1. I've Got Mine [0:00]
2. Buried Alive [3:30]
3. Sin and Redemption [5:37]
4. My Father's Dreams [7:23]
5. Articles of Faith [9:37]
6. By My Rules [11:59]
7. What We Want Is Free [14:03]
8. Born to Be [16:32]
9. Wait [18:57]
10. Buy This War [20:39]
11. Street Fight [22:29]
12. Ghost in the House [24:03]
13. Everyday [28:17]
14. Bad Attitude [30:40]
15. Dependence [33:18]
16. False Security [36:10]
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of hardcore punk is that its greatest album wasn't. German label Bitzcore stitched together fragments of Articles of Faith's various recordings from 1982-1983, culled from 6-minute EPs, estranged compilation tracks, and unreleased demos to create an anthology which holds together stunningly well as a proper 16-track Album. That's album with a capital A; these songs are stylistically and thematically in concert with one another on a level which manages to exceed even the deliberate, discriminating concept album efforts of their contemporaries Hüsker Dü and Crass.
The trouble is that these tracks were finally compiled into a single release a decade too late, leaving the punk community's impression of Articles of Faith limited to their status as little more than a respectable "singles" band until their optimal moment for revelation had already long passed. Articles of Faith has gotten decent exposure in the punk community in the form of a few inclusions on nostalgic compilations and a small sampling of their recordings uploaded to estranged corners of the Internet, but it's about time that these Articles of Faith were canonized on YouTube.
The web of reggae, jazz, funk, and blues elements runs so thick in these tracks that it's difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins, resulting in a neck-snapping hardcore release that pays homage to so many forms of rebellion music in such subtle ways that you could be fooled into believing they had been in hardcore all along. The tightness of the group was practically unparalleled at the time, with the rhythm section approaching the pulsing precision of industrial on several tracks. Possibly the most incredible aspect of this compilation is that the songs musically meld with one another so intuitively in the order they were sequenced; transitions between tracks are so utterly natural that they effortlessly give the visceral thrill of a cohesive, pre-meditated package designed for maximum sonic impact.
The lyrics are intelligent, diverse, and, in a word, masterful. In a time when the San Francisco scene was in an uproar over the conservatism which had taken hold in America and the DC scene was laying the foundation for emo by eschewing politics for borderline-existentialist personal issues, Articles of Faith in Chicago strode with perfect balance along the middle path between the two and tackled the ways in which cultural politics intertwine and interfere with an individual's emotional experience.
"Buy This War" imagines Ronald Reagan as a used-car salesman peddling the Cold War through scare-tactic rhetoric in order to lull the nation into selling their lives for the deaths of others. "I've Got Mine" sees vocalist Vic Bondi playing the role of a representative of the post-revolutionary ME-generation, standing up and uniting only for causes which could ultimately only tear them further apart in time. "Bad Attitude", donning the title expected of a run-of-the-mill bad boy punk tune, cuts deeper than just predictable frustration at teachers and delves into the cultural constructs formed by Situationist political structures to reveal a conspiracy-level paranoia that rings entirely too true. "Dependence", a proto-emo track, considers the devastating collapse of a personal relationship, but as in "Wait" and "Everyday", the narration is entirely self-aware, leveling the blame on both the narrator and narrated.
"Ghost in the House", "Buried Alive", "False Security", and "What We Want Is Free" form the conceptual core that anchors all of these songs. During this period, Articles of Faith were in a state of intense meditation upon the distinct possibility that the growing sense of alienation amongst Americans would be a key contributor to our downfall, if not be directly exploited to accelerate it. The metaphors of Americans living their lives in isolation like ghosts in their own homes, burying themselves alive in fear, and inflicting harm upon one another for false security permeate the language and tone of the album in a very real and visceral way.
Articles of Faith are humanists, not pessimists, however; they are intently focused on redeeming the American public by articulating the vision of unity which, at our core, we all desire. "What We Want Is Free", indeed. In 16 tracks they make the case that denying this desire is also the core of modern tragedy. If for nothing else, "Core" is significant for being possibly the most solid concept album ever to be recorded by a group that wasn't aware that they were recording a concept album.