by Jeff
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


cover of the (Young) Pioneers's Crimewave EP, release circa 1997 by Vermiform records

(Young) Pioneers - "Great White Hope"
(Young) Pioneers - "Love Song from the International Section"
(Young) Pioneers - "Fuck the Labor Pool"
(Young) Pioneers - "Joy Kills Sorrow"

Three men in hoodies and nylon jackets standing amidst a pile of construction waste in front of a dilapidated house, looking utterly serious. This photo, on the cover of the (Young) Pioneers's Crimewave ten inch, was like a compass for me when I was eighteen. This was the life for me - standing in a semi-desolate urban waste space, surrounded by decaying brick buildings. Why??

It might have something to do with buying that record after seeing the Marxist rockabilly DIY punk band play at a hardcore fest in a VFW hall on the outskirts of Detroit near the end of the twentieth century. On stage they wore matching red button-up shirts and black jeans and performed in front of four flags that they'd hung on the wall. What were those flags? I don't know - likely they belonged to collapsed people's republics. As every other band at the fest was veering towards some shade of emo, the (Young) Pioneers, featuring half the final line-up of Born Against, were headed straight in the opposite direction. They were drawing from the Minutemen playbook and rockabilly and the ghosts of Appalachian country music but filtered through the distortion and grit of their hardcore lineage.

Their lyrics offer up a whole world in miniature, where scarce employment and bad choices lead to narrow possibilities. Their songs map a geography of freeways, prison cells, blood banks, empty buildings, and the oppressive tools of capital, the labour pool, the employer's blacklist. But there are glimpses of life behind the Marxist front. Broken relationships are dissected, dead dogs memorialized, letters are written to loved ones.

As re-issue fever reaches the late 1990s some label could do a lot worse than releasing the eighty-plus songs records by the (Young) Pioneers in a box set, complete with a 20,000 word essay re-evaluating the band and the times they were part of, but it's unlikely it will happen. This was a band that proudly never fit. They were a band out of time - die-hard socialists in Bill Clinton's post-history America, singing spiky short songs about class and brushes with the law when anthems about feelings with massively earnest rock leads were the order of the day. But their songs still sound as alive as they did at the beginning of the Internet, a band that knew they were swimming against the tide of history at every turn, but gave it their all.

Posted by Jeff at April 12, 2017 12:16 AM
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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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