Union 13 – Symptoms of Humanity – Review

Union 13

Symptoms of Humanity (Disaster/Bomp)
By Duke Crevanator

I admit, I was skeptical. There are so many ultra-left-wing punk/hardcore bands out there these days that the only people who can tell them apart are the aforementioned bands themselves. Seriously, with the exception of The Unseen, The Exploited (still), and a handful of others, this whole genre is so fucking overdone and mundane I can’t believe anyone even bothers to gamble their moolah on any of these “new” bands. I say “new” because some have been around for awhile, but it’s taken this long for the larger indie labels to realize they may be able to make a buck off this anti-Bush groundswell flowing here in the U.S. (And if you think there’s anything altruistic about some of these labels releasing all of this stuff lately, you’re crazy).

In any event, let me talk about Union 13. They’re the most talented group in this genre I’ve reviewed. They hail from East L.A., so I already had kind feelings for them. I myself lived in East L.A. between 1974 and 1978. I was only a yungin’ back then, but I do know that East L.A. never got its props for the amount of influence it had in the early days of the L.A. punk/hardcore scene. Union 13 proudly holds up their East L.A. roots, performing the majority of songs in English, but their songs in Spanish are just as good (i.e., they’re kind enough to provide a lyric sheet in both languages). Seriously, their L.A. hardcore influence is profound. Musically, many of their songs reminded me of the faster songs from the first Suicidal Tendencies album of 1983. They have that sound down, and it’s really fucking good. This record is most certainly going into my rotation (sans lyric sheet).

Yes, I have one complaint, and it is the aforementioned lyric sheet. I wish Union 13 would realize that they could accomplish so much more by also using the influences of Suicidal Tendencies’ lyrics. Back in 1983, Reagan was president, and the world was perhaps even more under the influ-ence of the far Right than it is today. And ST was just as against Reagan as Union 13 is against the Bush crowd. However, unlike Suicidal Tendencies, Union 13 has not learned the art of subtle humor and criticism as a weapon. I’d much rather chuckle at amusing lyrics lambasting their opponents than to have someone baring their soul in teenage-like angst about how horrible and unfair the world is. I already know how unfair and corrupt the system is. You don’t need to tell me. Let’s have some fun ripping the bastards, not sound like some high schooler just figuring out life isn’t fair. However, you can’t understand the words anyway, so just listen and enjoy and hope they take my advice for their next record. Hell, Mike Muir is still in L.A., maybe he can help them out.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re a Union 13 fan, make sure you buy ERNIE BALL products. According to their CD insert, our erstwhile anti-commercialsm/globalism friends exclusively use Ernie Ball strings. Hmmm.