If you know any people who consider themselves major punk experts but are unfamiliar with Verbal Abuse, they shouldn't feel too bad. Verbal Abuse isn't a huge name in the punk world, but they made some noteworthy contributions to the Bay Area punk scene of the '80s. Although Verbal Abuse was formed in Texas, they moved to San Francisco in 1981 and became part of the same scene that boasted Fear and the Dead Kennedys -- and they were perfect for that scene because they were such an angry, combustible, in-your-face band. This Beer City CD has no problem capturing Verbal Abuse's vitality. The first half of the disc is a reissue of their Just an American Band album, which was recorded in 1983 and originally released on LP by the BitzCore label; the second half focuses on a December 1984 gig at the Ritz in New York, where they opened for the Ramones. And whether Verbal Abuse is on-stage or in the studio, they never pretend to be the least bit subtle, not musically, not lyrically.
In 1983 and 1984, punk was an idiom that thrived on rawness and gut-level emotion; it was rock & roll at its most primal and basic -- and these hot-blooded, inspired performances are about as primal as it gets. It isn't hard to understand why the band was called Verbal Abuse; songs like "I Hate You," "Disintegration" and "Leeches" rival Black Flag when it comes to having antisocial lyrics. Although original material dominates the CD, there a few noteworthy covers -- including a live performance of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and an unlikely version of Grand Funk's "We're an American Band." Anyone who appreciates the early-'80s output of Black Flag, Fear or the Circle Jerks is advised to give Just an American Band a close listen.