I remember first seeing the newly reformed D.O.A. play “The Enemy” live on Channel 10’s Soundproof in the spring of 1980. It was one of the most exciting things I’d ever seen on television: raw, loud and in your face. My band opened for them a few weeks later, and again they demonstrated that raw power. It was heady stuff for a star-struck 15-year-old.
After nearly 36 years, 17 albums and countless lineup changes, D.O.A. still show that power, angst and raunch they did all those years ago. Their latest offering, Hard Rain Falling, is 29 minutes of wham-bam hardcore punk rock that easily stands beside any of their earlier recordings.
Frontman Joe Keithley and his cohorts are shooting for a leaner, sleeker sound, more in keeping with the one-guitar band they have become. While earlier albums could sometimes be muddy, like Something Better Change, or overblown, like Let’s Wreck the Party, Hard Rain Falling comes across leaner, louder and more focussed. The only production stumbles I could find was the surreal keyboard laid on top of “Warmonger.” The sound is lean, clean and immediate.
Much of Hard Rain Falling features high speed hardcore, tunes like “Gone Too Far” and “Not Gonna Take Your Crap No More” almost tripping over themselves in a race to the finish. But there is also the anthemic, Clash-like “Pipeline Fever,” and the bizarre, bagpipe-soaked, Celtic-punk pub rocker “Kicked in the Teeth.”
D.O.A. has always taken a tough stance on a number of political issues, and this album is no exception: racism, gangs, police violence, and the oil industry all get subjected to Joe`s scorn. And yet, part of the band’s staying power has been the ability laugh as well, as seen in tunes like “Punk Rock Hero” and “Ni Hao.”
The band has always thrown in a thoroughly revamped cover or two in nearly every release, from “Singin in the Rain” to “Communication Breakdown.” Here we have a raunchy sped up version of the Slickers’ “Johnny Too Bad,” and the album’s closer, Johnny Cash’s ‘San Quentin” which gets a Social Distortion makeover.
All in all, a solid performance by D.O.A.: stripped down and fighting fit, they come out swinging, and have come up with a disc that leaves you panting.— Sean “Scruff” Newton
Under Review Editor’s Note: This is a guest review from Sean “Scruff” Newton of classic Vancouver punk outfit No Exit. The cover of our February issue, featuring Joe Keithly, is partially intended as a tip of the hat to our original issue, which featured D.O.A. As such, it was a cool opportunity to get a Vancouver punk great to review D.O.A.’s newest offering.