February 14, 2012 - Asian Man
This review originally ran in AP 284.
It’s been more than nine years since Jesse Michaels last put out a full-length (This Is Unity Music, from his easygoing reggae act Common Rider), and more than 20 since he helped pen the record that more or less invented ska-punk, Operation Ivy’s Energy. Apparently, the fountain of youth is actually located in the East Bay, because the 43-year-old frontman has returned with his new band, Classics Of Love, and a self-titled debut full-length that possesses a fiery passion (and vocal cadences) on par with his best moments in Op Ivy. Elements of ska-punk pop up occasionally (“Castle In The Sky,” “Bandstand”), but by and large, Classics Of Love is a hardcore record the way Dischord used to make ’em in the ’80s (see the sub-75-second blasts “Last Strike” and “Dissolve,” the latter of which finds Michaels sounding like Kid Dynamite’s Jason Shevchuk). It’s 13 songs in under 23 minutes, yet no song feels underdeveloped. The half-time “Moving Pictures” is menacing, with a guitar break that’s reminiscent of early Fugazi; the mid-tempo “Gun Show” has an instant sing-along chorus and some killer leads; even the hand claps in anti-fascist screed “Would-Be Kings” don’t feel out of place. Kudos go out not only to Michaels, whose voice is fierce and lyrics are biting, but to the rest of the band, who moonlight as fellow Asian Man artists Hard Girls and keep things moving admirably. Classics Of Love is a truly brilliant album made by one of punk’s most important ambassadors. Thank him by buying it.