Born Too Soon LP (Reissue)
Listening to the reissue of Montreal-based punk/hardcore outfit SC.U.M.’s Born Too Soon LP really takes me back. I mean, I understand that the idea of a reissue is supposed to recall a time where the album in question was new and is capable of allowing a listener to inhabit that moment for a while – but the reissue of Born Too Soon reminds me of discovery and excitement. I was pretty young when Born Too Soon was first released and, while I was still pretty young when I first heard it, the album had some time to season. When I heard it, my cousin had gotten into punk rock and I was discovering the music with his help. From a first impression standpoint, I remember that I didn’t like the blurry, poorly exposed photo on the cover but thought how the band’s name was written on the cover was funny (I was under ten – judge my sense of humor however you want), and that was what got me to listen. I still wasn’t sure what to make of it when I first heard the music, but I knew I liked the idea of it – and that was enough to get me started with both the music in general and Born Too Soon in specific.
Listening to the Porterhouse Records reissue of SC.U.M.’s Born Too Soon did far better than just revive the album’s appeal, for me. With the benefit of fresh ears on the music, in fact, it feels like an overlooked gem, now. As soon as needle catches groove and “Home Away From Home” opens the A-side of the album, a series of images and memories rush back with the lean, doubled power chords as well as the brassy drums which power the song. On this first cut, the sinewy energy is fantastic as singer Anthony Mark cuts across the close-to-hardcore energy built by guitarist Georges Pearson, bassist Andrew Harder and Jean Lortie/Gravel like a serrated knife, which installs just the right amount of dissonance into the mix to really reiterate the sense of unrest that lyrics like, “You owe me/ We stole your best land to grow our food/ You’ll depend on us to eat, you’ll buy/ We’ll never let your numbers get too high/ We’ll decide when you die” present. After that precedent is set, “Ain’t No You” follows along earnestly behind it but, this time, the movement feels far more angular; Jean Lortie/Gravel’s drums nearly seem to trip over themselves and Mark nearly trips with them, by extension but, happily, “American Mould” recovers nicely and presents a cut to really stand behind for the band; there, Anthony Mark presents vivid images of domestic unrest (check out lines like, “Gotta be perfect/ Gotta be like everybody else/ In the land of dreams and liberty/ Where you’re obliged to wear a smile”) before boldly standing up to resist being counted with the herd (“Won’t be another one/ Won’t be moulded/ Won’t fit, won’t fit/ Won’t be taught how to think”). Listening back to the song now, one can envision scrappy, oddly shaped skate boards grinding along to the high-strung rhythm and, when it crashes to a close, it’s easy to find a sympathetic image in one’s mind’s eye.
While every cut on the album’s A-side proves to be nowhere near as high-quality as “American Mould” (“Double Cross” immediately downshifts its tempo and never quite commits to a consistent rhythm and “Go To War” sounds like it could easily have fallen out of a particularly mawkish episode of Quincy M.D. which wanted to vilify a punk culture it feared and didn’t understand), the B-side recovers the running beautifully as “Junk Head” grinds turgidly along to rattle listeners out of any comfort zone they may have found, “Beercan Nightmare” offers something resembling a moral treatise against militia kicks which feels surprisingly pertinent in 2023 as decisions on the civil unrest of January 6 begin to be delivered, and then “So M.U.C.H. Hate” returns so closely to the shred-dy climes of the cuts on the album’s early A-side that listeners can almost taste it (as does the search for an empty pool to grind in “Pool Hunt”) before “No More Religion” furiously dismisses the church and the record ends abruptly, with a soul-shattering click.
Those who run from front-to-back with this reissue of Born Too Soon will find, when the needle does lift at the end of the B-side, that they feel shorted. Somehow, without intending to, they’ll find that the ominous click at the end of “No More Religion” simply came too soon; like there needed to be more, even if listeners familiar with the album were already well aware of where it ends. Really, it could be argued that such a sensation is the mark of a phenomenal reissue; listeners may know how it plays and are perfectly well aware of each of its movements, but the needle lifting from the album still comes as an almost unwanted surprise. Those who were hooked like the album like that will listen again, of course, but the achievement that Born Too Soon is rare; it is capable of suspending reality and truly taking the willing to a completely different place – and that’s fantastic. [Bill Adams]
The vinyl reissue of Born Too Soon is out now. Buy it here on Porterhouse Records.