Pissed Off…With Good Reason
You know that line from the Dead Kennedys' song “Where Do Ya Draw the Line?,” the one that goes “In Toronto someone blew up/A cruise missile warhead plant/10 slightly hurt, 4 million dollars damage.” That “someone” included Gerry Hannah, bassist for Vancouver punks the Subhumans. Whether you consider what he did a laudable bit of direct action in defense of humanity and the environment or a petulant act of terrorism deserving of the five years he spent in prison, there was no denying where the Subhumans stood.
They were a critical, if often overlooked, transitional fossil in the development of ’80s style hardcore, whipping up a batch of classic punk/proto-hardcore somewhere between the Dicks and D.O.A. (Joe “Shithead” Keithley was a member of pre-Subhumans band the Skulls and singer Brian Goble later joined D.O.A. on bass). Pissed Off…With Good Reason, a best of sampler platter, makes the perfect gateway drug for the Subhumans.
Like their eponymous English cousins, the Vancouver band stood at the fulcrum between ’70s style punk, epitomized by the Sex Pistols and Damned, and the emerging, more aggressive hardcore scene. Their songs blended furious attack, scathing humor and vestiges of hummable melodies on songs like “Firing Squad.”
Subhumans – “Firing Squad”
No one was exempted from their lyrical brutality, not their homeland (“Oh Canaduh”), their southern neighbors (“American Commits Suicide”) or the oversexed teenage male haunting the seedier discos of the day (“Slave to My Dick”). But the secret sauce to their Big Mac was their ability to write ear worms. No matter how pissed off they may have been, the Subhumans knew their way around a hummable hook. And while I loves me some ’80s hardcore, the art of the catchy song was something that had been sacrificed along the way in the name of harder, faster, louder. Just not by the Subhumans.
Subhumans – “Escalator to Hell (Live)”