Leave it to a Canadian to spell out something a fair amount of early 21st century Americans seem to have forgotten -- then again, Joey Keithley, under the Joey Shithead guise or not, has inadvertently made a career out of just that. If Live Free or Die isn't any reinvention of the wheel, on the heels of Keithley's brilliant autobiography I, Shithead, it's a potent reminder of what energy and demons make him do what he does in the first place -- rock loudly and politically, no holds barred. That said, those who haven't tuned into D.O.A. for a bit might be pleasantly surprised by some of the twists and turns on this one -- for a start, a number of songs are the trio's own way around ska, backed up with some guest performers on horns. The results are the merrily-bouncing if lyrically sharp "Earache," "Drive My Car" (no, not that one) and "You Won't Stand Alone (ska-sized)," with a subtitle that gives it away. Covers play a strong role throughout, with such familiar landmarks of an earlier protest generation -- "Masters of War" by Dylan (with Keithley doing a mean-as-hell version of the guitar melody), Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" and "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival -- getting a brisk high-speed workover. Keithley himself sounds a bit in high and strangled voice throughout -- perhaps not so oddly enough it calls to mind his friend and past collaborator Jello Biafra more than anyone else -- while the performances are generally fine without being remarkable. But it's hard to fault a band that aims at a particular goal while still showing the strength of what Keithley brought to bear back in the late '70s -- perhaps the more things change, the more things do stay the same after all.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett