Carry On - A Life Less Plagued (Cover Artwork)

Carry On

A Life Less Plagued (2001)

Bridge 9

Just about every time I think that hardcore is dead and buried, something comes out of left field and yanks my attention back toward the most mediocrity-plagued subgenre since ska-punk. This time, the interval between these regular hardcore renaissances was pretty short. After being wowed by Striking Distance's new LP a few weeks ago, I slipped back into my habit of simply listening to Poison Idea and Negative Approach, the newer generation of hardcore bands barely interesting me at all.

However, after listening to the Fighting Music sampler (and a whole lot of hype on the Revelation Records Message Board) I was intrigued enough by a California straight edge band called Carry On to actually mail order their debut full-length, something I virtually never do. Something about that song and the feeling in my gut just made me forget the other EP I own from the band, which was fairly lackluster.

I'm thankful that I took the time, energy, and cash to acquire this release, though, because it's one of the best hardcore records I've heard in ages. While the "thrash" (in quotes because I have virtually no idea what it means anymore) sound has been so popular for a relatively long period of time now, that style is becoming as mannered and watered-down as the youth crew style that preceded it. However, the hardcore scene is never one to recognize when something has been beaten to death, and they need a giant shining beacon pointing them back toward the scene's vitality, and I think the latest beacon may be Carry On.

As "The View" begins A Life Less Plagued, Carry On illustrate that there is still power left in both the thrash and youth crew genres, they only needed a fresh approach to make it evident again. The opening track is a 20-second channeling of the spirit of frustration, and despite a pace that could only be described as breakneck, I wouldn't think of calling this thrash. This is pure hardcore, and it's obvious that Carry On are playing it strictly from the gut, not attempting to meld their style to the currently most popular sub-genre.

While the cathartic energy of the first track is never replicated, the album is still full to bursting with high points. The lead guitar on "Killing a Sound," the mammoth breakdown at the end of "Off My Chest" (easily the best one I've heard since Hatebreed's all-time classic "Filth"), and the stop/start rhythms of "Broken Strings" are all part of a sound that thousands of bands try to replicate, but only a tiny fraction actually achieve.

In regards to the lyrics, there's been a lot of controversy over the fact that Carry On no longer has such explicitly straight edge lyrics. Some fans feel that the new subject matters are a progression, while others are upset that a beloved old-style straight edge band has abandoned one of the main conventions of their style. While these guys aren't going to be rivaling Elvis Costello anytime soon, at least the subject matter of A Life Less Plagued is marginally more diverse. While it's great to see the band break out of the stifling straight edge vocal style, the ultra-personal-splenetic-rant style's main problem is that the thrust of the song is only really understandable by the writer. However, I didn't expect Carry On to break out with any third-person straight edge narratives, so bravo to them for at least trying something new.

I'm not one to be ungrateful for an incredible new record to add to my collection, though, and A Life Less Plagued will certainly go on the rack with all of my favourite hardcore albums. Despite the nearly suffocating amount of hype that has surrounded this record, it will certainly be remembered as one of the best hardcore releases of the year, and one of the only ones that I'll likely listen to again.

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