Sunday, September 20, 2009

LET THEM KNOW: The Story Of Youth Brigade & BYO Records: Review

     First off, you don’t have to be a Punk fan to appreciate the passion, dedication, love and conviction that has kept BYO Records going for over 25 years. As one of the longest-running independent Punk labels, BYO (started by brothers Shawn, Mark and Adam Stern) has proven, over time, that Punk is thoughtful, quality music created by intelligent and talented musicians (and not by clueless lunkheads, as the press would lead you to beleive).

     If you only know Punk from what you’ve heard on the radio, seen on MTV or read in the pages of your favorite ‘music’ magazine, then get real: everything you’ve learned is wrong and it’s time to set the record straight. Let Them Know: The Story Of Youth Brigade and BYO Records does just that.

     While I’ve been a massive Punk fan since 1977 (by discovering The Jam and The Clash at the age of 14), I’ve always been on the outside looking in. I seldom dressed the part and hardly had any Punk friends to go to shows with, so I could only stand outside the gate and watch the Stern brothers create a world that I could only dream about. Plus, being extremely insecure, having glasses and being deathly afraid of getting caught (and beat up) in a mosh pit didn’t help, either!

     Let Them Know: The Story Of Youth Brigade and BYO Records is perhaps the most important Punk artifact released this decade. While other labels would have chosen to release a label anthology, BYO have done nothing of the sort. Instead, they’ve put together this package that includes a 100+ page book, a documentary and a 31 track CD featuring plenty of exclusive tracks. There are two versions available: the 6 X 12 book/CD/DVD and the 12 X 12 book/double vinyl LP/CD/DVD. While the vinyl edition looks more impressive because of its size, both pressings tell the same story of the band and label through the Stern’s own words and the words of fellow Punk contemporaries and those who were influenced by them.

     The book is stunning. Mostly written by the Stern brothers, it is far more in depth than the documentary and features tons of photos, flyer reproductions and (my favorite) a full color discography of the label. It is essential reading, but you may want to go through and look at all the cool pictures first because once you start reading, you’ll become so engrossed that only the written words will matter.

     The DVD contains an exceptional documentary that begins with the formation of Youth Brigade (Shawn, Mark and Adam) and ends with Punk Rock Bowling over two decades later. In between, there are plenty of rare vintage video excerpts, modern day interviews with all the involved parties (including the always-interesting Ian MacKaye from Minor Threat/Fugazi) and so much more. Bonus features include interview segments cut from the final print (but these should be watched post-documentary in order to understand some of the subjects discussed).

     The CD features 31 BYO classics… as interpreted by other BYO-related artists! So, instead of a normal label ‘best of’, you get to experience the history of the label in a whole new way. Includes cuts from NOFX, CH3, Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), 7 Seconds, Pennywise, Anti-Flag, Bouncing Souls, Off With Their Heads, The Cute Lepers, Filthy Thieving Bastards, Nothington and, of course, Youth Brigade.

     All in all, this is one hell of a package that tells BYO’s story in honesty and humor. But it goes beyond just telling just their story: it also tells the story of one of the most vital music movements of the last 50 years.

     An absolutely essential purchase that you MUST physically own because you can't download passion and convition... and Let Them Know has plenty of both!

Punk you,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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