You almost have to live in Virginia to understand its southern-fueled punk and rock music scenes. The capitol city, Richmond, has produced a long line of rock musicians heavily influenced by the likes of John Cougar Mellencamp and Lynyrd Skynyrd and yet it has also been linked to the sounds and styles of classic punk. Ann Beretta is one band that, over the years, has combined the former sound with the ethos of classic Richmond Punk. The bleach-blond boys with sleeves of tattoos on their arms, legs, and necks play music about the road, about broken women breaking hearts, and about your average hard luck days in a hard luck city. You need to know Richmond to know Ann Beretta.
Borrowing from the styles of the Clash, Ann Beretta has been consistent over the years in producing and defining its sound. However, while the band has been consistent, it hasn’t really built much. Its straightforward fast-slow-fast, breakdown songs all sound so similar that you almost wonder when progress is coming. Sadly, it isn’t. The weight of being former members of the legendary Richmond band Inquisition is an immense burden, and Ann Beretta hasn’t really delivered since its 1997 debut Bitter Tongues.
The music is solid, however, and the lyrical themes show growth and promise. The best example of this is “New Union”, a sing-along drive into white-boy rock’s favorite subject, self-deprecation. But this is not another lost college student dealing with the troubles of school and girls. Instead, it’s a reflection on the singer’s own station in life. “New Union” tackles the question of whether he has the right to take a stand. Ann Beretta—and Inquisition before it—inherited many ideas about revolution. The new idea expressed in this song—that perhaps one’s own efforts may end up doing more harm than good—is one that many leftist activists should ponder as they sing their songs, yell their slogans, and sit in defiance. This isn’t to say the activities of protesters and activists are unnecessary or disingenuous. But the practice of those who have the means, and who fight for the rights of the disenfranchised, needs to be addressed in the personal manner exemplified by this song.
Punk, politics, and good old rock and roll are perhaps the staples of Richmond music. A style and sound have been developed fusing the energy of punk with the laid-back attitude of rock and roll. Ann Beretta, while not really blazing any new trails, obviously enjoys this musical path.
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