Monday, May 7, 2007

Tuneless Thrash

There is so much to say about the Offenders that it's difficult to know where to begin; to sit and read most of what has been written about them (by people who most likely never saw them) just doesn't touch on the significance that this band had on the Austin scene.

Someone was quoted as saying that when it came to the hardcore scene in San Francisco, there was no way to escape the Dead Kennedys; the same can be said of the Offenders in Austin, Texas. It seems that more often than not, they were included on the set list anytime a band played in Austin; name any hardcore band you can think of, chances are the Offenders played with them.

The band had a loyal following in the skater crowd and the local skins were really into them as well. This seemed rather surprising as the lyrics of the songs weren't necessarily indicative of the mindset of your average skinhead at that period in time. This was a day and age when SHARPs (Skin Heads Against Racial Prejudice) weren't readily available.

The allure this band had on the psyche of hardcore youth in the '80s was the intense brutality of their sound. This was hardcore at its harshest- a wall of noise that engulfed you as soon as the first guitar chord was stricken; lyrics that sang of youth revolt and riots; the insanity of war; societal and family expectations unmet that created rifts- all of this was captured in songs that were, more often than not, only a minute and a half. JJ, the vocalist, was another factor in this appeal. Having run away at a young age and living in the streets gave him the street cred that most people who tend to care for that sort of thing gravitate to. Once his writhing and screaming on stage are witnessed, they are forever carved into the consciousness. The Offenders were the living embodiment of American hardcore music and are as essential as Black Flag were-at least in this writer's mind. If you've never heard of the Offenders then you don't know shit about Texas punk.

The Offenders have been described as Texas' answer to Discharge. This is a pretty accurate comparison as their initial sound on We Must Rebel (the first LP) tended toward noise not music (to co-opt a phrase!) and on the later releases the sound was a lot more polished and slightly leaning into the realm of metal without all the chugga-chugga nonsense. You can see the same kind of progression in both bands if you listen to their material in sequential order. Although, the Offenders didn't have near the amount of output that Discharge has.

When the Offenders played their big reunion gig a few years back, it was no different than when they played on stage 20 years ago. JJ still had that amazing stage presence. There has never been another front man quite like him. Unfortunately, a week after the gig, he was picked up by the police for attempting to score drugs and was kicked out of the band as these were the types of problems that supposedly led to their break up the first time (at least according to Pat, the drummer). They attempted to continue playing with a new front man, Dave Death, but the gig just wasn't the same magic. There were never any performances after that. Pat, the drummer went off to play drums in a metal band called Ignitor, who has gotten a lot of acclaim and performed in many metal concerts around the globe. Tony, the guitarist, helps run a historical and locally-run movie theatre in town. Mikey, the bass player, lives in SF now and still plays in bands. Some of this information is sketchy; send a comment if you know more.

An interesting thing to note: there are regular online comparisons drawn between the Endless Struggle LP and the I Hate Myself/Bad Times 7-inch. The 7-inch has quite often been touted as the final stage in the evolution of the band; the ultimate perfection of their "sound." However, the 7-inch was actually recorded and released prior to the Endless Struggle LP and seeing as how both records were put out by Rabid Cat Records, it would perhaps be best to consider who the audio engineering personnel on each recording was rather than attribute this to the "growth of the band."

Food for thought.

Now here's something to sate your need for aural consumption.

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