Queens has always been a lot more of a hip-hop hub than a hub for hardcore, but before Nas, Mobb Deep and Fat Joe were lighting up the turntables, there was genuine rage and animosity brewing in that borough. It was brought on by Token Entry, a menacing four-piece that's as under-appreciated as they come.
Fortunately, I Scream Records has decided to graciously re-issue their 1988 album Jaybird, and its followup, Weight of the World.
The former is pure adrenaline, packaged with buzzing riffs and quick rhythms that pack a hefty punch. In a nutshell, Token Entry encapsulated everything that mid-to-late-`80s hardcore was: fast, brash, and more than eager to speak their mind. Luckily, it's not necessary to look further than "The Fire," the first track on the record to find a three-minute salvo about keeping spirits high ("We moved ahead fighting a cause you said was dead, the fire still burns, the rage still yearns") and the benefit of self-confidence ("We'll let it be known we have set a direction and followed though / The goals we achieved never needed you") set to a frenzied pace. They can come hard and frantic, or they can slow their assault to a three-chord punk rock approach. The vocals of Tim Chunks are able to make the transition as smoothly as possible, going from an in-your-face yell, to a more reserved, yet more anthemic sound. It's `80s hardcore comin' at ya, `80s hardcore that just won't stop.
The second half of these re-issues, however, paints a much different picture of the band.
Different is not always bad, but there's not a whole lot tying the sounds of Jaybird with the more funked-out efforts of Weight of the World. The pronounced influence of Bad Brains' guitarist Dr. Know is felt with the newfound bombast given off in the instrumentation. Everything is different on the album, but it's the vocals where the change is the most profoundly felt. Tim Chunks' rapid-fire, almost spoken delivery cascades over the top of some rolling fills and start-stop chord progressions that give off a very stagnated feel. The songs themselves have rhythm, but the record as a whole is not able to keep any semblance of continuity. I can understand and enjoy the integration of funk, but the band goes a little overboard with it, and the result is a record that sounds closer to something Primus would record than anything a hardcore band would put their name on.
The first half of the reissue is everything that hardcore should be: It's unrelenting and full of vigor and purpose. The second half, unfortunately, is nowhere near as gripping. What might serve as a good album for a band that normally plays that style is odd being flown under the banner of a hardcore band. Luckily, Jaybird is worth the price of admission alone.