There is at least one punk band that could care less about the radio. And at a time when punk has steered either into sugary pop or full on Nu metal territory, there is at least one band flying the flag for traditional street music.
That band is… The Casualties!
You’ve seen them on Warped Tour, you’ve seen their name emblazoned on patches and the backs of jackets everywhere. But what you need to HEAR is the urgency in their old-school revivalist sound and their earnest and forthright lyrics.
Their new album, Under Attack, produced by Bill Stevenson [former member of the seminal punk bands Black Flag, Descendents and All] is the latest salvo against the status quo and a slab of pure punk power that should make the group’s heroes in bands like Discharge proud to call them peers.
Nostalgic and yet forward thinking at the same time, this is the band’s hardest record in every sense of the word. “Everybody is making softballs to get on the radio, but what we’re doing right now is saying, ‘fuck that, radio is fucking dead,’” proclaims longtime guitarist Jake.
“We’re taking it to the next level. As musicians we’ve improved, but it’s not showing-off improved. It\'s still the same hardcore punk rock. There are still sing-a-longs. But it\'s just a much harder record.” “We would say it’s our usual hardcore punk but with a touch of thrash.”
And that devil-may-care attitude busted its way into the lyrics, too. While The Casualties are quick to point out they’re not a “political band” per se, they are outspoken true believers in right and wrong and saying what’s on their mind at all times. And right now, like most people, a lot of political issues are forthright in their thoughts without forgetting the working class.
“System Failed Us… Again” is an indirect commentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “We can’t take care of the poor in our own country but we’re fighting all these wars for money than anything else. It’s so obvious that it’s ridiculous,” fumes Jake. “I think even the people who don’t look too much into politics can see it.”
Ah yes, the war. “We feel the country is under attack, but from our own country’s power,” Jake says about the album’s title track. “The extreme terrorist are wrong, but we shouldn\'t be over there, because the whole thing fucking stinks.” And really, what’s to be done? From the band’s perspective, peaceful protests haven’t helped much at all. That’s the message behind “No Solution, No Control.”
“Without Warning” is another topical song, addressing the fear and apprehension about global warming. “There’s no second chance. We’ve got to make some changes. And we’re offering our opinion, whether those changes happen or not.”
And there’s more than just the worldwide landscape to contend with. There is also the elitist culture of celebrity that permeates much of rock music. “V.I.P.” is about overrated people in overrated back stages with elitist attitudes.
“We\'re not rock stars,” Jake promises. “We\'ve always been a band against that. People are talking about bands like us paying our bills, they think we\'re rich or something. There is no rich lifestyle going on here. We\'re just keeping our heads above the water, you know?”
And keeping with the music biz theme, “Fallen Heroes” is about bands that turn into parodies of themselves, endlessly reuniting and tarnishing their integrity in the process.
“When we’re out here touring, we’re really into it and doing it because we love it. Some bands are just shells of what they used to be.”
Under Attack also boasts songs that are sure to reinvigorate even the band’s longest-running fans. Songs like “On City Streets” are anthems for the people who have followed The Casualties since 1990, when Jorge and an entirely different lineup cranked out their first 7”.
Jake joined three years later before the second EP, and follow-up album, For The Punx, which marked Meggers debut with the band in 1997. Classic records like Underground Army, Who’s In Control (which was Rick’s debut), Stay Out Of Order, Die Hards and 2004’s On The Front Line came after, ensuring the band’s place in punk history.
And even with their newfound fire for social commentary, The Casualties mission remains the same: to be themselves and to play hardcore punk rock that is too often overlooked.