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September 5, 2007

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Let's face it: Most of today's punk rockers are a bunch of assholes. And not in the "I spit on the sidewalk" or the "I'm publically drunk at noon" or the "I swear in front of your kids" or even the "I think petty vandalism is fun" ways. We'd be cool with all of those shortcomings -- they're all in the spirit of punk's nasty-nasty edge. No, today's punk kids are assholes in entirely new ways: The "I listened to Black Flag while filling out my law-school applications" way. The "I frequent Ambercrombie yet have no problems calling Against Me sellouts" way. The "Brah, you can be punk and be in a frat" way.

To wit, punk's assholes have become the very same assholes the spirit of '77 hoped to destroy. Maybe we need a little reminder that the scene isn't about Internet-based comparisons of pop-punk bands or making mom and dad proud, but a place where the misfits, the ugly, the disenfranchised gather to find a voice. It's not meant to be the sort of thing that plugs into the American Dream really easily -- it's actually the antithesis of it.

Cloak/Dagger fire up the crashing guitars and nearly toppling-over rhythms on We Are in a reminder of what punk rock, and those who still believe in its ideals are.

We are confrontational. We Are is mixed so raw, it's like a bottle to the head. Cutting, treble-heavy guitars thrash about like crazed stallions as vocals are barked, rather than sang or shouted above the din. It's no coincidence there's no middle ground with a band like Cloak/Dagger: It challenges listeners to either love it or hate it.

We are marginalized. With a sound that's stuck somewhere between Hot Snakes' galloping noise and East Coast punk/hardcore, Cloak/Dagger takes all the glamour out of the underground. This album is music for the angry and disenfranchised made by the angry and disenfranchised.

We are suspicious of trends. Songs like "New Year's Resolution" and "Generato" don't waste their time pandering to fads or even searching for the perfect guitar tone. They set out on a seek and destroy mission, rolling over a million scenesters who aren't ready to join its wake.

We are proud. As a generation of scene kids ineffectually tries to find the backbone to escape the tendrils of the local fad-enforcement police, Cloak/Dagger stomps on any allusions to punk's plugged-in scenes, grinds them to dust and defiantly proclaims itself master of its domain.

Punk kids might have turned punk rock into just another facet of crappy American culture, but the style isn't going to be assimilated without a fight. Consider Cloak/Dagger and We Are frontline soldiers in that battle. Those assholes won't know what hit them.


Jason Glister