When Cheap Sex called it quits following the death of guitarist Chris Wick in 2007, the punk community lost one of the best hardcore street punk bands in recent years. Not content to wallow in the self-indulgent matters of drinking and fighting like the sad majority of modern street punk, Cheap Sex made fighting apathy and inspiring dissidence their chief priority, kicking out three well-received full-lengths in four years. But with the closing chapter of Cheap Sex came the beginning of Evacuate, as frontman Mike Virus assembled a SoCal street punk supergroup bringing together former members of the Lab Rats, Cheap Sex and the Virus, and Evacuate was born.
While not terribly different from the other bands Mike Virus has been a part of, Evacuate leans more heavily on hardcore than the street punk of Cheap Sex or the Virus. The divergence is further compounded by a lead guitar approach that’s much more technical -- even bordering on metalish at times -- than anything you’d expect from a hardcore street punk band. This is especially evident on the in-your-face “Give You Nothing,” that, before ending with the sound of a projectile spitwad, spews forth a ravaging guitar solo, as does the equally hostile “One-Sided Friend.” “City on Fire” is another of the standout tracks, making rare use of the double-bass and concurring with Bad Religion and Smoke or Fire that “California’s burning!” before whipping into another six-string frenzy.
The main faults with Evacuate lie in the album’s lyrics. Instead of strident and pointed assaults like Cheap Sex’s “Raped by the FCC” or the catchy “Launch Off to War,” M. Virus seems to be flailing a bit, with songs like “Mankind’s Disease,” “Convenience Killed Mankind” and “Download Destruction.” Both of the latter are paranoid doomsday prophecies of a Computer Age on steroids, as “Convenience Killed Mankind” asserts, “Mankind reduced to ones and zeroes / We seek to become digital heroes / We download our lives / And upload our souls” and “Download Destruction” proclaims, “There’s a killing machine behind the screen / Uploading death -- downloading destruction.” It’s understandable that musicians like Virus are upset and worried about downloading affecting their livelihood, but writing songs about it borders on overkill. Then there’s the atrocious “Bulimia Girl.” While it’s hard to say the band’s collective heart wasn’t in the right place, making induced vomiting noises and lines like “Bulimia girl, what’s wrong with you / Making yourself puke because you ate some food” certainly don’t help anyone. First of all, who wants to sing along to a song like that? Secondly, no one has ever been shamed out of a compulsive disorder -- that’s just not the way it works, so humiliating people who struggle with their individual perceptions and self-destructive habits is not the answer. Thankfully, that’s where the bulk of the criticism ends, as songs like “This Night Is Ours” and “What Happened to Hardcore?” respectively bring forth a level of positivity and nostalgia, as the latter somewhat mirrors H2O’s recent “What Happened?” from their 2008 comeback Nothing to Prove.
The lingering question is what will come next for Evacuate. Cheap Sex was very much a Bush-era band, with an approach and imagery that aligned tightly with the leftist zeitgeist of the time, and Evacuate is no different. Squeezing in just before the transfer of power, one has to wonder whether this is the end of an epoch for political hardcore street punk. Though the challenges and problems of the past eight years will surely not disappear immediately, the political landscape and leadership will likely be much less enraging and thus less inspiring as fodder for punk rock dissent. But for the last few months of the Bush regime, Evacuate will do the trick.