From Casey Watson’s first ominous chords striking the arrival of ‘We Want The Lion’s Share’ ringing out like thunder signalling the approach of a perfect storm, feeding into the tommy gun patter of Paul Rivas’ drumming, shooting Lars Frederiksen’s rip snarling vocals in their gritty, gravel chewing mouth, this is a collection of songs that is born and bred in the eyes of guys your mom would rather you refrain from spending time with. Hang out with that kid who goes to church with his mom and spends all his time playing World of Warcraft instead. Orcs and beasts in fantastical worldscapes are far less threatening than heavily tattooed skinhead football hooligans (that’s European football folks, not American).
But you won’t have it. For as Lars himself has pointed out in a great many past interviews, you don’t choose punk, punk chooses you. And so, with your Dad banging on the door (if your Dad’s still around) yelling for you to turn that crap down, you crank the jungle thumping intro to ‘A Gang Like Us,’ take comfort in the anthemic outcast lyrics delivered with the stained asphalt sincerity of a guy who knows what he’s talking about, and you find purpose in it.
It isn’t a new sound this Old Firm Casuals group is spitting, but it may be new to you. You who stumbled upon the group in your quest for backstory to that funky ‘Time Bomb’ song the radio plays every once in a while. You love that song, even though it’s been around a while, love its catchy, bouncy rhythm, snotty vocals and boundless energy and as ‘For The Love of it All’ makes its way through its playlist a lyric from the song ‘Skinhead’ suddenly jumps out at you: “He likes the reggae, likes the soul, likes the street punk rock and roll.”
It’s an affirmation and an induction.
And while you don’t follow politics or give a lick about them, but the song ‘Red, White N’ Blue’ makes your blood boil and makes you want to fight for your right for better treatment.
The dark, brutal world depicted in aggressive detail in songs like ‘Violence In Our Minds,’ ‘Death Dealers’ and ‘D.M.D.P. (which stands for Doc Marten Dental Plan)’ among others, is a world away from what you know, a world away from the Tim Burton-esque suburban American bubble you call home, but it speaks to you, you get it. And while you would never knowingly break a law above a jay-walk, ‘Born Criminal’ feels like your new personal battle cry, with its gang vocals busting your stereo at the seams and inviting you into the fold. The song ‘For The Love It All’ your new national anthem, with its heartfelt mid-tempo adage of “I can’t say I would’ve chosen this life, although this life has chosen me” the perfect end sentiment to a record that collectively holds the perfect first sentiments to the rest of your life.
You go to your Dad’s closet and try and find a pair of suspenders but none of them are skinny enough, you look for a workshirt with a tight checkered pattern but all you find are stripes. You try on his steel toes but they look like clown shoes. But no matter, as the lyrics of ‘Army of One’ speak of many things but chief among them that being an individual capable of making his own choices is a far more admirable path to follow than feeling the need to suit up in a uniform for fear of exclusion should you hit up the punk rock show in Levi’s and a poncho.
Yes, these are the records that can change lives. I’ve no doubt this collection of Oi!/street punk gems will, somewhere out there, show a kid (or adult) what he’s been missing and turn him onto a whole world of musical rebellion and identity, from Last Resort to Cock Sparrer to The Clash to Little Richard. I envy them.