Now that the whole messy business of who owns the rights to the Cro-Mags name is over, we can finally get down to what’s important. The music. It now seems we have two versions of the band, which in my eyes at least, is ridiculous. In an ideal world Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan and its enigmatic frontman John Joseph would bury the hatchet and we’d have the definitive Cro-Mags back. But the animosity runs deep with these two and even though conventional wisdom would have us believe that we should “Never say never,” I’m saying, we are never going to see a full Cro-Mags reunion. First out of the blocks is the Cro-Mags, Harley Flanagan’s band, with a 3 track E.P entitled Don’t Give In and I’m immediately endeared by the fact that ex-Suicidal Tendencies and Fishbone guitarist Rocky George has been recruited for guitar duties; which is a massive plus in my book.
Say what you want about the guy, but you can’t ignore Harley’s talent. He wrote 99.9% of the classic Age Of Quarrel and is one of the most solid bass players in hardcore. He attacks the bass like few are able too, with an aggression that smashes every release. And he’s got a great voice to boot.
So as the E.P’s title track kicks in, I’m happy to report that we are firmly in classic ‘Mags territory. A solid mid paced intro reminiscent of We Gotta Know breaks down into fast violent hardcore, with Georges signature guitar sound screaming over the top. Drag You Under is a thrashier affair, echoing the same sort of material Flanagan has put out in his solo work and Harley’s War, while No One’s Victim has an old school Suicidal Tendencies vibe to it, which Rocky George is able to embellish to great effect. It’s exactly what you would want to hear from a band looking to re-establish itself at the top of the food chain and just to appease fans further, the production dipped into AOQ territory, making it sound both familiar and new. Serving as a taster for a future album, I’m sure, Don’t Give In represents three tracks of renewed hope for the future of one of hardcore’s greatest bands. The Cro-Mags have drawn first blood… Chris Andrews