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AlbumsDance With Me
Divided We Stand
Beneath The Shadows
Jack Grisham ñ vocals
Ron Emory ñ guitar
Mike Roche ñ bass
Todd Barnes ñ deceased
ìPresident Reagan can shove it!î is the final knife into the governmentís back in the legendary song ìSuperficial Love,î written in 1980 by TSOL. That, of course, was an era when punk bands often wrote vitriolic, anti-government anthems and questioning authority was the norm, instead of the exception. ìPunk is more about fashion than function now,î says Grisham, the central figure of this seminal band known as much for its political fervor as being at the forefront of the punk/goth movement.
Nowadays, with a President who is arguably more ripe for punk revolt, most punk bands are playing it safe, preferring to impress the buyers at Hot Topic and the programmers at Clear Channel and Viacom. The song ìSee You Tomorrowî from the bandís fourth full-length album, Divided We Stand, proves they havenít missed a step: ìPolicies of death begin/your children suffer for your sins/ignorance and open hate/we reap the seed that we create.î Throughout the album, Grisham expresses his rage, his doubts, his love and certainly his lust. Itís quite evident he still finds the music rewarding, and the fans, who continue to come out in droves, clearly still find them relevant.
Itís been a long and winding road for TSOLóthe drugs, the fights, the prison time, the underage marriages, heavy drinking, the sobriety, the deathsÖ theyíve each lived more than a few lifetimes. And though much has changed in these menís lives, their central belief is the same. ìOur emotions have not wavered... I mean, what am I doing this for? It sure as fuck isnít the money,î reminds Grisham.
There still is something he and the rest of TSOL are searching for, however. When asked what he hoped people get from this record, Jack replied, ìTo feel united with something or someoneÖ ëNo man is an islandí (John Donne), sometimes I feel like an island adrift and unconnected. Maybe someone will hear this and say they understand it or feel the same.î
Divided We Stand does just that. It is a synchronized inferno of dark, melodic storytelling. A well timed verdict of all those around him, in his life, on his street and in society. Itís clear Grisham is at his peak. He is focused and sharp, and has delivered his best overall release since ë81ís Dance With Me.
A reason for this might be that sobriety is now a central part of life for Mike, Ron and Jack. Grisham said goodbye to the party back in the late 80ís after marrying a 14 year-old girl in Mexico during a common binge. Roche and Emory joined him some 10 years later after years of heroin abuse and lengthy prison sentences gave them two choices: sobriety or death (original drummer, Todd Barnes chose the latter in 1998). The band now frequently ìadoptsî friends who
are nearing the ìpoint of no returnî by hiring them as crew members on the road, as well as holding impromptu meetings wherever necessary. ìSobriety made me realize that I used to treat people like shit and that I am my brotherís keeper,î explains Grisham. Two years ago, while on The Warped Tour, the band even eBayíd backstage passes for each show and allowed high bidders on stage to sing with the band. The money was all given to charity, but the whole plan wasnít looked upon fondly by Warped officials, and was quickly halted.
Donít think this new lifestyle has softened them any. Listen to these songs and youíll see that while the music has evolved, what makes it TSOL completely remains. ìAgain,î is an instant classic, ìIíve bled the colors of your dreams/you brutally tore me/and I will never be in love again,î with the haunting ferocity that reminds us TSOL should easily be bigger than Social Distortion or Bad Religion or any of their contemporaries, if only they were better businessmen.
From ìFuck You Tough Guy,î where Grisham stands up to the macho jocks that punk used to be a revolt against, but now sadly represents, to ìElectric,î aptly titled as the song vibrates and races along with excitement, this group of punk rock elders (who influenced so many bands, including AFI, The Offspring and Pennywise) are still in a league of their own.
While many bands become passÈ after a few years, others stand the test of time and continue to write great songs and stay relevant. That is the epitome of TSOL, still crazy, still witty and still angry after all these years.
And îPresident Bush can shove it.î