Long Dim Road
Reviewed by Robert Soza
Thursday, April 20 2000, 1:23 PM
Being relatively new to the Bad Subjects collective, I was thrilled to find out that we have the opportunity to write reviews of music, film, whatever the hell we want. Now I get to spout off in a forum beyond my immediate peer group -- thus sparing them didactic triads I now have the opportunity to vent in print.
This leads to the record in question. It was presented to me as hardcore straight-edge. Not that I am a straight-edge punk -- in fact, far from it. But I have a passion for hardcore and am always eager to get a hold of something new -- and for free, to boot. As I put the CD into the player I was expecting something akin to Minor Threat, Youth of Today, or the Krishna inspired Cro-Mags. You know, hardcore.
Well, I was surprised to hear banjos, violins, whistles, bells and the kitsch-en sink. This is hybridity run a-muck. Postmodernity and its cultural pastiche is not always a good thing. And unfortunately, I sat through a CD that proves this point -- the vocals are intensely strained. Not that I expect Maria Callas when I sit back to hear hardcore, but I am at least expecting a strong shrieker, angry chanter, or something like that. Punk rock screaming seems a stretch for T. Duggins, the Tossers lead-vocalist.
And the music. I can only relate it to a recent experience I had while at an American Studies conference in Lawrence, Kansas. I went dancing at the Coyote in Haskell, just down the road from Lawrence -- it is a local country bar and dance hall. Just before closing time, a DJ started playing tunes for all the line-dancers in attendance. Anyway, all of a sudden there was a song mixing dueling banjos and techno-house beats -- country house? For me, it did not work at all -- for the seventy line-dancers, it did. They lapped it up like dog at a bowl. Personally, I think there are some things that just don't go together. Long Dim Road is such a creation -- this is "Spirit of Dance" meets English hardcore; a novel idea, but seemingly better in concept than in practice. Having just bashed the album in the head, I do want to praise the final track on the album. It's a hidden track! You have to wait until about the six minute mark of the final track "Ciara" (which itself is not too bad either). This is hardcore the way it should be: raw, high energy, and just power cords.
However, and this is a big however! The lyrics are smart as shit -- well, smart in the way that punk lyrics are smart. I love the song "Altercations" with its epic closing, a belligerent cry of "fuck the police" eight times. And I think that the Tossers make some savvy political links between the colonial occupation of Northern Ireland and the state of Third World peoples -- though "The Ballad of UN & NATO" understates the racialized nature of colonialism, it brings home the vital point that colonialism, in its various forms, is practiced by imperial European states on the European continent. The album clearly expresses the despair that accompanies the lives of the those left behind the current economic expansion, and especially those adversely affected by the round of austerity measures enacted all over Europe pending the EU's unified currency.
In the end, when my mother tells me that she loved a movie, I have learned that her endorsement usually means it sucks (sorry mom). Conversely, if she finds a film unsatisfactory I'm there! With that in mind, I have to admit that I did not find this album too impressive. But then, you might.
Long Dim Road is a Thick Records release