Scraping Genius Off The Wheel

CRO-MAGS FOUNDER COMPARES BAND TO BLACK SABBATH — “BUT ON A MUCH MUCH SMALLER LEVEL”

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The thorny history of New York hardcore pioneers Cro-Mags can’t be done justice in a pithy blog post, what with myriad lineup changes and squabbles that fortunately haven’t harmed the band’s legacy as much as, say, L.A. Guns. The current incarnation of Cro-Mags now playing gigs features Age Of Quarrel-era vocalist John Joseph and drummer Mackie Jayson, yet excludes guitarist Parris Mayhew and bassist/Best Wishes vocalist Harley Flanagan. In a recent interview with the excellent Double Cross blog, Flanagan–one of the founders of the band–had this to say about the situation:

[I]t’s all for money anyways with all these promoters and shit selling a fake band. They can claim whatever they want, it ain’t really the band, it’s some really fake shit, and all the new kids, well, they dont know any better so I guess they’ll take what they can get. I mean I understand, they’re fans of the music, so, it’s like going to see Ozzy instead of Sabbath or going to see Sabbath without Ozzy – but on a much much much smaller level. Believe me I’m not trying to compare us to Sabbath, trust me – you take what you can get. They just want to hear the songs and have a good time – they didn’t see it back in the day so they take what they can get. They dont know what they’re missing, they didn’t see it back in the day and they never saw the real shit. So they’re happy to see whatever they can and I understand.

Now I’ve seen Joseph’s latest Cro-Mags play a couple of times in the past six months, including a set in the intimately cramped upstairs room at this year’s New England Metal And Hardcore Festival — and they’re fucking awesome. However, being too young to have seen the band back in the eighties, Flanagan’s point about not knowing what I’m missing resonates. Still, Joseph, Jayson, and the rest do a great job of bringing those classic songs to life. Flanagan has a retort for that as well:

John can get whatever Cro-Mag fan he wants on bass but it ain’t gonna sound like me. It might sound sorta like the song, they may fake the left hand but they can’t fake the right, and besides that he doesn’t have anybody with him that wrote any of the songs. It’s all kind of pitiful to me, it’s real fake. I mean I’m not trying to take away who he is or what they are, but still, what they are doing is fake… Craig [Setari] from SOIA knows it is not the real shit, whenever he runs into Sean Killkenny or other mutual friends of ours he never says yeah I’m playing with the ‘Cro-Mags’ or I’m filling in with the ‘Cro-Mags’ or jamming with the ‘Cro-Mags’ or anything like that, he always says yeah I’m filling in with ‘John’s thing’…

Clearly, we’re not likely to ever see a reunion of the Age Of Quarrel Cro-Mags lineup anytime soon–and probably never with such sentiments as what we see above. I’m no lawyer (though I encourage my colleague Antonin Skullia Esq. to pursue that angle) so I can’t speak to proper ownership of the band, but clearly the outspoken Flanagan feels entitled to use the Cro-Mags name. After all, both he and Joseph have gone on the road with various versions of the group (again, L.A. Guns style!) under various monikers. Flanagan’s situation is hardly unique, but indeed it would be nice to see the guys put aside their differences — if at all possible — and regroup.

-GS

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