Ever get into an argument/discussion about punk with an old-timer and have them make some comment like, “It’s just a bunch of shouting and ranting?" I have and I always considered such claims to be baseless generalizations. Then I finally figured out where ideas blossomed from; these punk music detractors must have been listening to Ironbound NYC.
This year NYHC vets Sick of It All released Death to Tyrants, an impassioned, competent and uplifting piece of hardcore fury. It is surprising that a band going so long could still create music that was so vital and vibrant. Therefore I was excited to learn members had participated in a side project as part of Ironbound NYC. My excitement quickly died. The press proclaimed “featuring” members of Sick of It All but it soon became apparent that rather than a true collaborative project, this was more along the lines of a guest appearance. Guitarist Pete Koller and bassist Craig Ahead are only listed as being on five of the 10 tracks on the disc, and one of those tracks isn’t even a song.
I was under the impression that hardcore punk was designed to break away from the going-through-motions attitude, the type that mainstream rock had managed to push its way into earlier punk bands. I guess no one told that to these guys. This is apparently supposed to be classic NYHC style music. Well, then Ironbound NYC has determined “classic” NYHC to be synonymous with boring, generic and moronic. I figured this album might be more along the lines of Sick of It All’s earlier material circa Blood, Sweat & No Tears. It does use that traditional sound as a base but for the most part lacks any memorable guitar parts, the shout-along gang vocals and lacks all of the energy that this music requires to be executed successfully.
Rather than be political (even in the broadest scene-politics sense) or personal or satirical, the band prefers to display the worst in pissed off tough guy stereotypes about lashing out at invisible enemies. Take for instance the lyrics on the title song: "Just when I seemed I had it all / Somehow I set myself up for a fall / Bad decisions make so quick / Hit you in the face with a fucking brick / CHUMP;" truly inspiring. The lyrics would lead one to believe these guys are really pissed off fellows. Rather than conveying a genuine sense of discontentment, vocalist Thomaso Skorupski sounds at best like a grumpy old man that doesn’t want to take his medicine, and at worst a child throwing a tantrum in Toys-R-Us (the lyrics help aid the second image more).
In terms of guitar riffs there is nothing that sounds original, mostly a rehash of a rehash. This music isn’t generally supposed to be too fast or too heavy but the decent amount of intensity that the guys from Sick of It All bring makes the songs without them look that much more lackluster. In fact, the best song out of the whole record is the first one after the intro, “Dismay.” The song is made the highlight of the album by a quick pace, catchy main guitar line, and only one really laughably bad lyric in the first verse. After this song the album never again really reaches anything that would be cause for repeated spins.
The simple fact is that in the year 2006 music like this doesn’t need to be made. The album artwork even looks like some cheesy cover for some late `90s southern gangsta rapper, á la No Limit Records...which seems befitting along with the crass marketing of this project "featuring" Sick of It All members. The lyrics are the major downfall of the album, which might be okay for a group of really angry 15-year-olds playing their parents' garage. That, however, isn’t who is making this record; it is a group of full grown men that at this point should be somewhat thoughtful about their place in this world rather than blindly lashing out at it. However, some of the lyrics on “Strength in Unity” are almost a Freudian slip about the redundancy of this record:
Why can’t I see inside myself / why can’t I see behind my fears / why can’t I look to someone else / why is it so hard to believe in myself / why do we run from reality?