Review Summary: Jesse Michaels is not washed up; pure, unadulterated punk is not dead; and ska is still around too, I guess
It is rare that a musician has great success after their band that made them most famous. It’s happened before, but really, who wants to see a bunch of old has-beens playing music (especially punk)? This is even more unusual in a case like Jesse Michaels. He was the lead man of Operation Ivy, a band that burned out when he probably wasn’t even old enough to drink. More than twenty years after the glory days of the influential Bay Area ska-punk foursome, and more than ten years after his other band, Common Rider broke up, Jesse Michaels is sounding just as intense and passionate as that young angsty boy screaming his heart out at the 924 Gilman did so many years ago. Unfortunately, not all members of Operation Ivy sound as youthful as Michaels does today *cough* Rancid *cough*.
Several years after releasing an EP, Classics of Love have released their debut LP. Classics of Love is a band from California consisting of Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy and Common Rider fame, and members of Hard Girls. Their debut EP was mid-tempo punk, similar to, Husker Du or something like that. This album is a bit of a departure from that sound. It sounds more like older punk than a lot of current stuff. Punk is still going strong today, with a ton of so-called ‘orgcore’ bands keeping the scene alive. Don’t’ get me wrong, I love this current punk movement. However, I have not heard a punk album like this in a long time. This album has a real old-school vibe. Classics of Love would not have sounded out of place back in the early 80’s, but their music doesn’t sound dated in the least bit.
This album is uncompromising, in-your-face, and straightforward. The band sprints through 13 tracks in just under 23 minutes, which is common for a punk album. Jesse Michaels sounds just as urgent and desperate as ever, maybe even more so than his days in Operation Ivy. When this CD came in the mail, I didn’t know what to expect. I figured the album would sound similar to the EP. However, when the opening track, ‘What a Shame’ came on, I knew these guys mean t business. This album has the ire, violence, and urgency that only a punk album could have. The album has a little bit of everything. It is primarily a punk album, but it definitely has its variety. It’s got songs that will have you skanking all over the place, such as the insanely catchy ‘Castles in the Sky’. I has are intense, 80’s sounding hardcore songs i.e. ‘Dissolve’. There is a slower, hard rock track in ‘Moving Pictures’. The lyrics often deal with society as well as general life issues. There is a political component to the lyrics, but the lyrics are not overly preachy. . Michaels speaks against greed, selfishness, prejudice, and other common problems that plague the human race. The lyrics are not life-changing, but they are definitely a highlight on the album.
If you like punk, ska, or hardcore, give this album a few spins. It’s passionate and intense, yet also extremely catchy and infectious. It has the old, 80’s hardcore vibe, but it still sounds fresh and new, and there’s plenty of melody. Other than several exceptions, a good deal of the songs on this album sound similar, but the album isn’t too repetitive. It is very short and simple, which might turn some people away, but these people probably don’t like punk. If you want to shout and dance and get mad at society and have fun all in one, this album is for you. It is definitely an early 2012 highlight in the punk scene.