Earth Crisis -- Breed The Killers Roadrunner
The destruction of the rainforest is a problem, but so is the burgeoning legion of rote metal/hardcore bands who waste untold hours trying to recruit fellow left-wing Hitler Youths who would be better off robbing gas stations and getting drunk. EC are relatively talented compared to fellow comrades Biohazard or Sick Of It All or Pro-Pain, but they're not even as good as the Helmet-ruined Snapcase, and in terms of explosive sonic violence they're not fit to tune VOD's guitars. As with the mechanical stylings of Albini and DJ Spooky, the other two Music Fuhrers of the moment, EC's music sags under the weight of the conceptual tyranny dropped on it like a ten-ton Lenin bomb. And as though lyrics like "ultramilitance/ultramilitants" don't quite make the point, EC include a fucking manifesto on the inside of the CD tray, where you're forced to look at it every time you remove the disc. Their manifesto is about, of all things, radical veganism. Five paragraphs dedicated not to the woebegone state of the corporate music industry, nor to the creepy surveillance laws that threaten to make us all into thought criminals, nor even to the falling-down public school system. An entire band dedicated only to...radical veganism. Perhaps one day I'll form a band dedicated only to the Second Amendment and every song will be about the joy of shooting and cleaning guns. I'm sure there's a cunning liberal-fascist band out there called Hatecrime, waiting in the wings to release wise paeans that lecture on the danger of thinking impure thoughts and offer helpful tips on how our unclean minds should be punished (perhaps with an Earth Crisis disc or two). If Earth Crisis were truly clever, they would've named their record Mechanical Animals, but that's probably more irony than their puny little wind-up minds could bear. To underscore their particular brand of myopia, they include an inlay card across from the manifesto that advertises a whole array of Earth Crisis clothing, presumably hand-woven out of hemp. If we're lucky, we might witness a Kathie Lee Gifford-type controversy, in which it's discovered that Earth Crisis' T-shirts are made by sweatshop laborers making ten cents an hour. Earth Crisis have shrewdly covered their asses, however, by earning the sponsorship of ESP, the revered vegan guitar company that also sponsors Slayer, another well-loved vegan ensemble known for their angry odes against meat.
The biggest critical stumbling block regarding bands like Earth Crisis and even lighter fare like Rage Against The Machine is that you know that these bands are only raging precisely because they embody the machine and its aesthetic. In the same way that Rage Against The Machine's ideological/abstract/theoretical framework allows them to subordinate the music to the gross demands of their egotistical power-martyr trip, this free-floating conceptual motivation also allows them to work with Puff Daddy and do a song for the Godzilla soundtrack without any seeming incongruity. Because they're detached from the actual business of making music, which for them is nothing more than an empty vehicle for their ideology, they feel they can degrade the music and its integrity at the drop of the contract as long as they mouth the right platitudes in interviews and complain just the right way on MTV. Likewise, Earth Crisis seem perfectly willing to make every single song a little manifesto against the meat-eaters and killers of this world, while at the same time churning out the most soul-deadening, generic, rigid, monotonous, methodical, technocratic, bureaucratic, Soviet Union-surplus hardcore. Earth Crisis are like angry DMV clerks with tiny, revenge-fixated minds who spend all day seething and dreaming of world conquest and domination, and every man, woman and child wearing an Earth Crisis T-shirt. I wouldn't trust these kids if my life depended on it (and it might), and I'm sure the band members will be the first ones to embezzle funds and set up a dictatorship once society collapses. People who are ideologues are inherently untrustworthy because while ideology is by definition fixed and rigid, most ideologies are also based upon airy conceptual abstractions that require just such formal rigidity and blank-eyed fervor to give them any weight and credibility at all. People who are simply into music, however, are more grounded and trustworthy because the only thing music demands is excellence in music. True musicianship requires an open mind and a sensitivity to paradox, subtlety and nuance, traits that are in opposition to the steamrolling tendencies of ideology. Today Earth Crisis have their own T-shirt empire and thank their pals from MTV in the liner notes, tomorrow they tour with Lilith Fair to provide pure, engorged PC-overload, and after that they fire their drummer, make a techno record and tour with Rob Zombie to "make a difference from within the system". People who can release forty guilt-free minutes of eighth-grade sermonizing over tired, lockstep sludge and present it as a calling card to the new millennium are clearly out of their fucking minds and capable of any atrocity in the name of whatever political fever they happen to be entertaining at that particular moment. Earth Crisis embody absolutely the worst aspects of liberalism, namely the futurist/fascist/social-programming-and-engineering/ mind-control/PC/corporate-government/propaganda aspects that concern themselves with, on the one hand, micromanaging your personal business and, on the other hand, finding new and better ways to promulgate the power and wealth of our Maximum Leaders. At its most vile, contemporary liberalism represents the seamless intersection between PC ideology and the relentless corporate abuse of the land, law and people. Corporations love the euphemistic aspect of PC rhetoric that allows them to gloss over any gross abuse of freedom or privacy, as well as the everyone-is-separate-and-in-their- special-little-place niche-ification (i.e.: the special victim status handed out like candy to every possible conceptual minority) that, instead of breeding harmony, only further intensifies the every-man-for-himself scramble for the financial carrot (often crassly disguised as the most-favored-victim status). Corporate policy and PC rhetoric go together wonderfully as methods for controlling the populous on the one hand, and creating enough fog to justify any abuse in the name of power and wealth on the other. PC is simply class warfare by another name, a systematic means of elevating a select number of already-indoctrinated minorities, declaring victory, and then dismissing all class analysis as subsequently irrelevant. Being eager-beaver white toads who'd rather die than miss this financial boat, EC have adopted radical veganism, the one topic that bleeding-heart-ladder-climber white males can take on without feeling too ridiculous. By demonstrating their radical commitment to their own simpering servitude, denigration of autonomy and ideological humiliation, EC have passed the White-Guy Sincerity Test, and are now ready to join the ranks of sensitive millionaires the world over who cry in public and laugh all the way to the bank. Earth Crisis have got the hook-up, yo, and their schtick is about as sincere as Marylin Manson's, only EC are strict about using the rubber tofu instead of the rubber chicken to throw into the audience.
