Friday, October 17, 2014

One Life Crew

Cleveland hardcore is a pretty crazy organism. There are so many layers to it. There is the Dark Empire scene centered around Integrity & Ringworm. There is the Non-Commercial scene centered around the Erba / Paul / Wedge braintrust. The argument about which is truly representative of Cleveland is about as tedious as the "Death Threat vs Deathreat" one. To truly appreciate Cleveland hardcore, you need to apply a certain metric to it and then you gain an appreciation for it all. The metric is by band and album. You don't need to consider the scene as you're talking about apples & oranges. If you really won't listen to Ringworm because it is too metallic and you are a hardcore punk purist but you still listen to Venom, you're simply a hypocrite.

Here's how you understand the bands in Cleveland as far as the Dark Empire scene goes. Integrity / Ringworm are the center of the universe with the bands featuring members of both bands being the surrounding bands. So utilizing this metric, you can say Integrity is better than Ringworm but Ringworm wrote the best album (The Promise) between the two of them. Another argument is that between all of the Dark Empire scene bands, you can say Crime Ridden Society is one of the best albums released from that group, and you'd be right. Enter One Life Crew.

One Life Crew was formed by "Mean" Steve Murad (of Confront fame), Chubby Fresh (of Integrity), Aaron "A2" Melnick (of Integrity), Blaze Tishko (of In Cold Blood). Really, it was only logical that something special was going to come from these guys. What they created was Crime Ridden Society. An album so good that the only thing that outshines its achievement is the outcry from the band's detractors. Here's why One Life Crew got into trouble about Crime Ridden Society. They wrote a song called "Pure Disgust" telling immigrants to get out of America. This is an old hat for hardcore. We've seen jingoistic / xenophobic lyrics and themes before with Warzone, Antidote, and Agnostic Front.

One Life Crew was simply a victim of circumstance. They wrote "Pure Disgust" during the mid 1990s. This was an era of hardcore where every band tried to be weird and abstract with their sound (seriously, it took years for American hardcore to recover from this; Cleveland & Connecticut became strongholds for hardcore in this period) and above all else, everybody had an agenda. When they write books on the history of hardcore, we'll refer to the 1990s as the political correctness era. Moreover, kids in the 1990s weren't just PC, they were in your face about it. They weren't your frowning, tumblr essay babies you see today. If One Life Crew had written "Pure Disgust" in 1989 New York City, there would be no problem. In fact, the opposite would be true, One Life Crew would probably be lauded as one of the best ever.

The second problem with One Life Crew is that the band had one of the sketchiest personalities in hardcore in Chubby Fresh. For perspective about Chubbs' reputation: when Integrity toured in 2003, they had to route their tour a certain way because crews / groups wanted to murder Chubbs and they had to account for his safety. One Life Crew released Crime Ridden Society and trouble followed them from then out. This reached its zenith at Cleveland Fest 1996 when, during a performance of "Pure Disgust", a PC warrior rushed the pile-on and flipped off Mean Steve. Not one to be slighted, Mean Steve left the stage to chase this kid who was already fleeing the room. The show stopped and it led to the Cleveland Fest riot. The subsequent events led to One Life Crew being thrown off Victory Records (as Tony Brummel does not condone / promote violence according to a press release explaining OLC's removal). Not long after the line-up of the band disintegrated, Chubbs' relationship with Dwid fell apart and OLC lost the support of their friends in Integrity. Left to their own devices, OLC became a joke band. It was quite the fall from grace.

Crime Ridden Society is one of the finest albums to have ever come from Cleveland. What is on the album is arguably one of the greatest hardcore intros of all time in the "Murdario Stomp". It has our generation's version of "Public Assistance" in "Pure Disgust". It has one of the hardest breakdowns in a song in "Riots". It has a Confront cover in "Our Fight". For as many things as One Life Crew did wrong, they did so many things right on Crime Ridden Society that we must continue to discuss them today. Included is Crime Ridden Society.


  1. Pure Disgust should be renamed "I got my first full time job." In 89 it would have been a problem. Maybe not in 83.

  2. Was at that Clevo fest show, it wasn't much of a riot, just some emo kids getting beat up by some wannabe goombahs. Never listened to this record, I do like Confront however. One Life/GG hahaha.

  3. Heaven forbid some truth find its way into the sanctimonious blueballs of hardcore ethos.

  4. Heaven forbid hardcore actually grew some balls