Taking action

Back in Minneapolis, The Strike want you to do something about politics.

Niels Strandskov

In the dark, grimy recesses of the 7th Street Entry, the Strike is getting ready to play its first all-ages show in the Twin Cities in more than five years.

Formed in 1993 in Minneapolis, the Strike has seen changes in line-up, home base and the punk scene from which it arose. The band also took a three-year hiatus, which ended last April.

The Strike began at a time when the Minneapolis punk scene was generating bands such as Dillinger Four and Lifter Puller without pausing for breath. The Strike distinguished itself from its contemporaries with explicitly pro-labor lyrics and spiffy mod outfits. Its sound was cleaner and crisper than the inchoate growls or drawling fuzz that characterized many of the other bands of the early 1990s.

It is an older, wiser and somewhat more casual band that huddles in the Entry’s chilly, roach-infested basement Saturday night. Of their three-year absence from the scene, the Strike members allow that theirs was a necessary break, but one that they felt had to end when they realized how much they missed playing.

The band had moved to Chicago, where they still reside, in 1997 after signing with Victory Records. Unfortunately, the move and the new label didn’t result in the jump to the next level of the music world that they had hoped for.

According to guitarist and lead singer Chad Anderson, the band bears no hard feelings toward Victory. They are less sanguine, however, about the state of the country they live in.

“There’s more to write about now than ever,” said Anderson, referring to the plight of U.S. workers. A former Metro Transit employee and member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which is now on strike, Anderson also said he hopes the current political climate will “wake us up out of our complacency.

“It gets more and more disheartening to live here,” Anderson said. His bandmates echoed the sentiment, joking about moving to a social-welfare state such as Denmark to escape the inexorable downward spiral of the economy and the attendant political clampdown.

The Strike is currently writing songs for a new album, several of which they played Saturday. “Iron and Steel,” one of the more up-tempo numbers, lashes out against the economic crisis of globalization in communities as disparate as the Iron Range and the South Side of Chicago. Like many of the Strike’s earlier songs, the anger at capitalism’s brutality is tempered by a poignant nostalgia for a time when working-class communities had some breathing room. The Strike’s lyrics celebrate an idea of working-class lives that consist of more than just staying one step ahead of the bill collector and praying that you don’t get sick.

Guitarist and backup vocalist Mick Flanagan, the newest member of the band, pointed out that the new songs are generally midtempo numbers that are mellower and more polished than earlier efforts. This characterization must be considered in the context of the Strike’s earlier material, which no one could describe as either slow or mellow. “Generation Me,” a new song that takes an anti-consumerist stance, might be a tad slower than “Kicking Ass,” the band’s ode to an idealized female union organizer, but an intense energy still flows through each chord and beat.

Chris Anderson, the band’s drummer and Chad Anderson’s brother, seems the most removed from the Strike’s mod glory days in his Carhartts and sweatshirt. But his lack of a slick suit doesn’t affect his ability to keep a pounding rhythm going behind his brother’s angry words, each beat accentuating the sense of solidarity and resistance the lyrics convey.

Bassist and University alumna Kristin Manion, like the Anderson brothers an original member of the group, is still connected to the mod scene, as evinced by her Jam T-shirt, mod skirt and white tights. Her backup vocals contrast well with Chad Anderson’s somewhat hoarse voice.

Although the Strike’s all-age set was relatively short, given the four other bands that had to play during the concert’s four-hour time span, they found an enthusiastic crowd of both veteran fans and youngsters whose ages hadn’t made it into double digits when the band formed. The Strike’s uncompromising, unfashionable and unshakable politics might not be a basis for mainstream success. But for those willing to listen to honest stories about workers and rebels, the Strike tantalizes with a vision of the future, where everybody shares in the produce of their labors and looks sharp doing it.