Fear were the promise for a genre that never fully reached its potential: Fear can play their instruments; Lee Ving can actually sing; the lyrics are offensive. Even (or especially) by today’s standards; there’s a lot of variety; the recording sounds good. Fear proved you can make interesting music built around a framework of hardcore punk. You don’t need to make every song sound like “Gimme Some Action”.
The album starts out with the very catchy “Let’s Have A War” before Lee Ving proves his ability to really belt one out with “Beef Bologna”, which starts out a capella before bursting with punk angst in the second half of the track. “Camarillo” keeps the anger in high gear, but there’s a wild guitar lead that gives me some “Come Out And Play” vibes, except these are clearly more talented musicians than The Offspring. Of course far preceding them as well.
I suppose you can call “I Don’t Care About You” the bands mission statement. This album is so angry it is truly surprising to know this is an LA band. There are serious NYHC vibes a lot of the time, plus Manhattan, New York and the Subway are all directly referenced in the lyrics several times. Speaking of which, the next track “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones” is one of the most adventurous tracks on the album. It may be highly tongue-in-cheek, but the avant-jazz sax solos are impressive, and during the parts where there’s vocals, there’s melodic saxophone stabs that add a new dimension to the track.
“Gimme Some Action” takes it back to straight hardcore. It’s one of the most straight forward tracks on the album in fact, just four power chords. “Foreign Policy” is a mid-pace hardcore track, more like the first song on the album. The band then gets adventurous once more with “We Destroy the Family”, which features atypical percussive elements, a guitar riff not involving power chords, and a chilling, dissonant guitar lead.
Perhaps the band’s best and most well known track “I Love Livin’ in the City”, which is just a great snapshot of what city’s like NYC and LA were like back in the early ’80’s, is up next. The pacing on this album is just great. “Disconnected” starts out very straight-forward yet again, but the chorus is highly unusual – there are dual dissonant guitar lines, bass chords, and a non-harmonious vocal melody. All really neat touches. One has to wonder once more, why more hardcore bands don’t have this adventurous spirit. Especially considering most of the most popular one’s actually do.
“We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” is another track built on a guitar riff, rather than power chords. “Fresh Flesh” is largely built on power chords, but rhythmically, the song is atypical of the genre, and the guitar solo is yet again, quite dissonant. The lyrics are also nuts. It’s refreshing not hearing the same sped-up 4/4 beat over and over again.
“Getting The Brush” lives entirely outside the confines of hardcore. It sounds more influenced by a band like Wire, than the Dead Kennedys, especially considering bassist Derf Scratch’s vocals on this thing. The band then decides to end it out with another of their more straight tracks. The bonus track “Fuck Christmas” is a worthy addition to the album as well.
Fear’s The Record is a classic album in the genre, but I believe it should have a pretty easy time finding fans outside these confines, considering how adventurous the album is. The shape of hardcore to come it was not, regretfully.
Highlights: “Let’s Have A War”, “I Love Livin’ in the City”, “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones”, ” We Destroy the Family”