William DuVall may be best known these days for fronting grunge legends Alice In Chains but he has had an extensive career with AVOC, Bl’ast, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, Comes With The Fall, Madfly, No Walls, and of course Neon Christ. The band formed in 1983 in Atlanta, Georgia and featured William on Guitar, Jimmy Demer, drums, Danny Lankford, bass, and Randy DuTeau, vocals. 1984 consists of the eponymous debut ten song EP as well as the additional four Labor Day session tracks that were recorded in the home studio of one time Foghat member/producer Nick Jameson.
It’s of no surprise to see 1984 being co-released on Record Store Day, 12th June, by DVL Recordings and Southern Lord as the latter have put out albums by Uniform Choice, Battalion of Saints and Bl’ast in the past, while label co-founder Greg Anderson played in a string of straight-edge hardcore bands before discovering the joys of drone/doom metal.
A key feature of 80s hardcore are the short furious songs that cut right to the chase and album opener, the DRI influenced, Parental Suppression is no exception, clocking in at a mere forty two seconds. The Draft Song‘s main riff reminds one of Nihilist by Italian legends Raw Power, while Winding taps into pre-Alcohol era Gang Green before the AC/DC worship. If you’re more of a fan of the early DC scene, ala The Teen Idles, then you’ll be all over the teenage (so to speak) style rebellion of Bad Influence which has a sweet almost innocent amateurish charm about it.
Neon Christ is the first hint of a band unafraid to experiment incorporating more melody and a ‘conventional’ punk sound. William’s guitar chops begin to show themselves and having read interviews with him where he stated Black Flag were one of his favourite bands, one can definitely pick up a Greg Ginn influence. A slow Bass line introduces We Mean Business before launching into more furious hardcore as well as some fantastic proto-blastbeat drumming courtesy of Jimmy Demer.
this excellent compilation will go some way to finally giving the band the recognition they deserve…
When you think ultra short tracks Napalm Death’s You Suffer inevitably comes to mind, but not far behind at a mere two seconds is Yoof which is a blink and you’ll miss it type affair. The simply fantastic New York Dolls swagger of Its Mine is a track that I guarantee you’ll have on repeat, Doom is a superb number that shifts effortlessly from mid tempo punk rock to hyper aggressive hardcore. After, which closed the original Self-Titled EP, is a fascinatingly moody atmospheric death-rock improv piece, further demonstrative that this isn’t your standard generic hardcore band.
The longest track on the album, the post-hardcore/emo of The Knife That Cuts So Deep had me wanting to spin my Government Issue, Dag Nasty and Marginal Man records again, moving and heart breaking. Ashes To Ashes was included on the International Peace/War compilation (released by MDC’s R Radical Records) indicating something of a more political bent with some interesting quiet/loud dynamics while Blind Patriot continues the raging political hardcore of its predecessor. Closing track, The Death They’ll Give You, has a crossover vibe that could be seen as something of a precursor to bands like Cryptic Slaughter and Wehrmacht, indicative of just how ahead of their time Neon Christ were.
Having toured with the likes of COC, Circle Jerks and The Dead Kennedys, it’s astonishing that Neon Christ are not often, if at all discussed, when it comes to 80s US hardcore. Their short lifespan may have been a factor but hopefully this excellent compilation will go some way to finally giving the band the recognition they deserve.
Scribed by: Reza Mills