Monday, August 16, 2004

U.S. Bombs/War Birth
Hellcat/Epitaph Records

When you think about it, one of the most important elements of any punk band is simplicity. When a punk band spends too much time on composing intricate guitar riffs, and cleverly timed drumming, they may succeed to impress on a technical level but ultimately defeat their entire purpose of a certain extent, anyway. Yes, in the punk world I've found, more often than not, that less is more.

Collectively personifying the entire Orange County punk scene with one album, in 1997 pro-skater Duane Peters, and his U.S. Bombs, released what would be the greatest album of their, then, relatively young career. This, the groups third disc was aptly titled War Birth. It can be argued that, at the time, the Bombs were putting any other punk band on the planet to utter shame, and doing so with seemingly zero effort. Their pragmatic, yet smashmouth approach to writing songs covering such cliché punk subjects as politics, war, homosexuality, drug abuse, the economy, social status, and of course, skating remains the entry portal for any Bombs fan past or present.

As a lead vocalist, Peters is certainly no poet, but could surely give Tim Armstrong a run for his money in the "who's more punk" department. He has an entrancing persona that is endlessly engaging. This is something that would normally only be evident in live shows, but all through out the album Peters makes you feel as if you ARE there live with them. This adds to the overall rawness of the album, which is actually its most endearing quality.

War Birth utilizes your typical 4/4 structure, and seldom changes tempo, save for a couple of tracks. However, the album still remains a refreshing display of cathartic aggression with a surprising hint of poignancy behind the seeming bravado. Amidst the rhetoric of such lines as, "Let's shoot the President, I want a fucking Queen!" on the track entitled "U.S. of Hate", you can also find such pseudo-artistic musings like, "My lust to live is bankrupt.", found on "Orange Crunch". In the end, War Birth is an album with as much heart as it has venom.

You must understand though, this is not a perfect album, by any means. For instance, the production value, while crisp, can sometimes seem a little too clean for a band like this. Also, better choices could have been made on the track order. The last third of the disc is left with overwrought, wanna-be rock N' roll anthems that could have helped with the pacing of the album if placed in different spots, rather than being clumped together. You must also, understand, however, that this album never needed, nor wanted to be perfect. In the simplest of phrases, it is what it is.

What War Birth ultimately is, is an album that is incredibly self aware, but somehow remains completely unaware of itself. The U.S. Bombs never seem to be occupied with the mentality of trying to be punk, or trying make a punk album. It IS a punk album, but it's never something they've had to try to do. To the U.S. Bombs it comes as natural as breathing. Like I said, less is more, and with War Birth, The U.S. Bombs take very little, and give any punk fan a whole lot more than they could ask for.

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