Ignoring the Guidelines
I guess I was going through a time when I had way too much structure in my life, and I didn’t know how to deal with it, when I discovered Raised Fist’s Ignoring the Guidelines, their 2001 album from Epitaph Records. I considered this album to be my essential high school anthem; the heavy, slamming, sometimes pleasingly discordant music and the screamed lyrics in a style of hardcore growling I’d never heard before resonated with me as I struggled to navigate societal pressure to fit in without compromising my unique individuality. The lyrics communicated a surprisingly compassionate and thoughtful approach to developing a moral code, while the music paradoxically suggested a brutal stoicism that was comforting to me. When I listened to Ignoring the Guidelines, I was immersed in a world somewhere between classic and contemporary hardcore punk, somewhere between theology and secular moralism.
I was raised Unitarian Universalist and was active in that religious community throughout high school. I believed in God, which was acceptable in that religion; not believing in a god or gods was also acceptable. Raised Fist did not, apparently, believe in God: “If there was a god, I’d pray for you.” Strangely considerate, though. The lyrics have a humanistic and Zen sensibility but also veer into the territory of heavy-handed moralizing: “Do you buy your computer games at the store or do you rip them off? You probably rip them off.” This album made me consider the duality of the world, the gray areas of morality that have to be navigated in order to live a complete and moralistic life. And the drumming and hardcore breakdowns are absolutely insane. This is an album I could groove and nod my head (or headbang) to while at the same time confronting harsh truths and gaining introspective and social awareness.