Operation Ivy sings another unity song, 18 years later

Doug Hite

Photo courtesy of Operation Ivy

Credit: Ron Soltys

When the B-52s were inviting us to their love shack and M”tley Crüe was paging Dr. Feelgood, punk rock was growing a conscious thanks to Oakland, California’s Operation Ivy. It was in 1989 that this group first released their only full-length album, which was recently adapted for modern times.

Many bands have proclaimed that they would break up or die out before they started to lose passion for what they do. Rarely, however, do groups actually follow through with this promise. But nearly twenty years ago, Operation Ivy did just that.

Since the end of Operation Ivy’s two-year whirlwind in 1989, the group has sold over 500,000 copies of their self-titled album and have influenced nearly every major punk band while planting punk rock’s flag on the third wave of ska. They have cemented their place in the genre’s history as possibly the most influential punk band of our generation.

While rarely known outside the realm of punk underground, their catalog of only 27 official studio recordings has been a staple in any punker’s music library, even though the recordings have rarely seen the light of day outside of house parties and car stereos.

The songs themselves are not of the best recording quality, which may be keeping modern listeners — accustomed to over-engineered digitally enhanced clarity — from taking the album into consideration for listening, but the sheer energy behind them is a force to be reckoned with.

This week, Operation Ivy re-released their studio recordings on Hellcat Records after the album had been discontinued on Lookout! Records for several months. But before allowing a new wave of fans to get their hands on this historic album, the songs were digitally re-mastered.

Upon hearing that the album was to be re-mastered, I was skeptical with the idea of anything at all being changed with this album — from the simplistic album art, to the off-pitch crew shouts, to grainy pictures of the band members in their late ’80s skate garb.

This album was not broke and did not need to be fixed.

The original recordings, which may be construed as out-dated or amateur-sounding, provided the modern listener with the subconscious realization that they are listening to something unlike the punk rock that they are used to. This music is not centered around production quality, but around an ardent passion for the music and what it represents. A fuzzy saxophone riff or a muddled bass line transports us to a different time and allows us to put Operation Ivy’s musical stylings into a category in which no other band exists.

Of course, with the 27-song collection being re-mastered, the uniquely amateur-sounding quality of the recordings has been lost — bringing Operation Ivy into the modern realm.

To a veteran listener of this band, it may be refreshing to know that the esoteric qualities of this album have not been lost in re-mastering. New and old fans will surely find themselves singing along to punk rock anthems such as “Knowledge,” “Sound System” and “Unity.” Dedicated followers and casual listeners will still be astounded that these songs can provide an incredible experience twenty years after they were written.

With the re-release of their full-length album, Operation Ivy will undoubtedly keep influencing listeners and providing sustenance to hungry ears that have been looking for truly passionate music.

Doug Hite is a junior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.