Friday, November 26, 2010
Review: Various Artists - "Past Present: Breaking Out the Classics"
In hip-hop and hardcore alike, it’s often perceived as easier to conveniently categorize acts in mutually exclusive opposition according to an implied time frame. Old school versus new school. Then and now. Past Present. But despite the title, Revelation’s 150th release is actually a lesson in the contrary, effectively displaying the constant evolution that no arbitrary dichotomy could explain.
Take the first track, for example, a cover of Warzone’s “As One” by Sick of It All. Is it a current band covering a defunct act? Well, yes, but the original was released in 1988, after Sick of it All had already been a band for two years. Not to mention that Warzone continued on well past any potential old-school milemarker until frontman Ray "Raybeez" Barbieri’s death in 1997. Next, Bold covers Supertouch. And at the end of the comp, Walter Schreifels (Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Quicksand, CIV, Rival Schools) covers Sick of It All. So in a way it kind of comes full circle, but to leave it at that would be to oversimplify things.
In the 23 tracks that make up the compilation, there are bands from every era of Revelation’s reign as one of hardcore’s premiere labels. From tough-guy stalwarts like Terror to melodic off-and-on'ers Ambitions and popcore hoodlums Set Your Goals, the disc offers a broad snapshot of hardcore throughout the years and across the board. Whether it’s This Is Hell covering CIV, Down to Nothing covering Judge, or Triple Threat covering No for an Answer, there’s plenty to like on Past Present.
That’s not to say there aren't some headscratchers, though. Bands like Iowa City metalcore act Ignite the Will and their cover of Shai Halud’s “For the World” probably won’t do much for the average Revelation rube. Also odd is This Is Hell’s cover of the Movielife’s “I Hope You Die Soon,” not just because This Is Hell already has another track on the comp, but because the Movielife was essentially a pop-punk band on Drive-Thru Records when they broke up less than seven years ago.
There’s also quite a bit of redundancy when it comes to bands covered. Not that it’s necessarily against the rules, but there are three Youth of Today covers, two Gorilla Biscuits covers and two CIV covers. Along with covers of Quicksand (the Twilight Transmission) and an acoustic track by Schreifels himself, that means nearly a third of the compilation relied on the musicianship of one Walter Schreifels.
At face value considering only the music and messages therein, Past Present is as solid as what one would expect from Revelation Records. In the bigger picture, with 50 percent of the profits from the record going to Human Rights Watch, it makes supporting hardcore all the more satisfying.