Back On The Deck: Bane – ‘Give Blood’

By Glen Bushell

When you discover the worlds of hardcore and punk, there is often that one album that sticks with you no matter how your tastes grow or change. The one album that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The one album that resonates with you more than anything else and can take you back to the moment you first heard it each time you hit play.

In the 80’s it could have been the raw urgency of ‘Cant Close My Eyes’ by Youth Of Today, or the pissed off essence of ‘Bringin’ it Down’ by Judge. Through the 90’s it could have been Earth Crisis expanding on heavy hardcore with ‘Destroy The Machines’, or perhaps the youth crew revival of Ten Yard Fight’s ‘Hardcore Pride’.

As the early 2000’s hit, and the landscape of hardcore began to change once again, the now iconic Boston band Bane released their magnum opus ‘Give Blood’. 14 years after the release of this heart-stopping album, Bane are due to imminently call time on their career, so in honour of one of the most beloved bands in hardcore, we take a look back at ‘Give Blood’ and its legacy.

Bane - Group

Bane had already been a staple part of the hardcore scene for near on six years before they released ‘Give Blood’. They had released several EP’s, and their debut album ‘It All Comes Down To This’ really put garnered them worldwide acclaim.

They had taken their live show around the world, with front man Aaron Bedard leading crowds in his trademark commanding way. ‘Can We Start Again’ became an anthem for the disenchanted.

Hardcore seemed in a transitional place at the time of ‘Give Blood’, with more bands coming from the underground, gaining more traction than they might have imagined. Labels such as Trustkill and Bridge Nine were rising in prominence, and “the scene” was becoming much more than a group of like-minded individuals getting together in a scout hut or village hall to see a few bands on a Friday night.

As hardcore started becoming bigger, ‘Give Blood’ came along at the perfect time, and was a crucial listen for new kids (like this writer was at the time) to understand exactly what hardcore means. With no build up, and no pretentious introduction, Bane came galloping straight out of the starting gate with ‘Speechless’ – a flurry of unrelenting beats from (then) drummer Nick Branigan in little under a minute and half.

And then, with ‘Some Came Running’, ‘Give Blood’ showed its real importance.

Directly addressing the scene, Aaron Bedard wrote about fashion becoming more important than the music. As he sang the line “You’re too busy bitching about clothes that do not fit” you could feel it was a world away from where Bane were at in hardcore, as Bedard informs you “I’ll keep getting in the van / worrying about money for the rest of my life”. It just showed the difference in what was real, and those who wanted to just be in hardcore for nothing more than a status or “scene points”.

This theme, being disheartened with the direction hardcore was moving, carried on through ‘Snakes Among Us’.

Even the title called out those who chose to do nothing but take from hardcore, refusing to give anything back. Almost progressive in its delivery, it built for over a minute before the furious guitar work of Zach Jordan and former Converge guitarist Aaron Dalbec comes careening in.

They had a way of being hard, yet melodic, and changing from darker, minor key moments, to some of the most uplifting guitar work hardcore had ever heard. It is on ‘Snakes Among Us’ where Bane borrow lines from other artists to get their point across, a time honoured tradition.

While a line was lifted from American Nightmares ‘There’s a Black Hole in the Shadow of The Pru’ from their seminal ‘Background Music’ album, Bedard also looked outside the realm of hardcore punk by using the closing lines of Nick Drake’s ‘Road’ from his 1972 swan song ‘Pink Moon’. The chant of “You can take a road to take you to the stars / I can take a road that will see me through” during the crushing break at the end shows the comparison between the troubled singer songwriter’s desire to be left out of the spotlight, in the same way Bane were not in hardcore for any fame or fortune.

Bane’s lyrical content has always been their most endearing feature. There have been many great bands in hardcore and punk, but they sometimes seem forgettable in comparison to Bane as it was the poetic and honest wordplay that set them apart. You can see this in the short bursts of chaotic energy on ‘What Holds Us Down’ and ‘Ante Up’.

While much of ‘Give Blood’ focused on the climate as it was, they also looked to the future. On ‘Bang The Drum Slowly’, Bedard compared his mindset to that of an eight year old child, who even as a grownup was trying to figure out what life was all about.

Fourteen years on, the line “I’m afraid of living as I am of not living” still means so much, and is true, because no one knows what life is going to hold for them and you should make the most of the cards you’re dealt. By way of contrast, the song also looks back at misled youth on ‘Sunflowers and Sunsets’, the reckless abandon of being young, smashing car windscreens for the fun of it.

Bedard doesn’t glorify these things, but explains how such immature things were just a way to shut out the questions in your mind – those age old questions like “Why are we here?” that we all ask ourselves at some point.

Bane - Live

Throughout ‘Give Blood’, it makes you feel warm and proud to have been a part of hardcore, in whatever way that may be. It doesn’t leave you angry, or wanting to go out and hurt people. It makes you want to fight to keep the true spirit of hardcore alive.

Bane close the album out with what is still an integral part of the bands live show: ‘Ali vs Frazier I’. This is about facing your fears no matter how scary. A glance back to footage of Hellfest 2002 shows Aaron Bedard summing the song up perfectly, as he tells the audience in Syracuse that the only way to fight your demons is to take a swing at them. To go all out.

Everyone has their own vices or issues that hold them down, and with the spine tingling chorus of voices that cry “Give more, give everything, give blood” until the final moments of the album fade out… it gives you the strength to battle whatever troubles you’re facing.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, which makes writing this somewhat bittersweet. Bane announced last year that it was time for them to take a step back from hardcore, and move on to the next stage of their lives, as this is all they have known for 20 years now.

But 20 years is a long time to do anything, and where some hardcore bands barely made it past their first 7”, the passion Bane possessed has been the key to such longevity. They shouldn’t have any regrets, and be proud of a legacy that will live on for years to come and continue to inspire countless people.

The last track on Bane’s last album ‘Don’t Wait Up’ carries the title ‘Final Backward Glance’, which seems very fitting to me. If this is our final glance back at not just ‘Give Blood’, but at Bane as a band, then it’s a chance for us to thank them from the bottom of our hearts for everything they’ve done, the inspiration they’ve given us, and the memories that we will carry for the rest of our days.

Bane’s final album ‘Don’t Wait Up’ is available now via End Hits records.