Forty years on, D.O.A.’s still ready to ‘Fight Back’

Vancouver, B.C.’s D.O.A. has been flying the punk banner for four decades now. And their latest release, Fight Back, shows them to be as high-spirited as ever. Times may be tough (and likely to get tougher), but you won’t find them backing down.

Fight Back gets off to a rousing start with a song whose sentiments everybody can identify with: “You Need an Ass Kickin’ Right Now.” The song’s video might specify a few such folks who could benefit from such disciplinary treatment (certain American and Russian leaders might come to mind…), but the lyrics are decidedly non-partisan. Though the last lines, “Memories can be short/Think back to 1933,” carry a clear warning about our possible future.

Politics are more clearly front and center on other tracks, as titles like “Killer Cops” and “State Control” make clear. “Just Got Back from the USA” is a tough little number bemoaning the racists now marching in our streets (“They’re rubbing their crotches and shooting their guns” — what imagery!), with the band longing for the safety of the real land of the free — Canada. How the mighty are fallen.

But there are songs of personal pain as well. “I’m Desperate” is an angry rant, but a sad one too, with the singer mired in despair and seeing no way out. “The Last Beer” is moderately paced and heartfelt number about the loss of a close friend. And the flip side of “Killer Cops” can be found in “The Cops Are Comin’,” about a luckless man who’s stolen money to pay for his kid’s medical treatment (no insurance, you see), and is now on the lam, like a modern day Jean Valjean.

There’s even a touch of humor. “We Won’t Drink This Piss” addresses a grave injustice; bad tasting beer. Lyrics are key to appreciating D.O.A.’s work, so see them out; they’re included with the vinyl version of the album, and available on the band’s website if you’ve picked up the CD.

D.O.A. is from the short, sharp, shock school of punk rock; most of the album’s tracks clock in at around two and a half minutes (the longest actually makes it to 3:09!). The power trio (Joe Keithley, vocals/guitar; Mike “Corkscrew” Hodsall, bass/vocals; Paddy Duddy, drums/vocals) isn’t entirely no-holds barred; they tend to prefer a strong, solid beat instead of the bludgeoning hammer attack that’s all some other punk acts are capable of.

They’re also committed to more than just righteous anger. On every album you’ll find the slogan “Talk – Action = 0,” and they’re words the band lives by (Keithley’s even running for mayor of Burnaby, B.C.). Both “Time to Fight Back” and “World’s Turned Upside Down” urge the listener to take action; “Time to wake up and kick some ass!” they exalt in the former song. Well, there’s no time like the present! And the urgent beat that runs through the songs on Fight Back underscores the notion that we’d all better fight back — before it’s too late.

(You can purchase Fight Back here via Amazon or find it on all major streaming platforms. Sample the LP below.)