Review Summary: A refreshing addition to lovers of dirty and gritty hardcore/skacore. If you like Suicide Machines, you will like this junk.
While at first, when listening to this band, you may be reminded vaguely of the Suicide Machines, this band is in no way the Suicide Machines. Both of these bands have carved a breed of skacore that is at once gritty, dirty, and political, but there ends the similarities. While Suicide Machines is apt to yell into the mike mindlessly while delivering some sort of political monologue, Against All Authority prefers to execute their message with polish, flair, and vocal perfection. As much as I like gritty and dirty sounds, this album is anything but. A bit decieving of course, the dirty guitars and raspy lead and backup vocals will fool you, but it is actually a melodic masterpiece and a real lyrical treat for those willing to dive into the lyric book.
The lyrics, I believe, are one of two major shining points for this band. While their political songs are nothing particularly special, mostly focusing on the usual punk messagery of "screw the government" and "I won't go to war for the rich", it is when they write about other subject matters, more earthy subject matteres, that they truly outshine their peers. Songs like Sunshine Fist Magnet, Silence is Golden but Duct Tape is Silver, and All Ages Show Tonight, strike a true chord in the heart of any punk who has ever struggled with being different. The main messagery of all these songs emphasize that we are all truly equal, despite our differences of life, our different beliefs, and the way we may look. They focus on the hardships the punk rocker has to face, especially in either a close-minded suburban environment where the punk has to fight for his life, and the lonely urban sprawl where the punk has no one but himself. Lyrically, all of these tracks are golden, with catchy lines (but not cheesy in the way Fallout Boy or other pop-punk acts might write), metaphorical imagery that isn't nearly impossible to understand (like many emo bands are apt to do), and not the usual "life sucks, the government sucks, throw cocktails at cop cars" of most gritty political punk acts.
The second area I believe this album shines is in the vocals. As far as I can tell there are three main vocalists. One is a sort of higher pitched shriller rasp, the lead vocalist has sort of a middling rasp, and the third vocalist has a lower pitched gutteral rasp. The way they combine their respect vocals is genius, to say the least. By jumping in at all the right times, the two backup vocalist manage to deliver a powerful punch to the music that the lead vocalist alone would not be able to deliver. The complexity of the vocals is nearly rockabilly-like, like a punk rock version of the beach boys.
Vocals aside, the instruments are nothing particularly special. A few ska-esque guitar upbeats combined with dirty distortion are a bit fresh, but not particularly pleasing. The powerchords are a bit drab and could probably be replaced with the white noise on a blank TV screen. The few horn sections, while well-written, sound like they were more of an afterthought than an actual necessity of the music. It's almost like they just added a few horn sections in order to maintain their classification as ska. The only truly noteworthy horn section is the one on the very last track. The drumlines are pretty good though. Despite those criticisms, the instruments are at least passable, and you have to be aware that the lyrics and the vocals are their focus when writing the music.
The last gripe I have is a poor marketing decision on their part. The cover art is a rather drab grey. If one's attention is caught enough to actually examine the cover, it really is quite funny and witty considering the title of the album. But as the cover art is far from eye-catching, it's more than easy to skip over this album when music shopping. In a world where colorful and bright pop-punk albums are selling off the shelves, I would think it might be somewhat necessary to try and battle this with a little marketing savvy. They did make All Ages Show Tonight their single, which was a good marketing decision since it is their most poppish song (if you could even call it that), and the one most likely to trick little emo kids in to buying their music.
Overall, while this album is not breaking any new ground, it manages to be at once both typical of punk rock, and somehow refreshing. Though, the very beginning track has you going "Oh great, another bush hating anarcho-punk band", much of the lyrical focus is intelligiently written and poetic. Perhaps it is just because the band is a truly talented force of musicians with a real eye for taking the dirty and ugly and making it beautiful. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes the finer things in life, but likes a little aggression as well.
-Sweet Televised Destruction
-All Ages Show Tonight
-Silence Is Golden But Duct Tape Is Silver
-Shut It Down
-Sunshine Fist Magnet
A few sayings from the inside liner of their lyric book:
"Question authority as often as it questions you"
"I will not be your teachers pet, I will not sit, beg, or roll over"