You had the bountiful and bruising New York and Boston hardcore scenes of the 1980s, but many would argue the DC punk scene was where it was at on the American East Coast. This heralded hub yielded pivotal icons such as MINOR THREAT, BAD BRAINS, GOVERNMENT ISSUE, RITES OF SPRING, DAG NASTY, FUGAZI, MARGINAL MAN, VOID, FAITH and SCREAM.
SCREAM was originally formed in 1981 by brothers Franz and Peter Stahl, Skeeter Thompson and Kent Stax. Not only representing one of the first American hardcore acts but one of the first multicultural punk bands, SCREAM would eventually become an organic by-product of BAD BRAINS. SCREAM nurtured the archetypal ‘core sound with first-class passion, yet the group eventually evolved as the scene itself demanded change. During its transition, future rock legend Dave Grohlwould drop in on his way to NIRVANA, elevating SCREAM‘s politically pissed fourth album from 1988, “No More Censorship”, to a finessed echelon of anarchism.
Photographer and friend of the band, Naomi Peterson, found the album’s original tapes and passed them on to Pete Stahl, who went to Dave Grohl for a rescue mission. Southern Lord, which long ago released Grohl‘s PROBOT album and serves as champions of lost punk classics, took up the flag to reissue this milestone album.
There’s more than a waft of BAD BRAINS carrying through the riff structures on “Take It From The Top” and “Something In My Head”. Stuffed with Skeeter Thompson‘s funky bass grooves and Dave Grohl‘s hyper pummeling, these throbbing cuts were bred straight from “House of Suffering”, much as “Hit Me” carries a rub off from “Re-Ignition”.
Peter Stahl wisely sought to capture the essence of H.R.‘s soul craft instead of trying to compete the with the latter’s irreproducible yelps—this, despite Stahl whipping up his own best screeching shots at times. The swift rhythm of “Take It From The Top” carries through the melodic whisk of “Something in My Head”, as fine a rallying punk anthem as any band has ever dropped. The rumbling moshes of “Binge” and “God Squad” are ushered by Grohl and Skeeter Thompson, who forged a substantial rhythm section with their short time together in SCREAM.
Alarming to many punkers back in the day, where the album takes a brave turn, is on the swinging introspection of “Building Dreams” and “Run to the Sun”, the latter as conventional a song as SCREAM ever wrote. Considering that other DC-based punk legends like GOVERNMENT ISSUE and DAG NASTY were experimenting with alt around the same time, “Building Dreams” is an unexpected pleasure pill delivering a haunted message. Now, 30 years later, the District of Columbia is still looking for the verve that left with The Bayou and the original 9:30 Club, and this magnificent song serves a long-standing wake.
FUGAZI representing another page turn, not merely for DC hardcore, but for American punk, SCREAM takes its cue with “God Squad” and “It’s The Time”. While not as imperative as what Ian MacKaye and company were cooking up, “It’s The Time” benefits from Dave Grohl‘s path of restrained tempos which lead toward his fiery clubbing.
The exhilarating “Fucked Without A Kiss” is blazed not only from “Rock for Light” but from the DC penal system to give it extra intensity. Considering most punk guitarists of the day were more envious of Greg Ginn than Eddie Van Halen, Franz Stahl is both monstrous and inventive. His slide solo on “Hit Me” was a cool experiment, while going right to the edge on “GLC”.
The MOTÖRHEAD-esque “No Escape”, this album’s closer and crown jewel, would’ve been a fitting first end for SCREAM, which went on to record “Fumble” in 1990 (oddly released in 1993), before packing it in. Franz Stahl would of course join Dave Grohl in FOO FIGHTERS for a couple years, later rebranding SCREAM as touring museum in 2009 consisting of the nucleus members and second guitarist Clint Walsh. This nostalgic dust-off of “No More Censorship” is a wonderful thing for punk, particularly a DC scene still mourning the loss of GOVERNMENT ISSUE singer John Stabb.