Monday, January 9, 2012

Born Against: Nine Patriotic Hymns for Children

Review # 60
Artist: Born Against
Title: Nine Patriotic Hymns for Children
Format: LP
Label: Prank Records
Year: 1991
Songs: 9

Born Against's Nine Patriotic Hymns for Children is a classic of 1990s hardcore punk. Over two decades later, Born Against remains one of most influential and memorable hardcore bands ever, and for good reason. With inventive guitar work and thought-provoking and sometimes self- and/or scene- critical lyrics, Born Against is the thinking man's hardcore band. This record showcases the band in top form. Many of the songs feature numerous tempo changes and guitar leads that often venture into dissonant and angular territory, alongside crushingly heavy distorted bass lines, pounding drums, and the crazed screams of vocalist Sam McPheeters. McPheeters alternates between incisive critiques, incoherent, frenzied babble, and desperate screeching (the lyric sheet actually includes "fgggffgt blaggga bdhg" in the song "Orang of Hope"). Musically, you get the best that straight-up, impassioned hardcore has to offer, along with a healthy dose of creative musicianship.

Lyrically, these songs are intelligent and highly critical of both mainstream American culture and all it's trappings (television, religion, and the "Jock Gestapo" that made so many of our lives miserable in high school) but likewise do not spare the counterculture.  In "Mount the Pavement," for example, the band points out that, unlike so many other nations, we in America (mostly) don't have "the boot to our heads," yet we still (mostly) fail to stand up against authority when it commits acts of injustice, a common theme running through many of the band's songs. The band's (and especially McPheeters) willingness to criticize punk scene participants for what they viewed as hypocrisy and simplistic thinking made Born Against somewhat divisive in their time, from what I understand. Today, their inventive hardcore still stands out, but is less controversial, as most fans of crust and hardcore punk have embraced Born Against in the years following their breakup.

This record features my favorite Born Against Song, "Well Fed Fuck." It's lyrical simplicity and repetition are reminiscent of Discharge, but it's sarcastic tone makes it feel less cliched. The music is relentlessly crushing, and McPheeters sounds more maniacal than on nearly any other song I know by the band.

A feature of this record that is worth noting is that the back of the outer sleeve features the full text of Mark Twain's "War Prayer," a short story critiquing the patriotic fervor, religious dogma, and willful blindness to the consequences of violence that go hand in hand with war.

In short: this is a gem of the 1990s hardcore scene, recommended to anyone who likes this sort of music.

Total songs listened: 747

No comments: