The memory I have of my first exposure to Santa Cruz melodic hardcore stalwarts Good Riddance places me as a fresh-faced 14 year old, barely into my freshman year of high school, and not long after discovering the joys of the punk rock compilation. See, I was the kid who would sit near the back of the class, pretending to pay attention but sneaking earphones in and listening to whatever Punk-O-Rama or Fat Music compilation had been released that year. I find it fitting, then, that the first GR song I remember hearing, “Stand,” would be the introduction track on the band’s new posthumous singles and rarities album, Capricorn One.
To say the 21 tracks featured here are a personal blast of nostalgia would be overstating a bit on my part, in my youth I focused more on Fat Wreck Chords (herein referred to as Fat) label mates Snuff and 88 Fingers Louie. What the band presents to the listener here, though, is a full album’s worth of mostly out of print and hard to find singles, splits, and compilation appearances. As an added bonus, there are even six previously unreleased tracks from two recording sessions at opposite ends of their career. All of the tracks have been completely remastered by Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room (Descendents, ALL, so many others), and most have been transferred directly from the original tapes, so there is no sign of aging in the sound quality, only progression and maturity of the band’s craft over their nearly 20 years of musical output.
Good Riddance, like many bands on the Fat label, were outspoken in their personal and political beliefs, with vocalist Russ Rankin often penning lyrics chastising American policy, war, alcoholism, sexism, and racism, yet he wasn’t averse to writing up the occasional song about girls, friends, and staying positive. Though the band called Santa Cruz their home, they were more akin to (and often lumped in with) many acts from San Francisco’s Bay Area, with whom they played and toured often. During the band’s lifespan, they released seven full lengths and two EPs through Fat, with their last release being 2008’s Remain in Memory, a live recording of their final show. That is, until this collection sees its release on July 6th.
Interspersed with their tenure at Fat, the band released a handful of split EPs with Orange County’s Ignite (on Revelation Records, 1996), Oxnard’s Ill Repute (It’s Alive Records, 1996), Santa Cruz’s Reliance (Little DeputyRecords, 1996), and New Jersey’s Ensign (Orphaned Records, 1997), all of which were exclusively on vinyl. It is those splits, along with the Little Deputy-released Gidget EP (1993), and the Fat-released Decoy EP (1995) that populate much of this release. Three of the band’s many Fat compilation appearances are also present, including tracks from two installments in the Fat Music series (from 1997 and 2001), and their exclusive Short Music For Short People track (1999’s 101 band platter comprised of 30 second songs, appearing alongside such greats as The Damned, Poison Idea, and Black Flag). Rounding out this 45-minute collection are two outtakes from 2006’s My Republic, and four unreleased 1993 demos.
While the collection of songs are not presented in anything close to chronological order, the band’s sound did not go through so much of a shift that you will feel thrown off, though there is a noticeable difference between the early and later recordings in not only speed, but lyrical content. There is an audible change in motivation between the abrasive and fast-paced early hardcore-influenced tracks from their youth, to the admittedly Pennywise and Bad Religion persuasion their sound leaned towards in their late years. Though the former at times sounds a bit unremarkable when compared to the vast amount of hardcore punk being released from the west coast at that time, it is necessary to recognize and appreciate how much the band grew to attain the sound of the latter, a sound I have grown to love from them over the past 10+ years.
Capricorn One represents a worthy non-LP cross section of what I think is one of Fat’s more nationally underappreciated acts, at least in comparison to the popularity of Strung Out and NOFX. Additionally, the liner notes include a short anecdotal summary from Rankin below each of the songs describing his intentional message with that particular track, or just the story of how it came to be created. The album is still available for pre-order through Fat on both CD and vinyl (colored vinyl as well, for you collector nerds reading this), and for an extra $5 you can receive a 56-page 11″x11″ full color photo book with your format of choice.
I give Good Riddance 4 “I couldn’t think of a clever picture analogy for ratings but Russ Rankin could probably stand to tone down on the hair bleach, I mean, no offense but come on that guy is probably in his early 40s by now and has a kid, but he lives in California so I guess its alright” out of 5.
by Greg Stitt