Album Review
Label: Nitro Records
  • 4/5
Reviewed by Janelle
Well, grand statements about TSOL's new record have been circulating around the punk scene, namely that it is the band's best effort since their seminal 1981 debut full-length "Dance With Me", the grand opus that in this reviewer's opinion is THE greatest American punk album of all time, a record that divinely fused great hardcore punk with the macabre so seamlessly. Now, lofty statements like this are often hard to live up to, and truth be told, for as great as "Divided We Stand", the legendary CA punks' second LP since reforming in 1999 (the first was 2001's "Disappear") is, it is still not on a par with "Dance With Me" (but come on now, not much is...).

No, we don't hear any material as gloriously ghoulish as the illustrious "Code Blue" or the frightening "Silent Scream", and there aren't any riffs as eerie as those found on the cryptic "The Triangle", but still, what we do get is undeniably catchy hardcore punk with plenty of biting, angry socio-political commentary, which played a major role in the band's music on their earliest release, the eponymous debut EP, with songs like the anarchic tour de force "Abolish Government/Silent Majority" and the leftist "Property Is Theft". There are too many examples to cite, but some great lyrics can be found on "See You Tomorrow", as Jack Grisham, during that visceral breakdown, sarcastically/menacingly spews out, "The government of man and the politics of evil/Destruction and world evolution/Total corruption and world revolution", and later, after Ron Emory's guitar flourishes comes back with "You say vicious I say charming/What the fuck let's have a party/War machine and CIA your eyes are dim more everyday." And the following track, "American", is no less harsh or unfortunately true, featuring a chorus of "You take what you feel, while you lie and you steal/You're American, oh so American," while on the speedy and impressive "Serious", the frontman acerbically expounds, "Let's make a bomb before feeding the children/Let's have a war now come on old man!" and later vehemently shouts, "Love your country ヨ hate your government!"

However, not all the lyrics deal with these issues; there are some that are reminiscent of the old favorite "Love Story", like the true masterpiece of the album "Again", an extremely powerful (and sort of dark) song on which Grisham passionately croons, "I will never be in love again" and you can't help but believe the poor man. Another song like this is "Being in Love", whereas "Sex Not Violence", the most upbeat and energetic romp featured on the record, brings to mind that old theme of sex and violence seen so often (think The Exploited and Mad Parade), except here I suppose, they're taking a different stand.

Original members Grisham (vocals/CA's next governor??... See for details), Emory (guitars), and Mike Roche (bass) along with Billy Blaze (drums) ヨ original drummer Todd Barnes died in 1999 ヨ crank it out like it was the late '70s/early '80s again. There's just so much energy and vigor evident on "Divided", beginning with the opener, the quick-paced ironically titled "Sedatives" throughout the next twelve tracks, save the more sedate "Loaded", which appears midway through the record. Another great thing about this LP are the piano embellishments care of Greg Kuehn (who also contributed to 1982's "Beneath The Shadows") that are apparent all over the record that just add an extra dimension to the already superb compositions, as on "American" and the melancholy coda found on "See You Tomorrow". Similarly, the piano parts within this last song give it a bit of a rock 'n' roll feel, and the organs on "Electric" add significantly to its gloriously dark ambiance. And as in the past, the rhythm section is a force to be reckoned with. The stomping drums just drive songs like the wonderful "Undressed", "Being in Love", and the aforementioned "See You Tomorrow", while Roche's bass is simply pummeling (see "Undressed", the intro to "Fuck You Tough Guy" and "American"). The only real departure is the mellow, brooding "Loaded". The record ends with "Shine", a song that was actually first composed in 1983.

So, "Divided We Stand" may not be 2003's version of "Dance With Me", but it will certainly be vying for Top Album of the Year honors along with F-Minus' excellent "Wake Up Screaming".

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