Harley Flanagan - Cro-Mags
Written by Karl Bakla.
I got into Hardcore through skateboarding around 1986 & I’d always hear people raving about how the Cro-Mags were awesome & HARDCORE as FUCK! Sometime in ‘89 I finally stumbled across an album of theirs, that album was Best Wishes & from the first listen I thought the album was a horrible piece of shit, it wasn’t Hardcore & even by Thrash Metal standards it was weak as FUCK! I filed the cassette away & eventually recorded one of my bands demos over it…
About this time in PUNK history it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone say, “You have to hear their first album” not just about the Cro-Mags, but every band… TSOL, Gang Green, Black Flag, SSD, Corrosion Of Conformity, Suicidal Tendencies, Discharge…etc. As a young Punk it was exhausting, I didn’t have the money or time to waste on buying garbage & there was no internet so I didn’t have the luxury of previewing shit, or the help of those “Essential Punk Albums” lists that seem to clutter up the internet with the same fucking albums… great, you wrote a blog telling someone to listen to Fun House & London Calling, now fuck off! It was about this time I started wondering if an essential part of being punk was going butt rock, but minus the guitar licks, fame, money, the potato stuffed down the front of the stretch pants to simulate a huge cock, & most importantly people wanting to pork you… thankfully I had bands like Youth Of Today, Slapshot, Adrenalin OD, & SNFU to keep the skate (Jeff) sessions going. Going by Harley’s book I assume he would think these bands are posers or New Jack, whatever… nothing is lamer than the old guy being a dick about shit, I must point out that when Gilbert & I do it, we do it with style, class, & even elegance.
Sometime in 1994 Another Planet reissued The Age Of Quarrel & the Best Wishes albums together on one CD… I got my first taste of The Age Of Quarrel and I was blown away, I love that album so much! I have consistently jammed it since first hearing it, it was just as Hardcore as everyone said it was, if not more… then that dude Marco told me, “you have to hear the demo.” Holy shit, I didn’t think it was possible that those songs could get better, but it was… After being blown away by AOQ I decided to give Best Wishes another listen, it was worse than I remembered…. I remember ripping this double album onto another CD minus Best Wishes so I wouldn’t accidently listen to it in my car while delivering pizzas… you need top notch Hardcore to deliver pizzas on the mean streets of Las Vegas, not weak ass bullshit! You need your Hardcore to be big and bold like the tips you expect to make…
I recently read Harley Flanagan’s book Hard-Core: Life Of My Own and while doing so I listened to the entire Cro-Mags discography, it was confirmation that Best Wishes and the majority of their output sucks shit… I did enjoy listening to Revenge… as for the book I suggest reading it, the violence can get to a sickening level, but reading about Harley loving his kids is wonderful, & Harley is a master at shit talking, he even suggests that John Joseph sucked a bit of cock, which to me is no insult and if there was a dick in front of me I’d suck it right now, but in this macho world of HARDCORE it’s frowned upon for some strange reason. I read John Joseph’s book and it was also a fantastic read even though the timeline doesn’t make sense, it also made me think those stylish Krishnas in their orange robes aren’t so sweet, those motherfuckers are scam artists and child diddlers.
I think this album is the perfect place for the Cro-Mags story to end. It’s a return to the original Hardcore sound with essences of Metal thrown in to help make a bold rich flavor. Things have come full circle, the streets of New York that were once a dangerous place, that forced Hardcore kids to band to together are now a safe place to get a craft beer & a gelato (damn, if that’s the case I better plan a trip, since I love both)…now the Hardcore kids have no one to fight but each other! The stories of the Cro-Mags bad blood has been Punk folklore for years, since I was a kid I’d hear stories about one member turning in another one for being AWOL from the Navy, and band mates assaulting each other. When you search out the stories from the source everyone’s story conflicts…. All this came to a head on July 7th 2012, which resulted in the current bass player of the Cro-Mags getting slashed with a knife, some other dude getting slashed and his face bitten, & Harley ending up with a stab wound and a broken leg, pretty fucking crazy… the craziest thing that ever happened to someone that played bass in a band with me is that they ended up getting financed for a Hyundai, came with a ten year warranty or some shit. The end result was the charges against Harley were dropped & that Hyundai ended up getting repossessed or some shit…
Damn, it would have been easier if I just wrote that this is a good record, but that would be too easy, Bethany quite often complains that there is nothing I can do in moderation, well maybe I am just like Billy Joel, “darling, I don’t know why I go to extremes” which is also fitting for Harley Flanagan, but back to Billy Joel I like that he wore a leather jacket in his I Go To Extremes video, it gives him dare I say a PUNK AS FUCK look.
Where was I? Cro-Mags the album closes the Cro-Mags book for me in a good spot, a band that started with a big bang ends with assured mutual destruction as prophesied on their first album’s cover… the songs are the musical versions of the later chapters of Harley’s book, super-fast Hardcore rippers that touch on being stabbed in the back, never trusting anyone, thanking the people that still have your back even though you don’t trust them either, & wanting to kill someone but reluctantly letting them live… surely this won’t be on any MENSA members Top Ten lists, but when you are pissed off this is how it comes out. If you are a Punk Rock enthusiast who only casually listens to Hardcore then this probably isn’t for you, but if you are a fat guy that wears basketball outfits, & loves Hardcore you will dig it… I’d even suggest this for people who dig shit like The Accused… fuck, now that I am done typing this I have to edit it and I have the world’s worst grammar skills.
Available from 171-A Records / MVD Audio by clicking here. It's also available on Amazon (click here) and I'm sure it's available to purchase on his website www.harleyflanagan.com if you wanna look for it there. "Like" Harley Flanagan on Facebook by clicking here. Follow Harley Flanagan on Instagram by clicking here.
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