The entire notion of hardcore, from its brutally direct sonic aesthetic to its "rebellious Puritan" social/moral outlook, may seem faintly anachronistic, if not quaint, in today's corporate punk world of Warped Tours and Hot Topics. In the early 1980s, though, with the Reagan Era in ascendancy, hardcore was a lifestyle, not a phase. One of the movement's great outfits was San Francisco's Code Of Honor, whose uncompromising stance was suggested in its very name.
Complete Studio Recordings 1982-1984 (Subterranean) collects the group's vinyl legacy plus one unreleased track; included are lyrics and a band history penned by guitarist Mike Fox. The earliest material's budget-conscious origins is on display thanks to a somewhat thin, trebly production typical of many early hardcore records. Yet the sheer visceral wallop of a Clash-styled track like "Attempted Control" is impossible to resist, and vocalist Johnithin Christ's charisma powers signature tune "Code Of Honor," Christ ticking off said code like a drill instructor ("Never desert your comrade in need or danger... Be true to your own goals... It's better to die than live a fucking lie"). The Beware the Savage Jaw album (1984) evidences a considerably more experienced COH; the record's sleeve art, a photo of a grim-faced preadolescent clutching a .45, remains one of hardcore's most iconic images. From "I Killed the Dove" (an existential anthem reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys) to "Education" (a Minutemen-worthy anti-establishment rant) to "Not If I Can Help It" (tuneful hard rock more Blue Oyster Cult than Black Flag), COH emerges as both poetic and powerful, a model of confidence and commitment.
One full-length, one 45 and one side of a split LP and COH was outta there. By then, though, the group had played a crucial role, along with such fellow cultural warriors as DOA, Circle Jerks, Poison Idea and Bad Religion, in shaping America's grassroots punk scene.