Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records

  • Bobby Gorman posted
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Various Artists / Youth Brigade

Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records - BYO Records

Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records is a comprehensive box set that covers the past twenty-five years of Youth Brigade and BYO Records. It is an extensive and massive set featuring a CD (or double LP depending on which package you get), a 90-minute documentary and a coffee table book; all of which chronicles the birth of punk rock in LA in the early eighties. The Stern Brothers – founders of BYO and Youth Brigade – often state that that era and area is an often overlooked piece of punk rock history and wished to fill the void and considering how much of the information contained on the documentary was new to me, I can’t help but be thankful of the brothers for offering to educate the masses on this pivotal part of punk rock history.

In all honesty, it is a very informative, extensive and comprehensive retelling of the formation of punk rock in Los Angeles in the early eighties. Often overlooked by the scenes in New York and London, the stories depicted in Let Them Know are far from being repeated and stale commentary. Instead, it takes little tidbits of information that you may know about and expands on them, creating a much fuller and complete image.

Starting with the formation of Youth Brigade from other unsuccessful acts, Let Them Know has first-hand accounts of the emerging scene and sound. With footage, news clipping and images, the documentary successfully examines the music, the attitude, the violence and the riots that were all inherent within the punk rock community. Famous venues like Godzilla’s are talked about as are old punk slums like Skinhead Manor and with each additional interview you’re shown another aspect and side of the scene. Rather than a simple one-faceted look at it, Let Them Know interviews people who have different memories and different stories to tell, all of which creates a much more entertaining and compelling story.

On top of the aforementioned archived footage and images, the filmmakers also interview people who were there – some of who you will recognize and some of whom you won’t. Interviewees for the documentary include Ian MacKaye, all four of the Stern brothers, Steve Soto of The Adolescents, Fat Mike, Matt Skiba, members of Bouncing Souls, 7 Seconds, The Briefs, Swingin’ Utters along with various producers, promoters, BYO staff, crew and friends.

All of it works together to create one of the better documentaries I’ve seen in a long time although that expectations does diminish the effect of the end of the documentary a bit. Whereas the beginning was so in depth and informative – they even dissect the famed Another State of Mind documentary and show a different side of that film – the second half seems a bit laxed. They essentially skip from 1987 to 1994 without saying anything about the intervening years.The swing revival band of Royal Crown Revue is barely touched on and since I had never heard of their connection to BYO or Youth Brigade before I wanted to hear more. It’s as if once they passed the mid-eighties, they just wanted to end it as they barely talk about what’s going on now. So while it was an informative and fascinating history lesson, they just skim over the here and now.

That is, of course, only the DVD and Let Them Know comes with a 31-track compilation that in and of itself is worth an easy 5 stars. With a mixture of classic and emerging punk bands covering tracks fromBYO‘s back catalogue, the compilation not only offers you the chance to be introduced to some new acts (Blue Collar Special, CH3, Johnny Madcap & The Distractions, and Old Man Malarkeycome to mind) but also introduced or reminded of classic songs from the past.

As a comprehensive box set, Let Them Know can not be passed over. Anyone interested in punk rock history along with great punk rock music will find more than their fair share of entertainment in the release.