I used to have a DRI t-shirt that I wore a lot when I skateboarded, though I must confess it was more that I thought it was a cool shirt than because I was a DRI fan – I’m pretty sure I had one of their CDs, but I didn’t listen to it much. Call me a poser if you want. Whatever. It was a cool shirt!
DRI is hardcore. In 1985 when Dealing With It! came out they were just starting to move toward a more thrash metal sound, but don’t be fooled kids. This is loud, fast, in-your-face punk rock that the jacket reverse recommends you “Play at a Dirty Rotten Volume”. I’m not sure I’m playing this beat-up record I got the other day at a dirty rotten level (though it was filthy before I cleaned it), but that doesn’t mean I’m not digging it. It reminds me of hanging out at my buddy John’s house in high school, because his brother used to blast these guys out of his stereo and we used to skate on the half pipe in their backyard. I have Dave (John’s brother) to thank for giving me my first exposure to quite a few bands like DRI, Motörhead, and Butthole Surfers. So if you’re out there reading this, thanks Dave!
Like many punk bands of the Reagan/Thatcher era, DRI is politically anti-establishment whether they’re taking on society as a whole (“Nursing Home Blues,” “I Don’t Need Society”) or targeting the politicians (“Reaganomics,” “Give My Taxes Back”). And they don’t beat around the bush either. Dealing With It! has 25 songs and a run time under 35 minutes – only four songs last more than two minutes and eight are a minute or less.
The most poignant track is also the longest, “Nursing Home Blues.” This isn’t an indictment on the elderly, looking at anyone who is “older” as useless or oppressive in typical punk rock fashion. Instead it is told from the perspective of an old man, living alone in a nursing home, his wife dead. And he’s done. He gave the best years of his life, and now he’s alone in a nursing home. And he wants to die, because he’s just done with it. Agree or disagree with that sentiment, but I think the guys from DRI were trying to capture the loneliness and despair that sometimes accompanies old age. It’s a song that I think a teenager would hear one way, but an older man with more perspective (i.e. more years in his rear view mirror than ahead of him…) experiences it in a totally different one.
There’s some solid material on Dealing With It! and it’s not all super-fast. DRI can slow it down to a dirge at times, though often the immediately break out and go right to full speed. If you’re interested in hearing hardcore and you don’t have any experience with the genre, I think this album is the perfect place to start. DRI stands the test of time, and their blend of punk and metal (punk + metal = thrash?) makes them more approachable than a lot of other bands.