New York ska-punks Left ver Crack and their British counterparts Citizen Fish band together for the split release Deadline, and really, what a perfect pairing of groups. Both are vehemently pissed off at the government, suspicious of authority, and ready to throw two middle fingers at basically anything that promotes greed or control, or tries to hold them down. And both also favor upbeat ska grooves and lively melodies to get their points across — although the melodies are laced with such acerbic vocals, crusty hardcore attitude, and razor-sharp social commentary that the music would be better served at an urban protest rally (Jello Biafra fittingly guest rants on “Baby-Punchers”) than as the catalyst to any sort of happy-go-lucky skanking. Citizen Fish’s half to things is relatively more upbeat — though both singers are equally outraged and largely unintelligible — and excellent cuts like “Working on the Inside” and “Join the Dots” seem borderline friendly with their bouncy basslines if you disregard lyrics that, among other things, name the government as the true drug lords (“Even as you talk of a war on drugs/The name on the cheque says C.I.A”). Citizen Fish have been at this a while, but their frustrations and pleas for improvement are no less pressing. Same goes for the relatively younger Left ver Crack, whose lead rager Stza has one of the snottiest deliveries around; if you’re not used to his voice, it can take some acclimation, but it’s a voice with a lot of character that gets the job done effectively. Alternating like they do between scrappy ska-punk and faster hardcore-leaning complaints, these songs are also not exactly uplifting (“World War 4” gets closest — with a chorus that’s actually sung, no less — if that’s any indication of track positivity levels), but as always, there’s no shortage of hot-blooded passion and sincere conviction. Left ver Crack have a twisted sense of humor that wants to push buttons (i.e., titles like “Baby-Punchers” and the Rancid poke “…And Out Comes the N-Bomb!”), but they really seem to want to spur people to think for themselves more than anything else. The bleeding urgency that both bands discharge with such directed force and street-level ferocity is truly refreshing, even if you don’t always agree with their rallying cries to such extreme levels. And overall, especially considering how incensed both groups are, Deadline is surprisingly still incredibly accessible and even poppy. It’s the perfect album not just for the converted, but also as an introduction for those looking to add a little anarchistic punk spice to their lives. ~ Corey Apar, Rovi
(Alternative Tentacles Records)