Underground Punk Rock and Hip Hop Reviews
Link 80 (Part I)
When I was in middle school, you had to have a band shirt, and it had to be punk rock. The first shirt that I was able to buy using my lawn-mowing money was a Link 80 shirt from Asian Man records, ordered through a mail-order form that came with an Asian Man CD I bought at a record store. I would have worn that shirt every day if I could have; I probably tried. 17 Reasons, the band’s first full-length album, was stuck on repeat on my stereo, on continuous rotation until the CD started to scratch and glitch, no matter how careful I was with it. Unlike my classmates who listened to mainly punk and ska, I had settled on hardcore punk as my preferred subgenre, and Link 80 delivered from all sides: punk and ska with a hardcore flavor and hardcore breakouts that left no room for posers and defined all the punk rock subgenres for me. Looking back, 17 Reasons was an album that got me through one of the most difficult, trying times in my life. A formative album for my formative years.
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.
What do I know about Raised Fist, from a biographical standpoint, though? Not much. They formed in 1993; they’re from Sweden; and I haven’t been able to catch a U.S. show even though I consistently listen to any of their recorded work. Also, they’re difficult to research, and I have yet to establish any substantial connections in the underground hardcore community that might assist with that. Yet again, “researching” underground artists is sort of an oxymoron as a concept, same with the idea that there’s a cohesive underground music “community.” Still, I like reviewing underground music because the obscurity removes the distractions posed by New Historical criticism, allowing the words and music to speak for themselves. I’ve taken a paradoxical-hybrid “close reading” and “autobiographical” approach to reviewing Ignoring the Guidelines. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see Raised Fist on tour. When I follow Raised Fist on social media, watching clips from their shows and waiting for my next chance to see them, I’m just a fan.