Review Summary: With Strike Anywhere's ability to tackle a variety of subjects, the war cry of 'punk is dead' seems like a long lost memory
Yes, indeed it is true; the rebellion has been marketed. It’s true little Sammy! You can get a Misfits shirt free with the purchase of the latest Atreyu record free of charge! But of course, if you can’t get it at the local Hot Topic, it sure as hell will be at your local thrift store. Perhaps I’m being too cynical of the so called ‘marketed rebellion’
of our age, but it sure is a far cry of what the term ‘rebellion’ really means. Long gone are the days when the term ‘punk’ meant something more than the way you dress. But all is not lost; indeed, there is a new generation of punks to carry the torch. Against Me!, A Wilhelm Scream, Crime in Stereo, Rise Against all come to mind when one thinks of today’s forefront of punk music. Another name that comes instantly to mind is Virginia based rockers Strike Anywhere.
It had been three years since Strike Anywhere had released an album worth of original material and no doubt the world had changed in the midst of all of this, as did the members of the group. Subsequently, after a time period of recuperation Strike Anywhere has offered up a smorgasbord of topics lyrically. But with this idea of progression in mind, the band hasn’t really progressed beyond the melodic punk niche that they established with Change is a Sound
. This makes Dead FM
ambivalent in regards to its two main selling points: music and lyrics. In one regard, Dead FM
is a strikingly loud and passionate album filled with tight musicianship and catchy hooks. Unfortunately, Dead FM, whilst giving off the impression of an incredibly compelling release at first, lacks the depth past Strike Anywhere releases held.
saving grace is it's lyrical strength. Thomas Barnett discusses his issues in ways other bands before him haven’t. That is to personify their topics and to branch out into other territory; territory that had only been touched upon by other bands. Ever war cry and issue of our age is discussed here: ranging from environmental, economic and social concerns to incorporate into their politically conscious concerns, all dealt with an intelligence and maturity reminiscent of veterans like Good Riddance or Propaghandi. As mentioned before, the distinction that lies between Strike Anywhere and their equally angry brethren is their ability to personalize politics. No song on the record recollects these ideas as cohesively as “Sedition”; inspired by Thomas Barnett’s grandfather’s participation in the Manhattan Project (a project to develop the first nuclear weapon), all the while encompassing environmental and social concerns regarding it.
Barnett’s vocals give the passionate lyrics an extra boost of passion as he carries many of the songs to an even more powerful level. Ironically enough, Dead FM
seems to lean in a much poppier direction than ever before, possibly due to the move to Fat Wreck Chords. This new realm of melodicism seems to be a double-edged sword in the sense that it gives the record a freshness but also makes the more attacking tracks that more benign. Songs like “Allies”, “The Promise” and “Gunpowder” all start excellent but soon cool off in intensity as soon as the chorus kicks in. The band also manages to acknowledge their influences in tracks like “Speak to Our Empty Pockets”, whose chorus sounds ridiculously like Cock Sparrer. Where the band excels is their endeavors into more poignant and attacking territory. “Instinct” is instantly the most anthemic and evocative song on the album, dealing with domestic abuse. Sympathy is a re-occurring factor as seen by “Prisoner Echoes” which addresses Guantanamo detainees and is arguably the most brain-stinging number on this melodically rich set, a result of the melodicism paying off.
Thomas Barnett seems to create a lengthy and devouring laundry list including but not limited to: the role of heroes in our society, Nihilism, Religious Abuse, the butchering of the middle class among many many others. All mixed in with a bit of some ‘*** you’, ‘we’ll take it back’ and ‘release us’, it’s hard not to think of Dead FM
as cookie-cutter melodic hardcore, but the brevity of topics shrouds this claim. But indeed Strike Anywhere does seem like they are stuck in the sound of 1994, when Punk really embraced melody, but it’s Strike Anywhere’s underlying vitriol and virulence that gives Dead FM
an edge, not to mention a feeling of sincerity. The liner notes contain lengthy explanations to the songs meanings, providing some food for thought and it gives Strike Anywhere’s rhetoric of the counter-culture more meaning than other bands. Still, with Strike Anywhere's ability to tackle a variety of subjects, the war cry of 'punk is dead' seems like a long lost memory.