Friday, February 5, 2016
Why Harley Flangan is My Actual Favorite Cro-Mag
I didn't expect to begin February 2016 with 2 people independently suggesting I check out a new Harley Flanagan record but brother (or sister), that's exactly how it shook out. Here's 5 reasons why, after listening to Cro-Mags 10 times in a row, Harley is my actual favorite Cro-Mag.
1. Cro-Mags is essentially a diss record. No, not a "Dis" record, but we'll get to that in a minute. Harley's beefs are the stuff of legend, hilarity and an occasional headline news story and frankly that's what makes this record so interesting. Sure, it's petty and a little childish, and regardless of where you stand on his antics, you've got to admit the dude's been through a lot in the past 5 (10?) years. Great music rarely comes from a place of serenity and in this case, Harley's demons helped him make a kick-ass solo joint on some surprisingly contemporary source material.
2. It's also Dis Record. Kinda. OK, like not full on Motö-Charge here, but close enough for my taste. Discharge comparisons aplenty, 12 songs in 24 minutes. Whatever it is, it's punk AF. Kinda makes you remember that amidst all the Myspace buffoonery and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the dude has been sniffin' around since punk's year zero. (or at least since you been swimmin in your Daddy's nuts...so to speak). Plus, I've read that the record is kind of a tribute to Lemmy, so there's that.
3. Age of Quarrel. Yes, it's the consummate 'Mags record and the measuring stick by which all NYHC would be measured to come. If we're lumping in the entire Cro-Mags discog, side projects and all, Cro-Mags comes the closest to replicating that original sound. Aggressive punk metal blasts intercut with some guitar work I can only describe as "explosive." Like, you'd think Alpha and Omega or Near Death Experience might be a better pairing for a late-era Harley solo project, but it's not. Trust me.
4. Beef (is for Pussies). If we're actually keeping a Cro-Mags tally, we'd likely surmise that the last decade has been way harder on Harley than it has on John Joseph. The latter has branded himself as the "sane" one, schilling vegan cookbooks, workouts and a biography that seems more than a little exaggerated (like all NYHC history). And while Harley certainly hasn't made things any easier on himself, he's not the one leading a semi-scab 'Mags lineup only playing songs off the first record...but writing new music.
5. The Vocals. OK, so we all know that JJ's vocals are an inextricable topping on the Cro-Mags pizza. I also know that JJ has clowned on Harley's vocal performances in his book (how many times does Harley need to say "Oh yeahhh" on a record kinda stuff). I think Flangan sounds perfect here. Brutish. Angry. Bitter. The voice of a guy who's been battered senseless and keeps trundling forward despite the odds, and though it's never rivaled JJ's in terms of supremacy, I think it suits a 2016 record about 20 year old disputes just fine.