The T4 Project - Story-Based Concept Album
Record Label: Mental Records
Release Date: May 13, 2008
The T4 Project are a new punk band made of some old favorites brought together under the guidance of founding member/creator/guitarist/backup vocalist Shannon Saint Ryan, formerly of Ventura, California’s archetypical punk rock band Meet the Virus. He formed Meet the Virus with vocalist Kirsten Patches of Naked Aggression. Saint Ryan and Patches, along with an impressive roster of punk rock musicians spanning all living generations of punk, came together to form The T4 Project. It is a punk rock band that has no home base as its members reside in both England and America. Like the title of the album suggests, it is a concept album based on the story of two young lovers, Phil and Jackie who, according to the 24-page booklet with the disc featuring pictorials made by cartoonist Keith Rosson of Avow Magazine fame, are persecuted for joining anti-war protests.
The storyboard takes the viewer through Phil and Jackie’s trials and tribulations encountered from fighting against propaganda perpetrated by authoritarian figures. The album provides an aural narration with lyrics written and sung by Strung Out’s lead vocalist Jason Cruz. The ending of the tale culminates with the track “Resolution,” which shows the aftermath of the death of Phil and Jackie signaling the sobering experience that their deaths have on the offspring of authoritarian figures whose eyes are awakened to the vileness of their so-called protectors. To grasp the concept, think of those propaganda slogans fueled by commercials about the White House receiving a 3am phone call, which one wanna-be presidential candidate is using to convince people that she is there for them as their protector.
The T4 Project’s album has come out at the most appropriate time to have an optimal effect on people, awakening their senses to propaganda-fueled images that aim to sway their perception and public opinion as a whole. "The T4 Project" refers to this manipulation as a virus in their lyrical themes. The term virus is a metaphor for corruption and the propaganda which authoritarian figures spread into the minds of its prey. Musically, the fighting off of the virus has many different forms, from Pennywise’s guitarist Fletcher Dragge creation of crackling torrents that paralyze the audience in “Introduction” to the heady steaming vapors of Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson on the track “Underground.”
Saint Ryan explains in a press release that he first established the rhythm section for The T4 Project. Without a doubt, the rhythm sections in these songs are symbolic of humanity's resilience to withstand being pushed around by corruption and swayed by propaganda to succumb to the virus. Both “Introduction” and “Underground” feature Morrissey/The Damned’s drummer Spike T. Smith and Bad Religion’s bassist Jay Bentley offering a continuum of urgent flurries and hardened chafing. Saint Ryan actually started in music playing the drums in a high school band with bassist Mike Clark who is now in Glass & Ashes and is a guest bass player in The T4 Project. Clark’s bass grips intensify the ominous aura that permeates through “The Plot to Avenge.” Numbers like “Protest” and “Back Alley” are fashionable punk with shouting vocals, ridged guitar spins and ravenous flinching in the rhythm sections played by Subhumans UK/Citizen Fish’s drummer Trotsky and Buzzcocks bassist Tony Barber. The modern melodic rock arrangements of “15 Minutes” make for a compelling track with the use of the keyboards played by Paul Roessler of The Screamers to fill in the rough edges of Hetson and Saint Ryan’s guitar work.
The melodic rock textures and punk stripes of “Interrogation” formed by Porno for Pyros guitarist Peter Distefano are ardent and make this tune quite powerful with Trotsky’s rabid drum strikes. The hardcore vamps of From Satellite’s guitarist Armand Tambouris on the ominous “The Plot of Avenge” are brute and demonic. “Break In” crosses the line of punk, hardcore, and modern rock even incorporating backing vocals from the Venture College Choir. The final track, “Resolution,” is a marriage of punk and hardcore coupling into a brilliant conflagration as the insightful lyrics prophesize, “Break the chain / The hesitant sun begins the slow burn away of everything we were just yesterday / And my loaded thoughts won’t save me from any heartache anymore … This cemetery lullaby playing in my head again / We find a new love / Everyday, a new chance for a better way to not repeat the same mistakes m/ To invent another innocence / Break the chain.”
Singer/lyricist Jason Cruz admits that Saint Ryan gave him license to interpret the story his way, even when his words projected abstract images like “The hesitant sun” and “This cemetery lullaby,” from “Resolution.” This creative freedom gave the musicians a broad license to play what they wished, but it also made them stay within what they already knew. Though the album is ambitious by bringing punk and hardcore together from both sides of the Atlantic, it suffers from being a shadow of the bands that T4’s members come from like Strung Out, Citizen Fish, Buzzcocks, etc. Though the message in the album is poignant about fighting against corruption and propaganda, the album does not have an identity of its own to separate from the bands that participated in the project.
As the producer of the album, Shannon Saint Ryan expresses in the liner notes, “This record is a conceptual celebration of the rich history and diversity of the underground music scene ... This record came from the street, as do all revolutions.” Saint Ryan compares the album to Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Pete Townshend and The Who’s Quadrophenia, and sums up the record as a story about “not giving up no matter who tells you you’re reaching too high.” Everyone can relate to that message.