Hagerstown, MD's Groundbreaking Punks the Left Release Their Complete Works on CD for the First Time
Bona Fide Records proudly presents, for the first time ever, the complete recordings of Hagerstown, Md's The Left in a 20 song CD Jesus Loves the Left which features their very first recording the incredbily catchy and insulting "You're So", both their 12" releases It's the World and Last Train To Hagerstown along with 4 previously unreleased cuts from 1992. These firey, furious songs that glorify, revel in, and at the same time vilify punk attitudes have over the past 20 years or so acquired quite a reputation as no-holds barred-over-the top punk rock of the highest order. This was the early 80s--no internet, no my space, and punk clothes were homemade with magic markers, not bought at the mall. Back in 1977 Stiv Bators screamed "Gotta get outta here, there just aint nothin to do!" and it was that teenage boredom that fueled a whole generation of punk rock, the Left included. Bored with life and the music scene in rural western Maryland, they turned to a style of music that was fresh and vital and they mixed many diverse influences including the Sonics, Chuck Berry, Link Wray, and the 13th Floor Elevators and blended them effortlessly with the powerful urgency of hardcore punk. Far from jumping on the bandwagon and being just another cookie-cutter punk band, their finely crafted tunes captured the fury of their idols while spewing venomous but thoughtful lyrics backed by a testosterone fueled teenage rock and roll barrage with Jim Swope's take-no-prisoners guitar splattered all over it.
Perhaps their strange redneck hometown in Maryland created its own spawn fed on hypocrisy, boredom, ignorance and hate. It's the small town America syndrome, you know, settle down and act right, eat your supper and be quiet! Well, telling the Left to be quiet was like telling a kid not to play with matches! Breastfed on a diet of the Stooges, Standells, Dead Boys, Sex Pistols, the Damned and the Sonics, et al, they unleashed their first blistering fury "You're So" on Bona Fide's Train to Disaster comp in 1983, stunning listeners and inviting comparisons from Richard Hell to the Monkees, all in the same breath. Torn between 60s punk and 70s punk, the Left merged both and continued to grow. 1984 saw the release of their debut 12" It's the World! and people began to take notice of the Left's powerful sound. Hard Times magazine declared "The Left are confident enough in their abilities to push substance over style, infusing their songs with the spirit and drive that propells the best hardcore over the edge," and declared the EP "easily one of the best debuts by an American band this year." Forced Exposure magazine chimed in calling it "a menacing disc of sheer warlock power:" Byron Coley mused "real fuckin nice. RIP and 5 AM are my picks to click though the whole thing glows with a fine and grubby light which is hard to deny." Maximum Rock and Roll added its two cents. "extremely powerful and original. A sure winner!" Making several "best of" lists and goin thru 2 pressings, the Left did arrive and their angry songs, "Hell", "R.I.P", and "Attitudes" got lots of attention with their double edged lyrics both celebrating and ridculing punk attitudes. The Left were a fierce rock and roll band, anti-fashion powerhouse rockers with a rowdy, boisterous sense of fun---problem children and charlatans rolled into one. The all-out sonic wail was driven by 19 year old Jim Swope's frantic, distorted gutiar and Brian Sefsic's hell-bent pissed off vocals, with Brian's brother Kevin on bass and Bill Sword on drums laying down a crunching sledge hammer rhythm.
In 1985, the Last Train to Hagerstown 12" may have had the Left slowing down just a bit, but they were still angry. Jim Swope's biting sarcastic lyrics were again double-edged. In "The Viet Cong Live Next Door" it seems as if the Left invite prejudice, until the last verse reveals the true color of our protagonist, and his solution the the problem while a menancing Peter Gunn riff looms large. It's when the Left mix equal parts humor and anger their tunes take on an added wicked edge. Sarcasm, black humor and pessimism were rolled into one brutal attack, powerful, offensive, fierce and fun as hell! A blistering note for note remake of the Stooges "T.V. Eye" cemented forever the punk rock creds of the Left. Both 12"s ranked high in Chuck Eddy's Stairway to Hell (Da Capo, 1998) where Eddy claims the "tub-tumbling grunge granite kicks your chest cavity in" and refers to their songs as "simmering chunks of cancerous filth". The Flex discography of US punk says "Tough and melodic punk...Great powerful music. These guys should have made it big!" Unfortunatley, like most true punk bands the Left imploded as their second LP was released. Even though both EPs were later combined and reissued in Germany, the band never reformed until 1992. That short-lived reunion resulted in 4 great tracks which remained unissued until Jesus Loves the Left. These tunes again burn with fire, and "Columbus Day" recorded on its 500th anniversary shows the no longer teenage band still angry as ever. Now, for the first time, all the Left's recordings have been assembled into one fine package together with an extensive history by Innervoid editor John Hornick, an original member and close friend of the band and It's the World cover artist, along with many unpublished photos. Only now has the full majesty of the original recordings been captured, and now once again the spirit and drive of the Left explode with a diabolical power and fury that spits in the face of every empty trend! For more info: bonafiderecords.net email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All Music Guide 4.5 Star Review by Richie Unterberger:
This 20-track compilation includes everything from the Left's sole EP (1984's t's the World) and sole LP (1985's Last Train to Hagerstown), as well as the track they contributed to the 1983 compilation Train to Disaster ("You're So") and four previously unissued 1992 recordings. It's the complete legacy of a band who, though they didn't get a ton of press while active, stood up to much of what was recorded by better known bands of the period that kept the punk flame burning. Close to, but not quite, hardcore, it was a pinch more melodic and indebted to hard rock, metal, and garage than much other punk of the time, though many hardcore elements were there in the pummeling rapid rhythms, defiant and nasty lyrics, sullen yet anthemic singing, and darkly brooding riffs. The four 1992 tracks are fairly similar in tone to their mid-1980s work, though these were done by a slightly altered lineup, with Rod Smith replacing Kevin Sefsic on bass. The CD also features historical liner notes, photos, and artwork done for their original vinyl releases.