D.O.A.: Tired but Still Punk

For Those Who Like: Dropkick Murphys, The Melvins, Flogging Molly
 , D.O.A

The prolific Canadian hardcore band D.O.A. – argued to be the first band to give a name to the hardcore movement, has released their 18thfull length album since 1980: We Come in Peace. Since then D.O.A. has gone through more than a few line up changes but frontman Joey “Shithead” Keithley is the only founding member to continue. Throughout the last three decades the sound and political culture that surrounds D.O.A. has been clearly shaped by Keithley’s ongoing commitment to punk/hardcore and its place in time.

Too many Gen Y’ers lament the death of true punk, and maybe in many respects they are right. The loss of anarchy and rebelling against “oppressive” government controls. Thankfully, D.O.A. always bring back a good chunk of that initial punk/hardcore culture in their sound – even if it is primarily through lyrics and not always in finger splitting guitar chords. Not pretending to be spring chickens – We Come in Peaceis less about showing the kids how to do it, and more about doing it the way it should be done. There is a message. More than eating pizza, or partying, or even been mad at your ‘rents.

We Come in Peace is rife with politically charged lyrics, no surprise from a band and frontman who played a 30 minute set for the Vancouver occupiers. They even have a song entitled “Occupy” on this album. What is a surprise is the proliferation of harmonized vocal melodies and straightforward rock instrumentals on this album. Though D.O.A. isn’t the same scrappy, loud and sometimes incoherent punk hardcore band they were infamous for being in the 80’s and 90’s – this album gives a lot of love for old and new fans alike. Only “Do You Wanna” and “Boneyard”, with Ben Kowalewicz (Billy Talent) and Hugh Dillion respectively, harken back to those punk days in a much more real way, and could even make someone a little nostalgic for all ages shows and studded leather. A heavy dose of critical reality, D.O.A. gives it to everyone: the government, the one per cent, and naked patriotism. Everything you would expect from punk rock veterans.

While the album isn’t D.O.A at the height of punk and hardcore  (as it would be easy to call “Lost Souls” and “General Strike” folky), there is something spectacular about listening to a new album from Canadian punk legends. Wisdom and punk don’t often go hand in hand, but what is clear is that Keithley’s “shithead” days are pretty much over, and he is far better off for it. We Come in Peace may not be as fast, as heavy or as loud as D.O.A used to be, but it is a pretty good lesson for a lot of suburban based punk bands. The lyrics mean something, and they are culturally relevant. Another good lesson younger bands might take away from this above-average record.

Originally published on the National Music Centre’s blog for New Release Tuesday, July 31st 2012.

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