The Degenerics - Generic Record Collection (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Degenerics

Generic Record Collection (2007)

Soul Rebel

The Degenerics were/are a New Jersey hardcore band that integrated its elder influences in such a way that they managed to create a scrappy, vicious and intelligible brand of it that sounds as undated as it probably did, well, whenever the given recording was released. Generic Record Collection collects the band's entire recorded output (at least, up to its release -- it seems the band laid down some new material in the last year or so).

Though the Degenerics somewhat varied from one EP to the other, their delivery generally consisted of Craig's scratchy yell, rigidly driving guitars and an energy with sort of a sarcastic flair to it despite the fair sharpness of statements like "Government lies and chemical dyes are all labeled and packaged as a nutritious disguise." And even without their ska/dub moments (the slow-cooked gleam of "Bastard Dub"; the manic upstrokes of super standout and fan favorite, "I Don't Wanna"), one would probably be motivated to draw comparisons to Bad Brains.

The 14-song Generica full-length from 2000 kicks off the compilation, and it's the band's best stuff. The recording balances cleanliness and cloudiness perfectly and, as further tracks will show, the band has refined their craft well. "Eye in the Sky"'s jagged guitars and a very cool, fleeting midsection shows off a talent to incorporate the occasional genius dynamic makes it a late standout, while the aforementioned "Bastard Dub" is an effective interlude.

We then jump back four years and start to crawl forward. 1996's self-titled 7" is an installment of the Degenerics with entirely raw and ragged chops, but with a sporadic moment of brilliance and catchiness ("I Don't Wanna"). Things begin to progress a little bit with the next section, 1997's No Comply 7"; the intro to "Human Race-ist" shows a careful if not sloppy restraint before it devolves into an ugly two minutes of inaffable punk rock.

We continue on to 1998 and 1999 with respective comp songs. "What'll You Do?" and "Boycott the Bastards" conveniently bear a similar production flair, but with the latter you can tell the band are on the brink of something much more comprehensible and cohesive than their past creations. Of course, a year later they'd produce Generica.

2005's The Final Chapter 7" features two demo songs late in the band's run. Craig's vocals are spit over the music as meticulously and sharply as they've ever been. "It Hits Closest to the Heart" is pretty standard uptempo stuff, but then "War Prayer" comes as a weird, unraveling mid-tempo number with big metal guitars on the bridge.

We then rewind again, this time to hear something off the band's first demo, High Rankin'. The demo's title track is a pretty ambitious, ska-infused instrumental for what had to be a pretty young band -- you know, considering. Some outtakes from the self-titled 7" sessions are next, offering us some alternate versions of "No Comply" and "Human Race-ist." Granted, the mix is pretty weird on these. The bass is overly jumpy and the guitars are a bit thin. The 'Technical Ecstasy' session of 1998 offers us another take on "I Don't Wanna," too; the urgency is serious and the execution sounds pretty good to me. If nothing else, Generic Record Collection is damn comprehensive.

Wrapping things up is a seven-song live set from Hamilton Street Cafe in March 2002 (sounds like a pretty good show -- Ensign, the Hope Conspiracy and Ex-Number Five were on the bill too), which seems to be cut short by cops attempting to shut down the show (or CD space); consequently, we hear the band make some disparaging comments. I guess even in their later years they had a certain youthful rebellion about themselves.

Even you can already grab a new song from the band off the recently issued Right to Assemble Volume Two compilation, Generic Record Collection still acts as quite a nice document on a Jersey hardcore band who didn't quite make a national splash like certain others from the area have.

Send in the Clones
Eye in the Sky
I Don't Wanna [S/T 7" version]
Burn My Heart (live)