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

You’re not just getting old. Punk’s getting worse. Your days acting like an idiot in the pit are long gone, your job keeps you from rocking out until the wee hours very often and you’re too concerned about the possibility of long-term hearing loss to stand directly in front of house speakers. Getting long in the tooth isn’t the only reason punk isn’t quite the thrill it used to be: Wave after wave of crappy three-chord rock has lowered the style’s bar so drastically that darn near anyone with a distortion pedal and a few Green Day riffs can get a contract.

Some pessimists might argue the opposite, but Strike Anywhere’s To Live in Discontent ought to show everyone that it’s still possible to get worked up over punk rock like you did years ago. In the sea of chunky bile that’s the punk scene, To Live in Discontent is the life raft you’ve been waiting for as you desperately tread water. Oddly, this B-sides and rarities roundup is Strike Anywhere’s finest moment, showing a band that’s rapped up in the focused aggression and the self-righteous fury that made us fall in love with punk in the first place.

Strike Anywhere has never been terribly imaginative in developing its sound, and that’s no different on the tracks, recorded between 1999 and 2004, that To Live in Discontent collects. Owing a massive debt to Good Riddance’s attempts to blur the lines between old-style hardcore and So-Cal punk – as well as a few nods toward hometown Richmond buddies Avail – Strike anywhere is a one-handed man juggling melody, searing guitars and classic hardcore beats. While it’s a formula many can (and have) followed, Strike Anywhere does it with the sort of unflaggable, unmistakable and unfakeable sort of passion that makes this collection a winner.

For Strike Anywhere, politics isn’t just a token fad. It, along with the band’s leftist regard for human decency, is the fuel to the band’s searing fire. “Asleep” opens the album with the cannon-shot dynamics of manic skate-punk beats and fiery guitar work that matches Good Riddance’s best moments as singer Thomas Barnett signals a back-to-action call to arms for punk’s idealist revolutionaries. “Incendinary” champions a love for hardcore’s primordial years as well as today’s So-Cal warriors and a straight-from-the-underground revolutionaries anthem. “Cassandratic Equation,” “Chorus of One” and “Where Are They Now?” all squeeze a surprising amount of sing-along melodies into the band’s speed-freak ferocity.

Your lack of interest in punk rock has nothing to do with turning 17, 21, 29, 35 or whatever. It’s because, frankly, the style’s in a heck of a slump. They may not make ’em like they used to very often, but Strike Anywhere’s latest finally achieves the passion, the melodies and the ire that the band reached for so long.

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