Review Summary: Straight-edge vegans who make good music AND manage to not scare you by making eye contact.
In many ways the Youth Crew movement represented the end of 80’s hardcore. Even if you ignore the numerical fact that the decline and eventual demise of the scene began in the 90’s it becomes obvious that said demise seemed to take place around the same time that Smells Like Teen Spirit
became so successful. After that the hardcore, and punk scenes in general, began to change. The crowds at shows went from angry rejects to blue-haired kids with Rancid
shirts who were like, so totally punk rock, guys.
Before all that we had Gorilla Biscuits
who, oddly for a straight edge band, had named themselves after quaaludes. They, like most of the Youth Crew bands on NYC, found themselves in CBGB on weekends watching Youth of Today
doing something that had hardly been done since the days of Minor Threat
. They were using the aggressiveness of hardcore punk charged with uplifting and straight-edge messages. Like so many of their peers they picked up instruments and tried to emulate one of the freshest things to happen to standard hardcore since the early 80’s, and they emulated well.
The music itself isn’t complex for any genre, but it manages to do what most punk bands find themselves unable to do: they know how to make tracks with differing tempos! That becomes perhaps one of the most interesting elements to this EP. While most
punk bands do manage to bring anger, speed, provocative lyrics and a sense of excitement to their work the Gorilla Biscuits
manage to do it on every song, and in heaps. There is no denying the anger in Civ’s voice throughout the album, but unlike the tired message of “I hate cops” they are mad at people for not striving to better themselves or any social change. Their lyrics range from friendship to “finish[ing] what you started, be[ing] open hearted, [and not] be[ing] retarded” which is always delivered by an intense punk yell, giving it that edge that keeps them from sounding like an after school special.
Secondly, their speed. While they certainly don't have the speed of the early cross-over thrash bands they do manage to use their speeds at the right times. They shift from fast to slow multiple times through most songs which is an impressive feat when most of your songs run about two minutes. They found times and places to let the drums and bass shine through instead of riffing on and on for hours (or minutes I guess, it’s only punk) with their dual guitars. The dynamic shifts from loud to soft, fast to slow were somewhat of an oddity at the time and perhaps the reason this has endured so well. Finally we must touch on the youthful energy and exuberance this album has. Civ’s voice seems to crack every couple lines, every time a drum head is hit, or a string vibrates you can hear the frenzy, or the attempts at technicality. Essentially, you can hear exactly what they intended you to hear.
The Gorilla Biscuits
made one of the most exciting EPs of the 80’s, and perhaps punk in general. Truly they could not have possibly made a better album for their time or place. These days there’s a reason that mentioning straight-edge conjures up images of Gorilla Biscuits
nearly as much as Minor Threat
, and in the same way that mentioning Youth Crew brings up thoughts of both Youth of Today
and Gorilla Biscuits
. They sure as hell didn’t start those movements, but they damn near perfected them.