Double Play: Corrosion of Conformity & Tonight Alive

C.O.C. returns powerfully without Pepper Keenan, while Tonight Alive milks the high school rebellion phase.  

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson


Corrosion Of Conformity

Corrosion Of Conformity

Candlelight Records

Nothing like starting the New Year with the return of Corrosion Of Conformity. Let’s be clear, this isn’t the COC most remember, the one that featured Pepper Keenan of Down fame. This is the COC team that brought us the brilliant, must-have punk/metal albums Animosity and Technocracy. If you don’t own those albums, stop reading and go buy them right now. Having recently brought the team of Mike Dean (bass/vocals), Woody Weatherman (guitars) and Reed Mullin (drums/vocals) back together; COC has been enjoying great recognition touring the country playing the classic early records. As good as it was seeing the old stuff, there would come a time when new jams would be needed.

Cue Corrosion Of conformity, the new self-titled album from the trio that built the bridge between punk and metal. Pressing play to hear the first collection of recent music from this legendary band was nerve wracking. What if it sucked? What if it was boring? Even worse, what if it was just a rehash of past glories? Rest assured my fellow followers of metal that is not what you get here.

The new album is a hearty beef stew of everything COC have ever accomplished in their career. Some will call foul, some small-minded philistines who wanted to hear Animosity Part II will flail their metal baby rattles and cry out from their parent’s basement. What they fail to see is how amazing this direction is, how it proves exactly why Corrosion Of Conformity are one of the best and most underappreciated bands in metal history.

Opening with “Psychic Vampire”, COC sets the tone of the album. The production is dirty and cramped, a true live-in-a-club sound. The opening riff is a sludgy groove that breaks into a straight punk/metal riff, and then slows back down into the meaty part. The tension created by the two stark variations in speed makes “Psychic Vampire” unnerving. It also lets you know that COC are forging ahead, not resting on their laurels.

The musicianship here is ridiculous. Mike Dean’s bass is a thumping, rattling monster. I spine made of adamantium steel which holds up the entire band.  Dean brings the bass to life like few can do, while at the same time laying down some awesome guttural vocals. Layered on top of the bass are Woody Weatherman’s huge riffs. The dirty fuzzed out guitars cut like a buzz saw through Dean’s thicker bass. Weatherman can switch easily from note heavy noodling to power riffs and make sure the groove never drops. Reed Mullin? Really? What the hell is this guy’s problem? Does he have to be such a powerful drummer who can also get wicked tasty? The drums on this album are sick, calling out elements of thrash, doom and AC/DC rock. You can feel the years between these guys, the unsaid ability to kick out badass jams at will.

“River Of Stone” finds the band reaching into their Blind era bag of tricks to build a slow, pummeling groove that lets up only to explode into full thrash rage.  “Leeches” is straight old school punk/metal, that same wicked hybrid that made Suicidal Tendencies and Nuclear Assault such powerful bands. It’s not technical enough to be straight metal but it’s better played than punk. It’s a mutant bastard child of the two and nobody kicks it out harder than COC. I also need to comment on “El Lamento De Las Cabras”, a melodic instrumental that comes across like the theme to some underground Mexican action movie. Who would drop this bit of reserved guitar play into a High Rocktane album? COC that’s who.

People have been calling the band COC for so long that they don’t think about the full name. Corrosion Of Conformity. The break down of the need to adhere to any one mantra or clique. COC have been doing that for years, bucking trends, telling the genre to go screw itself so they can make the music they want. It’s cost them the adulation and fame of bands that serve said genre but it’s also guaranteed them a place amongst the most influential bands ever. Corrosion Of Conformity stick to their namesake with the new album. A smashing record that defies labels. This is classic COC playing classic COC and nothing is better than that.




Tonight Alive

What Are You So Scared Of?

Fearless Records

(2012 American Release)

On the complete flipside is Tonight Alive, another entry in the growing genre of hipster pop punk with a super hot front woman. There’s little difference between Tonight Alive and a band like Paramore. High end super catchy riffs, fast paced songwriting in the epic pop music format of short songs and then lyrics that speak to the problems of the average teenager lost in the world of lunch room break ups and school drama. I’ll be honest, I don’t care about this music at all, but I find the formula interesting because it is a formula. There’s as much originality in what Tonight Alive do as with any prefabricated bit of rebellion, but labels keep pumping this stuff out.

First you take four or five really good-looking hipster musicians. Underfed, with perfectly styled “messy” hair and cool clothes. Add a front woman who is incredibly beautiful but still looks approachable, it gives the guys the idea she might sleep with them or at least hold their hand. Combine with that these disposable, catchy guitar lines, super crisp and clean production and then serve with the idea that they speak for some part of the youth population. It’s easy, you don’t have to think about it and Tonight Alive is a lot of fun to listen to.

The band’s latest album, What Are You So Scared Of, isn’t offensive but has nothing to do with punk rock. These are pop tunes, infectious, forgettable and bouncy. Speed doesn’t make something punk, let’s not forget that. The songs on What Are You So Scared Of are cute but all sound the same. Each song blends into the other and soon it all becomes white noise. Even the vocals lack any real definition; they just sink into the music and become almost non-existent. What your left with is an album that is wholly unsatisfying and pretty much drops from your consciousness as soon as it’s over.

The players here are solid, I’ll give them that much. It’s clear each person can play their instrument and the vocals from Jenna McDougall are nicely handled. Granted she’s so hot she could sound like a bull being neutered by a rusty butter knife and nobody would care. The parts are all here, good guitars, steady bass, crazy drums, it’s all exactly on point. Perhaps that’s the problem I have with bands like Tonight Alive and albums like What Are You So Scared Of. Everything is perfect, it all moves with the precision of a Swiss watch. Punk is anything but clean and proficient. By adding that aspect to the music, it gets robbed of the humanity. Tonight Alive could be any band, there’s nothing that makes them uniquely their own.

All the warts aside, there is an audience for this kind of music. The folks who think of Rancid as a seminal punk band or find Green Day’s contribution to music to be brilliant and have probably never heard of Black Flag. Teen angst is teen angst, it always has been and it always will be. I had it; kids after me have it, its part of growing up. The difference now is it has a uniform, a look and, with bands like Tonight Alive, a soundtrack.  Nothing this band does speaks to the greater humanity and sadness within us; it doesn’t even go for the obvious mark of pure rage.  This is easy music for a rebellion that parallels the buckle shoe or the hula-hoop. Again, there’s nothing wrong with it but there’s also nothing to it.

For fans of this stuff, you’ll be amped. The record will placate every fear that the 11th grade can bring you and help alleviate the tension of becoming a senior. The girl or guy that left, well, Tonight Alive understands as they also do about lame parents, not fitting in, unrequited love, etc. The newest entry in your bland theme music has arrived so fear not; you’ll have a show to wear your stretch jeans to. For the rest of us, the ones who see music as the savior of the soul, that which allows life to be livable and keeps us searching for new and exciting means of expression. Just walk on by, there’s nothing for you here.