In case my writing a second piece on Raw Power this month for the Decibel site isn’t indicative enough, I’m a real big fan of the band. Their new album, Inferno, almost hasn’t stopped spinning since I got my hands on it and as with any record you spin a million times, you start to hear things. Having been a fan of the band since the days when I had more hair on my head than on my balls, one thing I’ve noticed is that Raw Power frequently takes the time out to self-reference, essentially write and perform songs about themselves. Bands have been doing this the beginning of forever and in cases have demonstrated an uncanny prescience – Metallica hasn’t stopped or quit, as per the lyrics to “Whiplash” – but for these Italian hardcore godfathers, self-reference is a way of life. Discounting the covers they’ve done of the Iggy and the Stooges song/album from which they took their name, we present the top five songs in which Raw Power discusses Raw Power.
“Time to Remember” (taken from Tired and Furious, 2014)
Back in 1981, Raw Power was formed in the tiny northern Italy town of Poviglio, Reggio Emilia by vocalist Mauro Codeluppi and his older brother and guitarist, Giuseppe. After twenty-one years, nine albums, a stack of EPs, countless tours and numerous member changes throughout which the brothers remained the core of the band, Giuseppe passed away in 2002, suffering a heart attack while playing soccer. As you might imagine, this hit the band hard, and Mauro harder. The last album Giuseppe played on, Still Screaming (After 20 Years), was finished mere weeks before his death, and as such, is the only time the band has ever used a group photo as an album cover. Legend has it that the picture, taken on the lip of a meteor crater in Arizona whilst on tour, was the last photo of Giuseppe ever taken in America. On Tired and Furious’ “Time to Remember,” Mauro pays homage to his late brother. When you know the background to the song and read lyrics like, “I just need to close my eyes/And I start to smile/I can think of a thousand things/It could be a word, it could be anything” and “The way you left us was a bad surprise/I could think of anything but for you to die” set to a triumphantly melodic, insanely catchy, SoCal-styled punk riff the entire exercise ends up being a tear-jerker of epic proportions.
“Make or Break” (taken from Mine to Kill, 1989)
From the very start, Raw Power has relished in touring opportunities, a characteristic the band has maintained to this very day. You’d have to figure that any band from the pre-internet age that was able to emerge from a village in northern Italy and tour the world as much as they did back in the day has to have an unassailable work ethic driving them. Can you imagine any member of any new band of teens and 20-somethings today possessing the patience to sit by a mailbox or watch a fax machine send and receive tour schedules, contracts and other information line-by-agonizing-line? Mine to Kill may not have been an album the strict hardcore punks of the band’s fan base liked very much, as the song writing embraced a bit more of a metal edge and the lead guitarist at the time went nuts with the soloing, but there are a number of killer songs comprising it. Including “Make or Break,” which is one of the band’s weirdest songs ever with its curious mosh-doom first half, delayed vocal effect, high-octane second half and jam band denouement, but with lines like, “On the road at 3am you get stopped by a bunch of vicious cops/On the road after driving all night you get to a place with no P.A. and no mikes/On the road you van breaks down in the middle of a redneck town” it reads like a tour diary for the times.
“Back in the U.S” (taken from Trust Me, 2000)
Continuing with the touring theme, throughout their history, Raw Power always held a special affinity for America. This is understandable when you think of small town Italians growing up and looking to the bright lights of another country and its culture, especially one that played such a significant role in their artistic endeavours and existence. Even when the band hasn’t had a new album to promote, you’ll often find them booking at least a couple weeks of touring in the states each year. This is something that still happens with regularity to this day. Back in 2000, the band wrote “Back in the U.S.” a document of how much they love touring around the country and the hassles they would endure to be able to do so. “Talk to the label/money is tight/Ask them for help and you’ll have a fight/They promise their help just for something to say/’Cause they can’t afford it so we’ll have to pay/All we wanna do is just come back/All we’re thinking of is playing again and again.” There are also lines about using fax machines, the postal system and the internet in setting up and getting ready for another good time on American soil. Sounds like they’re pretty dedicated to this whole hardcore thing…
(“Back in the U.S.” starts around 23:23)
“State Depression” (taken from Resuscitate, 2010)
This one is probably the ultimate in self-referencing, not just as far as Raw Power itself is concerned, but in the pantheon of music as a whole. Arguably, the band’s best album is 1984’s Screams from the Gutter. It’s inarguably their most popular, having sold in excess of 40,000 copies at the time, not to mention the countless numbers of times it’s been bootlegged since. Said album contains what is probably the most recognizable song of their discography, “State Oppression.” Resuscitate, the album that broke seven years of new music silence in 2010, leads off with “State Depression” which is essentially “State Oppression” played sideways, or backwards, depending on your vantage point, as Mauro sings about how the problems he was screaming about almost 30 years prior still exist and in some cases are worse. We all know about bands doing remixes and covers; bands re-recording songs and albums with new line-ups, in new studios with new equipment and new producers; and we all know about song writing techniques like reprises, repeating themes/melodies and all that, but this is some next level shit.
And here’s “State Oppression,” as a reference point:
“The Jurassic Hounds” (taken from Inferno, 2017)
Mauro, the band’s remaining lone original member, says it best when asked about the topic of this song off the band’s new album: “Just take a look at my birth certificate and you’ll see who the ‘Jurassic’ is referring to.” But just because he probably sometimes feels like a daycare worker when he’s at a show or on stage doesn’t mean that the present-day or immediate and distant future is all rocking chairs and find-a-word puzzle books. If Raw Power hasn’t stopped yet – and considering the challenges and adversity that have plagued them since day one, they’d have every right to throw in the towel – then there’s probably no reason for them to consider giving it all up any time soon. And judging from the lyric “Call your friends/Spread the word around/The Jurassic Hounds are coming to your town” it would appear they plan on bringing the noise for as long as people want to hear the noise.
Title page image taken from Raw Power’s Facebook