Mission For Christ - The Complete Sessions [Ektro Records - 2012]Musical movements can take off and stretch the globe. The beauty of this is that everyone gets to experience the power and energy of something fresh and new. Not only do they get to experience it, but they get to add their own local sounds and influences back into the mix. The movement may be global, but the scenes are very local.
Punk took the world by the balls and Hardcore ripped them off. All the scenes had their own sound and flavor. The scene in Washington, D.C. was one of the most sonically varied. Punk, Funk, R&B, and New Wave were mingled and integrated...just like the races of many bands. The scene seemed to rise above (heh) race and focus on taking new directions. Could you picture Bad Brains coming out of any other scene? Unfortunately, thriving scenes spawn many bands and this leads to many casualties. Influential and interesting bands fall by the wayside and become footnotes in scene history...if they're lucky. Mission For Christ is one of these bands.
MFC is a great example of the genre fusion in D.C.'s hardcore scene. The band was formed by the members of two local New Wave acts (Psychotics and Static Disruptors). This new group would take the freedom, aloofness, and apathy from New Wave and mix it with the up tempo beat and energy of Hardcore. MFC's demo, 2 Jews, a Black, a Woman and a Cripple, showcases this fusion nicely. The band switches effortlessly between interesting Hardcore and thick, reverb laden Post Punk. The songs on this demo are very thick. They all have a solid reverb wall that fills in any possible sound gap. The five (of eight) Hardcore songs on this demo hang out at a mid paced beat. Had the drums and guitars been more breakneck, all the guitar effects and background sounds would be slaughtered in the mix. This is evident in Psycho. Whether it's a violin (none listed) or a damned fine mimic, the different sounds that are present really add depth and character. Let's face it, Hardcore can get pretty stale. The Post Punk tracks are really something. They're drenched in reverb, heavily phased bass, screechy guitar noodlings, and cool, sometimes tribal drumming. Not to mention that all the songs feature vocals so apathetic that they could only come out of the cold New Wave movement. If Pennies From Hell doesn't make you want to put on eyeliner, stand by a spray painted club wall and let your head bobble, you're thinking too hard.
In 1984, after the release of their sole slab of vinyl (Pennies From Hell 7"), MFC underwent a serious lineup change. John Gibson (bass) was the only original member that remained. The Complete Sessions contains the recordings of the second incarnation, but is missing the third (1985's tapes haven't been located). Round two has MFC showcasing more of a Post Punk approach. Much like the demo, the bass is thick and the main focus. Unfortunately, these songs seem less well put together. The guys don't really seem to be playing the same song at the same time. When listening to it, I can't help but picture the band from The Driller Killer. MFC is a lot more talented, but I can't shake the image. The exception to this is The Lebanon Song. The plodding, almost industrial drums, background fuzz and hum, and vocal cadence are very reminiscent of Steve Albini's work. Hey, even The Jesus Lizard did a little industrial, right? To me, this is the highlight of the second lineup. The two Hardcore tracks aren't too standout. You Gotta Believe seems very inspired by Black Flag's TV Party, but they substitute baseball for TV shows.
Ektro Records has unearthed and released a really nice time capsule. Bands come and bands go. They all try to leave their mark, but time is cruel. Lesser known one offs, no matter how vanguard or influential, can be easily swept into oblivion. Mission For Christ was lost, but now they're found. While the music may not be of interest to all Hardcore fans, there's no denying its daring and sonic chutzpah. Paul Casey