Though only a band in their prime for a few years in the late eighties/early nineties and releasing only one full length album and one EP, New York’s Gorilla Biscuits were one of the most influential straight edge/hardcore bands. Following in the same path as Straight Edge founders Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits combine fast paced hardcore punk with positively inspiring lyrics. Start Today, the bands only full length and commonly cited as their best work, is one of the greatest albums to come out of the New York hardcore scene and easy to see why with a first listen.
Start Today, released in 1989 on seminal hardcore label Revelation Records, may sound pretty standard instrumentally when compared to other hardcore bands with a first listen but there was still that unique punch to them. Extremely up tempo, rough yet simultaneously catchy, and most of all an energetic deliverance can describe their sound but there’s still more to it. Anthony Civocelli’s lead vocals are a huge part in the dynamic part of the sound. Always giving it his all and never letting up, he sounds as if he is about to lose his voice at any given second, though it’s somewhat difficult to actually understand him at times. Lyrically, most of which were written by guitarist Walter Schreifels (later of influential post-hardcore band Quicksand), they enforced a positive outlook, integrity, unity and acceptance all within one to two minute punk songs.
A major pro of the album is its relentless spirit and overall consistency. Consistency not necessarily in the sense of memorable songs, but rather the albums flow and lack of a sub par song, even if some are under a minute. As said, most of the tracks are played at a very fast pace but they can also slow things down a bit, as shown on the title track but the thrashing immensity of the album finale Biscuit Power contrasts with it for the better. Star Today opens on a solid note with New Direction
and gives you a good idea of what to expect. After a misleading short trumpet intro, the song explodes into a fast, punishing punk song with backing vocals in the chorus making for a signature song. Things We Say
is a more melodic song that shows a catchier side of the Biscuits. Sitting Around At Home
, a Buzzocks cover, is a hard rock/bluesier tune and completely stands out from the rest, but not inevitably for the better. Other tracks like the twenty-nine second Good Intentions
and Time Flies
are overall solid tracks that solidify the albums stability.
Where the albums seems to hurt most is the production, that gives the impression that it was recorded under a tight budget, which it was. And while it gives the songs a raw edge, it somewhat degrades from the quality as they sound more tame then they should. But that is virtually the albums only notable flaw. As mentioned, lyrics are a key point to the bands reputation. As a whole it encourages youth to start taking part and doing something with their lives with specific lyrics cut from the title track read “I've made enough mistakes for this lifetime now I’m here to make amends next time I’ll try, for the first time in my life, it won't pass me by”. Specific topics also tough upon animal rights (Cats and Dogs), anti-racism(Degradation), friendship (Forgotten) and just youth and positive attitudes (Time Flies).
To simply summarize, Gorilla Biscuits’ Start Today really is a pivotal album in hardcore. Raw energy with just the right amount of melody, motivating, intelligent lyrics, all captures in fourteen quick tracks. You should already have this if you are into hardcore but if not, but for fans of Minor Threat and 7Seconds and other similar bands, you will most likely enjoy this. Essential for fans of punk and hardcore.