V/A - Give Em The Boot 2
Hellcat Records


If you thought Rancid's "Life Won't Wait" was just an album, you were wrong.
Taking the Rancid song "Avenues & Alleyways" as the manifesto, "Life Won't Wait"
began what Tim Armstrong undoubtedly hopes will become a quiet global revolution
in punk rock - and it is upon his label's second stop on the ultra-cheap-sampler
circuit, "Give 'Em The Boot II", that is foisted the dual responsibility of
articulating that vision while also showcasing the label's stalwarts (U.S.
Bombs, Dropkick Murphys and The Pietasters) in a manner that incites the kids to
throw their parents' hard-earned mullah at the label and so maintaining the
cashflow that sustains Mr. Armstrong's scheming.

Mr. Amstrong's vision is, like his band, not over-burdened with originality. The essence of it can be summed up in one word: ROOTS - a whole shitload of them.
Like many revolutionary visions, Mr. Armstrong's draws on a handful of rather debatable assumptions - the first and perhaps most fundamental being that the origins of modern punk lay in West Indian reggae. Perhaps Joe Strummer, Tim Armstrong and Jesse Michaels believe this, but one tends to suspect that Ben Weasel, Joe Queer et. al. would meet the contention with heavy-handed derision.
The counterpart to Tim Armstrong's first assumption, articulated in "Avenues & Alleyways" is that the constituencies of punk-rock and reggae have a lot in common with each other, except of course colour. The problem with this is that there isn't much of a constituency for anything reggae outside of the West Indies and punk seems to becoming increasingly the domain of middle-class suburbanites. That fourteen year old baggy-trouser-clad skaters in Pasadena could have anything in common with young Rastafarians in the slums of Kingston seems a little, well, sentimental and antiquated.
If one refuses to reason on the basis of logic and evidence and accordingly accepts these two assumptions, then one comes to the conclusion that international trans-racial unity can be forged by re-integrating reggae with it's punk descendent and then turning the whole thing into a marketable product. "Give 'Em The Boot II" is Tim Armstrong's articulation of this conclusion. Thus, on the compilation we have suburban white kids playing reggae alongside Jamaican Rastafarian reggae stars doing the punk thing - oh, and, of course, a showcase of the label's flagship actual punk bands that are managing to keep this Hellcat thing solvent.
Essentially, one half of Tim Armstrong's vision holds up and the other struggles to tread water. When Tim went to the Caribbean to recruit rasta dudes to punk it up on this record he luckily managed to land some bona-fide Jamaican Rastafarian reggae stars and so, not surprisingly, these guys are more than capable of holding down a song even if it is a completely different style from anything they've ever seen before. The reggae stars meet Rancid half is thus pretty fucking good.
Witness "Nocturnal" opening up the account on track number seven, featuring a character by the name of "Mad Lion" teamed up with Rancid. It's some rocking stuff. The lyrics are distinctively Mr. Lovaa-Lovaa style Jamaica and the vocals are gravelly, like Louis Armstrong. When violently-homophobic-misogynist-turned- peacemaking-rasta-reggae-star-turned-renowned-punk-rocker Buju Banton shows up alongside Rancid on track twelve, the result is something sublime - a rocking yet yearning, beautiful song. Pass over another track and we have another reggae star "Buccanner" rasta-ing it up alongside Rancid's grooves. Again, it works like a scorching motherfucker - it will have you bobbing about your room and vainly attempting to imitate the remarkable feat of putting a Jamaican accent to a punk song.
One gets the impression that had Tim Armstrong spun the reggae-star meets punk band out beyond the three-song quota, we might have had one fuck of an album on our hands. They didn't, though, and thus most of the rest of the album rests upon white kids trying to do the reggae thing - a bona-fide recipe for disaster.
Luckily, in spite of the determined efforts of some of the most unconvincing West Indian accents I've ever heard, the record somehow manages to stay together - but only just and only then with the infusion of real Caribbeans (and no doubt a few professional impressionists) to help things along. Hepcat do the standard Hepcat thing and do it respectably. The Pietasters make their case for having one of the most versatile vocalists in punk today as they do something alarmingly Jamaican to go with their swing-infuenced contribution to the first Hellcat sampler. The David Hilyard Rocksteady 7 sound reasonably convincing for what they're trying to do, even if what they're trying to do sounds to me like a nursery rhyme. The Slackers' track sounds a little more, uh, mature and is convincing if probably universally unappealing to most punk-rockers. Choking Victim and Mouthwash have tunes that sound midway between punk or reggae or, in other words, they have decent ska tracks, even if the lead vocals are a little unconvincing. But then, there's stuff like the tune by The Gadjits which sounds like bad imitation, period.
In addition to the rasta-stars meet Rancid and the white American reggae contigent, there are some decent punk rock songs by bands you probably haven't heard before. The Distillers have a great fucking impassioned rock song. Tiger Army, Leftover Crack and INDK all have decent tunes and F-Minus have a bad hardcore effort. In contrast, Hellcat's flagships stand up rather poorly. The songs by the Dropkick Murphys, the U.S. Bombs and the Rancid outtake are very un-special. They suck even. By contrast, Joe Strummer's tune is wonderful - even if it could be taken from the "Cocktail" soundtrack.
So, while "Give 'Em The Boot II" might not be one of the most blazing samplers around and while it may not, contrary to Tim Armstrong's hopes, solve the world's problems of racial disharmony, it does present and interesting and refreshing project - one that I at least hope will be carried further. At times, it gives rise to some rather rocking tunes as well.
...andrew beath...

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