The Pist - Ideas Are Bulletproof (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Pist

Ideas Are Bulletproof (1995)

Elevator Music

The Pist were a band from Connecticut that existed from 1992-1996 (with occasional reunion shows since). Their music was political hardcore in the anarcho- punk tradition. In an era before the internet, they spread their message the old fashioned way, by touring the country four times. This is how I came to know the band. The Pist played in Grand Rapids, MI in '95 (or so) in the back of an art gallery. The stage was up on carpeted risers, the room was way too nice, and there was zero security. The "promoter" had no idea what he was doing. It was barely organized chaos. The local openers went off without a hitch. Two songs into The Pist's set, GRPD's finest came in and shut down the show. Unfortunately, this was a common occurrence in the mid-'90s. Fortunately, I was able to grab a copy of the band's lone long player, 1995's Ideas Are Bulletproof, before they rolled on down the road.

The Pist were not completely obscure. They had gotten rave reviews from MMR and other underground punk tastemakers. They had released an excellent EP, Destroy Society, and a couple of splits. The problem was that they were completely out of step with the popular punk sound of the time, which was essentially the stuff on Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords. The Pist were serious. The Pist were angry. The Pist had choruses you could shout along with, but nothing approaching harmonies. Almost every one of their songs was railing against something. There were no songs about love or teen angst. It was political without being pretentious. It was pure righteous rage in musical form.

"Still Pist" picked up right where "We're The Pist" left off from their first EP. "Never Question" was about trusting authority. "Dead In Its Tracks" was an anti-racism rant and had some of my favorite Pist lyrics. "We'll fight them in the streets and we'll fight them in the courts/We'll fight them with our fists but only as a last resort". "Alternative?" mocked the popular music of the day. "The Customer (is always right)" chronicled the struggles of the low-wage worker. "Slogans" was a laundry list of the band's causes including animal rights, abortion rights, racial equality and freedom from religion. It also challenged the listener's commitment to social justice. The title track spoke of how violence could never silence people devoted to change. "Small Town" was really more critical of small minds.

On side two, "Textbook Salvation" questioned the educational methods of the time. "You are the system the red, white and blue/The lies you are telling now start to show through". "Do What You're Told" was a diatribe against conformity. "New School" spoke out about violence in the scene. "We're sick of you tough guy stance/We're sick of the way you dance/We're sick of your baggy pants". If you were there, you would have understood. "Great American Sportsman" mocked hunters as cowards. "Song For You" clocked in at a whopping ten seconds. Closing track "Deal With It" was a song of empowerment and encouraged the listener to take control of their life. The album raced through 19 songs in 33 minutes, and everyone of them was worthwhile.

Ideas Are Bulletproof was recorded with minimal production. It sounded good, and you could hear everything well, but there was almost no polish. It may sound crude to modern ears, but I would argue that it only adds to it's enduring charm. Many modern political punk bands sound whiny to me, or worse yet, preachy. They give lip service to social issues while drawing fat paychecks from the corporations they sing against. I won't name names, but you know who I'm talking about. The Pist were genuinely committed to their causes at a personal level. They seemed to live the credo espoused by D.O.A. many years earlier, "Talk minus action equals zero." This was real punk -- loud protest music for the masses. Ideas Are Bulletproof is still available through Havoc Records. If you pair it with Input Equals Output (CD or 2xLP, also on Havoc), you'll have The Pist's complete discography. Highly recommended.