Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records Quick Review

Some people may know that I write for Punkbands.com as a staff CD reviewer and occasional columnist. Right now Punkbands.com is in an overhaul mode, changing the layout and creating the same site with a new look. Hopefully the site will be completed in the next few weeks, but the huge database that exists slows everything down, because transferring servers takes a long-ass time.

Be sure to check out my official review for Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records when it releases on Punkbands.com.

I did want to touch on this stellar release though, because people need to know about it.

BYO Records was kind enough to contact me through Punkbands.com and asked if I was interested in reviewing some stuff for them. I can’t turn down music reviews because I love doing them, so I quickly accepted. Though what showed up at my door wasn’t some new releases, it was now one of my Top 3 releases of 2009.

Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records is a combination documentary and compilation album. The DVD doc covers the history of Youth Brigade, the formation of the Better Youth Organization, and the creation of the label BYO Records.

I’ll admit, I don’t listen to “old-school” punk a lot, with a lot of my interests converting into South Korean and Japanese music genres, but I do keep up with United States releases.

I decided to watch the documentary first since I didn’t know anything about Youth Brigade and only knew of BYO Records through a few releases I’d picked up here and there. The documentary is amazing. Granted, with all documentarys, it’s not straight fact since the history comes from the mouths of people who experienced it, but with stories from Mark, Shawn, and Adam Stern, interviews from Ian MacKaye, The Bouncing Souls, Matt Skiba, and Fat Mike to name a few; Let Them Know touches on the history of Los Angeles punk in ways that reading could not even compare.

The arc of the formation of Youth Brigade (whose songs I’ve heard covered, but never knew they were Youth Brigade) to the creation of the BYO is a great slice of history. The pulled footage of performances and news coverage illustrates a side of punk that is seldom talked about, but it’s easy to see how the counter-culture stigma got attached to the genre, especially in Los Angeles.

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I felt that the BYO Records history section of the documentary was a little short as it only appeared during the last half hour or so of the doc. Though overall, the documentary covers a huge amount of history, not just of the band or the label, but the time surrounding bands of the time, how things changed with each member, and Youth Brigade’s influence on Southern California punk.

The included compilation album meets and exceeds the documentary. Thirty-one BYO tracks covered by bands BYO Records influenced along with a new Youth Brigade track titled “Misfortune.” There isn’t a bad track on the compilation, except for possible Pennywise and that’s not based on the song, but rather the consistent Pennywise-sound coming through.

There are some standout tracks, Bouncing Souls start the disc with a strong track, “Young ‘Til I Die.” Old Man Markley’s “We’re In!” is a track I keep listening too over and over. “Foreign Policy” by Wednesday Night Heroes and Johnny Madcap and The Distractions’ covers are other standouts to me.

From my perspective of someone who heard covers of their songs, but never knew of the band, this release made me go out and look for Youth Brigade albums. The band’s music is stellar, partially because it still holds up to music being released today. The punk genre is a little more fractured now than it was back in the day, Youth Brigade comes through like an up-and-comer with something special.

Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records is a necessity for any music fan, regardless of preference of genre. There is something special about BYO Records and it is shown through the documentary and through the compilation CD. Honestly, if a label can last over 25 years then they’ve learned how to keep it going and are doing something right.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this release, it has the documentary for the historian and the music for the fan.

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