You could see this coming couldn’t you? The one-time punk rock supergroup, containing members of The Chemical People *alongside *DYS / Dag Nasty’s Dave Smalley had seemingly gone from strength to strength with every release in their 11-year career until their departure from Epitaph *and yet another new rhythm section resulted in 2000’s disappointing *‘Fly The Flag’ _debut for Go-Kart Records. Although Dave Smalley’s inspiring lyrical stance was burning as brightly as ever, _'Fly The Flag' just didn’t seem to have the same spark that DBL classics like ‘All Scratched Up’ _and ‘Last of The Sharpshooters’ _had and regrettably appeared to signal the end of the road for a band whose fruitful and influential career had provided so much inspiration for punk kids around the world.
Contrary to what I expected, this ‘Best of…’ album actually makes for uneasy listening. I’ve always said that Best of’s are always better-compiled by yourself and the fact that all the tracks here have been chosen by fans via their website made me even more sceptical, predictably ignoring the admittedly disappointing 'Fly The Flag' album and focussing on material from ‘punkrockacademyfightsong’ _and _‘All Scratched Up’. But, they’re great albums so I don’t mind that much.
Punkrockdays _opens up with the ringing start to _‘Independence Day’, a scathing attack on violent security staff on over-zealous kids at shows and a subsequent ‘riot’ that united the fans on one particular day. As you expect it to jump straight into the punk rock beat of ‘Cheap Thrill’ **it instead leaps into a riff I first learnt to play on the guitar, the simple but charming **‘Flower Tattoo’, written and sung by their drummer at the time Hunter Oswald. It's also an example, alongside 'Gruesome Gary' and their cover of The Proclaimer's '500 Miles', of their sense of humour amid songs with more sensible themes.
However, it’s when it moves into the even faster ‘Punk As F#@*’, then into ‘Burning Heart’ and onto _‘All American’ _(all off different albums) that you start to realise how badly this has been put together, jumping from album to album and varying production quality on each track, instead of having some kind of order to the thing.
That said, I guess it does offer a pretty good incite into one of punk’s most treasured bands and frontmen. As well as writing some of the scene’s greatest anthems and laying the foundations for what would later be called ‘emo’ in Dag Nasty, *Dave Smalley *has an admirable ability for writing the kind of revolutionary lyrics that opened your eyes to the real picture and gave you strength to change your attitude, his whole objective being to build up the punk community so that we can influence and ultimately change the social structures that oppress us, the lowly public.
It’s this awe-inspiring attitude that’s run fervently throughout DBL’s entire career and that the blazing ‘Last Brigade’ _exemplified brilliantly as it shot out of their second album ‘Blue’, emotionally charged with a fiercely radical message. Smalley’s Political Science masters degree was also put to good use in other socially-conscious songs like _‘1944’, ‘Guns of 96’, ‘USA Today’ **and **‘Concrete Times’, which defined DBL and provided that valuable shot of inspiration at a time when the definition of punk was drifting further & further away from the whole reason it came about in the first place.
As it happens, out of those songs only '1944' _and _'Last Brigade' are included and despite there being 18 tracks, a cover of Big Country's 'In A Big Country’ _and the videos for 'Radio Ragga' and 'Hit or Miss' (which are included in audio form as well) there are tracks that are criminally missing. I mean, where’s the buoyant emo-punk of ‘Cheap Thrill’, the passionately stirring ‘Last Goodbye’, the socio-political eye-opener of ‘USA Today’ _or the fast and thrashy ‘Counting Crows Must Die’ track that appears intermittently on _‘All Scratched Up’??
In Dave Smalley’s own words, “We always operated from the philosophy that whatever moved us and whatever we could play should define the rules, not people’s expectations. We didn’t have to prove we were punk”.
Down By Law play the Holidays In The Sun festival in Blackpool Winter Gardens on Saturday July 20th.
6Mat Hocking's Score