Anti You - Two-Bit Schemes and Cold War Dreams
Record Label: Six Weeks Records
Release Date: February 15, 2011
A working definition of a hardcore punk song, as represented by Anti You’s Two-Bit Schemes and Cold War Dreams: tatters of guitar phraseology repeated many times over (to ingrain them in one’s brain) coupled with a frantic rhythm section marching ceaselessly forward, flashy rolls every now and then, and catchy (or at least easy to mimic) vocals — all lasting approximately a minute.
Anti You, the four-man outfit hailing from Rome, Italy, has delivered a generous, 28-track helping of quality hardcore. It's a satisfying collection that feels unique without straying too far from the formula that has worked perfectly well for nearly thirty years. Anti You plays hard, fast, brutal and makes no apologies about it.
The rough, ragged feel of Two-Bit Schemes… intentionally lacks polish. With a certain level of distorted guitar, breakneck pace and sardonic lyrics exploring the various political and social ills of our age, it resembles hardcore in its earliest stages in the 80s.
There were multiple points during this album where I felt I could have been listening to Minor Threat. It's something in the unrelenting drumbeat, spiky guitars, nature of singer Andrea's voice and intelligent, somewhat didactic, lyrics.
Hypocrisy, war, unreliability, the dangers of conformity — all are themes explored in the course of Two-Bit Schemes... The lyrics are spit out in furious hyperbole as quickly as possible with more than enough clean vocal hooks mixed in. Gang vocals and shouting render many of the songs readily singalong-able after just a few listens.
The album artwork — splashes of red, black and white ink and paint depicting burning crosses, various skulls, missiles, etc. — is fairly representative of this brand of homemade hardcore; it's a portion of the “punkier-than-thou” attitude that occasionally reveals itself in the lyrics.
Highlight “Punks Quit” (which features one of the album’s several effective uses of “wa-ohh” backing vocals, a rousing boost to any song) uses an unsettling foundation of noise and distortion — an atmosphere created, incredibly, in about 10 seconds — to rail against the failures of the last generation of punks. “They turn away, go their way, don’t even say goodbye/Forget the scene and all the shit they talked about/Anarchy, insurrection, we won’t surrender at any cost…” Andrea sings.
“No One Like Me,” which closes the album properly after sixteen tracks in roughly as many minutes, actually has some dramatic build-up before it devolves into a typical hardcore pound. The breakdown at the end of the song carries a few strands of seemingly wayward melodies lacking in the rest of the album.
After this, we are swept into the two previously vinyl-only EPs that bulk up the disc: Johnny Baghdad (recorded in 2008) and Pig City Life (from ’07). They actually kick up the tempo even further and blend seamlessly with the remainder of the album. The disc ends with two covers — one of Discharge’s “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing” and the Descendents’ “I’m Not A Loser” — the latter of which is harshly interpreted and effective, although lyrically it brings the political and social bite of the preceding album down to a decidedly adolescent level.
Two-Bit Schemes… arrives at roughly the same time as First Four EPs by OFF!, the recently-formed group of veteran punk rockers. It's an album that also borrowed heavily from 80s hardcore, including in its personnel Keith Morris as the frontman (our pals over at dyingscene.com have courteously posted my breathlessly ecstatic review, written in a hardcore haze, here). While both albums exist in essentially the same spirit, the songs on Two-Bit Schemes… are not as immediately distinguishable from one another like on First Four EPs. They tend to bleed together a few at a time without unique dynamics to tell the songs apart.
With such a brief running time (about 27 minutes) the disc is gone before you know it. But that’s just the nature of the beast called hardcore punk. And so what if Two-Bit Schemes and Cold War Dreams doesn’t stray far from the righteous path of hardcore? This album, as confrontational and abrasive as they come, does more than its fair share to enthusiastically exemplify the genre.