Album of the Day

ALBUM OF THE DAY: DOWNSET EDITION

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To understand Downset, you really need to understand the context in which they came up. Back in the 90s, the graffiti scene was no fucking joke. There was a huge influx of what we called tagbangers — crazy kids who were basically gangsters who also tagged, and they scared the shit out of everybody, graffiti writers and citizens alike. Even the legit, non-tagbanger graffiti crews were pretty rough — I grew up with the guys who started the infamous BTM and 3A, who still scare the fuck out of anybody who crosses their path and are currently crushing NYC. The whole West Coast was pretty wild, but Southern California was by far the sketchiest when it came to graffiti. If you lived there in the early to mid-90s, you know what I mean: all the freeways were absolutely covered in graffiti, and people like CHAKA and OILER were pretty close to household names.

Cheesy but accurate segment on tagbangers from ’93 or so — it sounds ridiculous in retrospect, but you could definitely get shot over graffiti back then in Southern California

Note Rey repping SSD and Unbroken shirts in this sick video

Like a lot of other kids, I was into anything that involved breaking rules, which included skateboarding, metal/hardcore, and graffiti. At the time it was pretty rare for anybody to be into both hardcore and graffiti, although bands like Phobia, Spazz, Dystopia, Despise You all had graffiti writers in their ranks. I first heard about Downset from an interview in the legendary graffiti magazine Can Control, around 1993 when their first 7″ came out (“Anger” b/w “Ritual”). They were the purest possible product of crossing the So Cal graffiti and hardcore scenes, with members representing legendary crews UTI, THC, and CBS and coming from the ashes of Social Justice (who shared the stage with bands like Inside Out, Insted and Unbroken). For someone like me who grew up fully immersed in both graffiti and hardcore of that era, it’s hard to find a band that does a better job of capturing what the West Coast was like in the 90s for angry kids like me.


“Pocket Full Of Fat Caps” takes me right back to 10th grade, stealing Mean Streaks and scribing bus stop windows. Also, sick SICK breakdown at 1:40 — YOU’RE MOSHING!

Musically, Downset were way, way ahead of their time and peers, playing a very tight, syncopated style of metalcore that sounded completely unique at the time. They got a lot of comparisons to Rage Against The Machine, but only from people who don’t know what they’re talking about — to anybody with functioning ears and a little knowledge, they were worlds apart. Downset did this style years before RATM (their previous band, Social Justice, started in 1986) and were always way heavier, tighter, and more legit than RATM. Their first two albums are especially great, but all their records are keepers. Maybe it’s my old man, rose-colored glasses, but if you ask me, they still sound very fresh, original and relevant nearly fifteen years later — something you can say about very, very few bands from the mid 90s.

CONVERSE & KHAKIS!

-Sergeant D.

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