Sunday, September 7, 2008

Beerzone / Suburban Lockdown - 'Kingdom of the Dead'

Pay a visit to your local mallrats, and you’ll probably end up hearing some half-thought-out discourse about how punk is A) dead, B) compromised by the big corporations, C) bullshit, or D) all of the above. I’ve never understood these viewpoints, in that I don’t understand how an idea like punk can ever die. Nor do I think it’s ever really been compromised, other than a few bands finally figured out how to make money off of it. So it goes. As for the C) option, well, sure, you can find a few assholes here or there, but isn’t that true for any group? Getting back to “punk as a concept,” though, it’s impossible for it to ever die. It’s been introduced to the atmosphere, and it’s always going to reside there. And I think retro-punk acts like Scotland’s Beerzone and Florida’s Suburban Lockdown would agree with that.

Beerzone and Suburban Lockdown have joined forces to release Kingdom of the Dead, a 10 song split CD/LP on Durty Mick Records. Regardless of which side of the pond you side with, what you get here are 10 tracks that hearken back to punk’s ’77 genesis. Beerzone opens the disc with five tunes about fighting, drinking, cursing off critics. To a certain extent, a lot of these songs feel like substitutes for other, better punk songs. “Go to Hell” dismisses people who constantly criticize everything, yet offer no solutions. But The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” offers even better condemnations and vitriol. Same goes for album opener “Stand Up and Fight.” The chorus is just the title repeated over and over, but if I’m going to end up in a scrap, I’d rather end up siding with Dropkick Murphys. As per “The Gauntlet,” those boys promised me that if I “stand up and fight … I’ll stand up with you.”

Still, though, Beerzone’s brand of Sex Pistols-tinged ’77 punk is hard to deny. The music is raggedy and raw, the lyrics get right to the heart of the matter, and the passion is there. And hey, British accents are cool.

Same goes for the Americans in Suburban Lockdown. Some of these guys have been playing music since 1982, and it shows. Suburban Lockdown’s music blends in a little more of punk’s early shift into hardcore during the ’80s, lending it a more abrasive heft. Where Beerzone goes for clear vox, Suburban Lockdown favors a lil more grit. So while I can’t always tell what lead vocalist Kevan Watkins is saying, I do know he usually sounds cool saying it.

Both bands, though, deliver fine pub/punk ditties. They’re not exactly breaking barriers and blowing minds, but sometimes it’s OK to just have a good time. Think of these guys as the Pete Roses of punk rock. They’re not going to hit it out of the park, but they’ll load the bases.

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