We all have to start somewhere. There’s no doubt about that. Ranging from the worst to the best musicians on this earth, they all have something in common, and that is that they must have started somewhere fresh, where they laid out their first ideas and ignitions of what would later become.
The place was East Bay of San Francisco. Where at first, two very good friends; Tim Armstrong
, and Matt Freeman
had been eagerly waiting for a musical opportunity to show up so they could fulfill their biggest urge to go out and start something. They had been good friends ever since childhood and discovered the genre of Punk together. While Tim, was a somewhat “different”, yet excellent vocalist, and guitar-wielding maniac, and Matt was one of the biggest upcoming heroes to the bass guitar as we know it, they weren’t going to stay “band-single” for much longer.
was the name of the to-be front man of the band, and after meeting up with the boys, sparks were already flying across the air as the band slowly formed. But like in many cases, they were still at loss for a drummer. Dave Mello
later came along into the picture and got to jamming with the now-together trio. Sources say, the jam went so well, that right there and then, they started writing the song “Bad Town”.
After writing possibly truckloads of material, the band, who was currently playing shows as another alternate name, one day saw the series of nuclear tests on television, simply called Operation Ivy
, by the testers. The guys loved it, and it stuck. They came to tour around for some time, but in the band’s short two-year life-span, they certainly earned the huge acclaim that other ska/punk bands at the time surely lacked. Coming along fast with raging material that has indeed changed the scene ever since, their run was nothing short of amazing.
All their work was eventually stuffed into one great album that basically gives you a smack in the face of why they came to be, and where all these musicians later went in their career. While the rhythm section is certainly one of the best to ever exist in third-wave punk, and Tim’s guitar was raging fuel throughout every track, as well as a trust organ in the background and at sometimes horns, the vocals themselves provided by Jesse were good, but at some times lacked substance, as well as some lyrics.
As I said, the album reached critical attention and later went on to become one of the biggest influences for many musicians that would later walk the earth as another big-time punk band. And as soon as you pop it in, you can hear exactly what the title was meant to imply. I call it the reunion of not only good musicians but some of the best people to ever hit the scene. I call it a meeting of chaos and rage that combined to form something truly great. The album, the legend.
Operation Ivy- Energy
Jesse Michaels- Vocals
Tim “Lint” Armstrong- Guitar, Vocals
Matt “Brody” Freeman (or Matt McCall)- Bass, Vocals
Dave Mello- Drums, Vocals
This review will include the album getting divided into three portions. The beginning, middle and end of the record (theoretical order). Since there are 27 tracks, this format will suit and easier view for the reviewer and hopefully, the rest of the Sputnik users.
Kicks off right away with the first track, Knowledge
. The distortion is clear as Jesse comes in right away with the lyrics and vocals that will flow throughout the whole album so wonderfully. The simple beat, that is the standard beat for “The Adicts” keeps pounding through the track, and as the bass isn’t so clear yet, Lint’s guitar solo fixes you a snack to keep you going and into the next tracks. Great appearance for the first track, but doesn’t exactly show every member at his potential. Sound System
then smashes through with Matt at the very first measure igniting the song into the explosion that we call ska. The song is extremely-well built, and stands solid as one of the stand-outs of the portion and album. Lint comes in for the chorus and we can see how well he can multi-task, as well as Matt later on. Wont disappoint just yet, while moving along with greater than average music. Jaded
comes in with a more darker intro on the cymbals, and goes on to pop in a bass line that hurls it right into the exciting verses. Mello does an excellent job here with fills, while Lint and Matt make the chorus shine greater than the rest. The whole song has many tempo-changes and transits, but is always on key, giving you the heads-up to go on. Then with Take Warning
, the much slower Matt-led track I’d simply classify as reggae. Not very lyrically active as well as noticeable for the organ in the background and the switching vocals and the catchier chorus. Slows down the mix, as it is the longest track on the album, but then keeps going at faster-tempos with The Crowd
. This ones led by Mello at the intro, featuring nice rolls and then on with one of the best bass-lines to hit the album. The guitar is very driven as well as Jesse’s vocals, which are clearly styling a deeper tone. Highlight here is Mello, as he pounds those toms right into the proportions so well that it makes the track that much more enjoyable to listen to, and puts it on the stand-outs.
is exact what is utter chaos. Much faster, led by Lint on vocals, and bass and a fast, but slick solo, make it complete and fills in as the song progresses into it’s barely one-minute mark. Another stand-out. Unity
is another Lint-led song, and features a bigger insight of Matt on vocals as well for the reggae influence again. The chorus repeats itself many times to make the point clear, and vocals and offbeats on Mello’s bass drum blend in nicely with Matt’s multi-tasking wonders. A much meaningful track, but not that much to offer. Nearing the end of the portion already, Vulnerability
starts off very nicely with Mello at it once again, and Matt providing vocals and an arsenal of bind-blowing bass-lines to offer. Once again on the stand-out list, and another on to watch out for, as far as the tempo-switches and faster solos go. And to end the first portion very well, Bankshot
, shooting off with another boost from the organ, and some more bass to fulfill your guilty pleasures, reaches one of the highpoints on the album, and goes the extra mile to make you not come close to the stop button. Although an instrumental, it does a great job and is unmatched to some tracks that actually include vocals.
Portion Score- 4/5
Stand-Out Tracks- Sound System, The Crowd, Bombshell, Vulnerability
Starts us off into the middle or ‘body’ of Energy with One Of These Days
, which is almost a joke song, as they kind of cover “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, except with one hell of a bass-line included and some great work by Mello and backup vocals by Lint. I guess its not exactly a cover, but the principle of the lone lyric. Follows up with Gonna Find You
, which starts out with Jesse talking, then bursts into a sonic boom of the whole band joining in at vocals, and working as a catalyst, speeding up the tempo and nearing the end of the track with a better bridge by Lint. Stand-Out. Cant avoid it. Bad Town
comes in with a saxophone and is featured as the jazziest track on the album, maybe the only one too. The material in this one ranges from excellent dueling vocals between Lint and the others, as well as good stuff on Mello’s set, and more rhythm power by Matt. The chorus gets repetitive, and the only thing holding it back from the list is just that. It got close though, and is another of the longer songs on the album. Then on with Smiling
, another heavier track on the ska rush, fueling it to break into pounding bass drums and raging solos, as Jesse keeps the vocals at best. Another stand-out, the track features a great bridge/solo and another great chunk of the band’s best. Then, Caution
comes in with another raging bass-line as well as some wails, by Lint, as he takes the center stage rapping, and keeping the core of the song in his hands very nicely. The whole song seems like it’s a solo from beginning to end, and it’s probably Lint’s very best track, along with some greater stuff by Matt himself.
Follows with Freeze Up
, featuring some more of that organ, and includes more rapid-fire rolls from Mello, and Jesse changes the verses into the mellower choruses, and then into the heavier stuff again. Very interesting, with the switching material. Lyrics are interesting if you listen in, and are never drowned out, which is amazing, due to the great solo in the bridge and the non-stop bass. Artificial Life
has Matt at it again, with no sign of stopping. Jesse gives the song the mood, and with excellent work from Mello as well as background vocals from Lint, as well as his simple but addictive guitar, it moves the album even closer to the end and into another high point. The bridge has Matt yelling out inner thoughts and ends the song on the perfect note. Room Without A Window
features some of the best lyrics on the album, although it doesn’t sound like it holds potential at first, the track flows with both talent and lyrical wonder that gets the song complete in no-time and nears the end of the middle portion. Its more of a more generic Op. Ivy song, and not much here, except for lyrics and the noticeable organ in the background. Ends the middle portion with Big City
, which has Lint start out with vocals and while taking it slow at first, moves on to a bigger explosion of a chorus. The whole song has the musicians standing at bay, while the vocals break through to your head a lot more than ever. Nice ending, and more power to Lint.
