Report Suspicious Activity - Report Suspicious Activity (Cover Artwork)

Report Suspicious Activity

Report Suspicious Activity (2005)

Alternative Tentacles

I had been living in New York and using the subway system for less than a month when the events of September 11, 2001 took place. Still, even with such little exposure to the transit system, I quickly noticed the differences in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Each subway car was now adorned with an American flag sticker, police officers were present in many stations, and it was easy to spot a new sign that stated, "If you see something, say something." It was this sign that kept creeping into my consciousness while listening to Report Suspicious Activity's self-titled debut. Now, this was not simply because of the band's name, but because their entire aesthetic from lyrics to artwork will always date this album as a post-9/11 Bush-era release.

Report Suspicious Activity sound like the sum of their parts. Vic Bondi of Articles of Faith and J. Robbins, now famed producer, and former member of Jawbox and Burning Airlines, along with drummer D. Zentek, belt out some hard rocking songs that recall the rooted-in-hardcore post-punk of `90s Dischord bands. Bondi's voice is strong yet clear, matching passion with articulation, while the music shifts from subdued crunch to straight out driving hard rock

Opener "Hardball" charges in with distorted bass, pounding drums, and a shrieking lead before it flip-flops back and forth between Bondi's shouted verses and a very melodic and more contained chorus. "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S." is based around a wah riff and a bit of a funky drumbeat, while songs like "Guantanamo," "Under the Hill," and "Subtle" are much more straightforward punk songs, and songs like "The Night of 1000 Lies" and "Patriot Act" are simply balls out rock songs. The band does a good job of diversifying their sound -- even if it does come off strange at points -- like the way "The Evil That They Do" plays like a darker version of Hot Hot Heat's "Talk to Me, Dance With Me."

Much like a band such as Challenger, Report Suspicious Activity pay homage to the D.C. sound while also incorporating some new ideas and modern elements. The problem is that most of the new elements they assimilate into their tone are like the "If you see something, say something" sign that has been added to MTA stations after September 11. From song titles like "Hardball," "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." "Guantanamo," and "Patriot Act," to a sample of George W. Bush and myopic political lyrics, Report Suspicious Activity are limiting themselves to the current socio-political landscape. Lines like, "Think you've found some balls watching Rush," and "We're the weapons of mass destruction," don't seem like they will pack the same punch, nor hold the same relevance in just a few years time.

Luckily, Bondi and company do leave the Bush regime to cover issues that are a bit more universal like apathy towards creating political change and the false self-image that is created by television. Also, the music itself will probably not seem dated as it draws on many sources, new and old. Still, bands like Strike Anywhere or Propaghandi tackle contemporary issues in their lyrics, yet manage to tie those issues in with larger concerns. They do not seem to have limited themselves to a specific time and political culture, a fault that seems to restrict the future relevance of Report Suspicious Activity.