Review Summary: "Yank Crime" is an influential album to the highest degree- intelligent, innovative, genre bending, and outdone by some of its constituents- but it's still an awesome rock record.
Let’s get a few things straight here (or rather, less crooked- Har). I am not a musician, to say my year or two of flailing around on bass wouldn’t justify me claiming that. I have no true understanding of any sort of musical theory- my reading of reviews that delve deep into it on this site notwithstanding. Hell, I really don’t even have the passion most people around here do; I love to hear music, but not to the extent I go through every nook and cranny to find the next innovative indie-grind-pop-salsa band. I’m pretty much the average guy who has a case of the Mondays.
I hope you can relate here.
Drive Like Jehu are one of the most criminally under-appreciated post-hardcore bands you’ll find (that aren‘t really post-hardcore at all). Bands like Fugazi, At the Drive-In, Refused, and Escape the Fate (kidding) always get all the glory, while Drive Like Jehu gets lumped in as “that Rockets From the Crypt side project that had even more loud guitars.” While they never reached the critical or commercial success any of those other bands accomplished, Yank Crime
does at least have one thing going for it; it pretty much set up the foundations for Relationship of Command
Okay, so that might be a slight case of hyperbole, but to say it isn’t the single biggest influence to that album on a mere listening scale would be retarded. In fact, other than maybe the Bad Brains and Cap’n Jazz, there are fewer artists who have as close of a sound to any era ATD-I work. But oh, if the boundaries only stopped there. This album spans pretty much every -core genre imaginable, in addition to showing flourishes of Slint-like post-rock and Sonic Youth style noise. It’s incredibly unique and if I had to pin down a genre for it, you could really only call it a “rock” album.
MY opening paragraph was to set this up; I really can’t explain in a musician/math-y way how this album functions. It’s like a blast of restrained energy that keeps on pulsating in and out of tempos, and occasionally almost explodes into an intense (INTENSSSSSSSE) blast of emotion. It’s accomplished due in part to the eclectic-yet-powerful drumming of Mark Trombino (AKA guy who needs to stop producing and do drum session work more often), who keeps the songs glued together while the guitars go a-wailing. Not to mention the solid playing of bassist Mike Kennedy, whose interplay with Trombino is fantastic (and on “Do You Compute?” he even gets a day to shine with an incredibly infectious line himself).
However, most of Drive Like Jehu’s appeal comes from the absolute insanity John Reis and Rick Froberg create on guitar and the “passionate” vocals. Known mainly for Rockets From the Crypt, John Reis was always a great guitarist stuck in a fairly average band. Thus, seeing him surrounded my competent musicians is a welcome sigh of relief. Along with Froberg, Reis creates some of the most intense whirlwinds of guitar noise this side of early Sonic Youth and Hot Cross. Whether it be dissonant riffing found on tracks like “Human Riffing” or the crazy what-ever-he-does in “Here Come The Rome Plows,” Reis shows he should be looked at as one of the best guitarists of 90’s alternative.
Then again, what vaguely-punkish/hardcore album would be complete without shout-y singing, and Froberg delivers that in spades. Drawing more comparisons to At the Drive-In (because, seriously, that’s the only post-hardcore band I actually listen to), the first time you hear Froberg yell “DO YOU COMPUTE?” you’ll be instantly reminded of that classic (read: I like it a lot) scream in “Arcarsenal” of “I must have read a thousand faces!” Where does all of this lead? Nowhere in particular, throughout the album Froberg delivers his lyrics with such honesty and fervor that regardless of his lyrics actually content, you can’t help but want to go to the picket line with him.
Not like he doesn’t write some funny and intelligent stuff, though. “Do You Compute?” (being probably the best song ever) has lyrics saying “fu
ck you if you disagree with me, do whatever you want,” quite the fitting message for most of us here at sputnik. “Super Unison” describes something along the same lines; a world of conformity and, in summation, how much it would suck. The lyrics are more about the message than the actual poetry (“you're putty now in my hands.” is pretty much the most outright witty and smart you’re going to get on this album), as the accompanying chaos brought by the band usually undertones whatever the song is actually about.
is a highly influential, highly kickass album by a relatively forgotten band. I wish I could more accurately justify what I felt about the album; despite the fact its bested by numerous other albums that originated from its image, it holds a certain charm that bands like The Blood Brothers just seem to be lacking. If I can find one knock against it, its that they do push song lengths a bit too often, and repeat ideas a bit too often for their own good as well. A lot of post-hardcore, post-punk, emo, and math rock owe at least something to these kings of genre-pushing badasses. The very least you could do is check out Yank Crime
, and then go on to listen to something you enjoy more.
Author’s Note- I have technically reviewed the Re-release, which contains three songs in addition to the original nine: An early version of “Sinews,” and the other two being from an EP they recorded. They all contribute positively to the album.
Recommended Songs: All of them, but…
Here Come the Rome Plows
Do You Compute