Portion Score- 4/5
Stand-Out Tracks- Gonna Find You, Smiling, Caution, Artificial Life
Only to start leading us out of such a great album, Missionary
suits a bigger insight of much pointless material, as it just rushes through the measures and Lint leads the way with more raging work, and Mello keeps conscious with his double-bass beat. One of the faster songs, but nothing much to see in this other generic track. Junkies Running Dry
, although a confusing, maybe funny title, features another great bass-line and stands solid as another one of the best off the album. Jesse’s styling the darker tone again, and leads to join the band in a ceremony of once again utter chaos to end at the end of merely two minutes. As the catchy-as-hell chorus repast itself countless times, and the solo comes into play, you can just tell that it’ll be on the list. Here We Go Again
is one of the album’s weakest. Its utter crap, as Jesse’s vocals are nothing, you cant even understand. And the bass holds little potential. The only good feature here is merely the organ once again, but doesn’t want to make you listen in. Tiny dip. No big deal. Hoboken
is once again a weirder name, but holds one of the fastest tracks on the album and some more potential on Mello’s part and Lint’s solo. Matt also rips through the track insanely, and finishes it up very nicely. Stand-out all the way. Keeps it going with Yellin’ In My Ear
, once again is styling excellent organs to later duel with great bass and pulsating work on Mello’s set. Highlight here is the organ, as it fits perfectly with vocals as well with the mood of the song, and the anger. Solo fills in blanks, and then some.
is another generic, more crappier song. Sounds like a party-themed song, but doesn’t want to make you care. The potential here involves more work by Mello, and a sturdy bass-line by Matt. But the drowning vocals ruin it. Healthy Body
is another stand-out. And its clear. Better guitar by Lint here, as well as the trust ska variables here. Jesse shares vocals with everyone else, and although not too fast of a song, it includes the perfect potential to advance onto the list, and the enjoyment of the audience. Very, very nice. Closer and closer to the end of the record, Officer
comes in with a raging bass-line and Lint screaming some swearing. As another stand-out, the song progresses with the more punk variables that it offered at the beginning of the album. Matt keeps the song going all the way through, and is the main highlight of the track. Almost there. Boo-hoo. Finally dies with I Got No
. Which is a weird phrase. I must say, its not the best ending at all, but you could say they mixed all the best tactics from each musician and smashed it together. Highlight here is the bridge, as it slows down and gives you the last insight of what is Operation Ivy.
Portion Score- 3.5/5
Stand-Out Tracks- Junkies Running Dry, Hoboken, Healthy Body, Officer
+Clash of some of punk’s best known
+Some of the best third-wave ska has to offer
-Way too loaded with more generic tracks
-Vocals belonged too much to Jesse
While it’s not exactly clear why this group suddenly disbanded, what is clear is that they brought onto the table some of the very best material at least, I’ve ever heard from ska and 90’s punk. As the band only lasted two years; 87-89, they had a great run with one great debut album and some great appearances. In this whole time, the band played a total of 185 shows, and brought some bands to their knees with some of the best material possible from the scene. While it’s clear that Lint, or now Tim Armstrong went to be front-man for 90’s explosion “Rancid”, and later super-group, “Transplants”, and Matt went on to Rancid as well as others as “Social Distortion” and “Downfall”, the other two had a shorter and less successful run, ending up in smaller bands and earning their pay almost underground. I can’t say the disbandment was a complete loss, as we wouldn’t have gotten all the bands that followed, but it was clearly a shame, and the end of something great. A Rancid song titled “Journey To The End Of The East Bay” later was written by Tim about the loss of his old, somewhat forgotten band. And the lyrics are a big deal for him, and to me as well. I’ll leave you with them, and with the review to prove that the band reached new heights and was a period of chaos and success.
”Started in 87’, ended in 89’/you got a garage or an amp, we’ll play anytime/It’s just the four of us, yea man, the core of us/too much attention unavoidably destroyed us.”