Feeling a little cynical and jaded? Here's a punk-rock success story to warm your Mohawked heart. Until last year, the River City Rebels (not to be confused with St. Louis' own River City Radicals) were toiling in relative obscurity in Hartford, Vt. (Presumably there's a river in Hartford.) Then, Tony Victory, founder and boss of Chicago's Victory Records, heard a tape of theirs and traveled to the Green Mountain State to sign 'em up and get 'em out on the road, at least when they're not attending their high-school classes.The Rebels' current CD is called Racism, Religion, and War, a title that neatly summarizes the band's political concerns. It's a perfect union of package and content: raucous, tight, catchy punk-with-horns wrapped in spraypaint-stencil graphics and featuring a photo collage of the band and their friends being goofily "punk." All the proper musical touchstones are touched: the Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Blitz, the Ramones. There's even a Pogues flavor around the edges here and there, although 17-year-old vocalist Ward Aimi won't be having a pint with Shane MacGowan anytime soon: As he carefully informs us in the bio, "I choose not to do drugs, drink or have promiscuous sex. I have been clean my entire life and have never tried anything."
As for lyrics, the song titles should give you an idea of what punk youth have always fretted about. "Hate," "Religion," "The System," "Corporate America," Make a Stand," "We Will Fight" and "Stars N Stripes" bring the political aggro with a minimum of frippery. Although the words aren't Shakespeare, they're a far cry from Victory Records bands of the past, such as the notoriously stupid One Life Crew, an awful hardcore band with dunderheaded right-wing lyrics. Indeed, one panel of the Racism, Religion, and War insert is devoted to a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. with the slogan "Fulfill the Dream."
By now, you should know whether this is up your street, punk. If so, let it be said: The River City Rebels do this sort of thing very, very well. It ain't gonna give birth to any new paradigms, it ain't gonna set the literati alight, and that ain't all bad.