Ask anyone to make you a list of the best and most influential hardcore albums of the early 1980s, and you will see included, somewhere in the top 10 or so, Agnostic Front’s seminal debut LP, Victim in Pain. From the titular opening track, frontman Roger Miret’s voice bellows furiously, “Why am I going insane / Why am I the one to blame,” and the groundwork was set for hundreds of bands to come. Though the group hails from New York City, their blistering odes to family and unity are so ingrained in the San Antonio punk scene — musically and thematically — that the record may as well be an instruction manual on what punk here in S.A. is all about.
And so it should come as no surprise to anyone that Agnostic Front have chosen to grace our proud city with a stop on their current tour.
What’s most exciting, however, is not that Agnostic Front are coming here, but why they’re touring in the first place. 2009 (R.I.P.) marked the 25th anniversary of the aforementioned Victim in Pain LP, as well as its predecessor, the famously impossible-to-find United in Blood EP. This meant two things: 1) Both records are now legally old enough to rent a car, and 2) Both were due for some good, old-fashioned reissuin’. Boston-based hardcore label Bridge 9 has proudly picked up that baton, and now how here we are: The two records are freshly available together, for the first time, on one CD, or separately on a delicious assortment of colored vinyls.
But wait! That’s not all! Let’s consider, for a moment, the implication touring in support of these two classic records holds:
It’s always a crapshoot attending a show by a band with such a long and storied career. You have to worry about how many of your favorite songs they’re gonna play, or if you’re going to have to suffer through a barrage of lackluster B-material just to get to the good stuff.
Case in point: I once somehow wormed my way onto a guest list to see Flock of Seagulls back when the Sanctuary was still doing shows. I know, I know, it was an embarrassingly irony-fueled idea, and one I should be ashamed of. But it was a free show — what can you do? Besides, my reasoning was blinded by the excitement of getting to see “I Ran,” which is actually a pretty good song, live. After the fourth song in their set passed with not a mention of their only notable song, I sat down in a corner. Another half hour of that, and I threw my hands into the air and went home, unwilling to wait a single second longer. By that point I think I’d convinced myself I never really liked the song in the first place.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that Agnostic Front have a catalog consisting of nothing but pure audio diarrhea a la Flock of Seagulls. I am merely arguing that a group can reasonably be expected to dedicate — at minimum — 15 or so minutes to the best material they ever released. Right?
Well, I hope you’re sitting down, buckaroo, because the band themselves have explicitly stated on their MySpace that they are, in fact, dedicating a portion of their set to playing the entire Victim in Pain album from start to finish! An exciting prospect indeed, and one they promise will not happen again.
Of course, no guarantees can be made that they will be playing any selections from Flock of Seagulls’ discography, but one promise I can make in all assuredness is that the show will provide you with no less than several dozen opportunities to watch some of the more overzealous, macho S.A. skins puff out their chests, strut around in circles like roosters, and jump all over any opportunity they can find (I’m hoping this paragraph doesn’t count as one — you fellas can take a joke, right?) to act out the lyrics to “United in Blood”:
I’m a skin, you’re a skin
You’re gonna suffer
Push around and stab each other
Fight around and kill each other
Fight Fight Fight Riot Riot
Beat him hard, beat him dead
Beat him harder, beat him down
Break their legs
We’re gonna break their legs. Let’s go.
Yup. Let’s go indeed. •