by Nick Hanover
“The sooner you learn that, the longer you’re gonna live in this world. ‘Cause you go around doing this kind of stuff, someone’s gonna kill you.” – Officer Rivieri
2014 is likely going to go down as the year a lot of people suddenly started paying a lot more attention to the police, but when UNTD SNKS went into KVRX’s studios in July of that year to record a live set, I doubt they knew that. Yeah, cops have been a big issue in the punk scene since time immemorial, but over the decades that had devolved into general skate punk mischief and commentary on the level of that Officer Dick character in Tony Hawk Pro Skater. You rallied against cops because they ruined fun, but if you were a white suburban Vans-wearing teen, you didn’t really know shit about the fear they could symbolize. So like a lot of shit I’ve written about in, oh, the last six months, there’s some eerie prescience to UNTD SNKS’ Live on 91.7 KVRX album and the way it starts with a recorded conversation between an Officer Rivieri and some presumed skate punks in which the cop straight up tells some wayward kids that if they misbehave in front of the wrong officer, they’re going to wind up dead.
The now macabre nature of that conversation is offset slightly by the song it leads into, “Mouse Cop,” a track that skewers the idea of the police as professional bullies, the surveillance state paranoia in the verses leading into an amiably singalong protest chorus remarking that “When I was young/A man said ‘Son/If you wanna have some fun/You should really be a cop.‘” You might be tempted to now view a lyric like that as insensitive or inappropriate, but back in July, that was kind of what we needed, wasn’t it? A digestible treatise on the fatal bullying police militarization allowed, a deflation of the idea of the police as serious soldiers in some urban war. Protest songs come in a lot of forms, and the clever, satirical ones are just as necessary as the righteously moving and raging.
Live on 91.7 KVRX’s odd six month delay (apparently these are tracks from an aborted album) forces all kinds of new readings of these songs, but never in an exploitative sense because the band does an impressive job of selling their sincerity. Maybe it’s the live factor, and the way it lends the music a potent energy, like MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams” but spruced up and made palatable to kids just now learning which dives will let them in with their brothers’ expired handmedown IDs. The second track has a riff that starts out dangerously close to cock rock, but it’s in service to a slobbering, murderous vocal by Daniel Hublein that forces you to perk up and take that “LET IT BURN” demand more seriously than anything that ever came out of Jim Morrison’s mouth. Lest you forget, Black Flag had a classic rock streak, too, and those shouted responses augmenting “let it burn” aren’t too dissimilar from the purposefully dumbed down background vocals in “TV Party.” I don’t know what we’re burning, exactly, but the general blank apathy “TV Party” was condemning seems to fit here, too.
A little later, the band tackles gun control in a similarly blunt, catchall fashion, eradicating the nuances of the pro-gun lobby to sum up their real reasons for arming bears or whatever: “We pop them off for fucking fun/For fun.” And then that’s eventually followed by a track that takes the Fugees’ “one time one time” call-and-response structure and flips it in service of rattling off real world annoyances like the bills you forgot to pay and a lack of time in general, all as a “Bastards of Young” riff zooms in and out without warning. One time for good times. One time for throwbacks that make you feel new again. One time for having fucking fun in the face of an increasingly bleak existence.
Sometimes I feel like the modern punk revival is so hung up on dire sounds and fashions that I forget that the music has always been pretty damn goofy when you get down to it, so maybe my enthusiasm for UNTD SNKS’ satirical streak in their otherwise ferocious sound is biased, but I’d offer up 75% of Hotel Vegas’ bookings in a month to the wolves (or is it to The Wolf?) if it meant getting more appearances out of UNTD SNKS. And now that real world events have caught up to UNTD SNKS’ nemesis Officer Rivieri, I’m thinking we’re going to need more cop humiliation anthems, anyway. Lord knows that Rivieri dude could stand to be taken down a notch or two, wherever he is.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover