The predominantly pop-punk labels Lookout Records and Panic Button Recording Artists and the hardcore label Victory Records have a lot more in common than they would probably like to admit. For starters, both released compilations this summer with, respectively, 24 and 23 songs, each clocking in at over an hour’s worth of music. And while that is a great deal of music—especially considering that if you buy both CDs, you will probably be paying less than you would for one regularly priced CD—nevertheless it is unfortunate that the similarities between the two compilations don’t end there.
Why? Simply said, Lookout, the label that brought us the likes of Operation Ivy and early Green Day, is now past its golden years. It’s not just that the bands on the label now are worse than those of yesteryear (though that is true). More significantly, the pop-punk sound that seemed cutting edge 12 years ago when the label started just doesn’t seem so hip anymore. Label veterans such as Pansy Division, The Queers, and Screeching Weasel each offer a cut for this compilation; however, with these particular cuts they certainly are not going to gain any new fans. Following on the heels of the old, are the new—The Lillingtons, The Donnas, and The Groovie Ghoulies, and they all contribute fine cuts that will get even the punk purist tapping his feet, but again none of the bands provide anything unique. In fact, I often found myself needing to check the player just to make sure that, no a pop-punk band hadn’t attempted a song longer than four minutes, and indeed a new song had come on. Add to this mediocre blend of pop-punk the fact that Lookout/Panic seems to simply throw their compilation CDs together without giving thought to what songs might sound good next to each other, and you have an album that mirrors the labels present predicament…mediocrity.
Like Lookout and Panic Button, Victory caters, too, to only one type of music: hardcore. Similarly, Victory’s hardcore provides absolutely nothing interesting in these late days of this particular style of music. Staying true to a genre, such as hardcore, which has remained relatively uninspired and consequently unchanged for the better part of the last two decades is a sure way to insure that your label’s compilations will never be better than mediocre. Victory, as evidenced by their Victory Style 4 compilation, apparently doesn’t care and certainly doesn’t appear ready to offer anything groundbreaking or controversial.
The irony of this is enough to make you want to scream like the all-male singers on this album, especially when you consider the names of some of the bands and some of the song titles: All Out War with “Claim Your Innocence,” Cause for Alarm with “Future War,” The Strike with “Shots Heard Round the World,” and River City Rebels from the album “Racism, Religion and War.” With titles like these and bands like the vegan and environmental friendly Earth Crisis, I had hoped for something radical or at least above the level of every town’s teenage hardcore metal band. Instead, Victory offers bland hardcore song after bland hardcore song. If you have a hard time deciphering the difference between the bands on Lookout’s roster, don’t even attempt this feat with Victory’s roster; Grade, Blood For Blood, and Catch 22, are the only bands on the compilation with cuts that stand out. Ironically, however, these three bands would have fit in perfectly on the equally uninspired Lookout! Freakout.
So all these problems aside, this music was not necessarily made to change the world anyway, right? After all this music was made to rock out to in the pit, right? Well, keep wishing, because this hardcore is so boring that you’re more likely to find yourself falling asleep due to the monotony than attempting to flail your arms to the nonexistent rhythm.
Save your money, or better yet, buy a couple hot dogs (or as Earth Crisis and I would have you do, a couple of tofu burgers,) go out to the lake and realize that sometimes—even for those of us who think we can’t live without a radio next to the bed, in the shower, in the car, and in the computer—sometimes…. life can be better without music. Or at least life is better without the music that these two compilations offer.