Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We've got to disengage...

Youth Of Today at Gilman Street, Berkeley CA, Photo: Ian Harper

I haven't done much editorial style writing for DCXX, opting instead to leave it to those who were there and in the true mix of the things we cover. That said, I thought it would be cool and (maybe?) interesting to occasionally speak my piece on some favorite records of mine, and Tim would do the same. No real rhyme or reason to this little segment we decided to do, just talking about hardcore records we love and why. Most of these are probably no brainers...not trying to pick out weird obscure stuff you haven't heard of. Curious to get some feedback, and I hope people chime in with their opinions. Enjoy.

-Gordo DCXX

An easy pick for this topic is the record that started it all for me: Youth Of Today's swansong and posthumous final three song EP. I'd love to say Jordan gave me this right when it came out while I was hanging out at Revelation, because you know, I was an old roadie with the band. The reality of the situation, however, is that in 1993 at age 11 I was an annoying fat kid on a BMX bike who just started becoming aware of hardcore and straight edge and didn't know a damn thing about it aside from the fact that I loved it even before I knew what it was. For the rest of my adolscence, hardcore would quickly replace all other avenues of interest, especially sports, which had been the center of my universe since I was walking (fat but athletic...interesting combo).

Anyways, without a good record store in town or a real grasp on how all this hardcore business worked, just being able to simply obtain a physical recording of a real hardcore band as I was getting my foot in the door seemed like a daunting process on its own. Or, maybe I was just retarded. Finally I snagged a cassette version of the final YOT offering from a local HC kid turned wigger/stoner/dealer. He was my buddy Jay's older brother, and he sold drugs (mostly dimebags) out of his room. I literally walked into his room moments after he hooked up one of his boys with some fresh herb, and I gave him $5. He let me take my pick and told me to get the fuck out. While I didn't leave with any weed, that YOT tape got me high as shit. It confirmed everything that up until that point I was only vaguely aware of: straight edge hardcore was a hell of a drug.

Now the reason I pick this record to talk about is mostly because I have seen it take some heat in the past year or so from some who consider it inferior/soft/rock etc. in comparison to the band's earlier material. I'm not knocking anyone's opinion. And there is no question YOT were at their "hardest" or "roughest" in '86/'87. Shit, you put Richie Birkenhead in a band while wearing plaid pants and throw Tommy Carroll a pair of drum sticks at one point, and yeah, you are going to have a band that is a walking fist fight. And I love that era YOT. I love later YOT too. I'll even take grainy videos on YouTube of YOT in 2004 playing in Spain on some big stage with Cappo wearing weird board shorts. But I really love this last record, too.

Youth Of Today at Gilman Street, Berkeley CA, Photo: Trent Nelson

For starters, the recording, to me, is heavy, clear, and pure. Considering some of the stuff Fury kinda butchered at the time, I think this is a great sounding recording. I'm not an audio analyst, but I can tell you this sounds like a pure Les Paul through a Marshall, Sammy's drums (although I think he over does the double bass in parts) sound absolutely huge (and are what they should have sounded like on Bringin' It Down) and he's an animal on these songs, and Cappo's vocals sound raw and wild, but maybe that's just because the story is that his vocals on this were the best of three total sessions, some of which included him literally jumping off the walls of the vocal room. I don't know, to me, explaining why this recording sounds good is like explaining why ice cream tastes good...it just does, you know?

Cappo's vocals are obviously tainted, if you will, by the KC vibe at this point, but the little dude still roars and goes bezerk at times while obviously incorporating a little melody. And what is he singing over? Hardcore songs! I don't hear any rock riffs, solos, finger tapping, acoustic parts, rapping, scratching, bongos, or even a single harmonica solo. The breakdown/build-up in Disengage makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up because it's HEAVY and it is POWERFUL. Cappo's words almost make me want to quit my job, burn down my house, throw my sneakers in the trash, and possibly hit the road for Gita-Nagari with a bead bag in hand (meanwhile in reality, I'm drowning in maya and am pretty much happily stuck there). While I think it's a cheesy word, this record has "urgency," both lyrically and musically.

I won't belabor the songs...to me, they are great hardcore songs that push the YOT envelope while still seeming truly YOT. Will I pick earlier material over this? Probably. But this is no poor fall-back or cheap substitute. Maybe it is different if you were there at the time and watched the progression. To me it is all good and this is a five star record.

Oh, I also stared at the photos in this thing for months after I got it. I wondered about Sammy's sweatshirt (still a little bit of a mystery), who Embrace was and why they had cool shirts (I would soon learn), and why Ray was wearing sweatpants and dress shoes (a look nobody, nobody can pull off). The photo of the YOT summer '88 tour van, covered in grafitti, gave me hours of studying to do. At the time I was wondering "who is Chubby Fresh and why is the Posse Positive? Is that a mowhawk? Jimmy'z?" Getting answers to those questions was more important than anything I was learning in school.

I think it's cool that the photos on this were relatively candid and low key, even the thanks list is just short and sweet. Slap on the cover photo - a sick Cali shot of Porcell in a Judge Skiz shirt, Ray owning the stage, and Walter on some weird bass - with the Unit Pride boys in the front row, and you have the package for one of my favorite records of all time, and something that was mind blowing when I first heard it. Fifteen years later as I type this, it still makes me wanna go do a hand-stand dive onto my bed...regardless of the fact that my girlfriend is laying in it fast asleep.

