Iron Cross is a terribly suspect but wholly endearing mess of a band. They are virtually talentless musicians, sophmoric song writers, and fronted by an inelegant lyricist in Sab Grey. But somehow they just fucking WORK on a visceral level. The controversy surrounding the release of their classic second seven incher “Hated and Proud” in the early 80s DC Hardcore scene is well-documented. However, it seems the band was seldom taken to task for their xenophobic lyrical streak, which seems odd given the outcry within the early DC scene against the “violent subject matter” of their equally uneven yet classic “Skinhead Glory” 7 incher. Iron Cross’s regrettable lyrics are a lamentable snapshot of a young man trying to make sense of a changing world in which white priveledge no longer assures success and reacting violently. One assumes Mr. Grey has matured since then. I empathize.
Witness: “You’re a Rebel”- a lyrically misguided but insanely catchy Sham 69-rip off anthem of xenophobic paranoia. Excerpt:
Backed up against the wall
The animal makes his final stand
He spits and growls and shows his teeth
He’s a foreigner in his own land
When there’s nowhere else to run
You’re a rebel
No more battles to be won
You’re a rebel
Stands out there with his pride
Fights with no one on his side
You’re a rebel
Without mercy the pack descends
Sab’s romantic image of a nameless Last Angry White Male literally singlehandedly facing a descended pack of presumably undocumented immigrants is an embarassingly juvenile fantasy at best, but beneath the poseur-townie-level intellectual failings and raging against hoards of foreign animals, there is an odd sense of paradox (the victim is an animal as well) and hopelessness. This wistfulness seems accidental and a bit comical, but the strained melody (I guess you call it) and amateur musicianship is utterly charismatic. Sab Grey immodestly described Iron Cross as “America’s First Oi Band” – which is a difficult claim to deny. Grey’s mix of the street rock sound blended with a slightly less thrashy version of early hardcore produced throbbing simplicity in his music and his lyrics. You sing along in spite of yourself to the worst kind of knuckledragging ‘Merican patriotism cum Anglophile nonsense. Jeff Bale called it “amazingly catchy” in his review of the ep in Maximum Rock N Roll #9.
Iron Cross’s paradoxical Anglophilia evident in their melodies and songwriting yet Nationalist slant to their lyrics is one of the most common yet nauseating aspects of the right wing end of streetpunk. Would a fierce nationist not reject all aspects of foreign culture including its musical style? Yet,England seems to be so attractive to skinheads and dunderheaded nationists in the United States in general because of the perception that America was founded by a pure white English race. The jingoistic notion of England as the cradle of White Culture which produced a rebelous teenaged United States is difficult to resist. Nevermind that the band’s name Iron Cross refers to an honor bestowed by the Prussian and later German military, who fought two World Wars to destroy England. A Union Jack patch on the sleeve of a Chinese-made bomber jacket is sublime shorthand for this mindset.
It is perhaps unfair to hold a 19 year old kids’s lyrics up to much scrutiny or to hold the kid of 26 years ago accountable for tossing off some stupid fucking lyrics in the back of his math notebook. At the same time, collector scum compare the music of this band versus that, the progression musically from this release to that, so it’s only fair to think about the whole package. Lousy lyrics, basic musicianship, great band, great record.
(image ripped from 30underdc.com)