Harley Flanagan – The Original Cro-Mags Demos 1982-1983 (MVD)

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Almost as soon as this record was announced and before most people had even had a chance to hear it, the dissenting voices of the internet started offering a multitude of different opinions about it. Heck, even Parris, after reading the press release, popped up to tell his side of the story about the events, as he remembered them, surrounding the recording of these songs.  Which let’s be honest, is probably what we all knew would happen as anything bearing the Cro-Mags name seems to cause outrage and consternation among the bands fans, members, ex-members and everyone involved in the Hardcore scene.

And the same seems to be true of anything that Harley Flanagan does, which is a damn shame as most of us don’t know him, we rely on the whole he said, she said rumour mill and jump in and judge the guy without having walked a mile in his shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to defend Harley or sing his praises, I’m sure that he’s rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way and I know for sure that he’s done enough horrible and stupid crap to keep an entire nunnery busy with the whole ‘Hail Mary’s’ thing from now until the rapture on his behalf, but I don’t know Harley, so I can’t offer any sort of opinion about him.

His music though, yeah I’m more than a little familiar with that, both past and present. The Cro-Mags Demos doesn’t sound like the Harley that you, me and everyone in the scene is more than a little familiar with. Musically, it’s closer to the Stimulators than the Cro-Mags, albeit a far angrier, faster and more heavily weaponised version of them, and in each of the four tracks you can hear a hint of the developing Cro-Mags sound.  Vocally though, Harley seems to have taken his cue from the burgeoning West Coast scene of the time as there’s a hint of Casey Royer and Tony Adolescent in his voice as well as the more obvious Dave Insurgent influence, which makes the Cro-Mags Demos sound more like it was recorded by a punk band instead of the instantly recognisable hardcore wrecking crew, the Cro-Mags.  If, like me, you dig the hell out of the early eighties US punk and Hardcore scene, then you’re almost certainly going to want to spend some time with the Cro-Mags Demos, but if you’re at all interested in the history of NYHC and the Hardcore scene in general, then it’s pretty much an essential release as it documents the formative musical years of one of New York’s most (in)famous sons. Tim Cundle

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