Monday, January 30, 2012

Blast from the Past: To Sell the Truth

Title:  To Sell the Truth (Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Youth Brigade (Facebook, MySpace, Last.fm, BYO Records, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

There were two bands in the early 1980's punk scene that went by the moniker Youth Brigade.  One hailed from Washington, DC and was part of the same scene the birthed Minor Threat and Dischord Records.  The other hailed from Los Angeles, CA and started the label BYO Records which released classic records by the likes of 7 Seconds, SNFU, and The Bouncing Souls.  In the early '80s, the CA Youth Brigade released the classic album Sound and Fury (technically released twice, the original version is now available as the Out of Print CD and the version that most know is available as the Sink with Kalifornija CD) but after that their releases became sporadic.  The band (and label) was started by the Stern brothers Mark, Adam, and Shawn.  In 1984, Adam left the band for art school while Mark and Shawn continued as The Brigade, recording one record (which I’ve never heard sadly).  The band reformed as Youth Brigade in 1991, recorded the Come Again EP in 1992 and the Happy Hour album in 1994. 

In 1996 Youth Brigade released the brilliant To Sell the Truth.  The record was a perfect mix of pop punk hooks with hardcore energy and biting lyrics.  The record opens with “It’s Not My Fault,” an incredibly catchy rant on personal responsibility.  “It’s Not My Fault” perfectly sets the tone for the record with its biting and ironic lyrics.  Next up is “Spies for Life” which continues with the biting and ironic lyrics while “Sick” is nothing short of a brilliant rant.  “We’re In!” is a scathing rebuke of the punk scene of the mid-‘90s.  The rest of the record follows suit with songs that are as catchy as they are bitingly intelligent.  The record’s standout moment is the phenomenal “Believe in Something.”
Not only is this song filled with hooks galore, it also contains some of the most spot-on lyrics I’ve ever heard.   
I went out walking just had to think
all day spent talking really need a drink
we have the luxury of fighting in our seats
a price for any justice the whole notion stinks
What the hell are we doing with our lives
screaming for freedom
while fighting with all sides
Say there's a reason justify the lies
but I think we're empty inside
I know a girl a girl so smart
she can talk endlessly of why we're so apart
I know a boy a boy so tough
stand up to anything but he'll never say enough
What the hell are we doing with our lives
screaming for freedom
while fighting with all sides
say there's a reason justify the lies
but I think we're empty inside...
Should I believe in you, believe in me, believe in god, country and the family
believe in greed the corporate state
believe that power and money means strength
believe in love and the birds and the bees
believe in peace honour and harmony
believe that we should live and let live
it's up to you just believe in something.
I want to think you believe in you
I believe in me, will it set you free
someone's always telling you what to believe in
and I don't think you should have to fear, pay any money or sacrifice years
to find some peace of mind, to find a way to believe in something
The rant of “We’re In!” aside, the ‘90s was a great time for music and some stellar punk rock records were released in those years.  Sadly most have been lost or forgotten or just greatly under-appreciated.  In many ways that has been Youth Brigade’s fate.  Throughout their entire career they have been overshadowed by their contemporaries (Social Distortion, Minor Threat) or the bands on their label (7 Seconds, The Bouncing Souls) but thanks to many loyal fans (many of whom play in very popular bands), Youth Brigade has had the kind of long run that most bands would kill for. 

To Sell the Truth to-date has been the band’s last full-length release.  In 1999 they were part of the BYO Split Series, Vol. 2 release with Swingin’ Utters and there has been talk of a new full-length in the works.  While I eagerly await that new record, if it were never to come to pass, To Sell the Truth is one hell of a way for the band to go out.    

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