Politics and punk rock have always gone hand in hand, but the relationship got a little deeper in the early-1980’s when hardcore bands across the country spat endless venom at society, Reagan, and pretty much anything else mainstream America was forcing down the throats of disaffected youth. This was especially true in Texas where The Dicks, Big Boys, MDC and Really Red all lashed out against their straight-laced surroundings. Teaching You The Fear compiles Really Red’s entire recorded output, some of which has been nearly impossible to find for decades.
The band hailed from ultra-conservative Houston, and were not shy about expressing their opinions. Over the course of 44 tracks they mouth off on a variety of issues, including racism, starvation, nuclear war, entertainment as commerce, and the mob mentality of small-minded punks. With such intense socio-political fervor it’s not surprising Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra was a big fan, remastering and releasing this double-disc retrospective on his Alternative Tentacles label.
It begins non-chronologically with 1981’s Teaching The Fear. You’d have to call the music hardcore, but Really Red’s approach to the genre was anything but standard, sporting a musical vocabulary that included post-punk, free jazz, and even a double-time VU-styled number called “Nico” (and yes, it’s about Nico). 1985’s Rest In Pain follows, and while the music is similar, there’s a less appealing metallic edge to it. It does however feature a live cover of Red Krayola’s “War Sucks” and a 19-minute sound collage (“Just The Facts Ma’am” – which is separated from the rest of the album and relegated to the final track on disc two) which again shows how much more diverse they were than your typical hardcore outfit. Disc two features early singles, compilation appearances (punky cover of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” anyone?), live tracks, and the New Strings For Old Puppets EP from 1982, which has a more standard hardcore sound, but also some of their best songs, like the absolutely raging “Teenage Fuck Up”.
The liner notes are essential too, featuring an interview with Really Red’s singer Ronald “U-Ron” Bond, who details how hard it was to be part of an underground culture in a haven of extreme conservatism. He also explains why the band often ignored punk and hardcore convention – quite simply, they already had a good decade or so of music fandom in them before hardcore was hatched, as evidenced by Bond’s stories of seeing The MC5, Velvet Underground and 13th Floor Elevators live in his teens. Fascinating stuff.