“Listen to your elders”, though punk rock is eternally young, the timeless adage applies to this rebel art form. Since D.O.A.‘s groundbreaking 2nd album, Hardcore ’81, the genre they helped create has gone through many evolutions and branching-offs until it doesn’t quite resemble its original sonic or thematic mold. Hardcore doesn’t need to change their sounds, but it wouldn’t hurt to listen to Godfather punk bands like D.O.A. more, not just to be inspired by that original, tested and proven sound, but to relearn what the true ethos and political/existential stance punk is supposed to stand for.
The moment D.O.A. broke into “Class War”, off the band’s third album, War on 45, introducing the song by saying “the only war worth fighting is a class war” I knew all bets were off. D.O.A. and bands from their era never failed to mince words, opting to make songs with straight forward messaging, striking metaphor, ruthless aggression and artistic bravery that also get the party and pit going full speed. Hardcore these days is much more interested in brutality. There’s nothing wrong with that but in times like these when we can’t quite put a finger on truth and there’s little justice to be found, the messaging shouldn’t drown beneath the sound. We need either a new D.O.A. or the D.O.A. that’s always been there, that’s been playing hardcore since 1978. D.O.A. is the type of band who’s politics have never changed, it’s the musical and political movements around them that changed, man.
Opening for them that night was a band with loads of potential called The Death Set. Blending various styles of punk, from pop to hardcore to electro, they’ve created a blaring, bombastic sound all their own that as soon as you hear, you wonder why music didn’t arrive at this earlier. Someone even compared them to the Prodigy to me. The Death Set were somehow able to convince the purist punks to party and pit to a sound they might hesitate to embrace otherwise. They did this simply by giving their whole selves to their performance, not letting anyone at the Roxy leave neutral about their set.
The trio of Joe Kiethley, Paddy Duddy, and Mike Hodsall each shred, bang, and groove unbelievably hard on their instruments. Power trio doesn’t begin to describe their synergy. It was pure attitude from start to finish. Genres of music stemming from the hard-edged punk sound are an integral part of my identity, be it metal, hardcore or punk. To listen to a veteran band get back to basics shed light upon how I’ve deviated from the original sound and point of this movement. That original message is simply to have fun, kick ass, and don’t be afraid to speak exactly whats on your mind. The more we bring it back to these essentials, underground music might just be able to change the world again. At the end of their set, D.O.A. each donned black cowboy hats and closed with “Disco Sucks”, affirming to everyone that punk rock is king, then and now and even though the pop charts get the exposure, they still make the music that inspires the next generation of bands.
Words by: Rob Shepyer
Photos by: Albert Licano