Armed Insurrection Music
DIY musical insurgents!
Let's be frank, if you're looking for a polished metal or punk sound like the Offspring or Metallica, this self-produced four-song demo' tape by United States band Tet Offensive is not it. Think more of the messy vocals of Sepultura, or the thrashing guitars of Napalm Death.
Like many underground punk bands, the lyrics offer a very political view of the world. ``227'' looks at the plight of immigrants in the United States, its title refers to the anti-immigrant referendum, Proposition 227, passed in California. Other songs look at racist eugenics (``Illness Personified'') and religion (``Rosary Bleeds'').
The band members are all involved in politics. Some just attend demonstrations, while guitarist Romel Espinel works for the communist newspaper Challenge, published by the Maoist Progressive Labor Party.
Drummer Salvatore Engel-DiMauro is “minimally involved as a wobbly” and contributes to “different anarchist organisations through editing, writing and translating articles”. Bassist Merilee Kuchon produces a 'zine called Social Cleansing which publishes underground political and cultural material.
The low-cost production of this CD means that you have to fiddle with your graphic equaliser to get a balanced sound. I thought some of the music tended to drag a bit, lacking dynamism and development in the riffs. Then again, the last song is apparently meant to be a slow grind, which is fair enough but not really my cup of tea.
I've heard far worse first demo's from bands that went on to become excellent performers, and overall I enjoyed this tape. The sound fits somewhere into the spectrum between metal and punk, in the “crossover” splinter style known as grindcore or crusty punk. The guitars push out some fine metal riffs, at times reminiscent of 1980s speed metal bands, while the vocals definitely project a punk attitude and ambience.
Like many punk bands, Tet Offensive intends to continue to publish its own material. Questioned about this DIY trend, singer George Norton points out that “DIY is the only option for Tet Offensive. I doubt major labels will be knocking on our doors any time soon.”
Espinel points out that DIY gives the band political freedom to do what it wants -- but then, it does that for neo-Nazi bands as well.
The band is looking forward to playing more gigs and putting together its first “seven-inch” record. Kuchon says, “Any band can put out a CD, but only a good band can sell a seven-inch. There's only so many kids with turntables these days.”
Whatever format Tet Offensive releases its music in, watch this space for news!
Originally published in Green Left Weekly issue 391 2 February 2000