Posted by: Necci – Jun 13, 2011
A controversial proposition – Citizens Arrest was the best New York hardcore band ever. Before the hate mail starts flowing, just try to come up with another band who could kill it so consistently across the span of multiple releases. Antidote and Urban Waste each had a spectacular EP, but didn't sustain their existence much further. Age Of Quarrel was probably the best New York hardcore album, but the Cro-Mags quickly devolved into squabbling and bad metal and never released anything that great again. Agnostic Front was great circa Victim In Pain, but kinda shot themselves in the foot with consistent mis-steps (Peter Steele-penned songs, oi elements, etc.). And as much as people love Gorilla Biscuits, it can often be hard to relate to a band whose biggest problems are that their friends play too many video games and that their room is messy.
While Citizens Arrest might not have had the longest run, they (unlike so many others) never attached their name to a bad song. From the more straightforward SSD trappings of their demo (not the most groundbreaking material, but still better than most of what their peers were peddling), to the darker, heavier sound of A Light In The Darkness, to the surprisingly good live record (“good quality live hardcore album” is more often than not an oxymoron), to the crushing devastation of their final release, 1991's Colossus, the band demonstrated a constant tendency towards artistic evolution. Like a statue being hewn gradually from a single block of marble, each album showed the band slightly tweaking their sound without offering fundamental alterations. Theirs was an approach that was heavier and less painfully dogmatic than many of the bands in the more political ABC No Rio scene, but more progressive and inclusive of influences than the city's early youth crew scene, a middle ground that has often left them criminally overlooked in the years subsequent to their existence.
I was excited that Citizens Arrest was doing some reunion shows, but will admit a bit of trepidation when I heard they were recording new material. No matter how good a band was, there are a scant few instances of a decades-after-the-fact reunion album being remotely as good as the original material (so few I can't even think of one off the top of my head). A listener's reaction to Soaked In Others' Blood will largely depend on his or her expectations regarding the band's direction.
The record itself is brief – four songs in about six minutes – and is closer to the material of the band's demo and first EP than their later material. It's relatively mid-tempo, eschewing the extremes of fast and slow parts that they embraced in the later years of their existence. This could be off-putting for a listener expecting the sort of forward push the band embraced early on, which, while not necessarily an unwarranted criticism, also overcomplicates matters. Their newest effort isn't really a groundbreaking release, but to dismiss it outright does the material a disservice. It's solid, it's well-played, it retains a viciousness that's rarely heard in such circumstances. “Family At Your Throat” sounds like Sheer Terror in a good way (unlike the majority of bands who try their hand at that), “Obmutescent Harpocracy” could challenge Bad Religion for the number of times a listener will have to reach for a dictionary to understand the song, and the title track is just similar enough to Poison Idea's “Plastic Bomb” to be killer, but not so much that it comes off derivative. Hard to see why anybody could dislike that.
Anybody looking for an introduction to Citizens Arrest might be better served by looking into their old material. Their approach may not have placed them in the spotlight (a position almost exclusively reserved for the mediocre), but the music that the band created has a lasting resonance of which few of their ilk were capable. Their newest effort should go a long way towards dispelling any sort of misgivings towards their renewed lease on life. While so many artists try and fail to recapture past glories, Citizens Arrest have offered a solid batch of songs, which hopefully indicate that the band can continue to create material rivaling their defining early work.
By Graham Scala