Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • War on 45 [Alternative Tentacles, 1982] A-
  • Bloodied but Unbowed [CD, 1983] B+
  • Let's Wreck the Party [Alternative Tentacles, 1985] B-
  • True (North) Strong and Free [Profile, 1987] B+
  • Murder [Restless, 1990] Dud
  • Northern Avenger [Sudden Death, 2008] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

War on 45 [Alternative Tentacles, 1982]
Hearty, no-bullshit songs for Canadian hardcore to march by, and that they hail from verdant Vancouver sure doesn't hurt the charity of their politics, or of their tempos either. Best originals: "Liar for Hire" and "Let's Fuck" (multilingual so it gets on Francophone radio, right?). Best covers: "War in the East," "Class War," and "War." A-

Bloodied but Unbowed [CD, 1983]
Subtitled "The Damage to Date: 1978-83," this six-buck special selects nineteen tracks from the three-single, four-EP, two-LP output of the hardest working band in hardcore. Though they're never as scintillatingly sophisticated as the Dead Kennedys at their rare best, these Vancouver boys are much more consistent, getting over on the momentum that defeats so many similar bands for the first side and writing real songs by the second. Old Clash fans will stand up and cheer their chanted oi-together-now-hooks--and their state-smashing politics, too, I hope. B+

Let's Wreck the Party [Alternative Tentacles, 1985]
Decking their cover with quotes from Durutti and Chagall and slogans like "Bring Back the Future" and "We Don't Need Unity . . . We Need Co-Operation," these Vancouver lifers have obviously made something of their hardcore anarchism. If only the music had as much spirit. Amid the slightly Britified metal-mania so many professional punks drift into, the great moments are stolen--a speed-anthem cover of "Singin' in the Rain" and a "Hot Blooded" rip calling for a "General Strike." But since property is theft, maybe that's as it should be. B-

True (North) Strong and Free [Profile, 1987]
These permanent punks not only had the discernment to cover "War" in 1982 but the breadth to link it up with the Dils' "Class War" and Ranking Trevor's "War in the East." Here they have the candor to join ranks with fellow clod and countryman Randy Bachman on an inspiring and sarcastic "Takin' Care of Business," and perhaps by osmosis, the roar into which the originals sink isn't as dull as usual. The protagonist of "Lumberjack City" takes care of business while drinking anything that comes in a barrel. "Bullet Catcher" is a policewoman who shouldn't have got shot. And fifteen years from now, some enterprising enemy of the star-spangled banner can make a roots medley out of their "51st State" and New Model Army's. B+

Murder [Restless, 1990] Dud

Northern Avenger [Sudden Death, 2008]
"Time has marched along, punks have changed, some are gone/Some have vision and some are gray, some have just been born" ("Golden State," "Last Chance"). *