Judge - What It Meant: The Complete Discography (Cover Artwork)


What It Meant: The Complete Discography (2005)


A release like What It Meant is worth every penny for a true fan of hardcore. I place that emphasis on the word "true" because JUDGE (along with the other classic Revelation hardcore bands of the late 80's) are a band that have a litmus test thing about them. If you are old enough to have been around hardcore when JUDGE existed, the thoroughness of this discography should be enough alone to warrant a purchase. But for those like myself who found their way into this music a handful of years later, What It Meant is not only a treasure trove of great tunes, but a lasting documentary concerning hardcore before it was a commercially accepted form of music.

Right after MINOR THREAT, JUDGE is probably the second band I associate with straight-edge. Known perhaps as the original "hardline" band (and what started out as a side project to YOUTH OF TODAY), the group's efforts could be easily summarized in their most famous song and album title, "Bringin' It Down." Recorded in 1989, this is the song that drilled home the line "You drink it and you smoke it and you feel fine / And you snort it and you shoot it and now it's melted your mind." Without Mike Judge's vocal accent, the words don't leave the same impression on print, but this is just one of the nuggets of angst the band left behind. "Hear Me" is another song from the Bringin' It Down album that sounds as fresh today as it likely did 16 years ago; "Can you hear me, hear me when I scream? You hear my words, but do you know what I mean? I'm tired, tired of games we play. I'm through fighting, man. You'll never know what I want to say." Throughout this discography, JUDGE's influence on current hardcore bands becomes wildly evident. While the song-structures have been handed down, and passed through over and over again, a common thread remains.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of What It Meant is the inclusion of the Chung King Can Suck It LP, an extremely limited album that eventually (mostly) became the Bringin' It Down album. Not happy with the recording quality of the Chung King release, the whole thing was scrapped. This is the first time these songs have been put to CD, and there's two tracks, "Holding On," and "No Apologies," that were not re-recorded on Bringin' It Down. While the recording quality is indeed less than wonderful (or as the band put in the insert booklet, "Engineered by some cokehead loser, not produced"), the songs are played with a furious spark that doesn't exactly come across in the same way in their later versions. Another previously unreleased gem comes from a 1988 demo titled "Just Like You," recorded by Don Fury. GORILLA BISCUITS' Lukey Luke plays drums on the track, and is the only JUDGE recording that doesn't feature Sammy Siegler on the skins.

As if the 28 tracks and over 70 minutes of music is not compelling enough, the 20-something page booklet is the clincher. Stocked with lyrics, tons of photos, and a four-page "band recap" by guitarist Porcell, JUDGE's story is told with considerable detail and a frank humbleness. Porcell writes towards the end of his piece, "As Mike (Judge) once told me, 'if it wasn't for this band, I'd be at the bottom of a bottle or a grave.' For him, it was a matter of life or death. It was alll he had. And it was that sense of urgency, that sheer desperation, that made Judge the band it was." Truth.