Review Summary: These guys looked damn good for a dirty punk band.
The Nation of Ulysses should probably be remembered a little bit more. Sure, Fugazi came out at the same time and was arguably a more digestible version, but there was something about Nation of Ulysses that really caught my eye when my dad introduced me to them when he first learned I had an infatuation with Fugazi back in the day. Maybe it was because they wore nice suits and added in weird Jazz jams in the middle of their post-hardcore noise explosions. Maybe it was because my copy of “13-Pint Program to Destroy America” had pretty much the most bitchin liner notes a 14 year old could ever hope for. Or maybe it was just because these guys knew how to rebel, man
What does a band with an activist agenda and a penchant for contrived songwriting do on a record? Pretty much what you’d expect- “Plays Pretty for Baby” is filled with a bunch of punk songs aimed at taking down the man. Want to know their *** straight up?
“I'm not talking about a Beatle's song,
written 100 years before I was born.
100 flowers bloom, 100 schools of thought contend,
c'mon baby, let's hang around,
they're talking about the round and round,
but who's got the real anti-parent culture sound?”
Obviously, the Nation of Ulysses.
They never had any pretensions abut being some “different” band, they were pretty much just a really good D.C band that followed in the mold of Embrace or Rites of Spring (aka they sounded a LOT like Fugazi). They even pretty much say so on “Last Train to Cool.” What made them so great was they were really playing with passion; they really believed all that crap they were spouting for better or worse. There are moments of pure emotional adrenaline like in “The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken” which any angsty underOATH fan could enjoy, and then immediately afterwards a spoken word where the ever pretentious Ian Svenonious chides the crowd in classic Ian MacKaye fashion.
Pretty much if you like D.C. hardcore from the 90’s…well you’ll probably already own this. Its certainly an essential album in the “post-hardcore” world, although classifying this is almost just stupid and against the point. It’s a punk album full of aggression against those that oppress the youth, the perfect teen angst album for those who like to dress snazzy. When you hear the haunting wails on “N.o.u.s.p.t.d.a.” you’ll wonder why you cant be back in the early 90’s being one of the “cool” kids rebelling against the white man with The Nation of Ulysses.
Plus there’s trumpet. Soooooooo experimental people.