The Freeze were a bunch of crazy, self-destructive malcontents from New England who released a slew of great albums and singles back in the heyday of American Hardcore and then continued on in many different line-ups to this day. I think if anyone were to place bets on which bands would not last back then, The Freeze would have been at the top of the list. One listen to lead singer Cliff Hanger’s lyrics on songs like Rubber Room and No One’s Ever Coming Home and you knew you were dealing with a guy that was battling some severe personal demons. Cliff, and the rest of the band partied hard, which of course, rubbed the militant Boston Crew dudes the wrong way. Much like Gang Green, The Freeze raised a big middle finger to the Boston straight edge scene but unlike Gang Green, The Freeze weren’t from the Boston metro area. Instead, they were from the Cape. So they were outsiders in a scene that they really helped create.
Dont Forget Me Tommy / I Hate Tourists (Rebel Records) 1980. Starting in 1977 as a bunch of high school kids not even old enough to drive into Boston, The Freeze got around to releasing their first 7inch in 1980. Rumour has it the album was funded by drug deals. Regardless, it sounds very little like later releases by the band and it is the only release they ever did on their own imprint, Rebel Records. The A-Side Don’t Forget Me Tommy is a new wave tune and a not very good one at that. The B-Side is one of those seminal “Killed By Death” tracks. I personal never really liked it beyond the regional humour of it. However a lot of people really do dig I Hate Tourists. You be the judge.
VA – This is Boston Not LA – (Modern Method) 1982. Once The Freeze started playing shows up in the Boston area, they began to align themselves more with the nascent hardcore scene that was blowing up there. Not surprisingly, the tempo of their songs increased, but surprisingly the tunefulness of their songs remained pretty untarnished. The label they were on, Modern Method, was putting together a regional compilation and these two songs along with a few others, were included on that compilation. One of the songs, This Is Boston, Not LA, caught on almost instantly, and Modern Method wisely chose to use this as the title of the compilation thereby linking The Freeze with the Boston HC scene forever. The songs on This Is Boston Not LA are a good bridge between the I Hate Tourists era sound and the sound they were about to create.
Guilty Face 7inch (Modern Method) 1983. The Guilty Face 7inch came out next and this is where they really started finding their sound. There were a lot of cool things about the Freeze, the way they took hardcore conventions like mosh parts and made them their own, Cliff Hanger’s unique lyrics, their sense of dynamics. All of this is on display in the title tune from this 4 song EP. Maximum Rock N’ Roll called it “The Freeze at their most extreme” which was premature but true. It still is pretty extreme. I love the ringing feedback at the end of the song. It’s like the guitars just can’t be fuckin’ contained.
Land of the Lost (Modern Method) 1984. The next release from The Freeze was 1984′s Land of the Lost. This is one of the prototypical hardcore albums of the 1980s. The cover is a montage of all the shit we hated, Erik Estrada, Cheryl Teigs, Ronald Reagan, Tootsie you name it. Above them are the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding in to kill them. If you wanna understand hardcore at its roots, it’s all here in the cover of this album; the hatred of pop culture banality, the black humour, the violence. And that’s just the cover. The album is unrelenting in both its critique of “normal” American values and its depiction of insanity. The first song I ever heard by The Freeze was off this album and I have featured it here. Duh Family just blew my 14 year old mind away. It was exactly how I felt about my family and my neighbourhood. Plus the riff rocked hard. That was one of the secrets behind why so much Boston hardcore was appreciated in the Midwest. We all grew up on classic rock and you could hear it in the guitars. Nazi Fun on the other hand was a pure hardcore song and was probably directed at the Boston Crew. “We don’t need police on the dance floor”. This is a crucial album that any self-respecting punk in 84-85 had to acknowledge.
Rabid Reaction (Taang) 1986. And they just kept getting better. A lot of people may say that Land of the Lost is THE classic Freeze album but I disagree. Rabid Reaction is. The reason being, this is the album where Cliff Hanger’s lyrics fully matured yet at the same time, the classic era band are still playing at full throttle. Misguided Memories is one of those songs that just gets more and more true the older you get. How many hardcore songs can you say that about? No One’s Coming Home is full blast hardcore with a great break at 1:16. Trouble If You Hide is a remake of a song they first recorded on This Is Boston Not LA. This version is better though. It just kills. Check out the guitar solo for more classic rock influence. Before I Hit The Rubber Room was my personal favourite at 16. I remember getting in an argument about whether it was misogynist or not back then. One of those stupid ideological arguments that people would have about hardcore songs.
Freakshow (Lost and Found) 1995. After that, The Freeze broke up. Over the years Cliff has reformed the band with various members and released a slew of albums. One of my favourites is Freak Show. I think it is a good compromise between their early punk sound and the hardcore sound of their classic period. The song Paralysed covers the same terrain as Misguided Memories. Becoming old and redundant is a Cliff Hanger theme. Creeping Psychosis covers insanity and addiction, another Cliff Hanger obsession. It’s a great punk tune.
One False Move (Dr Strange Records) 1999. Even better was One False Move from 1999. New Poison is about, you guessed it, getting older and becoming redundant. I love the guitar solo in this song. It reminds me of Rick Agnew or something which is always a good thing and quite a surprise from a 20 year old Boston punk/hardcore band. The Bands Waiting is a rocking lil’ tune about how fun it is to see bands in concert when you’re young and how uninteresting it can become as you get older. Again, the idea of looking back at your life and being depressed at how useless it’s been is an overwhelming Cliff Hanger theme dating back to his earliest songs. The overriding mood of this album is melancholy and it’s reinforced by the Edward Gorey cover art!
Really melancholy is the overwhelming mood of the band. The Freeze are not and have never been a band that is gonna cheer you up. Save that for 7 Seconds. This is not posi-core. But if you’re a person that cracks a grin when you hear some great lyrics or a really original guitar riff, well, there are lots of grins to be had with The Freeze. Even if you’re crying at the same time. And they’re still going strong today. Cliff Hanger is still exorcising his demons through his songs. He’s gotta. You can’t carry that kinda shit around inside. You gotta let it out.