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September 1, 2001

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I'm still plagued by two horrible habits when it comes to untested artists: I tend to judge bands after a few short listens, and I'm easily (and grossly) swayed by album artwork. So when Strike Anywhere's latest Jade Tree release hit my CD player, it almost immediately fell victim to my impractical judgmental system. With no artwork (I received an advance copy) and an unusually angular hardcore sound, Change is a Sound was headed straight for the has-been hardcore bin.

And then, like some wild premonition, the album suddenly became the number one resident of my CD player. It's still cloudy as to what caused this radical reversal and changed my take on Strike Anywhere from "washed out" to "ground-shaking". Perhaps it was an uncommonly bad day or a heated conversation with a tepid friend that triggered my need for rabid replaying of Change is a Sound. As if they were detonating a downtown office block, Strike Anywhere attacked my weaknesses and caused my self-critical walls to cave in to the band's hardcore sound. Hundreds of plays later, Strike Anywhere has gone from its misconceived has-been state to the harbingers of new school hardcore.

Describing the opening track, "You're Fired", is a delicate matter. Ears unfamiliar to hardcore may shrug this tune off as a noisy bit of spastic guitar work. Jumpy rhythms and galloping tempo changes don't make this an easy 4/4 beat affair. However, a more alert listening will knock you off your feet, as this anti-workplace anthem is guaranteed to shake up your definition of thrilling music. Short, sweet and to the point, "You're Fired" has just the right amount of melody to leave you raising your fist in anti-job sentiment.

Strike Anywhere equips itself with the speediness of Good Riddance and the political turmoil of early Avail, without sounding like the nauseating little brother of either band. "Riot of Words" scales through social grievances while refusing to become a hardcore blur of overly zealous instruments and indecipherable screams. "Laughter in a Police State" stings you with a punk soul and a dedicated passion, warming your auditory senses with melodic brilliance. Vocal hysterics rage on "My Design", encapsulating the band's message of rebellion and personal humility in an explosive detonator, precariously balanced on the edge of old and new school hardcore. Few bands can rival this pointed marriage of politically charged fervor and vocal shellacking.

Change is a Sound triggers your taste for distorted mayhem, while playing favorites to the underdog of melodic magnificence. It's a twofold punch of modern day musical understanding, applying the time-tested formulas of hardcore's masters with brutal reverence.

Splendid e-zine

Andrew Magilow