You know those bands that did enough to have a small fan base, but weren’t around long enough to have the lasting impact of their peers? That’s As Friends Rust. An often-overlooked facet of the Floridian hardcore scene, the band displayed a huge amount of variety in their short, six (if that) year span. They stylistically have been compared to Avail, Samiam, and even Stretch Armstrong (though they were even heavier than that at times). The band reunited for a string of shows in 2008, and this year they reunited once again for a one-off show in Brooklyn and an appearance at Groezrock overseas. Shield Recordings released Greatest Hits? in April, celebrating the best songs from the eleven releases As Friends Rust put out from ’96-’02. The compilation itself is now available for you to grab.
Greatest Hits? begins with four of the five songs off the band’s first EP, The Fists of Time. If you’re unfamiliar with the band’s discography, these songs are much heavier than many of the others on the compilation, stylistically between late ‘90’s metalcore and Dag Nasty, if you can imagine that (just listen to “Encante”). Tracks 5-7 (“Half Friend Town,” “Like Strings,” and “Coffee Black”) are from As Friends Rust’s classic self-titled EP, which is much more melodic than heavy in terms of hardcore. Track 8, “First Song on the Tape You Make Her” is considered by some members to be the first released song by the classic As Friends Rust lineup. It seems this is where the Samiam comparisons become appropriate, as everything afterwards was much poppier and melody-focused. The rest of the songs are from the band’s last two releases, 2001’s Won LP (the band’s only full-length) and 2002’s A Young Trophy Band in the Parlance of Our Times.
Seeing as the band put this compilation together themselves, it’s hard to properly critique Greatest Hits? as someone not in the band. The first EP songs drag on a bit, and for a Greatest Hits compilation it may seem boring to a listener, a “get to the good stuff” kind of feeling. But again, that one EP holds so much history for the band that it’s hard to say that definitively as a critic. Of course, they weren’t just putting out a Singles compilation and labeling it Greatest Hits like a lot of bands, so there were some songs from their discography I would have liked to see in there. Some of those include The Fist of Time’s “Operation,” Won’s “This is Me Hating You,” and A Young Trophy’s “The Most Americanest.”
All that said, an important question to ask is, as a listener, how do these songs hold up today and how do they hold up to other music in their time? Personally, I can’t stand the mix in a lot of the songs, compared to music from back then as well as now. For instance, the Young Trophy songs are well written and very catchy, but excessive effects and certain mix factors just seem to take away from that. At times, the raw, more punk rock parts of a song seem inconsistent with the more melodic, at times even a bit radio-y (not in a bad way!) choruses. Putting aside your biases, imagine a band like AFI having a release where the verses were taken from Very Proud of Ya and the choruses from Decemberunderground. It’d sound a bit weird, right?
However, listening to these songs by As Friends Rust is honestly a breath of fresh air. They have a variety not many bands now days or even in their time could match, in the kind of way that you just don’t know what to expect – except something catchy that you’ll want to sing along to. Also, lyrically, the band completely overshadows the majority of their contemporaries (“Private-school anarchists with bought trains of thought, donned in T-shirts screaming slogans of wars never fought” – great line from “We on Some Next Level Shit”, which is one of the funniest song names I’ve ever heard).
Grading this as a Greatest Hits album, really my biggest complaint would be that there could be a few better songs. But go for it – buy the album, let it grow on you, and feel refreshed listening to this intelligent group of dudes whose knack for songwriting is as creative as it is catchy. Good job As Friends Rust, maybe some day you’ll be able to grace us with new songs once again.
4 / 5