It’s pretty uncommon for a punk band to publicly praise a music journalist (not that it NEVER happens, just that it doesn’t happen regularly) so when Roadside Bombs doesn’t just praise a critic, they put his face on the A-side of a single and publicly promote him as being “The Best of The Best,” it begs attention.
The critic in question, Bruce Roehrs, was a well-known columnist and contributor to Maximum Rock N’ Roll and was one of the pre-eminent voices at the mag in its glory days; his was a respected name in the annals of punk, Oi and streetpunk, and the mag lost something genuinely important when he died in 2010. That said, while some critics may contend that the song is a bit late in coming, there’s no denying that the warm praise and sentiments come through genuinely, even on first listen.
Even those listeners unfamiliar with Roehrs’ work will be unable to miss the inherent warmth and respect which radiate from the song. Kudos like “The Brian Epstein of the modern age” and “He owned a spot there, right up by the stage” are really only the beginning of singer Ben Coleman’s fond reflections on Roehrs. But the winnowing tone of his vocal underscores the lyrics to ensure that the hard-charging instrumental performances here operate only as a foil for the singer. Because of that, yes, there’s no question that this is a straight-up streetpunk anthem – but the heart in it is what sets it apart and really makes it memorable.
Conversely, the going gets far more “standard issue” when listeners sink a needle into the single’s B-side and find “45,” but that is by no stretch a criticism against the quality of the song. Rather, “45” could easily have been an A-side song and listeners will agree with that endorsement when they hear the anger in Coleman’s voice as he dismisses a trash-talking punk (“You talk all night because talk is cheap/ Your words are just bones without any meat/ They spew like vomit from your gaping mouth/ and splash to the ground where they scatter about” as pretty difficult to mis-interpret) and are complemented perfectly by the vitriolic tones produced by guitarists Jeremy Catrambone and Richard Webb. As it plays, many listeners may be so taken by “45” that they’ll wonder how the song didn’t appear on the A-side of this (or perhaps another) single; which is the better of the two songs here could be debated endlessly.
Taking all of the above into account, there is no way to deny that the “Best of The Best” 7-inch is a very special release. Here, Roadside Bombs successfully transgresses into several things normally considered to be soft or inappropriate for a punk record, but there’s no question that they make it work to their advantage without having to beat anything or anyone into submission. That’s the definition of a rarity and readers are encouraged to find one of the 500 copies of the single which were pressed that they can call their own; it’s worth it.
Roadside Bombs’ “Best of the Best” b/w “45” 7-inch picture disc single is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press: www.piratespressrecords.com/store/7-inches-c-1_4/new-roadside-bombs-best-of-the-best-7-picture-disc-p-1088.html.