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Caustic Christ

Can't Relate
Havoc

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Youngsters who buy their subculture neatly packaged at the mall and smartly dressed at the Warped Tour will claim they know what punk is. Caustic Christ would say that these kids have no idea. Modern chart-punk uses the Pistols' and Ramones' failed commercial bids as a springboard for its bubblegum catchiness, tossing aside everything that came later -- including the years of urban struggle in the '80s, when punk wasn't quite so fashionable.

The members of Caustic Christ haven't forgotten those seminal '80s hardcore punk bands -- not the ones in D.C., but Brits like G.B.H., Discharge and the Exploited, as well as the anarchist stance of Crass. They also haven't forsaken the Pittsburgh lineage, forged on a cobblestone street called Chesterfield: that of Real Enemy and Half Life, which begat Submachine and Aus Rotten, which spawned Caustic Christ and Behind Enemy Lines. All the classic aspects of '80s hardcore are still firmly in place -- the band might adopt sludgy Flipper's "Ha Ha Ha" as their signature ("We go downtown to do our shopping / And we work in suburbia"), but their overall sound is about swift, minor-key mosh riffs and angrily yet intelligibly barked lyrics. And it has a lot to do with metal -- doubters might claim punks can't play, but one listen to the blistering solo on "I Infect" will prove them wrong. It's as if Motorhead and Judas Priest were sped up a bit and given an anti-establishment bent.

Lyrical content is voluminous -- perhaps not polysyllabic, but terse and to the point. With nihilistic fervor, vocalist Eric "Generic" castigates capitalism, religion, government and consumer-driven society. Sometimes his words get personal, exposing the ugly, self-destructive violence lurking just beneath the veneer of the civilized. In other instances, the target is more specific: "Frat Boy" ensures they won't be playing too many campus parties ("Baseball caps with matching jerseys / Rage Against the Machine and Dropkick Murphys ... I've got a position in a corporation / Until then partying is my only occupation"). "Strangled By Progress" diagnoses the disease of overpopulated suburban sprawl, and "Bloodsucking Fiends" excoriates mindless nine-to-fivers.

It might be ironic that with this CD, Caustic Christ has packaged the new vinyl LP with their previous 7-inches, making the results that much easier for suburban youth to swallow (if they can get Mom to drive them to Oakland and Brave New World). Or that, although the band staunchly supports DIY venues with smaller dedicated crowds, they can also pack Club Laga opening for re-formed careerists such as The Subhumans. For those cynics among us, punk is a business, but for the true believers, punk is more like a religion, and Caustic Christ are its prophets, leading the faithful down a righteously pissed path.

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