"...the driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi - for he driveth furiously"
(2 Kings 9:20)
"Originally released in 1994 on Interscope, Yank Crime is without question the greatest post-hardcore album ever recorded, and also one of the great guitar albums. The 12 strings of Rick Froberg and John Reis' guitars flirt and taunt, melding into a chugging whirr of locomotion. Froberg's pained vocals ache and plead on epic standouts "Luau" and "Sinews," which culminate in tightly wound, extended jams that exhibit both astonishing guitar technique and strong senses of arrangement and melody. Many have copied Yank Crime, but none have matched it. "
Yank Crime was an album I first heard about the same time as I started getting into the Swing Kids, probably a little before. So I kind of heard it in a vacuum, and was totally amazed, while just recently I came back to it because of a new purchase. It's still amazing (and on coloured vinyl, even more - and pretentiously - so!)
Drive Like Jehu are the focus and the front for a lot of the San Diego-core bands, in that so much of their spazzy, frenetic, self-destructive sound comes from this band - and specifically, this album - and in that Drive Like Jehu aren't actually that obscure at all (compared to Swing Kids, or Mohinder, that is). You know when there's this band that you know from its connection to a narrow bunch of niche genre bands, and their CD turns up in the general rock/pop section at Tower? That's Drive Like Jehu.
Yank Crime is a loud, violent album that absolutely rocks, as well as combining enough mathy shit to get into your head at every listen. The first side of the LP, 'Here Come The Rome Plows', 'Do You Compute' and 'Luau', is possibly the single greatest piece of post-hardcore and/or punk music ever to be grouped together in the one place. 'Here Come the Rome Plows' as balls-out rockers, as energetic as almost anything on Gravity, and 'Do You Compute' as a perfect example of the invasive mathiness mentioned above.
The second side isn't quite as loud and violent, although it's still equally tense and aggressive at its high points. 'Super Unison' straddles a lot of Drive Like Jehu's sound, repetitive and ingrained heaviness in places, momentarily quiet and tender in others, and sometimes just both at once. In fact, towards the end it seems to launch off into another kind of song altogether, before being restrained back to its (ordinary) mathiness; while the follower, 'Golden Brown', is (just) another hypnotics shouter. 'Sinews', deservedly considered one of the album's standouts, builds up incrementally from humble beginnings without ever losing momentum or continuity, stepping deftly between heavy rhythm and noisy guitar effects.
The full CD version of Yank Crime can be a bit gruelling, which makes the vinyl so attractive, the LP closing on 'Sinews' and the last three songs collected on a separate 7" record (which plays at 33 rpm). 'Human Interest' picks up the energy and intensity right up again, riding the cusp between fierceness and dissolution in its pounding sound. 'New Intro' reintroduces the chiming guitars and mathy interplay of other songs, not least among them 'Sinews', before carrying the song off in a wash of feedback; while the flip side, 'New Math' lays down a closing slab of rhythmically destructive and unabashedly hardcore math-rock.
Simply put, Yank Crime is a loud and fast album which isn't afraid to go slow at times to make its point. Not just San Diego music scene c. 94-95, but a lot of music in the decade and further afterwards, is in debt to or echoes its sound. Anything loud, noisy and exciting, basically.
"...I heard both Jehu albums around the same time, must have been 1994 or 1995. And to my mind they had perfected rock music. Post-Jehu, whenever I heard a new band that was trying to play fast and/or loud, it felt limp. I just turned it off and put on Jehu. For about a decade—literally!—I never once felt the need to purchase albums by rock bands (particularly new ones). Perhaps it’s not coincidental that the most typical brand of indie rock during those ten years was the nascent genre of emo, which was ridiculously in debt to Jehu, among other bands (too, all those spazzcore bands, largely hailing from San Diego, who also owed much to Jehu). Lots of people credit Rites of Spring as being the original emo band, and I won’t argue against their influence; but Jehu had a significant impact as well, in the form of the octave chord.
Much like Slint inspiring a myriad sub-par post-rock acts to abandon upstrokes, Drive Like Jehu neutered the power chord. The crunch of the power chord felt almost amateur compared to the sharp-edged attack of the octave. The worst (and most prevalent) emo bands took as their template the inward-looking lyrics of Rites of Spring, the song structures of Orange County pop punk, and the octave chord of Drive Like Jehu.* You might see, then, why I felt this music paled in comparison to Yank Crime. These bands missed everything else."
"...It'd be bullshit to claim that DLJ's dalliance in time signatures gave them any great intellectual edge over their relations; in fact, the aim with this record (and to a lesser extent, the duo's similarly awesome debut) was to see just how messy math could get. "Luau", a solid 9? minutes of shifting, epic muck in the middle of the album, is a strong contender for that (or any) crown. Somehow, though, it's still a sing-along, with Froberg and Thingy's Rob Crow exchanging weird, plaintive, and perfectly placed cries of "Aloha! Suit up!" Same goes for the sprawling "Do You Compute": Every shard of feedback, icy harmonic blast, and doomed-out power chord refers back to and revolves around Froberg's desperate repetition of the titular mantra.
So, could be it's the tunes. Opening an album with a song as bracingly great as "Here Come the Rome Plows" would be a shot in the foot for almost any other band, with its snakepit verses and a chorus that goes from balled-up fists to open arms and back again before you can take a breath. "Golden Brown" does the same in almost half the time. These more straightforward songs sting like snowballs packed with rock-hard chunks of melody, and in each case, Froberg's voice abrades the solid lines down to the bare minimum, and the band fills in the resulting space with pure venom. It's often easy to forget that DLJ were considered emo in their day; Froberg's howls of "Ready, ready to let you in!" on "Super Unison" seem like a sick parody of stylish vulnerability. Then the song mutates into a gorgeous, snare-drum rolling open sea, and everything you've ever liked (and still like) about this genre in its purest form comes flooding back."
YC: this isn't a vinyl rip, basically because I was too lazy to rip both an LP and 7", and also because I wasn't getting great quality on the recording - instead, it's the 9 tracks from the CD reissue rearranged and renumbered according to the vinyl format.
You can get the Swami reissue on eMusic here, and presumably fairly easily from Amazon, etc.: it's well worth getting, as it includes the Merge 7" ('Hand Over Fist'/'Bullet Train to Vegas') and an original version of 'Sinews'.
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