I’m guessing the majority of people reading this review haven’t had the honour of seeing Boston Hardcore legends SSD play live, due to the fact that they never toured outside of the USA and played only a limited number of shows outside of the East Coast. How Much Art… goes some way to offset that by presenting a superb selection of live photographs of the band, along with some candid shots from the photo shoot for the Kids Will Have Their Say album, all courtesy of SSD singer Springa’s brother Philin Phlash.
The photos capture the raw energy of the band, in particular guitarist Al Barile who gets the kind of air you normally need a skateboard to attain, and constantly moving, livewire frontman Springa. It’s obvious why SSD were so revered as a live band based on this collection, and much respect to Phlash for having the presence of mind to document these gigs. The photos cover the bands entire career from their earliest show in Bostons’ Gallery East and Media Workshop venues, through anarchic shows with Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Agnostic Front and Dead Kennedys at CBGBs and The Paramount (there’s a great line from Springa who couldn’t wait to tell his dad that he was going to play the same theatre as Sinatra, to which his pops replies “Oh yeah? How high on the marquee is your name?”) culminating in the band’s California shows with GBH, Suicidal Tendencies and uh…Red Hot Chili Peppers (fronted on that occasion by Keith Morris according to SSD bass player Jaime Sciarappa).
Interspersed between the photos are interviews with the band and crew, Boston Crew Members and SSD album producer Mike ‘Mr. B’ Bastarache, carried out by award winning professor and author Nancy Barile. Nancy’s unprecedented access to the band provides some rare insights in to the early life and motivations of SSD founder, the taciturn Al Barile (until now Al has famously avoided giving interviews) along with many of Nancy’s own recollections of SSD and the early 80s US Hardcore scene, and her own personal relationship with Al and the Boston Crew.
The interviews make for interesting reading; there are some great anecdotes from all concerned and the interviewees don’t shy away from some of the inevitable tensions that develop between bandmates, particularly Al and Springa. Despite this what shines through was the excitement and passion of being part of the emerging US Hardcore scene in the early 80s, of the sheer bloody mindedness needed to forge a scene in a City from scratch and of the commitment of SSD to their Art. The perfect accompaniment to the recently reissued The Kids Will Have Their Say album. Ian Pickens