SHUFFLER 0017: FOR THE BETTER
Monday, September 15, 2014
Lifes Halt — “Race for ’97” from No Reply/Lifes Halt split 7″ (2000 Indecision)
It would be easy to look at Lifes Halt, a Latino hardcore punk band from the turn of the millenium, and make comparisons to Los Crudos. And like every band of that era, no doubt Lifes Halt owed Crudos a huge debt, but one would be remiss not to acknowledge that Los Angeles’ Lifes Halt were taking their place in what remains a rich history of Chicano punk in East LA.
All of which was easy to miss in the band’s heyday. Named for a song by the legendary INFEST, Lifes Halt came to prominence during a thrash revival within the hardcore scene. (This should not be conufsed with the more recent thrash revival in the metal scene. We need, I suppose, better terminology.) I have a distinct memory of coming home from the record store with the Lifes Halt!/What Happens Next split LP in my hand and thinking about what an exciting time it was for the hardcore scene. It seemed like everywhere you looked there was another “thrashcore” band (that sort of became the term du jour), many of which were creating really exciting, energetic hardcore music with a strong DIY ethic and smart politics. For me, near the top of the heap, was Lifes Halt.
Those of you who have ever had to defend your affinity for hardcore and/or punk music are likely familiar with the scoffs of those who think that this music is sloppy, plagued by poor musicianship. This is, of course, stupid fucking thinking, and it’s tempting to roll your eyes and force the offender to sit down and listen to a Propagandhi record or whatever to set them right.
It turns out, though, that one of my favorite things about Lifes Halt is that they are just the right amount of sloppy, so that it sounds like everything could come unhinged at any moment. “Race for ’97” is a great example of this. It’s not technically very complicated (though it does showcase some pretty rad bass playing), and in fact is a holdover from their 1997 demo. That version, by comparison, is nearly unlistenable in its sloppiness. Certainly that band would get better as their career went on, but this is a great example of the youthful energy that they brought to hardcore.
If I hadn’t sold a bunch of records some years back in order to buy a bicycle, I might be able to provide you with some sense of the lyrics for this song. I believe it starts with Walking through the barrio / something something / something something / something / together we all belong… Later there’s a lot of talk about looking deep inside and sticking together and working to make the world better, essentially a positive hardcore song: work together / make a change for the better.
In 2001 I helped host Lifes Halt and What Happens Next? at the Seward Cafe on their 2001 summer tour when they came through Minneapolis. Everybody involved was really friendly and great, but that doesn’t mean that I came away without an embarassing story. Lifes Halt asked where they could get some food, and I think maybe even asked specifically about burritos or Mexican food of some kind. A proud collective member of the Seward Cafe, I was eager to show off our sister cafe, also punk rock, also collectively run, the Hard Times Cafe, forgetting entirely that, while a lovely place, the Hard Times has no business whatsoever trying their hand at “Tex-Mex,” as evidenced by the black olive that sat atop my huevos rancheros the last time I was there (and forgot again). When the Lifes Halt dudes came back I was all, “hey, how was dinner?” They gently explained to my white Midwestern ass that they were from LA and were used to lots of really good authentic Mexican food options, which was not what they had been treated to that evening.
It’s my understanding that members of Lifes Halt went on to be in Dirty Dirt & the Dirts; I’d love to know if there were other post-Lifes Halt projects. They remain one of my favorite hardcore bands from any era.
Years earlier. Race for ’97, played super sloppily, at 1:30.