TKO Records proudly pronounces The Generators as “Los Angeles’ own Street Punk heroes . . .” With the mild mainstream success of bands like Rancid and The Dropkick Murphys, its no surprise that the new big thing in the underground punk scene is “streetpunk”. I’ve always had problems with the blatant labels that music critics tend to slap on bands, but I have an even bigger problem with record labels riding the waves of conformity and promoting their bands with the very same labels. Perhaps, it gets the formalities out of the way in a quick sentence sound bite, but it’s annoying nonetheless.
I’m still not exactly sure what the “streetpunk” sound is, but if The Generators are any indication, it has its roots in the retro punk scene: buzz saw guitars, pseudo-oi sing-a-longs, and street-wise lyrical content. Apparently, The Generators feature an “all-star line-up, including ex-members of Schleprock and the Choice”. But, their biggest claim to fame seems to be that their vocalist is longtime, LA punk veteran, Doug Dagger. Regardless of their past endeavors, I’ve always felt a band has to stand up on their own merits.
Tyranny was a rather mediocre listen first time around. Sure, all the right elements were there—a solid back beat, roaring guitars chunking away, and plenty of shouting. But, it just failed to catch my attention. To be fair, I gave it a few more listens, and the album started to grow on me, especially songs like “Down in the City”, “Hijacked”, and “Summer of Unrest” which rely heavily on a repetitive guitar melody to move the song forward.
The Generators certainly lean on all the right punk influences. There are equal parts of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Sham 69 in their sound, without sounding like a direct derivative of any of those bands. If it weren’t for the slick production of Tyranny, I’d put them in league with some of the current retro mainstays like The US Bombs or The Stitches. The songs aren’t as well crafted or as infectious as the output of either of those bands, but the sound is very similar.
The lyrics seem honest enough, but lean a little too much towards the cliche side of things. For instance, the first cut, “Down in the City” makes no effort to stray from the subject matter that a band like Fear perfected in “I Love Livin’ in the City”:
Forgotten faces with forgotten names
another homeless poor bastard pleading for change
the crack pipes like up like a candle vigilance
the angels cry down on the streets of Los Angeles
Not exactly something we haven’t heard a million times before. But, in this regard, I think we can cut the boys some slack. Certainly, part of the punk legacy is to pay tribute to your favorite bands with a sort of reverence in imitation.
Twelve songs later, you won’t come out of listening to Tyranny with any revelations. It has its moments, and I can see how the kids could eat this stuff up. They play the part right down to the thank you list in the liner notes. But, for me, it’s a little too straight forward for any sort of praise. A few more catchy tunes like “Comin Down” and “Down in the City” would have put this one over the top.