|The year was 1982. The place, New York City. Who'd guess that almost twenty years later a band first called Zoo Crew would emerge as the seldom contested, always respected Godfathers of Hardcore Ė AGNOSTIC FRONT? |
"Vinnie Stigma was the creator of the name," says Cuban-born vocalist, Roger Miret. "He just liked the name Agnostic so he thought of AGNOSTIC FRONT like a movement. That's what he tells everyone and that's basically it!" AGNOSTIC FRONT quickly etched their names in the concrete sidewalk in the history of hardcore with the unchained, unforgiving Victim in Pain LP, an 11-minute long musical fight. That album helped establish AGNOSTIC FRONT as one of the meanest-sounding bands in punk, helped create the term "hardcore," and placed all of New York hardcore on the map by association. "We had no idea that in the beginning that this would branch out as far as it did," admits Roger. "Back then we were lucky to get a van and drive down to Washington DC to play without the van breaking down along the way or something." Their strength through pain was an infection that still has no cure.
"I can't see much worse than this." -Roger Miret, from the first track, "I Wanna Know"
AGNOSTIC FRONT long outlived their now-legendary contemporaries like Minor Threat, SSDecontrol, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag - and could easily live on their laurels. But the fight's not over. Dead Yuppies is their 10th album (and third on Epitaph). "It's social politics," Roger says. "The day-to-day reality of waking up, reading the newspaper, and walking around the neighborhood." In fact, Dead Yuppies takes a long, hard stare on why the world is still one fucked-up place and the album tackles some very real shit thatís going down; gentrification's running rampant, working wages aren't, and backs are still being stabbed.
The years in-between the formation of AGNOSTIC FRONT have been anything but hopping and skipping through Candyland, but more akin growing up on streets, watching the lights shot out one by one. Jail terms have been served. Divorces have been filed. Close friends have died of natural causes. Some have been murdered. Even Roger's back was broken. All this said, don't expect Dead Yuppies to be a mellow, introspective album. There are no songs about puppies and flowers, unless you're thinking of guard dogs and wreaths on caskets. While there are definite vestiges of their past, this latest outing is true to AGNOSTIC FRONTíS world today and not by merely dusting off xeroxed memories of yesteryear. The rhythms of machine guns and garbage trucks that'll make your fists shake and to chant along to are still there. But the songs (more) are deeper. Inside is a newly found, darkened maturity - a distilled, finely tuned aggression that's spun on the long-running Stigma/ Miret axis. The result is an album of cautious optimism through rage. It still ain't pretty. It's still undeniably NYHC and sounds like a combination of Something's Gotta Give and Victim in Pain, with a touch of Riot, Riot Upstart, and it works for several reasons. Roger neither preaches or whines. He calls it how he sees it. "There is a message contained in this," Roger says. "Think before you strike." Secondly, Roger is grounded. There's no rock star hangups, no over-inflated head that prevents him from walking through door ways. (The last time I met Roger, he was handing out free sodas to the kids standing in line at the Unity Tour 3 show .) "We're the last stupid punk rock band alive," Roger self-effaces. "I guess it's in our hearts. We like to suffer and we like the abuse. It's like a bad drug addiction you can't shake off or like a bad marriage still only sticking around for the kids. Honestly, we live it. It is our lives and it is all we know."
Thirdly, Dead Yuppies reaffirms that AGNOSTIC FRONT as a band, still works like a musical razor blade. Regardless of their history, regardless that Vinny Stigma, a man of few words and no lack of a sense of humor claims, "Man, I've been in hardcore sooooo long that I used to have to find a place to park my chariot," the proof is simple: AGNOSTIC FRONTís songs are still hard, cutting, strong musical hit and runs.
No one is born with tattoos. No one's born hardcore. But when the ink or the music sets in, you're changed. AGNOSTIC FRONT continues to be living embodiment that "hardcore for life" isn't an empty slogan or a musical dead end.