Dead Ending - Shoot the Messenger (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Dead Ending

Shoot the Messenger (2017)

alternative tentacles

I’ve been a fan of Chicago’s Articles of Faith for many years. Their Complete, Vol. 1 and Complete, Vol 2 compilations on Alternative Tentacles are essential listening for any serious punk fan. The band originally existed in the early to mid 80’s, so most of us never got a chance to see them play live. (There were only brief reunions in 1991 and 2010.) So why am I talking about Articles of Faith? Because Dead Ending might just be the next best thing. Former AoF singer Vic Bondi’s voice and lyrics are front and center in Dead Ending. It’s the same combination of radical politics and musical aggression that made Articles of Faith so compelling.

The irony is, at first, Bondi was probably the least well known member of this hardcore supergroup. Guitarist Jeff Dean is best known for his work with Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun fame in The Bomb. He also played in Noise By Numbers with Dan Vapid, who has played in a ton of bands including Screeching Weasel. Drummer Derek Grant is best known for playing with Alkaline Trio, but has also been a member of The Suicide Machines and a bunch of other bands. The original bassist was Joe Principe from 88 Fingers Louie and Rise Against. He left the band last year and was replaced by Nate Gluck from Ensign.

Dead Ending actually makes a lot of sense in 2017, which has already been an extremely good year for old man hardcore. (See also Bloodclot, Dead Cross and FYPM.) They certainly sound more like AoF than A3 or 88FL. Bondi and Articles of Faith were railing against Reagan more than 30 years ago, it naturally follows that Dead Ending would do the same against the disaster that is Trump. What’s even more impressive is that the band actually formed in 2012. Most people on the left seemed quick to give Obama a free pass for the horrible things he did, but not Dead Ending (or AT label head Jello Biafra for that matter).

Album opener “The Long Decline” seems to acknowledge that our problems didn’t instantly appear a year or so ago. The rapid fire song would seem to apply to us as a country as well as individually. “Bring On The Mob” continues the intensity and insinuates that the public must do what the proper authorities will not. The songs are mostly traditional fast punk and hardcore with shouted vocals and memorable choruses. “Class War” continues with this formula, but “Manic In Detroit” is basically a 44 second freak out. A second, more melodic voice is introduced on “Make My Own Way”, and it’s a nice contrast to Bondi’s raspy howl.

That secondary voice sticks around for “Subtle”, which may be my favorite song on the LP. I really have to fight the urge to yell along with the chorus “Red, white, red ,white and bullshit, red, white and bullshit!”. The title track adds some weird, jazzy chords. “Fate” might sound the most like a true Articles of Faith song. “The Boss Wants My Vote” borrows ideologically and lyrically from the Dead Kennedys version of the David Allan Coe/Johnny Paycheck country classic “Take This Job and Shove It”. Closer “Better Day” might best sum up the Bondi and the band’s purpose with “All we’re looking for is a better day”.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Bondi and AoF. That is my reference point, but it is not my intention to slight the other three guys . Dead Ending is truly a band effort and probably wouldn’t work nearly as well with different pieces. The guitar, bass and drums are all as on point as the message. The message that addresses problems that really haven’t improved in the last 35 years. It can be very discouraging, but we can take some comfort in the the fact that there are guys as smart as Vic Bondi and Dead Ending articulating these problems for us. Shoot the Messenger is essential hardcore for 1982 or 2017.