The name Common Rider might not mean that much to you, and maybe the name Jesse Michaels doesn't ring a bell either, but Michaels' original outfit, Operation Ivy, is a name and a band that a good number of folks still rightfully remember as the band who launched a million ska-punk acts in the late '80s. After more than ten years on hiatus, Michaels has returned, and while his new act takes a slightly different direction, there's still no doubt that this is the staccato crooner who forced the word "unity" into the lexicon of a legion of gutter punks. Unfortunately, the energy of youth is a little less evident this time around, and for better or worse the music is a lot more polished. The political edge still stands intact, with lyrical attacks on the plight of the world and the kids, but it's just slightly less convincing this time around. Common Rider has a good grasp on their style regardless, and the chunky punk of tracks like "Cool This Madness Down" take a peppier approach to earlier Clash-styled melodies before going into anthemic choruses that wouldn't seem out of place in the tunes of Operation Ivy's other graduates, Rancid. This Is Unity Music never strays too far from its roots (the few forays into straight reggae prove to be a bit over the top) and it all adds up to a more-than-respectable continuation of the unmistakable singer's career. Sadly, though, there's no denying that fading youth has tamed Michaels' once-inflamed approach to a containable simmer.
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AllMusic Review by Peter J. D'Angelo