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7 Seconds over 30

They paved the way for hardcore music in the 1980s, but 7 Seconds is focused on the present.
7 Seconds still embrace the hardcore ethos that guided them through the 80s.
Image by Courtesy of David Robert
7 Seconds still embrace the hardcore ethos that guided them through the ’80s.

Kevin Seconds takes issue with the word “legendary.”

He’s been the frontman of hardcore band 7 Seconds since 1979 and inspired legions of musicians to go out and keep the punk tradition strong, but Seconds can’t help but brush off the past.

“Whenever I see a flyer that says, ‘7 Seconds is legendary,’ it’s nice. But when you’ve been around for 30 years, it sometimes seems like we’re being put in the ‘soon-to-be-retired’ category,” he said. “For us, it’s crucial to make a fresh record and make sure we’re still as excited as we’ve always been.”

This urgency to stay relevant was a contributing factor to the release of the group’s latest record, “Leave a Light On.”

But Seconds said it’s hard not to feel old when you bring a cane out on stage — he tore his meniscus at a show in Los Angeles last month, preventing him from running around and forcing him to warn audiences that he can’t rough-and-tumble as he usually does.

“People were incredibly nice about it,” he said. “We just came back from Russia and after a show, this guy with a really thick accent told me he was a doctor and could help me with the pain. We took the brace off and he gave me two tubes of warming ointment — it was like a crazy industrial strength Bengay. He said it was going to get hot and really hurt. It did and then the burning cleared and my leg felt better.”

Along with D.O.A., 7 Seconds is credited with popularizing the term “hardcore” and is recognized for their development of the genre. With more than a dozen full-length albums since 1980 as well as an ever-shifting line-up, the hardcore pioneers have spread themselves evenly through recent history. Though “Leave a Light On” is their first release in quite some time, 7 Seconds has stayed active over the past few years as its members have pursued other projects.

The new project doesn’t leave much to be desired as far as the energy level 7 Seconds is known for. Fourteen tracks whiz by with “whoa-oh!” choruses and traditional punk structures, along with some heartfelt lyrics that ring especially true on tracks like “30 Years (And Still Going Wrong).” The line, “It shouldn’t be this fun / after all these years” sounds like the language of cheesy e-cards coming from the mouth of anyone other than Seconds and crew. The earnestness of the hardcore scene leaves a glossy sheen of honesty over all the tracks — it’s clear their message comes without pretense.

It’s far from a perfect record, though. While it’s inspiring to hear the passion behind a legacy of music, the fact that this band came together in ’79 is audible. The band is hobbled by the weight of their past at moments, not sounding as raw as they used to — they’ve lost the youthful spirit that fueled their contemporaries like Youth Of Today or the Circle Jerks. “Leave a Light On” also suffers from a pitfall that many punks slip into — the track list blurs together in the middle with songs flowing into and out of one another in a way that doesn’t feel memorable, but rather repetitive.

Even with an injured frontman, 7 Seconds’ live show is wild. Human blobs of mosh, circle pit antics and stage dives are all commonplace at their tomfoolery-filled performances. Seconds said that he’s surprised at how strong the community is after all these years.

“These bands are still doing it and still kicking ass, and we also play with bands that are the shit now, too. I try to pay attention to the new stuff coming out,” he said. “I’m a bit of a musical snob, and it’s easy to dismiss bands over stupid stuff like new, shiny equipment or something. I’m not as impressed with new bands as I used to be, though, and it’s a pretty rare and crazy thing that I buy a CD now, which saddens me.”

Seconds said that he hopes to see more bands embrace the DIY ethic that put 7 Seconds on the map when they started.

“Not one club would give us a chance. They laughed at us and thought that the punk rock thing wouldn’t pan out and said it would never work,” he said. “I don’t miss the days when you had to write letters to communicate, but I miss that you had to make everything count. You had to pay attention and you couldn’t go back later and reread things, you had to remember the best club in Lawrence, Kan., and who the guy was you had to talk to. Even if you lived in completely different cities, you had to learn from that mentality in an early stage. We knew that no matter what, we could always make a record or gig happen if we want.”


What: 7 Seconds with the Copyrights, Arms Aloft and Much Worse
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: The Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $15–17
Ages: 18+


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