When asked why it's taken old-school hardcore/punk band Bring Your Own Weapon, which has been around since 2002, so damn long to finally release a full-length CD, drummer Brett Sandy says "sheer laziness."
"Procrastination," bass player R. Michael C. concurs.
Whatever the cause, I'm rejoicing that this group of veterans (they're all hovering around their late 30s) has finally dropped a take-home incarnation of its tight and blisteringly fast live set. Bring Your Own Weapon, or B.Y.O.W., as it's commonly known, may have waited quite a while to cut loose with a full-length recorded live in-studio and released on Orlando-based indie label Malt Soda Records but the resulting self-titled album was worth the wait, and younger bands ought to take a cue from the old guys when it comes to making records and shattering taboos.
Bring Your Own Weapon
"It did take some time, but we're all about quality," Sandy explains, while bolstering his drink at a local bar with some pocket-size Early Times bourbon. "We wanted to have a really super-good, bulletproof set which we developed over the years, and we wanted every song to be great. We're not one of these cookie-cutter bands that want to put out something every day and have a CD release every week. We're not in any big rush."
You can say that again. The CD has been available from Malt Soda since April, but B.Y.O.W. has yet to have a local CD release party or even get the album in local stores. The band, which also includes vocalist J.R. and guitarist Pat Gruchala, is still not sure when it'll have a release party. But fans of loud, fast, politically incorrect classic hardcore shouldn't wait go online to www.bringyourownweapon.com or www.maltsoda.com and get a piece of it now.
What makes B.Y.O.W.'s album great, and what younger artists ought to take notes on, is the band's tightness. The foursome recorded this album with producer and engineer Byron Filson in a hallway, live (only the vocals were overdubbed). Few bands can pull that off when they're operating at this speed, but with B.Y.O.W., what you hear is what you get, onstage or on record ("Why can't you play this fucking fast? Goddamn hippie!" J.R. sings on "Wrecking Ball"). The songs recall hardcore's glory days and the manic instrumental expressionism of bands like Minor Threat, although the lyrical content is a polar opposite from D.C.'s dogmatic heroes.
Much of said lyrical content is tongue-in-cheek; humor is a vital element of B.Y.O.W.'s DNA. Very twisted humor.
Take "Locked Inside," the second song on the record. Over a series of swift, arpeggio-like progressions, J.R. hollers, "You make me want to do it. Put the gun to my head and pull the trigger. Spray the walls with my brains and my blood. But the tragedy of it all it's you that ought to die."
Few, if any, subjects are taboo for B.Y.O.W. Misogyny runs rampant through the record, like on "Overtime," where J.R. bursts out with, "Six days a week, 10 hours a day/And that bitch takes all my pay/I'd kick her out but she can lay/Overtime!/She spends it all, to my last dime/Prostitution is a crime/But that pussy's so damn fine . . ."
It's easy to picture feminists and politically correct types getting their panties in a bunch over lyrics like that, but B.Y.O.W. is like the Lenny Bruce or George Carlin of the punk rock scene here laugh along with them or don't, they don't fucking care. And women aren't the only targets of the guys' fucked-up sense of humor.
"Bobby's in the pool!" J.R. yells on "Bobbing for Babies." It's a vicious take on the Valley's swimming-pool tragedies, which ends with J.R. singing, "It was far too late when the paramedics came/They just shook their heads and said, 'What a shame'/As they fished the tiny body from the deep end/Bob will never swim again."
It's not that B.Y.O.W. is intentionally hurtful more like the band is doing Aristocrats-style riffs on taboo subject matter. "I'll sing nonsense 'til we get it," J.R. says of his lyrics. "I'll look for an idea. Like with 'Bobbing for Babies,' I was watching the news, and it was just in the springtime, when that first kid drowned in somebody's pool. I went to practice, and Pat had this riff, and I was like, 'Oh, I know what this one's about.' It came together just automatically."
But even "Bobbing for Babies" doesn't come close to the controversy that B.Y.O.W.'s most infamous song, "Fuck the Middle East," ignites. The song's lyrics read, "God! Told me you should die/Calling in the planes/Now you're gonna fry!"
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"The song was written probably a year before the war even happened," Gruchala tells me. "It was more about how the shit you keep seeing on the TV is always about the fuckin' Middle East, all this bullshit. That's where it came from."
"There was a lot of stigma about our band," Michael says. "But since the CD came out, I have a lot of people coming up to me now, and they've seen the CD, read the lyrics and listened to it, and they're like, 'I get it, man.' It's all tongue-in-cheek humor. It's fun, but a lot of people took us way too seriously."
That sort of humor doesn't translate widely, but B.Y.O.W. isn't afraid of provoking controversy, and these four near-middle-aged guys have the musical chops to back their black humor. When a band can play this fast and loud, while simultaneously throwing jabs at the politically correct crowd, it's worth paying attention.