it was summer of 1999, i was getting my driving learner’s permit, and songs from the penalty box was a compilation franchise i had already grown highly attached to with vol. 1 in 97, and vol. 2 in 98, so naturally when vol. 3 was announced for the summer of 1999, i had to be there. my sister and i went to tulsa to pick it up i would assumed if not release date, at least release week.
the very first track completely blew my mind. now i knew that HUNTINGTONS were releasing a new record, of new material, they released a live record that feb, and a ramones cover record that april, but we hadnt heard brand new material since may of 1998 when High School Rock dropped. Once the opening riff for American War machine hit, i knew that we were in a whole new era.
Track 3 was a demo of new material that squad five o had been working on… i had heard on internet forums they were changing their sound, i was not prepared for this. i was not ready for this. this track… completely changed the trajectory of my entire summer.
The final track was “i’m not going downtown” by HUNTINGTONS and that was an entirely new level of aggression i had not heard from them before. once the cd was said and done… saying i was entering uncharted territory musically is an understatement. up to this point, my wardrobe had consisted of jnco’s, kikwear, xl band shirts, colored hair, plaid suits, dog collars, etc, because that was the look i had really settled into in 8th grade, and for 9th grade it just went a little further deeper into that look. there was no rhyme or reason to this.
after picking up the pieces of my sanity, the rest of that summer was an immediate shift in my look… plaid pants? gone. hawaiin shirts? gone. jncos? gone. shorts? gone. cause shorts aren’t rock n roll. dog collar and bracelets? gone. super long wallet chain? gone. colored shoes? gone. basically over the month of july i started to distill my appearance to the absolute most basic. black jeans. black converse. black band shirts. and that fall a black leather jacket. i went from wearing XL shirts in 9th grade, to wearing S shirts in 10th grade.
this compilation just changed how i processed what made punk rock, rock. up to that point i just hadnt really been exposed to this style of punk before, mostly because it was really just starting to come up. from here i started getting into RAMONES, sex pistols, misfits, the classics, then thanks to squad i started expanding more into the hair metal with motley crue, poison, ratt, etc. this simple dumb $6 compilation just opened so many doors at a time when i really was needing a change. jr high had been rough, 9th grade was mostly rough, i just needed to reinvent myself in a way that was more mature, and would lend more seriousness to my appearance because i was going into 10th grade, i was getting a driver’s license, i was getting a job, it was time to grow up.
to this day, every time i hear “american war machine” i am instantly transported back to my bedroom, where i’m just bagging up armloads of clothes, stripping everything down, and reinventing myself. god bless the 90s.