Uniform Choice – Screaming For Change
Released by: Southern Lord Records
Released on: January 20th, 2017.
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Screaming For Change, the 1986 debut album from Orange County’s Uniform Choice, gets the deluxe reissue treatment from Southern Lord who have gone back to the original tapes to remaster this fourteen track classic. Featuring Patrick Dubar on vocals, Victor Maynez on guitar, Dave Mellow on bass and Patrick Longrie behind the drums, these guys might not be as well known in straight edge hardcore circles as Youth Of Today or Minor Threat (who were clearly an influence), but they’re just as good.
Use Your Head starts things off, eighty-three seconds of fast, pissed off punk rock yelled, not so much sung, with a fantastic riff in the middle section and a strong backbeat – and what a finish! My Own Mind is the second track, one of the few on the album that stretches past the two minute mark, but the band don’t slow things down at all to fill in the extra running time. This one’ll leave blisters on your ears and there’s a really solid melody here (in fact there’s a really solid melody on almost every track here, and they manage to do this without slowing things down or relenting in intensity or speed).
Straight And Alert is the longest track on the record at three minutes and ten seconds, and as the title implies it’s a raging slab of positivity, railing against drug and alcohol abuse and espousing the merits of the straight edge lifestyle. Build To Break gets back into ‘short song’ mode, it’s only seventy-four seconds, but the band doesn’t waste any time here, this is the fastest track on the album and possibly the angriest one as well.
Scream To Say is eighty-three seconds of straight up, straight edge hardcore, it’s repetitive, it’s catchy and it’s easy to sing along to – pretty much perfect in its simplicity. Once I Cry starts off with some storm sounds, the sound of thunder, before the guitar kicks in solo, and then the bass and drums a few seconds later. Gang vocals launch the track, and then Dubar takes over. This two minute and twenty-three second track might be the best one on the record, it’s positively anthemic. If it isn’t as fast or as pissed off as some of the other tracks, it’s definitely the catchiest and it lets the band show off their playing just a little bit. Sometimes, a seventy-eight minute scorcher, ends the first side of the album with a bang. By this point you know the drill.
The second half kicks off with the title track, an absolutely killer slice of eighties hardcore with gang vocals on the chorus, a great speedy drum intro, anthemic vocals and solid riffing from Maybez. Eighty-one seconds well spend. No Thanks, at two minutes and fourteen seconds, is lyrically an interesting track as it talks about acceptance and straight edge philosophy and is fairly anti-social in that regard. Some weird echoes on the vocals when he asks ‘Does it make you feel good when you drink?’ and that dates the song a bit but otherwise, good stuff.
A Choice is two minutes and twenty-six seconds in length and it starts off slow, a mid-tempo track with the vocals unusually coherent and discernable, at least to start with – it builds, the gang vocals take over and after chanting “UNIFORM CHOICE” a few times, the training wheels come off and this thing rockets to the finish line. Big Man, Small Mind is ninety-three seconds of fast, pissed off beautifully predictable hardcore played with anger and passion, but never lacking in message. Don’t Quit, at eighty-five seconds in length, is again a positive track – the message is basically the title, it’s a track about staying the course, sticking to your guns and not giving up and it’s played fast and delivered in an angry enough manner that it never sounds corny.
As the album moves towards its end, we get In Time, a two minute and fifty one second blaster that starts off with some reverb drenched guitar laying down a catchy riff at a surprisingly chilled out pace. The band builds up behind it, things go quiet, Dubar screams “IN TIMMMMMMEEEEEEEEE” and we’re back in familiar territory with some killer hardcore melody played fast and tight. This track really proves how rock solid a rhythm section Mellow and Longrie were. Last but not least is Silenced, the seventy-three second closer that’ll maybe leave you scratching your head a bit as it’s a spoken work poem about how the sound of no sound is the most deafening of all – but again, the band’s positivity shines through here. When the poem ends, the track (and the album proper) finish with the sound of some kids playing.
These guys should have been bigger than they were. Their sound might not be the most original but they’re more than a Minor Threat clone even if the influence is undeniable. Maybe now that a decent sounding version of the album is back in print they’ll get a bit more attention. Either way, anyone interested in eighties hardcore and punk, straight edge or otherwise, owes it to themselves to pick this up. Screaming For Change really is an underappreciated classic.