Monday, February 27, 2012

SSD - Break It Up

The Worst From The Best
By Greg Polard
SSD -  Break It Up
Download -
Released - 1985

Story by Greg Polard.

So when Don asked me to write about bands who once had illustrious careers and then ended up putting out questionable material, the first record and band I thought of was SSD and their final album, Break It Up, from 1985.

Like many people my age, my introduction to the almighty SSD was via a collection of theirs on Taang! called Power that was released in the early 1990s.   Somehow, they thought it was a good idea to put out a compilation that was not only not in any semblance of chronological order, but that also leaned heavily on their later, often maligned, records (How We Rock from 1984 and the aforementioned Break It Up from the following year).  So my exposure to Break It Up up until recently was the few tracks on Power that I found myself mocking at first listen and then skipping over after that.

I put the first two SSD records (The Kids Will Have Their Say and Get It Away) up there with my favorite hardcore 12"s of all time. What an incredible band they were on those first two....super-fast (for the most part), angry songs with cool straight-edge lyrics.  But then, like most of those early hardcore/punk bands, after that second album, something changed.   Longer songs.   Guitar solos.  Cleaner production.  Less "punk" lyrics.  Sometimes bands ended up defying all odds and still releasing good stuff when they made these changes (we'll get to that with some of the other records I'll write about later), but I have to say, to my ears, SSD failed miserably.

Final Rating (1 out of 5)
I figured the best way to start off this series of posts would be by listening to a record that I'd never actually heard in its entirety prior to writing, that way I could listen with fresh, unbiased ears.  I still have not been able to listen to the whole album.  I made it through Side A (1-5) and had to give up.   I really did try.  I swear.   But some things aren't meant to be.  Thing is, I wanted to give this one a fair shake, too.   I mean, it came out on Homestead in 1985, the same label (and year) that Dinosaur Jr. (known as Dinosaur at that point) released their classic debut album.   It seemed like if anyone was going to like this album, it would be me.   I am also a huge AC/DC fan and it's pretty common knowledge that Break It Up was SSD's attempt to sound like them, but still... I feel nothing.  Springa is no Bon Scott (or even Brian Johnson for that matter), and Al Barile and Francois Levesque are not Angus and Malcom Young either.

The songs are too long and go absolutely nowhere.  Hell, with one look at the running times when I imported the album onto iTunes, I had a feeling I wasn't going to be happy.  Not one song is under three minutes.   In fact, the shortest song is 3:19 while the longest is an agonizing (or so I'm assuming since it's on Side 2) 5:27.  It seems like while in the studio, they said, "Man, you know what would make this even better?  If we put some long, wanking guitar solo overtop."  So that's what they did... on every song.

Did I mention the lyrics yet?  Since I'm listening to MP3s and don't have the actual album (but really does anyone own the actual album?), I can't be 100%, but I swear it opens up with the line, "Twiddling your thumbs like little Jack Horner."  If I'm right, wow... that's horrible.  And if I'm wrong... well it's still hilarious, no?

The coolest thing about the record is the dated-looking cover art.  It screams 1980s.  Take away the SSD logo and replace it with RATT and it makes perfect sense.  A far cry from the Pushead art of Get It Away, for sure.

One thing I did notice while listening was that in a way, this record is the precursor to "grunge."  It features a slight touch of punk rock, but with classic rock and heavy metal influences abound.  It would not have sounded out of place on Sub Pop in 1988.   The difference is that those bands, for the most part, were able to write decent songs in that style.  SSD could not.

I genuinely have never talked to a person who likes this record.  When push comes to shove, I bet you that even Al Barile himself will, at least in 2012, acknowledge that this thing sucks.  And he said it was their best record in that Schism interview around 1988 or so.

But don't take my word for it, download the link and see for yourself.  While you're at it, let me know how awesome Side 2 is.

Final rating: 1 out of 5.

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