Unlike the more bourgeois DJ Spooky, whose "revolution" is more utopian and dreamy (shaped, of course, by the expansive opportunities offered to a highly-educated black man in our culture), EC's revolution is both more quasi-survivalist and more nakedly capitalist in nature. Spooky tries to cover his corporate tracks under the pomo guise of cross-disciplinary exploration, but EC don't even bother covering up their takeover plans. Time-Warner also have extensive takeover plans, and I would suggest that the two battle it out to the death, only I'm afraid that the next EC disc is going to be released on Atlantic, so forget it. Back in the day, Ian Mackaye felt the need to write "I" on the lyric sheet in front of the words "Don't drin/Don't smoke/Don't fuck", but this was back when hardcore actually stood in opposition to both fascist, corporate America (represented by Uncle Ron Reagan) and muddled, hippie-turned-yuppie social excess/Big Mother tinkering. These two previously antagonistic social strains fused in the early eighties and haven't been separate since. Now hardcore seems to have embraced this current twisted aesthetic of feverish capitalist clawing and scraping combined with creepy liberal engineering. The result is some of the most crass and stagnant music ever made. Contemporary hardcore is the working-man's ladder-climbing way to the top in the same way that electronics is for middle-class culture. These two methods of social advancement share a number of similarities, the most odious being the relegation of music to that of a mere vehicle for endless, cheerleading, quasi-political platitudes that reflect the respective class aspirations of the people involved. While DJ Spooky's rulebreaking, cross-disciplinary stance is natural for a person of his social standing who has extensive social mobility and the license to actually break rules with impunity, EC's perspective is more typically prole-fascist in nature. EC's entrepreneurial stance combined with their social planning perfectly parallels the Madison Avenue approach to marketing to Middle America. More or less, EC's message is "work hard", "be yourself' and "obey the higher laws". Just in case you haven't turned on a TV in the past fifteen years, I'm hear to tell you that you can get essentially the same message from any beer, truck or fast-food commercial currently on the air. Madison Avenue doesn't give a shit about radical veganism, but for obeying the "higher laws", you can substitute the imperative to shop 'ti1 you drop, and either way both EC and Madison Avenue are both trying to plant their little mind-control seed in your brain to ultimately carry out their plans and remodel the world in their image. EC have their fingers on the zeitgeist all right. In ten years, after they've left music and drifted into the ranks of advertising, club booking and marketing, I'm sure we'll hear the full confessions of dope smoking and ham sandwiches eaten in dark closets. Unlike Minor Threat, however, no one's going to be spinning their blank, torturous discs ten years from now.
The most important point, however, is that all of EC's political idiocy and sloganeering would be forgiven if the music were any good. I wouldn't give a shit if they were scooter-riding Nazi pederasts who worshipped Milton Berle as long as their album sounded like something more than a field manual for socialist guitar robotics. Having questionable political views is one thing, but letting those views not only take precedence over the music, but actually influence the music in a negative way is unconscionable. EC probably mistake their monotony and tediousness for "discipline" of the Boys-For-Lenin variety, but nothing is easier and lazier than by-the-numbers crunchcore with zero imagination in the vocal-delivery department. The fans probably encourage the band's repetitive repertoire as a sign of their commitment and integrity, despite the fact that the stiff guitarwork and lead-footed drumming sound like nothing more than goose-stepping drills and sieg-heil salute practice. Anyone over the age of fifteen who hasn't surrendered his imagination to the New World Order will only hear young dullards who should quit fooling themselves about being musicians and go join a church where they can crank out ritualistic, communal music until the Good Lord carries them off into the light. Breed The Killers is actually a victory for people who know that talent isn't simply a matter of willpower or good intentions or positive thinking or marketing, and who still place weight in such outrk concepts as aesthetic excellence and free-thinking intelligence. I'm sure I'll be working for Earth Crisis some day, but until then they can go fuck themselves and their music-free rabbit-food revolution.