Review Summary: By utilizing pop sensibilities and focusing on a more introspective take on songwriting, Naked Raygun creates the best punk album of the 80's.
Storming out of the 80’s Chicago hardcore scene, Naked Raygun quickly became one of the most prominent and influential bands of their time. Blending post-punk stylings with the speed and fury of hardcore, they created a distinct niche for themselves, never being afraid to experiment with their sound or to diversify their attack. In 1988, they released their fourth and arguably best album, Jettison
, which, along with Big Black’s Songs About ***ing
, would act as a harbinger for many of the musical trends occurring in the Chicago scene at the time.
, the band takes the ferocity of previous releases and tames it somewhat, relying more on strong hooks and powerful storytelling to get their point across. The vitriolic sentiment once pointed at government and military now seems more introspective, and the power of the lyrics is gained from within rather than aimed at afar. Rather than continuing at attacking the ideals of Reagan-era conservatism that permeated the times directly, they focus more on the affects of those policies through well-crafted tales that imbue a feeling of austerity in the listener. Whether it be a lament for the wastes of war ("Soldier’s Requiem"), or a detailed description of inner-city life ("Ghetto Mechanic"), the strategy works in creating a wholly realized atmosphere that encompasses the album as a zeitgeist of the times.
This isn’t to say the fury is gone; merely re-directed in its approach. The same bottled hopes and frustrations that appear on so many punk albums of the time appear here as well. The caustic anger is thick and unrelenting, giving an anthemic feel to many of the songs. This succeeds in really driving home the despondence of the themes that emerge throughout, striking a delicate balance between anger and dysphoria. The guitars are just as dense in their assault, fashioning vivid, broodingly atmospheric soundscapes. Distortion surrounds these guitars, as you can practically hear them crackle and fizz at times. Yet as rough as Jettison
sounds at times, it also shows off an incredible set of pop hooks to it, as Naked Raygun utilize cutting guitar riffs and haunting backup vocals in order to effectively build the mood of the album. It shows the innovation of the band that they can create catchy punk tunes that also work as blistering hardcore masterpieces at the same time. That they can remain arty and subversive, yet still pull off a memorable pop-influenced hook that will stay in your head for days.
, Naked Raygun created their magnum opus. It’s a high-speed expedition through the graveyards of the 80’s, as dense as it is epic, and as intelligent as it is irate. With the ability to combine pop sensibilities with the furor and velocity of hardcore, Naked Raygun set themselves apart from the pack and prove themselves as true luminaries of the American Underground. From a personal standpoint, this is the best hardcore album of the 80’s, and an absolute must for anyone with any interest in the genre.