Reviews: Cockney Rejects, Youth Brigade, and Union 13 at the El Rey; Greg Ginn and Mike Vallely in Good For You

You know those Facebook contests that everyone enters but no one wins? Well, I actually won one via Goldenvoice and got tickets to see Youth Brigade at the El Rey last week. Yes, the same band that got in the school bus with Social Distortion and Minor Threat in  the 1984 documentary Another State of Mind is still at it and still ruling. And their BYO record label, which boasts key releases by 7 Seconds, SNFU, Bouncing Souls, Leatherface, and their own band, is going strong as attested by their somewhat recent box set

I caught just the end of the set by The Warlords, a local band that wears their heart on the backs of their football kits: American 01. Their sense of humor was matched by their energy, celebrated when they closed their set with AC/DC’s “TNT” and the “Oi! Oi!” refrain. Next up was East L.A.’s mighty Union 13 (above), boasting a ripping new drummer and busting out rad new tunes in Spanish and English that took them beyond hardcore and into pure darkness and heaviness. It couldn’t have been easy for the younger bands to open for storied headliners with late-arriving fans but they totally brought it.

What can be said about Youth Brigade except that the brothers Stern have been bringing not only the boomingest voice in punk but also the tightest, most melodic hardcore for more than 30 years. Union 13 called them personal heroes and mentors, citing their trail-blazing DIY business model, but that would mean nothing if they couldn’t deliver the punk rock goods. Last week, they played all the hits (from the first LP to the more recent splits) and ended it with the L.A. punk anthem “Sink with Kalifornija.” Raging pits, singalongs, and even a couple of decent stage dives, punctuated by Shawn Stern pontificating–righteous!

I have to admit that all I knew about the headlining Cockney Rejects was that I used to see their T-shirts on the wall at Zed back in the mid ’80s. They lived up to their legend status in the Oi! genre with boxing stances and fist-pumping fueling Soccer hooligan-style chanting singalongs. It wasn’t easy to discern the lyrics but one song was dedicated to the late, great Joe Strummer, who they deemed a gentleman and not a poseur. There are more than a few compilations of the band’s work out there, and I’m totally gonna check one out.

Now for some new music. I’ve been wanting to give Good For You‘s self-titled debut a serious listen since hearing singer Mike Vallely describe the new band with Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn on my friend Eddie Solis’s radio show, Los Angeles Nista. And then I got to hear a couple more songs when I was the guest the very next week. But now that it’s been in my hard drive for a while and the MP3s and vinyl officially drop today, I can safely say that it rips. While it will be noted that Vallely follows the hard groove dug out by Rollins, it’s impossible to hear the determined vocals and no-bullshit lyrics and not think of the pro skater’s own rocky history with the skateboarding industry, his violent tangents, and ultimately being independent. And while everyone is talking about Ginn hitting the road and playing Black Flag songs with “Jealous Again” singer Ron Reyes, his new guitar work is really interesting. While it mostly shreds, at times it’s washed out with gorgeous effects and space-age sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in a Paul Weller remix. But no one will mistake this for the new Portishead. After vox and git, the production is quite raw, with everything pushed way back in the mix to the point of it almost sounding like a demo. Interesting and engaging, and now I really wanna hear it live…