I’m never quite sure where to place compilation albums in the grand scheme of things. Are they disposable? Are they art? To this day I’m not sure, and because I missed out on the days of Punk-a-rama, I may never truly understand where a good comp falls into one’s collection. If I were to hazard a guess though, in a world where everything is perfect and physical media has not yet been grounded by cardiac arrest, I would want a good comp to be something akin to your coolest friend with the coolest taste sitting you down and saying: “listen to this.”
I like to think that’s where Red Scare Industries: 15 Years of Tears and Beers falls into place. And if there’s anyone to inhabit the role of coolest friend with coolest taste, it’s without a doubt Red Scare’s mastermind Tobias Jeg. 15 Years of Tears and Beers serves as a reminder to all the great music Red Scare has brought us over the years, featuring fifteen artists that helped shape the label into the monster it is today.
The best part of this whole thing though, is that these are new songs. This isn’t just a greatest hits collection of some classic Red Scare alums—these are hot new tracks from some of the finest punk rock songwriters in the game today. The Copyrights start things off with one of my favorite songs by them, period (“Maine or Oregon”). It’s as fast and catchy as just about anyone familiar with the Copyrights would expect, and it’s less than a minute long. Sincere Engineer makes an appearance with “Dragged Across the Finish Line,” another song that I thought was just stellar. Funny enough, this is one of those groups that I could never get into, but recently, I seem to recall Jeg saying that Sincere Engineer wasn’t a singer-songwriter thing, but in actuality a stealth gruff-punk thing. This shifted my perspective quite a bit, and on this track, I totally hear it. “Dragged Across the Finish Line” is a total banger with lots of heart that sounds like something straight out of the camps of Hot Water Music and Lawrence Arms.
There’s a couple of great covers on this one. The Menzingers are represented by Broadway Calls who cover their classic “Sunday Morning,” with a grounded pop-punk approach. Billy Liar ends the album with a Nothington cover of “The Escapist.” Both of these tracks provide a little familiarity in the mix as well as a sense of living history. At the end of the day, 15 Years of Tears and Beers is a celebration, and is working tirelessly not to give you a sense of dour self-importance, but a sense of fun surrounding all of the great music that’s happened because of Red Scare. This is fun, covers are fun; the message is clear: have fun.
There are too many tracks to call out by name as favorites here, but I’ll list a couple that I thought were standouts. Elway’s “High Drama, Low Comedy” knocks it out of the park here. This is a band, much like Sincere Engineer, that I never got into. First it was the Elway is Jerks meme that went around PunkNews that I mistook for people actually calling the people in the band out as rockstar divas (apparently, I was quite wrong, and they are good folks). Second, it was For the Sake of the Bit’s aim at taking down internet music reviewers, which hit a little too close to home for me, because, well—guess what I am? Either way, I can’t deny that this song is a banger and it might just be what forces me to reconsider Elway. Shout out in particular to the Queen-ish guitar solo bridge, inspired stuff.
“Dead Body” by Garrett Dale of Red City Radio is a ridiculous, catchy song that stopped me in my tracks on the first listen. Dale is clearly having fun with this one, where you can hear him exclaiming “this has got to be the dumbest song” after a killer sax break. And hey, maybe it is—but it’s fun as Hell (and as I established earlier, fun is the name of the game). It’s like an oldies radio hit born in 2019 and is a clear highlight of the whole album.
But if that’s not enough for you, you also have great tracks from MakeWar, Ramona, Tightwire, The Bombpops, and many, many others. What I’m trying to say here is: this thing is stacked! And it’s not just big names, it’s big songs. What struck me most about 15 Years was the sheer quality from start to finish. It’s a diverse collection of great songs from the Red Scare roster, and if you ask me, it’s worth all the tears and beers to get there.