Youth Of Today at Gilman Street, Berkeley CA, Photo: Trent Nelson


Bobby Westfall said...

I'm stoked that you wrote this out. Disengage is one of my favorite YOT songs, and I think the whole 7 inch holds up compared to any of their other material.

Also, I just generally love this blog and I'm glad this is still representing straight edge and youth crew hardcore in a time when they don't seem all that popular. Everything on here has been total A+ material!

Anonymous said...

I also got a tape (dubbed) copy of this one early on in my HC career.

I can distinctly remember that one of the things that really sold me on YOT was the line in Modern Love Story where Ray apparently says "over looking the person to whom the body belongs" but it really just sounds like this single guttural animal noise.


Marcus said...

Aweosme read. I really enjoyed this piece. And yes, its one hell of a record. Thank you Gordo.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I'm kinda in the same boat as you Gordo, as this was the first YOT record I ever heard. When I first heard the older stuff I thought it was a different band. I really wish they'd done an LP in this style.

Handsome Pete said...

This record is unjustly maligned I feel.

I'm happy to see there are others out there who love it.

I think it is their best release. And the only one that I truly like.

I'm sure that's hardcore blasphemy. I'm ok with that.


Hey Tim and Gordo,

I'm Mark from The Netherlands and just 2 days ago came across this site.
I'm 37 years old now and used to play for sXe band CRIVITS untill 1991. We used to hang out with the guys from ENCOUNTER (Cherry Hill, NJ)... Come to think of it, could it be I witnessed a Mouthpiece | Bloodline show in DC in '91?

Just dropping you a line to let you know I greatly appreciate your effort to keep up DOUBLE CROSS.
These stories are priceless and especially for all of us kids that had the hardest of times to keep up with the stories on our favourite bands back in the days, since we lived in Europe and had no Internet.
We're oldtimers now and some old questions are definitely being answered by DOUBLE CROSS. Like: what the hell happened to Mike Judge?!

Great point of view too: loved the Chris Daily piece! Hope you'll keep up the "who, what, when, why?"-method!

I hope you will continue to put out these interviews. It's Memory Lane Galore pur sang man!
Great stuff, very inspiring. In fact: me and former CRIVITS singer Dennis are hooking up again to start a new band, me being 37 and him being 39. Great! Let's teach them kids how things were done in our era!

Anyway, again: thanx for the effort, keep it up, it's addictive reading material!
Maybe you should do a coverstory on Dan O'Mahoney in the future...all we now heard here -on the other side of that big ocean- are rumours about him being a total alcoholic bum these days.

PS) finding a contact sheet on DOUBLE CROSS wasn't easy...
If you care, reply through email please: cargawar[at]gmail.com

Larvik said...

I never got the criticism that this record receives either. It smokes from start to finish! Also, say what you will about Ray's vocals and lyrics but I just found it another example of him being true to himself and who he was at the time, just like any other YOT record.

Anonymous said...

I like this 7inch I really do but it kills me when someone mentions this as being their fave YOT release.
If you gave a girl the YOT discography to listen to for a week and told her she had to pick which release she liked best at the end of the week, this 7inch would be picked by said girl 9 times out of 10.
Thats really all you need to know about this record.
I concider it good but non essential.

Handsome Pete said...

That's a pretty impressive generalization of women.

Is it possible that some prefer the record to the other output because of the content? Musically and lyrically.

And not because we're less "manly" than you?

Los Jacklos said...

I always like this record. Even if you don't like the KC influences, you'd have to admit it has the best production values of all their recordings.

Could you imagine if they re-recorded the entire BDTW's album at that studio at the same time?

A Revolution of the Heart said...

I agree with everything Gordo said.
Some of the most thought-provoking YOT songs released.

Those are some fantastic pictures as well!

XSLABAX said...

Anyone who puts this release down has got to be trying to start shit! If you truly love YOT you love this release!

Anonymous said...

I, too, owned this on cassette way back when, as one of my earlier exposures to the band.

I also proudly share the good taste of 9 out of 10 girls, apparently, 'cause I fully believe this to be the band's finest release, by far. Every time I throw this thing on to this day it's hard not to listen to it at least five times straight!

Ben Edge said...

This is my favorite YOT record too. I'm a total girl. I know the exact week I borrowed the tape of it from my friend, because this earthquake happened while I was listening to it full blast on headphones:


I saw Shelter in '96, and I heard they would either do "Disengage" or "Break Down The Walls" as an encore. I begged Ray to do "Disengage," and he said, "We'll see." They played "Break Down The Walls" instead, and had dudes from Downset sing along with them. It sucked.

Stark-Arts said...

being old enough to have seen all these bands I will say this - The EP is the peak of YOT. Cleanest vocals, best guitar and drum sound - would I have preferred it to be a little less Krshna? Yes. But in the end it didn't go crazy into it and you could still trace it back to "don't smoke, don't drink, don't fuck but at least i can fucking think" S/E