River City Rebels – Playing to Live, Living to Play – Review

River City Rebels

Playing to Live, Living to Play (Victory)
by Craig Regala

Ye olde punk’n’roll, as much pub rock ’76 as Clash ’76; and part of a tradition of sorts I suppose. I’d like to say “honest, unpretentious working class rock and roll…” but really what does that mean? To tag something as class-based in the U.S. is difficult. The ability for individuals to morph/strive/change to another “status” – or more importantly, other consumption patterns – negates the simplistic tried & true class-based analysis. Like caste systems, real class systems mean you can not get out, end of story. It also means if you “got out,” there would be no place for you. You’d be rejecting one thing and rejected by another.

If we had a class system in America, we’d never have had the cultural impetus to belch up rock and roll as a form, or really, as a desire. So the sing-a-long, boys-on-the street-but-the-job-calls-can-we-escape-tramps-like-us-baby-we’re-born-to-run-live-for-today thematic call is responded to by the gang vocals and comfort of a new “family” (read: tradition). So the Ramones’ cover, the horns, the tunefulness, the friendly hollered vocals skirting and flirting with melody, are the traditional upbeat pop rock conventions. Really, this isn’t too far from Bryan Adams’ “Summer Of ’69” or Slade’s “Goodbye to Jane” or Joe Strummer’s pre-Clash band, the 101’er’s ace single, “Key’s to Your Heart,” and that stuff’s attendant affect on the Oi!/street rock movement. No surprise they share a producer with the Bosstones and Dropkick Murphys. Nothing as good as Rancid’s “Ruby Soho” single, but fun nonetheless and possibly meaningful if you live the same circumstances. So it’s punk related by image, but not what I remember as the ballistic metalized fury and compaction of hard rock history of the Pistols/Black Flag/Flesheaters/Damned tangle. So “punk,” in this case, you can view as good ol’ rock’n’roll, all the moves digested by Bill Haley’s grandkids using the same tools.
(346 N. Justine St., Ste 504 Chicago, IL 60607)