, most evident on tracks like "Sunset On 32nd," which may just be one of the best punk songs I have heard in quite some time. They may know how to make the most of melody, but you won’t hear them singing about any of the subjects that are popular among lesser pop-punk acts these days, opting instead for the heavier subject matter of police brutality, job cuts, lack of activism, social and political inequality, hypocrisy, greed, and so on.
The rhythm section is unrelenting, and the guitar work is tight, while the vocals vary nicely between clear and melodic to scratchy and growling. One of the band’s greatest talents as a group is their ability to play around with timing changes and pull off some interesting start and stop maneuvers. The guys obviously aren’t too punk to take the time to learn how to play their instruments well. It always seems like the more socially conscious and politically oriented punk acts are the most musically talented. And Strike Anywhere do have an agenda. They are quite serious for such a young group of guys, and the lyrics show it. It is not a terribly complex sound they are producing, but they do the little things well, and it pays off. The album is so raw, it sounds like it could have been done years ago. In the end, this is the perfect soundtrack to driving down the road, pounding on the steering wheel, pumping your fists in the air, and shouting along.
Right from the beginning, you get barreled over, with the guitar feedback and start-and-stop, off-kilter rhythm that flows through "You’re Fired," making you pause for a second, realizing that this isn’t just another "thump-whack-thud" hardcore record. Things explode into a furious, breakneck pace from there and don’t stop for one minute until it is all over. "Timebomb Generation" and "Laughter in a Police State" begin the non-stop potential for sing-alongs, with "Oi, oi, oi" chants and heavy "Whoooaaaa" choruses, while "Refusal" separates the two and is one of the standout numbers. "Sunset On 32nd" follows as more melodic number, but it still refuses to let you catch your breath. The urgency of songs like "Detonation" makes you wonder if the music can keep up with what is being said. Then "Riot Of Words," "S.S.T," "Chalkline," and "Three on a Match" are by no means slow, but are a little less breakneck than previous tracks. Things close with "My Design," a furious rampage that could create a mosh pit in virtually any social situation.
There are slight touches of repetitiveness and cliché here, with a plethora of sing-along choruses, and music that could be misconstrued as repetitive and unremarkable. The lyrics, though thoughtful and provocative, could be misinterpreted as predictable. However, it is the group’s unrelenting determination that makes all of these things fade into the background. Political hardcore may not be anything new, but these guys sure as hell make it interesting.