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Ska Against the Machine

¨Worship Jeff Spicoli, not Chris Cornell/Get a pair of Vans or God´ll send you to hell.¨ No, this isn´t an advertisement for the DVD release of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, nor is it about the Warped Tour; it´s a lyric from ¨Vans Song,¨ from the Suicide Machines´ 1996 debut, Destruction by Definition.

Something of an also-ran during the ska-punk craze of the mid-1990s, Destruction was filled with irreverent punk tunes just a tad less intense than hardcore, punctuated by horns and ska beats more Operation Ivy than Desmond Dekker. At a time when Sublime and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were all over the radio, the Suicide Machines quietly (or very loudly, depending on your point of view) sold more than 200,000 records and seemingly as many T-shirts.

But a lot can change in a decade. You get older, your worldview widens, you might even mellow a bit. Or you might take a look at the world around you and get angry — very, very angry. And angry is where the Detroit-based Suicide Machines find themselves on album number six, War Profiteering Is Killing Us All. This latest offering is a call to arms where Destruction by Definition was a call to the mall. Vocalist Jason Navarro´s lyrics are still irreverent, and the band still kicks a ska-inflected hardcore/punk groove, but now he´s focused his righteous rage on American society like a Washington bureaucrat focuses on a fictional weapon of mass destruction. You´d think someone from the Bush administration peed in his breakfast cereal (or maybe outed him as a Menudo fan to a reporter).

Politicians don´t get all Navarro and company´s venom, though — the Suicide Machines save a surprising amount of invective for their own audience. Take ¨Rebellion Is On the Clearance Rack (and I Think I Like It)¨ or ¨17% 18-25,¨ which rants about low voter turnout among the Machines´ target demographic, pointing out the hypocrisy of those who loudly call out for social change but don´t do a damned thing about it. Jello Biafra would be proud.

On ¨Capsule (aka Requiem for the Stupid Human Race),¨ the Machines do a Propaghandi-style take on modern technology, with the refrain ¨We dig our graves/Now we lie in them and we roll in our own shit

Perhaps the recent return to an indie label (SideOneDummy) after years of recording for the Disney-owned Hollywood Records has something to do with the Suicide Machines´ increasing disdain for corporate America. This album could´ve just as easily been called Snow White and the Seven Capitalist Pigs. But never let it be said that politicos can´t rock: The rhythm section is tight, the guitars frenetic, and Navarro pretty much screams his head off. What more could a punk want?

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Lewis Goldberg

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