Northern Aggression makes for furious folk-punk | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Northern Aggression makes for furious folk-punk

Northern Aggression
If You Can't Sing It, Scream It!

In the '80s, a cadre of politically charged folk singers drew energy from the punk and hardcore scene: socialist crusaders like Billy Bragg and Attila the Stockbroker from across the pond, and U.S. "anti-folk" artists Michelle Shocked, Phranc and Roger Manning. These diverse strains were swept under the rug by the Gen-X angst of Lollapalooza, then pulverized into fairy dust by Lilith Fair, but the next generation of punk has returned acoustic fury to the forefront. The lead singers of Avail, Anti-Flag, Alkaline Trio and Hot Water Music all have solo acoustic records, while folk-punk has become a popular subgenre.

Against this tapestry, locals Scott Niekum and pal Erik Grieco (founder of the Atomic Family label, which also includes Unarmed and Smut Project) decided their two-piece could make just as much noise as any of the bands with Marshall stacks playing the 31st Street Pub or the Smiling Moose.

They were right. If You Can't Sing It ...takes its title literally: Niekum's vocal delivery is much more of a growl than a melody -- like the dudes from the Dropkick Murphys and Agnostic Front -- which makes him that much cooler with the hard-drinking, tattooed set. Performed on either simple acoustic guitar or bass and drums, Northern Aggression's songs brim with anger and passion, whether dealing with fair-weather punks ("Ready, Aim, Sire!") or the Christian right ("O Come, All Ye Hateful").

Whether playing a fair-trading coffeehouse, a damp cellar or a smoky tavern, Northern Aggression remains straight and true to its basic credo: "Let your voice be heard! Never let them have the last fucking word!" And that's at least better than sitting at home playing war video games while your neighbor's son or daughter loses a limb overseas.

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