Though 2001's well-executed 'Win the Battle' hinted at greatness, harking back to those unbeatable first two full-lengths 'Something Better Change' and 'Hardcore '81', 'Live Free or Die' even trumps that last endeavor. Yeah, it's true. One can always count on D.O.A. singer/guitarist/songwriter/founder Joey Shithead Keithley to come up with the goods in times of political strife. Though the times and current events suck, it's perfect fodder for the frontman, and the material presented here oftentimes recalls the wonderful 'War on 45' record from '82. So, there is one thing good coming out of the current murky mess ﾖ genuine, politically-relevant music. And how much better when it comes from bands who pioneered and spearheaded the movement, like D.O.A. and MDC (who just so happen to likewise have a new record out on Joey's label Sudden Death).
Truly exceptional tracks on 'Live Free or Die' include the speedy, inspirational "Mountains Eventually Fall" with its don't-back-down, never-say-die lyrics; "Robin Hood", which musically sounds eerily like D.O.A.'s debut 7", 1978's "Disco Sucks" at times; the absolutely angry, ferocious, and urgent "We Don't need No God Damn War"; and the great bass-heavy diatribe/sermon from "The Reverend Joe Shithead" that is "Stand Up Now" ﾖ just a biting defiant tirade calling for us to make the political "pendulum...swing back our way, the way of the people," imploring us to "rise up and throw off this ball and chain," as he warns of what's going to happen if things remain the way they are. If this song doesn't get you riled up, you most likely haven't a pulse. Unfortunately, now with the election over, it seems the pendulum won't be swinging "our way" for at least another four years... And of course, resurrected is that classic "Fucked Up Ronnie", but now updated as "Fucked Up Bush" ﾖ if you've seen the band lately, you'll notice it's become a staple of their live set. Their spirited rendition of "Masters of War" ain't too shabby, either.
The signature hardcore punk for which D.O.A. is known and revered is found all over the record, but as they've done in the past, some ska/reggae tunes show up too, like the fun "Earache" and "You Won't Stand Alone" as well as the slower "I Make This World", and also some metal-tinged mania, such as that found on "Kill Ya Later". One song that's slightly suspect is the rollicking and weird "Drive My Car" with insane vocals and lots of piano, but I must admit, it has grown on me after repeated listens. In any case, it's truly great to see D.O.A. at the top of their game.