1. YOUTH OF TODAY - Break Down The Walls LP
Although most people today affiliate Youth Of Today with Revelation Records, partially due to the fact they've rereleased their entire back catalogue, the ground breaking release 'Break Down The Walls' was originally put out on Wishing Well Records run by Pat Dubar (Unity/Uniform Choice) from Orange County, California. With Ray Cappo's partnership at the time in Rev, I still can't comprehend why they chose to go with a small label on the opposite side of the country rather than release the record themselves? I'm sure I've read the reason at some point in time, but at the moment my memory fails me ha! So anyway, along with being my favourite record of all time, it obviously takes out the number one spot of my 'Crucial Five' Wishing Well releases.
Still to this day I draw influence and inspiration from this record, don't get me wrong, in hindsight Cappo was an absolute 'nut job', but most of his ideas and philosophies do seem realistic and relative to a certain degree. Musically in terms of raw energy and aggressive emotion, this is still in my opinion the 'hardest' record ever made! Forget Negative Approach or the Cro Mags, when I had Break Down The Walls ripping on my turn table, I always prayed to god my mother wouldn't walk in on 'Stabbed in the Back' or 'Take a Stand' ha! From start to finish, both musically and aesthetically Break Down The Walls delivers on all levels. There's been tons of rereleases and remixes of this record but for mine they nailed it the first time round with the Wishing Well version. 'Move up front and shout-out-loud.....'
2. UNIFORM CHOICE - Screaming For Change LP
I remember stumbling across this classic in the late 90's at Waterfront Records in Sydney. Still new to the genre at this stage and not yet collecting vinyl, Waterfront was a good place to cut my teeth on hardcore, they'd always have sticker notes stuck on each cd case with short descriptions of the band, after a while I'd look for anything labeled 'old school straight edge' after picking up similar bands such as Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits, Judge etc. under the same description.
Maybe you could say these guys kick-started the whole 'youth crew' scene in Southern California while also being regarded as the West Coast's answer to Minor Threat? It's a great blend of that classic Oxnard thrash and LA melody with ultra posi lyrics that were delivered a lot more sincerely as opposed to the many bands that followed. Stand out tracks for me would have to be 'use your head', 'my own mind', 'straight and alert' .......actually every song is fuckin sick ha! I even dig their follow up album 'Staring into the Sun', it's got a few shockers on there due to their attempt to be the next Van Halen or some shit, but the majority of it is a guilty pleasure. I'd probably only recommend it for the diehard Uniform Choice fans though ha! The track 'cut of a different cause' sounds like it definitely could've made it onto 'Screaming for Change'.
For me, this album and 'Break Down The Walls' was a huge influence on my decision to become straight edge, even though that only lasted about 5 years (blame Murphy's Law and Breakdown for the edge break ha), I still hold a special connection to all values and ideas expressed on both albums.
3. INSTED - Bonds Of Friendship LP
Another one of those bands I happened to come across thanks to Waterfront and their sticker note descriptions. The first version of this album I owned was a reissue cd on another label which also included the 'We'll Make The Difference' ep. Although these guys emerged a fair while after Uniform Choice and Youth Of Today they still stood out above the majority of bands riding the 'youth crew' wave at the time in the US. More of a 7 Seconds 'the crew' era influence with these guys both in sound and lyrical content, maybe a bit too cheesy looking back, but still great to bust out when you're having a positive day ha!
As I said the first version of 'Bonds of Friendship' I came across wasn't the Wishing Well version. On the cover was a live picture of the vocalist 'finger pointing' with a giant X on his hand. Even though I was familiar with Minor Threat and the term straight edge, I still hadn't realized the connection between the X on band members hands and the lifestyle choice of being straight edge. I guess I'd say that this prompted me to investigate why alot of the guys in the bands I began liking had these black X's drawn on there fists? I remember being so relieved when I had the whole thing explained because I wanted to be punk so bad and I wasn't looking forward to taking as many drugs as the bands that I'd been listening to prior such as NOFX, Offspring, Guttermouth etc. to prove my credentials ha!
4. UNITY - You Are One EP
I'm not sure if it's because I heard Uniform Choice first but these guys always seem to come second to the 'Screaming For Change' LP for me. Although this record is still great in it's own right, it is very similar sounding to Uniform Choice due mainly to the fact both bands have the same singer, it just doesn't have that polish and consistent solid structured song writing of Uniform Choice. Anyway, enough negative and more 'PMA' on this Orange County classic!
I first came across these guys via a bootleg compilation on that shady Euro label 'Lost & Found', they were well known for pretty much being solely a 'bootleg' label reissuing alot of the early US classics and doing their own remastering and packaging. The two songs featured on the comp were 'positive mental attitude' and 'straight on view' which were actually the versions from the later Unity LP 'Blood Days' which came out originally on Powerhouse, but bootlegged by Lost And Found. Definitely still my favourite tracks from the EP along with 'explanation for action'. To be honest I'm quite thankful Lost And Found were rereleasing this sort of stuff because a lot of it at the time was yet to be reissued and the internet hadn't hit yet with file sharing and band pages. You either had to be lucky enough to own the original or know someone who did that could 'tape' it for you ha!
5. BL'AST - The Power Of Expression LPI'd have to say this album definitely had the least impact out of my crucial five, not to say it's a dud, just because I heard this one last and also seeing as though I actually enjoy their follow up LP 'It's in My Blood' more which came out on another label SST. For me these guys just sound like something Black Flag could've followed 'Damaged' with? I guess that's what attracted me to these guys in the first place, I really love 'Damaged' but everything past that did nothing for me. Although there's still a bunch of lengthy tracks on 'Power Of Expression' it's still got plenty of energy and power, never taking the foot of the accelerator. As a package this record also fails in comparison to the other four, just pretty stock standard stuff, nothing ground breaking or iconic about it really. Still a great band and crucial in their own right! Not sure how any Black Flag sweater could go past these guys? Like I said, their follow up album 'Its In My Blood' is just as good so check em out!
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