22 years later, Nation Of Ulysses is still a band built for today’s tumultuous times

22 years later, Nation Of Ulysses is still a band built for today’s tumultuous times

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

Government dissatisfaction is nothing new, especially in punk rock—a genre constantly itching for something to rail against. But public frustration toward Washington is at a fever pitch these days, and it has helped give those old Government Issue, Born Against, and Dead Kennedys records something practical and real to lean on beyond knee-jerk insolence. If ever there was a genre built for an era dominated by fiscal cliffs, furloughs, and general red-state/blue-state bullshit, it’s punk rock in its many different iterations. 

Punk and politics go hand and hand, but few bands have skewered political sacred cows and ideologies with more smarts and explosiveness than Nation Of Ulysses. It had been a long time since I spun the band’s 1991 debut 13-Point Plan To Destroy America, but given the tenuous push and pull that exists today between democrats and republicans, the time was ripe for a proper reintroduction. And it didn’t take me long to get reacquainted, as “Spectra Sonic Sound” is about as no-bullshit and cocksure of a takeoff as a band can be expected to pull off. 

More than a jumping-off point, the song is an inflammatory statement of purpose from a band that wore its all-the-way-left ideals firmly on its sleeve. Nation Of Ulysses’ manic post-punk, highlighted by Ian Svenonius’ madman antics, were radical in the staunchest sense of the word, and “Spectra Sonic Sound” spoke of a band with little interest in slowly ramping up to voicing its discontent. When the singer screams for his life at the song’s 1:45 mark, it’s a gesture that speaks louder and more effectively than actual words ever could. Some bands talk about their frustration with the American political system, but in two and a half feverishly volatile minutes, Nation Of Ulysses proves that actions can speak forceful volumes over words.

More Hear This