‘They were angry, they felt ignored and they were ready to sing about it‘ – Niall McGuirk on Southern Lord’s recent reissuing of The Offenders‘ Endless Struggle & We Must Rebel LPs
1978. Does anyone remember that year?
Jimmy Carter was US President, Jim Callaghan was UK Prime Minster, Jack Lynch was Taoiseach of Ireland. Pinochet was ruining Chile, the World Cup was held in Argentina and teams were greeted with shredded paper greeting as they entered the pitch. Sandinistas were revolting in Nicaragua. There were 3 popes in over the course of the year and RTE2 started. There was no Reagan, no Thatcher in power – that was still to come. On the bright side Teenage Kicks was released. Oh and Didier Drogba was born, along with The Offenders.
“Who?” do I hear you ask? Texas’ finest punk provocateurs. They released two great albums, hung out with fellow political punks MDC and played the hardcore sound of MDC and DRI. They grew in the time of Reagan and conservatism; they evolved during the New World Order and wanted to sing about it. Each of their two records saw these young punks spitting against what they felt was the moral majority. People that had no idea what it was like – what it was really like – to be young. The Offenders came about as disenfranchised kids, angry with the world, annoyed with the lives handed to them and ready to take on the establishment. Guitar strings were their bullets and each of their short songs spat out resentment of authority. They were angry, they felt ignored and they were ready to sing about it.
Two albums were released, Endless Struggle on R Radical Records (home to the infamous P.E.A.C.E. album) and We Must Rebel on Rabid Cat records. Rabid Cat also had Scratch Acid on their roster and label founder Laura Croteau later married guitarist Tony Offender. Tony played his guitar fast, as fast as he could while the rest thrashed around as best they could. It was the excitement of the day – kids were finding their own voice, playing their own music and shouting about how pissed off they were.
From there The Offenders story dips into sad territory. With the passage of time came illness and through the decades we have 50% of the Offenders no longer with us. Tony lost his battle to lung cancer in 2012 and Mikey slipped away from us in 2007. The legacy of those records live on and JJ and Pat have now recruited two accomplices to renew the sound.
Southern Lord are building a nice roster of bands, alongside those that put the heav into heavy they feature some interesting people from the foundation of U.S. hardcore. BL’AST being one such group from the early SST days. Poison Idea are another getting an airing from the label.
The Offenders’ two albums have now been repackaged as a double album, which certainly weren’t unheard of in 1978. So what about the sound? Early US hardcore for sure. Not enough guitar solos to drift into the thrashier elements of DRI and Suicidal Tendencies, not enough melody to drift into Youth Brigade or 7 Seconds. Heavy and pissed off.