Articles of Faith – Complete AOF Volumes 1 & 2

Articles of Faith
Complete AOF Volumes 1 & 2

I guess there are a few reasons I could validate in explaining the rather sudden decision that Alternative Tentacles seems to have made to gather up two CDs worth of vinyl-only releases and previously unreleased material by the socially conscious early 80s punkers Articles of Faith. For ‘name’ value’s sake, Bob Mould recorded and mixed a considerable portion of the band’s catalogue back then during his Husker Du heyday, while renowned producer Lou Giordano re-mixed a lot of this material for re-release back in the early 90s. Throughout the liner notes (written by vocalist/guitarist Vic Bondi), it seems that somehow, the social condition of the world today spurred a creative resurgance within Bondi that resulted in this compilation. Frankly, after listening to Complete AoF, my theory is that this material had to be re-released because it rocks harder than a landslide.
The discs here are split into earlier (1981-1983) and later (1983-1985) material, with a few live tracks and folky ‘re-interpretations’ of AoF tracks scattered amongst the discs. Upon listening to this stuff, two words instantly came to mind: ‘fast’ and ‘guitars.’ On Volume 1: 1981-1985, the band definitely seems to have a Husker Du vibe going for it at times, though in all honesty, it never really hurts the material here, as the similarities come off as just that, rather than blatant rip-offs. Tracks like the abrasive “What We Want is Free” define the band, with socially conscious lyrics (“I don’t need no credit rating / Mass production market slaving / I won’t spend my life behaving / The monopolies / If in time I cease to function / Blame it on a bad deduction / All I see is prime corruption / The monopolies”) that are driven into ears like nails with hammering guitars. “In Your Suit” comes off like a politically focused version of The Dictators, while “Every Man for Himself” espouses a completely capable punk/math hybrid 20 years before that stuff was en vouge in the music world. The slowed down, almost ’emo’ tinged guitar intro to “Hollow Eyes” is even more proof that the band was much more than a ‘four-chords to every album’ sort of one-trick pony. The track ‘punks up’ a bit, breaks down into a dissonant bridge, then rails right back to the wonderful little opening riff, before winding to a peak with a massive Bondi scream. “In This Jungle” blends intensity with startlingly good guitar dynamics, as this fierce punk number slows up into a demented blues beat about three minutes in, then snaps back into a guitar solo-led frenzy. It still amazes me that a six-minute song can seem to go by this fast with every listen.
There really aren’t a ton of discernable differences between the earlier and later material, which may lead to some understanding about why the band only lasted four years (not counting the band’s brief attempt at reforming in the early 90s). Still, don’t let that fact discourage any understanding that Volume 2: 1983-1985 is another worthwhile listening experience. “Wait” and “Buy This War” are back-to-back sub-two-minute blasts, full of piss, vinegar, empassioned yelling, crazy guitar rhythms, and quick drum fills that come out of nowhere to stop the music on a dime, only to thrust it back into overdrive two seconds later. The 10-second guitar solo on “Up Against the Wall” comes from the middle of nowhere and left the hair on the back of my neck standing on end even after the fourth and fifth listens when I was expecting it. “Empty Rooms” is quite possibly the best song in this entire collection – the quality of this live recording is remarkably good, considering the time period, and the song is a toe-tapping, fist in the air rocker of the highest quality. Best of all, the song clocks in at just under three minutes, even with the extended guitar solo that ends the track. The instrumental “Wheedle Dee” is a furious rhythm guitar workout, while the toned-down approach of “Nowhere” completely changes the tone of the disc, courtesy of its less aggressive vocals and rhythm. Of course, this is AoF, so Bondi hollars a bit at the end, but still, the song is remarkably ‘nice’ anyways. The five-minute intense sprawl of “Cambridge” showcases that wacky ‘one voice sings while the other one yells/screams’ thing that so many bands do so well nowadays – only, you know, AoF pulled this off back in the friggin’ early 80s, which makes it sound even cooler to hear.
I still can’t really put an exact reason on why Alternative Tentacles and Bondi felt the need to assemble this material in 2002, but I can say with all the confidence in the world that I’m happy as hell they decided to do it. In all honesty, as far as quality listening enjoyment goes, Complete AoF Volumes 1 & 2 easily rank up with Minor Threat’s complete discography, The Wipers’ box set, and Husker Du’s SST albums. If this had been released as new material in 2002, it would STILL be awesome, which should says something about the fact that this stuff is over 15 years old. Anyone even remotely interested in early 80s punk absolutely has to hear this, simply because it’s great to hear a ‘punk’ band that’s not afraid to go on guitar tangents that occasionally border on ‘progressive’ (as well as what we now know as ’emo’).
Perhaps, though, the best ‘unspoken’ reason for this re-release can be found on the last track of Volume 2: 1983-1985, when Bondi does the most un-punk thing possible (which, indirectly, makes it that much more punk, by definition) by having re-recorded a folky solo ‘2002’ version of “What We Want is Free,” complete with the declarations that, “They sell me short / Shatter my ambition / They buy me out / That’s the wrong description / They buy me off / I’ve no ammunition / That’s what they want for me / I won’t spend my life behaving / Say I’m wrong for disobeying / All your shit is so degrading / I won’t spend my life behaving / What we want is free.” Regardless, Complete Articles of Faith kicks ass in more ways than Bruce Lee could’ve ever dreamed of. End of story. Now go buy this. NOW.