YIDCore: They Tried to Kill Us, They Failed, Let’s Eat!
“They Tried to Kill Us, They Failed, Let’s Eat!”
by Matthue Roth
What happens when the defining band of its genre turns its back on said genre, striking out on its own into new, heretofore undiscovered realms of artistic creation? If you’re Bob Dylan, you piss off a whole lot of your core fanbase, but they’re all stoned hippies who don’t have any money to buy your records anyway. The ones who followed him into Electric Guitarland, they all spontaneously stopped being hippies at that moment, spun cocoons and emerged twenty years later as corporate yuppies who watch Don’t Look Back on flatscreen TVs and tell their kids stories about the Wild Weekend of Woodstock (they weren’t really there).
And then there’s YIDCore.
Following very loosely on the basis of (lehavdil) Green Day, Australia’s First Sons of Jewish Punk follow up their unexpected-but—well, okay, expected—foray into musical theatre (yes, they covered Fiddler on the Roof, and spent an entire, well-thought-out album doing it) with a new record, They Tried to Kill Us, They Failed, Let’s Eat. The last time I saw the band in concert in Chicago, lead singer Bram told me afterward, “If you think covering ‘Tradition’ is punk, wait till you see this new album.”
This new album has arrived. And the word is: violins.
The CD opens with the title song. It’s a surprisingly catchy, singable song, playing into YIDCore’s familiar brand of humor—shocking, but jiveable—where the crunch of electric guitars and the tumult of Bram’s singing gives way to an ear-splitting, fist-pumping chorus of….violins?
It’s true: the things that used to rattle us no longer do. And the things that used to bore us are the punk-rock of tomorrow.
Take away the speed-punk that the bad kids love, and the lyrics of the song could be a Mordechai ben David song. “We’re holding out the truth to the revisionists/And laughing in the face of conspiracists/’Cos if we ran the world would we have time for this?” Seriously: if Jewish philanthropists gave grants for pop songs instead of bad modern art and self-indulgent novels, YIDCore would be soaking it up. The words of the chorus, “This is not a call to arms, this is a celebration/We should be dead by now, so we’ve exceeded expectations” could be sung by anyone from Hebrew School kids to Bar Kochba…hell, even throw in Steven Spielberg. It’s true.
The rest of the album is uncommonly good. Some of the songs are oddly poetic—“Happy New Year Atom,” for instance, an encomium to the singer of the band Atom and His Package, which charts the friendship between the frontsmen of the two bands. They exchange emails once a year, on New Year’s, when it’s one year in Australia and another in the rest of the world. It could almost be a really good ’60s love song, or a really bad romantic comedy, but in YIDCore’s hands, it becomes the equivalent of a man-hug—a fraternal bond between guys, able to communicate all the things that chicks don’t think we can elucidate.
There are the funny (“Commander Josh’s Barmitzvah Destruction Party”), the sublime (a cover of the Breslov Hasidic dirge “Gesher Tsar Meod”), and even the so-pathetic-it’s-cute panegyric to Natalie Portman, which has become de rigueur for YIDCore albums. To complete the Green Day equation, “Commander Josh” is YIDCore’s version of “Time of Your Life,” a country-sounding acoustic guitar and violin song that you might almost call a folk song, were it not for the lyrics. More than Green Day, though, the song owes a tribute to Australian folk songs, dirty and honest, a little bit sad…but, most of all, grateful for the memories.