The state of punk rock in Washington DC in the early 90's was an interesting one, to say the least. A decade had passed since the initial wave of classic punk and hardcore bands put the city on the map, and the District was comfortably settled in a post-Revolution Summer era of indie and math rock. While there is no denying the importance and influence of the late 80's / early 90's Dischord Records bands that dominated the region, it came as no surprise that there were a few who still longed for the urgency of the classic hardcore punk sound and attitude that remained notably absent from the DC scene at this time.
It was out of this void that The Suspects were formed. Founded by original Scream drummer Kent Stax alongside guitarist Bryan Harbin, bassist Chris Condayan and vocalist Brian Gayton, the Suspects came together in 1993 with one objective - to inject the Nation's capital with a long forgotten dose of uninhibited punk intensity. Combining their love for classic '77 UK punk with the aggression and power of the DC Hardcore classics, The Suspects were a pivotal band for the region; crucial in keeping the spirit of DC Punk and Hardcore alive and flourishing for generations to come.
Supported by energetic live performances, the band gained an impressive following not only locally, but nationally as well. They shared the stage with a plethora of name bands from the decade - Rancid, The Pist, Violent Society, Dropkick Murphys, Blanks 77, Showcase Showdown, The Boils, Swingin Utters, US Bombs, and Pennywise, as well as legendary bands like the UK Subs, Fear, and The Ramones. Regarded by many as the most relevant DC punk band of the nineties, their music bridged the gap between the eighties Dischord scene and the diverse punk subsets of the 2000s, consequently providing a soundtrack for the lives of countless mohawked outcasts. Chances are if you lived in DC at the time and considered yourself a fan of punk music in any way, you were a fan of The Suspects.
Our take: Re-release of the 1995 full-length by this DC band on Grave Mistake Records. Having grown up in Virginia I saw the Suspects many, many times, and I have flipped past the original pressing of this record in more record stores than I can possibly count, so it's kind of incomprehensible to me that it's getting a reissue, but that kind of thing happens more and more the older you get. This record came out right about the time I started going to shows (I was 16 in 1995), and listening to it prompts me to reflect on how much punk has changed in my show-going life. The first thing I notice is that the singers actually kind of sing! I didn't realize it, but it's become so uncommon to hear someone do more than just scream or shout in a non-pop-punk band that it's quite striking to hear. I wonder if this is a side effect of our information age... this punk of the pre-file-trading era seems much more steeped in the more-melodic classics like the Clash, the Misfits, and other late 70s and early 80s punk bands rather than winnowing their list of influences down to a handful of the most extreme records in the history of music. The second thing I notice is that this thing is long! There are thirteen songs here, nearly all of them over two minutes long (and a few over three!)... no one that isn't an epic doom band puts out records this long anymore! I imagine this is probably also a product of the material conditions under which the music was created. Garageband wasn't a part of every single household, so recording was a much bigger deal... bands probably saved up songs for much longer before they went in to the studio, and once they did put out a new release it probably had a much longer shelf life than it does in this day and age. Speaking of the studio, this one was recorded at the legendary Inner Ear studio (where, rather famously, a big chunk of the Dischord catalog was also recorded). I've said many times that I can't think of a recording out of Inner Ear that doesn't sound good to me, and this one doesn't change that at all... it has that perfect balance of clarity and grit that, once again, you rarely see nowadays. As I said about Headcount's reissue of the first Clorox Girls album last month, it feels like this is on the leading edge of what will inevitably be a 90s nostalgia trend, but if I were you I'd go ahead and get on this trend now while they're reissuing the good records... before too long they'll be re-releasing everyone who ever vomited up their crystal Pepsi into a microphone.