If you have a weakness for the Clash and you've never quite got over their breakup (or wishing you had been alive when they were together), maybe Orange County's Intro5pect will help. The smokestacks belching into a blood-red sunset on the cover of Intro5pect, the band's first full length, put out on A-F Records, foretells that the tracks will have names like "Sustainable Yield" and "Profit Margins" and the music will have a defiantly political stance. But while the record is urgent and angry like early Clash, has echoes of Joe Strummer's fury, and is as overtly topical as the band they've modeled themselves after, the rather too-direct imitation born out of that emulation is what's striking.
Press materials refer to the rather unappetizing proposition that Intro5pect is what punk would be today if the Ramones had been influenced by Kraftwerk. The band, hailing from Orange County, the cradle of hardcore, formed in 1997 to counter what they considered the degraded state of punk -- commercial and uninspired.
This album, produced by Justin Sane from Anti-flag, propels itself with a powerful punk rock energy, break-beat cuts and traces of electronica. And if the lyrics could match the quality of the vocals, which exude a certain compelling anger even if they do lack the requisite English accent, this would be an impressive debut. The liner notes reveal a predeliction for the simplistic and naïve. Sometimes embarrassingly direct, with lyrics like "This is human condition/ Of resource scarcity/ We've always been fighting/ To sustain our needs" or the repetition of the word "Bourgeosie," which has become a pseudo-intellectual working-class punk-rock buzzword, Intro5pect could use a dose of self-deprecating British humor as a counter weight.
Strummer's lyrics never preached from the outside like know-it-alls, but adopted the voice of working-class rage instead. A mingling of hardcore, hip-hop, oi! and hardcore, Intro5pect is too young and unseasoned to be this righteous, a sense of humor could help them a great deal.
But still, a call to arms is a call to arms, and inspiration, no matter if it seems a bit jejune, requires a lot more nerve than the alternatives. And it's a necessary and refreshing thing in a time when any resistance is equated with treason. At least there is some politicized anger left in music, and I look forward to hearing where it goes from here.
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