Bangers and Thrash

City Paper

- Old Lines (pictured) is a hardcore band that has been building up steam for several years, featuring members of Pulling Teeth, Ruiner, and Never Enough, among other Baltimore groups. They’re one of my favorites out of a really strong crop of heavy Baltimore bands right now and this month, almost a year after their (excellent) EP, “If You See Something, Say Something,” the band has teamed up with west coast label No Sleep to release a full-length LP, “No Child Left Behind.”

Thoughtful wordplay and the spinning of institutional rhetoric against itself are key elements to the band’s approach. “If You See Something, Say Something” is a particularly inspired choice of a title—taking government sloganeering, putting it in a different context, and flipping its meaning. It’s a phrase you see all over (train stations, airports, and so forth) that creates a background level of apprehension; an atmospheric fear of terrorism, of the other. But in Old Lines’ hands it becomes a call to actually look at the world around us and speak out—not at some enemy, but at what our society is doing to itself.

“To me, punk rock has always been a vehicle for social change. It’s the reaction to the stress and aggravation of living in a society run by capitalism instead of compassion,” says vocalist Matt Taylor over email. Even the band’s name is commentary. It obviously evokes thoughts of Maryland, the “Old Line State,” but Taylor explains that it goes deeper than that. “We all grew up listening to bands scream about the problems in our society, but we are still having these problems . . . the same old men are still holding office. The same old companies are brutalizing this planet while the media is telling us the same old lies, and we are another band in a long history that is screaming the same old lines.”

That observation echoes with me after a lifetime of listening to music that—at least theoretically—is out to change the world. Has it though? It’s easy to find yourself getting jaded. That’s why it excites me to find bands close to home that are still serious about trying to make change happen. In Taylor’s words, “I understand how stressful it is be constantly aware of all these problems but ignoring them is not going to help. We have an amazing community where we can come together and vent these frustrations and support each other.” It’s an important reminder. Heavy music at the moment seems to have a dearth of politically minded bands. One of the things that I really appreciate about Old Lines (as well as War On Women, another outspoken local band) is that they have no problem explicitly placing issues at the forefront of their songs and aesthetic. “No Child Left Behind” is out Oct. 14. Old Lines are embarking on a month-long tour of the USA to support it.

- I’m incredibly excited by the announcement that UK streetpunk legends Cock Sparrer are playing their first-ever show in Baltimore in November. After seeing more than my share of bands over the last couple of decades, it takes a lot to get me worked up about a show—especially anything that reeks of nostalgia—so I was hesitant when Sparrer played Philly in 2012. I assumed that they were too old, it was just a cash-grab, or an excuse for some old guys to get out of the house and goof around onstage, like so many similar tours. I was proven wrong that night. They ripped through a taut set and the sold-out room reverberated with enthusiasm, with most of the crowd singing along to every song the band belted out. Criminally mishandled by their record label when they started their careers in the late 70s/early 80s, Cock Sparrer’s reputation has grown in the ensuing years, driven primarily by their flawless 1983 album “Shock Troops.” Don’t miss the rare chance to see one of the few bands still standing from the original UK punk wave. Cock Sparrer plays with H2O and the Ravagers at Soundstage on Nov. 30.

- The Ottobar is hosting a benefit show on Oct. 11 featuring Pig Destroyer, Asthma Castle, Triac, and Passage Between. All proceeds benefit the family of slain staff member Tom Malenski. Tom was a beloved member of the staff, and the venue itself is much-loved by members of the music scene both near and far.

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