Agnostic Front - Something’s Gotta Give (Cover Artwork)

Agnostic Front

Something’s Gotta Give (1998)


What NYHC brought to the table in the mid and late 1980s was (among many things) lots of urban grit. Earlier bands had stronger punk roots, but the following generation adopted a more simplistic and brutal approach, drawing inspiration from the era’s more extreme and experimental metal bands. Agnostic Front is one of the most important bands from that scene that was quick to expand and develop its sound, albeit with questionable results at times.

After a fair few line-up changes, Agnostic Front broke up in the mid 1990s with frontman Roger Miret doing a stint in prison. After his release he reunited with NYHC’s unsung guitar hero and all-around funny man Vinnie Stigma and Agnostic Front returned with their 1998 comeback “Something’s Gotta Give”. The album surprisingly came out on Epitaph Records, which no doubt confused many a skate punker who dared go beyond the beaten path on Punk-O-Rama III.

Make no mistake though, this album is not a nostalgia-driven cash in or rehash of former glories, it is a fully-realized record with some of Agnostic Front’s strongest and most memorable material. Compared to where they left off with 1992’s “One Voice”, here they have adopted an unambiguous skinhead and punk sound, largely setting aside the thrash and crossover influences that both catapulted them and divided their crowds over the years.

What stands out and largely informs the album’s overall feel is the spirit of Raybeez, Agnostic Front’s original drummer and NYHC legend proper who passed away in 1997 and is the thread that keeps everything together. This is achieved both sonically – with Agnostic Front proudly and liberally paying tribute to WarZone throughout the album – as well and lyrically with the idea of celebrating and struggling for unity taking center stage.

Look no further than the album’s undeniable highlight and set-staple “Gotta Go” – a call for unity “from the east coast to the west coast” that directly quotes Raybeez, set to the tune of an infectious, circle-pit inducing beat and highly-danceable skinhead riff. This communal and family vibe is also reflected in the album’s guest appearances by notable NYHC figures Jimmy Gestapo from Murphy’s Law and Miret’s younger brother Freddy Cricien, along with newer friends, like Lars and Tim from Rancid.

While the album has an overall straight forward punk rock approach, things do regularly get a bit more mosh heavy. Songs like “Before My Eyes”, “Blinded”, “Today, Tomorrow, Forever” (which was also the album’s original title) and “Rage” all harken back to their original, stripped down pure hardcore sound and easily sit side-by-side with anything off “Victim In Pain” and “United Blood”. Their metal fans, however, were probably a bit disappointed at the lack of dive bombs and double bass drums.

Near the album’s end, the mood unexpectedly lightens up as Stigma takes the mic for an ode to his beer drinking dog Pauly. As the pub atmosphere fades out, Agnostic Front follows up with a blistering rendition of Iron Cross’s skinhead classic “Crucified”. This cover, which could arguably be considered the definitive version and is occasionally mistaken for an Agnostic Front original, is the perfect closer for such a mighty and convincing comeback.

Although Agnostic Front’s sound has shifted throughout the years – and not always to great effect – “Something’s Gotta Give” distinguishes itself in its consistency, perhaps for the first time in the band’s career, as far full-lengths go. Their sound continued to develop on their following records, but while enjoyable and containing many highlights, they do not quite match their comeback album’s overall quality and for lack of a better word, realness.