Friday, November 6, 2009

Symbols, Signals & Noise

When I wrote about Black Army Jacket a while back, I gave them and Devoid of Faith credit for flying the real hardcore flag in New York throughout the mid-to-late ‘90s. It’s time for me to admit to a glaring error in that statement: I somehow managed to completely overlook the band that stood the tallest and represented New York’s brutal punk scene the most at that time: motherfucking Disassociate. Die-hard fans of extreme music in the 1990s should be familiar with them. The rest of you need to load the ice bong (it’s such a nice bong) and clear some space, because you’re about to wreck some serious interior. And what better Disassociate record is there to do that with than Symbols, Signals, and Noise, their second album?

The wayward traveler is broken down. Despite his pleas for help over the CB, nobody shows up to offer a helping hand. The RV broke down again. Suddenly, a quick hardcore beat spits out from the speakers. Guitars slash and burn their way into your soul. The bass is a beautiful thing. So thick. So sweet. At that moment, you love it so much you want to punch yourself in the face. And over the course of the album, you do so. Multiple times. Just to see if you can still feel pain. But you’re too high from this sick fusion of all things hardcore to feel anything but what Disassociate wants you to.

Hardcore in the ‘90s wasn’t about blindly imitating your favorite old bands. It was supposed to be about taking chances and seeing if it worked. If hardcore sounded good with variations like blast beats, brutal mosh breakdowns, or just slowing down and feeling the power, bands went for it. Not every result was successful, but plenty of bands did some amazing shit and have stood the test of time. Disassociate were one of the few bands that seamlessly brought together all or most of the musical disparities between hardcore’s sub-genres. As well as musically, they did it ethically too, playing shows with all kinds of punk and hardcore bands. Vocalist Ralphy Boy (who used to run the Squat or Rot label) was known for putting on free shows in NYC’s Tompkins Square Park where tough “hawrdcore” bands like Breakdown played with the ska/crust Choking Victim, and pro-pot activist/songwriter David Peel would somehow be involved as well. Just like the first song on Symbols, Signals, and Noise says, Disassociate has the plan: to bring together everyone who is oppressed and in need of a better life.

Bring us your punks and your hardcore kids. Your skinheads and your crustys. Your thrashers, skaters, and grindcore kids. And always your Mexicans in Suffocation t-shirts. Get together and smoke a massive amount of weed. Drop the hatred that separates us, crank the volume, and destroy this shit system. After the final representatives of oppressive authority are removed, spend the rest of our days fucking passionately. Sounds like a plan to me.

Click here for good future plans.


Anonymous said...

I caught these guys at the Gilman in the mid to late 90's, Killer grind. The singer Ralphie was a pretty nice guy to chat to. I still have the shirt I bought from them........Mr.T

The Evil Eye said...

I saw Disassociate at Gilman in 1997 with Corrupted and Word Salad. At one point, Ralphy started going off about how Disassociate was not in fact a Dis-band and refused to be lumped in that category. After assuring us of their non-Discore status, they ripped into a cover of "Ain't No Feeble Bastard." Suffice to say, it won me over.

Check the Catheter interview for a funny tour story about Ralphy from that same time.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I read the interview and was laughing! Great story and it made it even better to hear they got the amp head back and also ganked some guitars and Corrupted were tripping out on what they had witnessed....great story!
I've seen Catheter alot it seems like their lineup in the early days was a little unstable. Everytime they came through they had a different line up. The 1st time I seen them was when they played Gilman (I think for the 1st time)with Laughing Dog, Jeno who they were touring with. I've been a fan since.....Mr.T