Bullet Treatment - Designated Vol. 1 [7 inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Bullet Treatment

Designated Vol. 1 [7 inch] (2009)

Fat Wreck

Bullet Treatment's Designated Vol. 1 7" is a neat little experiment that finds the L.A. trio providing the same sub-two-minute instrumental hardcore track to six notable punk rock frontmen, who write their own lyrics, track their own vocals and even name the song whatever they want. The song itself is a solid and pretty dynamic slab of pessimistic-sounding, `80s-inspired hardcore punk, so it's a good template for its vocalists.

Anti-Flag's Chris #2 opens Side A with "Cold War 3," which makes it sound like one of Anti-Flag's older, more hardcore-inspired songs, only way more proficient. Johnny from Swingin' Utters sounds a bit silly with his "Have a seat / I don't want to sit down" refrain in "Riding Around on the Bus," but he sounds more confident and serious between those sections of repetition, even though the lyrics are sort of vague and confused ("Somebody knows this about me / Something sacred, something hackneyed / How much crime in my kin riding around on the bus / Too weird to know where I'm headed"). Only Crime's Russ Rankin closes it out with "Win the Day"; it's weird, as when he sings his very first line he actually sounds more like Strung Out's Jason Cruz, but the Rankin-esque raspiness does become a bit clearer later on in the song.

"The Wreckage," which opens the flipside, is easily the "best song" here. Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) barks his vocals with a serious fervor and squeezes as many syllables in there as he can without it sounding awkward at all, while switching flawlessly to a more melodic, darkly sung "chorus" of sorts ("In excess we surround ourselves and oh-so willingly / In decadence we drown ourselves to make our lives complete"). It's awesome, and yes, it does sound a bit Unraveling-esque, or maybe if the Killing Tree had played way faster. Strike Anywhere's Thomas Barnett is also trying to fit as many words in that given time as he can with "Forgotten Ordinance," but he's not quite as successful; the catchy shouts of "Dissent!" are unfortunately followed by Barnett shoehorning it a bit, layering one word over another to get the full phrase in. He is, however, a little more ambitious with the layered vocals, and singing along in time with the 'ba-da-dum' guitar chords that transition early on. Star Fucking Hipsters' Sturg gives the song the worst treatment here, though, as he sounds like he's singing through his teeth with "In Box We Trust"; I'm not really into SFH's original material, but at least he doesn't sound straight constipated on that album. Lyrically, his box metaphor seems silly on the surface but makes sense when dug into a little deeper.

Having the same music for six songs straight -- minding a flip of the record -- would seem to be a bit grating, but with six fairly unique takes, Designated Vol. 1 is a cool and fresh listen, if not blessed with its own vocalists' varied imperfections.

The Wreckage [Tim McIlrath]