When Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson’s Dischord Records crops up in conversation, generally the first thing that springs to mind is Fugazi and Minor Threat. While the label was undoubtedly a strong foil for both bands, Dischord was home to other equally vital acts.
One of the which was Soulside.
Consisting of vocalist Bobby Sullivan, guitarist Scott McCloud, drummer Alexis Fleisig, and bassist Johnny Temple, while Soulside perhaps operated in the shadows of Fugazi, they were a crucial collaborator, entrenched in the anti-establishment and DIY ethos that was the premise for Dischord. A mere prerequisite for the historic label, and Soulside most certainly complied.
With the Mission of Burma-inspired rumble of Trigger and Bass and the slightly more post-hardcore leanings of Hot Bodi-Gram, Soulside presented different influences of punk and hardcore throughout their first three full-length releases.
After disbanding in 1989, the acts which emerged from the rubble were equally influential over the next two decades; namely McCloud, Flesig and Temple who alongside Eli Janney went on to carve out a fantastic body of work as Girls Against Boys. (Flesig also features under McCloud’s Paramount Styles project.) Meanwhile, Sullivan went on to form Seven League Boots, and later was involved in Rain Like the Sound of Trains, Sevens, and Spontaneous Earth.
While GVSB have spent the last decade or so playing shows across American and Europe, Soulside also hit the resume button in 2017, playing sporadically over the ensuing years. It’s all been worth it, too, as their comeback album, A Brief Moment in the Sun, continues the trend in 2022 of nostalgic acts actually producing music that is actually worth your time, and not some money making exercise in a bid to reduce debt.
A Brief Moment in the Sun sees Soulside truly comfortable in their own skin. No one wants a band of this ilk trying to canvass past terrains, and Soulside know this only too well. Gone is the gut-busting assaults of their formative years, replaced by a perceptive refined post-hardcore vibe that – surprisingly – has inflects of heartland rock. It makes for the kind of album tailor-made for highway driving, and it’s no bad thing.
“Living in the ether,” echoes McCloud on backing vocals during Times Like These – the opening track permeating with that Girls Against Boys aroma thanks to Fleisig’s driving rhythms. “Aren’t we all just a little big smug? It’s like a gateway drug,” sings Sullivan, as he questions this current age of narcissism. Like their anti-establishment sentiments suggest, asking questions has always been a part of the Soulside DNA, and throughout A Brief Moment in the Sun there are plenty of them.
With Day 2 and Runner, these are the kind of songs that make bands getting back together worth it. As a listener, you can actually feel the synergy between each band member, to the point where you think, ‘Why didn’t this happen sooner?’
Every Clover sees Sullivan dropping some neat word play (“Every clover you step over is a companion to our lives”). “Children lost their ability with the one eye that can see” he sings, in something that, again, is reflective of ours times. So, too during Reconstruction (“They’ll use artillery for positive publicity/ Won’t be needing our complicity/ To monetise humanity”).
Activism has been a focus for Sullivan for a long time now, and through the likes of Walker and Tambourine, the influences are clear. Then there’s 70’s Hero, which through the landscape of post-hardcore and heartland rock, sees Soulside reaching their strident best. With Resolved, the track drips with the kind of Springsteen essence that makes you think this is a track The Boss should be writing in 2022. Again, with Fleisig’s elusive percussion underpinning the song, it gives it that shadowy essence we all associate with Soulside.
And it reaches the apex during the excellent lead single, Survival, which is a withering snapshot of society as we know it.“Things look bleak in these days/ I see eyes with a permanent glaze, need to feel like Fridays, don’t need new highways, need new byways/ Don’t need no catch phrase/ need new pathways”.
This is why A Brief Moment in the Sun is such a wonderful return. While it’s a band slightly longer in the tooth, they aren’t trying to be anything else but themselves. A band still asking those questions, and while it may be a different world to the one they inhabited back in the ’80s, the ills that continue to grapple us still remain. Not only are Soulside aware of this, but they tackle these issues with a wisdom that transcends the cheap sloganeering many others in this space have adopted over the years.
A Brief Moment in the Sun is out now via Dischord Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.