The year is 2002, I’m waiting in the Tweeter Center’s parking lot in Camden, N.J. for the rest of my friends at the Warped tour. I have $10 left in my pocket. A guy walks up to me with a bundle of four compilations for that very same amount. After a day spent soaking up punk records, I figure a couple more comps can’t hurt and fork over the cash. Little did I know, one of those comps would serve as my introduction to the likes of Strike Anywhere, Mike Park and the Curse.
The Positive Youth Foundation put together two Stop Racism compilations in their day. For a budding young punk still formulating my own sociopolitical thoughts, these comps proved vital to my development. Get passed the weird presence of Good Charlotte’s “The Anthem, and volume two makes for essential listening. Fans of Rise Against and the Loved Ones will dig the choice cuts from the Killing Tree and the Curse. Rude boys get quality jams from the Slackers and the Toasters. NOFX delivers a catchy little track, while Park gets pretty darn explicit in his discussion of racial views.
I know Anti-Flag catches a lot of flack, but “911 for Peace” is arguably one of their best songs. Justin Sane also contributes a track from his solo album, and, again, it’s a winner: “61c Days Turned To…” isn’t especially political, but it’s a strong personal account of a youth with only a few regrets and a mighty fine chorus.
The two best songs on the comp are in the hardcore vein, though. Good Clean Fun’s “Hats Off to Halford” pushes gay rights better than most queercore bands, using humor and stats to push forward equality. Any song that uses gang vox for lines like “I wanna be a homosexual” has my attention, and this track summed up all the anger and sarcasm I felt growing up in a conservative town.
The other big hitter? Strike Anywhere’s “Sunset on 32nd St.” No question. It’s hard to believe now in an age of smart phones and constant social networking, but at the time, my family had had Internet access for maybe a few months at this point. In four-and-a-half minutes, Strike Anywhere laid out such a stirring image of police brutality that I tracked down Change is a Sound and Chorus of One ASAP. I played that song for my friends constantly, because it is quite possibly the pinnacle of all artistic creation. There’s the Mona Lisa, Ulysses, etc…but “Sunset” is still better, clam flammit.
Sometimes snap decisions pay off. Stop Racism came out back when physical comps still mattered and delivered onto my ears track after track of eye-opening sociopolitical dialogue. Granted, in this age, it’d probably be easier to just recreate the set through filesharing, but I still recommend tracking down a physical copy. Be young, have fun and smash racism.