Million Dollar Marxists - Give It A Name (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Million Dollar Marxists

Give It A Name (2004)


If you propose the question of which is better in punk rock, boundless innovation or playing an established style extremely well, I'll choose the latter any day. So while Ottawa's Million Dollar Marxists haven't set out to blaze new musical trails, their commitment to writing high-impact, bullshit free rock'n'roll should be celebrated.

Give It A Name is indeed cause for celebration, and I toast the Marxists for picking up on the lineage of tight, soulful punk that traces back through the New Bomb Turks to the Devil Dogs to the Pagans. There's a definite raw garage quality here that would have fit right in with the early 90s Epitaph with bands like The Humpers, Gas Huffer and the aforementioned Turks. Vocalist Luke Nuclear ranges somewhere between Turobnegro's Hank Von Helvete and Matt Caughthran of The Bronx. There's a noticeable improvement in his delivery in some of the album's newer material and it's quite evident that his command as a frontman is growing ever tighter ("Every Action" is clear evidence of this, be on the lookout for the great Biafra-warble before the chorus).

It's abundantly clear in the first 30 seconds of "Do The Emotion" how tight this band is. Guitarists Steve Salmonella and U. Lee Mobile are closely locked together for much of the record, crafting a full and ever buzzing attack to accompany Nuclear's vocals. While there's the occasional break into some well placed soloing (as on "Try Begging") the emphasis is clearly on the propulsive interplay between the two. Johnny Genome's bass is prominent on the record, rounding out an extremely proficient rhythm section but coming to the forefront on tracks like "Bleed" and "Rolling Over." One of the record's highlights is "Bricklayer," a lyrically clever and surprisingly caustic anthem that showed up earlier on Gearhead's Thingmaker compilation. There's a sense of panicked urgency to the song, propelled along by a wall of sound that in any other case would be criticised as muddy; Here it's rather chaotic and compelling. The Marxists diverge from their influences with a dark streak that emerges near the end the record. Tracks like "Le Shake," a mid tempo rhythmically driven number, let Nuclear show a bit more range vocally, moving from restrained near-spoken verses to a frenzied yell. "Hold Me" continues the band's sinister streak and leaves the record with a menacing melodic conclusion.

There will be a bit of redundancy here for any of the (mostly) Ontario residents who may have the band's self-released EP, as all five of those tracks show up here. However considering the entirely local distribution of said record as well as the high quality of those tunes, it only makes sense they they're included here. The chronologically newer tracks also fit fairly seamlessly with the material recorded back in 2002, so to most the fact a few years of material are contained here won't be apparent.

I'll burn a hole straight through this disc by the year's end, as Give It A Name doesn't spend much time outside of my player these days. I'm astonished this is their only full length as the Million Dollar Marxists are remarkably tight and focused. This easily stands among the better punk records to come down the pipe this year.