Not that I can really find this confirmed anywhere, but it is in-fucking-sane that The Right to Assemble Volume Two is seemingly made up entirely of almost completely previously unreleased material. This is hard enough task, but it all comes from the New Brunswick, New Jersey punk and hardcore community. That means that not only do you get a massive and well-spanned portrait of the current New Brunswick scene, but that you're offered rare songs from almost every one of those bands.
The record begins with a spoken word intro by Pedro Angel Serrano, who became a sort of scene figurehead over the years for being a pretty unique character: a Puerto Rican homosexual skinhead. I'm only familiar with him thanks to Ronen Kauffman's excellent 2007 memoir of sorts, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Goodbye: Bands, Dirty Basements and the Search. But you should be pretty familiar with him after this short clip where Serrano stresses the importance of diversity. It's a pretty fitting introduction for a record that, while largely containing a variety of no-frills hardcore acts, also contains a smattering of pop-punk, indie rock and more melodic hardcore stylings.
Early on are some of the more notable names here. The Degenerics kick it off after Serrano's speech with what seems to be their newest song, "In This Skin," recorded in December 2007. It's vocally way more intense than anything else I've heard from them and it pushes the song well. Seasick's contribution sorta sounds like it would've fit well on Billy in a Bearsuit, their somewhat recent split 7" with A.N.S., though it's pretty much better than any of those songs. Static Radio NJ offer a standout from their recent full-length, An Evening of Bad Decisions....
More standouts come from the likes of other bands I was previously familiar with, like Zhenia Golov, Scream Hello, Ensign, the Ergs!, the Measure [SA] and the Fire Still Burns. Zhenia Golov starts off with some muttering, cynical and depressed spoken word ("Afloat in a sea of piss-yellow license plates and shifty eyes / I can't relate to anyone else as they stare at the ground") before picking it up a bit with "Barriers." Scream Hello's "Nights, Fights, Cries, Jokes, Laughs, Songs, Love, Life" is recorded a tad raw for their sound, but it bristles with a bustling pace and their signature playfulness contrasted well against reminiscing lyrics that you can't tell are sad ("We're no good at socializing...") or bright ("...because we're all out of practice"). Ensign's "A Wreath and a Rifle Salute" is damn awesome, with rad mood and tempo changes; it somehow reminds me more of Bane than I ever remember them sounding. Don't get too excited, though -- the liner notes claim a 2004 copyright on the song, so it's probably like an old demo or something. Hopefully they get in gear eventually and put out something new. The Ergs!'s "blahblahblahfuckyoublahblahblah" is a bouncingly stupid and catchy number...not much of a shocker there. The Measure [SA] provide raw Plan-It-X-style pop-punk with "Spanish." The Fire Still Burns' gruff and rather complex "Disingenuous" sounds like what I'd hope Rise Against could still muster up on a major after revealing that mediocre single, with a certain sincerity in the delivery and perfectly placed backing "whoa"s in its early parts.
Other bands that made a good impression on me here include Rock,Star, Staring Problem and Risk Relay, all of whom lay it down towards the end of Side B. Rock,Star's "Timeclock" has a neat and meaty hook, which caught me off guard considering I wasn't too huge on their Inamorato discography thing. I found Staring Problem's vocalist really goddamn obnoxious at first, but after a few listens of the drug-abusing parent indictment of "Trash Trade" you can really visualize kids losing their shit and causing ruckus across the floor in some dingy bar basement. Risk Relay close the album with "Mizenmast," easily the comp's most unique song -- a more musically restrained, early emo / post-hardcore-beckoning song that seems to draw from Moss Icon and Fugazi's gentler moments.
There's a clearly generous amount of effort that are put into the black-and-white "liner notes" packaged with the LP. It's basically a zine -- each band drafted up a half-page graphic with whatever they wanted (usually lyrics and song credits, of course) put to a band photo or special drawing/image/whatever. Zhenia Golov win for best of these designs with a three-panel comic strip integrating the lyrics and song info.
Oh, you want more? Sure, the purchase of the LP comes with a download card that lets you grab MP3s of the whole record (as I think every current vinyl release should do; not everyone can be that guy on "Pimp My Ride" who had a fucking record player installed in his dash). But you also get eight songs that didn't make the cut (probably due to space more than anything), and a complete download of The Right to Assemble's original volume one 7". That's another 14 songs -- basically another whole compilation. Though that seems largely like leftovers, some of the tracks are good, and some are really good. The Bloodreds' goofy street punk-tinged-but-really-pop-punk romp "Something to Lose" ain't bad. In First Person's tremendous emo-violence-encrusted "Effrontery" fucking rips -- it's one of their heaviest and most intense songs, and fuck, it rules, with plenty of instrumental change-ups and utilizing the dueling male-female screams wonderfully. But ugh, PxCxP's "Single Cell Lifestyle" -- DO NOT WANT. The basic equation of obnoxious unmelodic screams and keyboards are not desirable unless you're An Albatross.
Though bogged down by a handful of fairly middling background hardcore tracks (Hunchback, RSO and Mother Night are hardly terrible bands, but they do end Side A pretty clustered, and moments on the B Side are kinda eh), few releases have bore such a well-rounded and significant display of a concentrated scene as volume two of The Right to Assemble. This is a wonderful document that, with more attention and regard, should hopefully open up punks around the world to a community of obviously talented and diverse songwriters.
[* - I'm sure you can stream many of these songs at the respective band's MySpace page, if they have one, but I don't think I can be willed to look at the 30+ MySpace pages to help you.]