Scream were formed as a fresh-out-of-high-school pair of brothers were yanked straight from the Virginia suburbs by the unmissable smoke signals of the Washington DC hardcore scene. They closed the distance fast and jumped headfirst into the DCHC explosion with ‘Still Screaming’ in 1983, a record that was undeniably a ‘scene’ entry that combined thier favorite elements of Minutemen and Bad Brains with the occasional directness of Ian MacKaye surfacing for some real thrashers. For the era and the scene it is actually a long, and oddly complete feeling record that really belongs up there with early Government Issue and Circle Jerks in terms of inspired and off the chain hardcore. But look, at some point you gotta know that all these hardcore kids went off onto weird rock and metal tangents in the mid 80’s. Every pure hardcore yout’ juice story has a weird ending and Scream‘s fourth album was way out there with the rest.
Fire up Scream‘s second album ‘This Side Up’ and you’re on a different planet. Scream were combining post-hardcore, dub/reggae, and sneaking in short hardcore punk songs in whatever nook and cranny they needed filled. It worked for me at the time I discovered it, heavily invested into Bad Brains and Agent Orange, and some elements of it felt just barely ahead of their time considering the ‘experimental hardcore’ landscape of 1985. The reality was that they were changing along with their spirit animals Minutemen and Bad Brains and the record fits right in between that head-space. Then they went butt-rock post-hardcore on ‘Banging the Drum’, let’s just not fuckin’ talk about that album seriously. If you didn’t fall off the boat there, you either loved alt-rock or you never heard the album. The album might have been produced by Ian MacKaye himself, complete with backing vocals, but it was a pure and poorly done departure. No hard feelings though as every hardcore band (besides Poison Idea) either split up, went thrash metal, or put out a terrible rock record around this time.
Many changes occurred before ‘No More Censorship’ was lit up and the thing everyone is always raving about was that this was the album where Dave Grohl did his drum thing before joining Nirvana for their brief major label kick post-‘Bleach’. Can you tell he’s on the drums? Yes, actually and his arena rock/metal influenced style changed the dynamic of the band entirely. With this sea change came the oddest signage onto RAS Records, a reggae focused label mostly known for putting out mid-to-early records from Black Uhuru and Eek-a-Mouse. While I could not stand ‘Banging the Drum’ and it’s cheap alt-rock I think the heart of this record still represented a reverence for the genre-bending of Bad Brains and sought a democratic vision of Scream‘s influences. As a result ‘No More Censorship’ is a bit punk rock, very late 80’s alt-rock, and a touch heavy metal when it gets going.
Is it good? I mean… it’s a 1988 experimental rock record, it has it’s major thorns. The elements they’re mixing just don’t come together into a ‘whole’ record, even with the tracklist re-arranged for maximum punk-ness on the A-side. I really wanted to liken it to ‘I Against I’ or the earliest Rollins Band efforts but, Frank Stahl‘s vocals weren’t ready for alt-rock songs like “Building Dreams”, “Fucked Without a Kiss” and the horrendous “Run to the Sun”. These songs interrupt the rebirth of an otherwise sharp and adventurous late 80’s punk rock record. Hell any of today’s biggest crossover/hardcore bands could cover “God Squad” or “GLC” to great effect, and those more metallic and driving tracks save Scream’s ass in retrospect. On some level they did exercise restraint, again for 1988, where many like-minded bands didn’t as they avoided the looming threat of ‘funk metal’ hotness. Coming from a hardcore punk band that ‘grew up’ fast ‘No More Censorship’ does feel more sincere than a lot of what was out there in 1988, especially in terms of post-hardcore bands going alternative rock/hair metal.
Why should you care about this reissue/remaster of the fourth Scream album in 2018? They’ve done a great job cleaning up the sound of it, for starters so if you’re hearing it for the first time this is a respectful scrub up. The new tracklist arrangement works incredibly well and the bonus tracks are worthwhile. I could speak more to this effect if I’d had a physical copy with the booklet/extras, but at the very least ‘NMC17’ is a better overall experience than the original. The story of Scream is an interesting one that lead it’s members off onto a wide variety of projects you probably like (Foo Fighters, Goatsnake, Wool, etc.) and it is worth hearing that provenance if you’re a collector or record store digger like me. Plus hey, honestly if you don’t think every last anti-Reagan punk and/or rock album from the 80’s isn’t still relevant today you’re not paying attention to this day and age. I mean my recommendation comes with a severe caveat, you better love ‘This Side Up’ more than ‘Still Screaming’ to have any chance of warming up to it because it is a weird-ass late 80’s rock record. The nuance isn’t lost on me, though, and I had a great ride as long as I skipped “Building Dreams” and “Run to the Sun”.
That they care, that they’re there. 3.5/5.0
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