Released: 2016, Southern Lord Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Reissues of lost or forgotten albums often run the risk of rewriting history. Sometimes you discover a gem that’s been long out of print, and that totally blows your mind, leaving you wondering why this band never broke through. And then sometimes you’re introduced to band that history has been indifferent to, but the press surrounding their reissue would lead you to believe that back in the day they were a band of messiah worthy importance.
The Southern Lord reissue of Excel’s THE JOKE’S ON YOU fits somewhere in between the two scenarios.
Blurring the lines between thrash and hardcore, the crossover scene of the late 80’s birthed some phenomenal records, but it didn’t have much of a shelf life; you either really dug that sound or you didn’t give it a second glance. And some of it worked better than others - for every JOIN THE ARMY, FOUR OF A KIND, or ANIMOSITY, you had albums like THE JOKE’S ON YOU. It’s in the same general wheelhouse, but there was a definite quality gap. Not that Excel’s sophomore outing is/was a bad record; it served its purpose at the time and helped to round out the scene. Tunes like “Drive”, “You’re Fired” and “Given Question” are all enjoyable bursts of juvenile, thrashy fun, but almost 30 years after the fact, the riffs sound awkwardly dated when compared against the Suicidal or C.OC. output from that same window. And Dan Clements’ talky vocals may have worked better in 1989, but now they tend to get pretty irritating pretty quick. I don’t mean to crap all over Excel, but if you don’t already love the band or this era of metal, THE JOKE’S ON YOU isn’t going to persuade you otherwise.
Excel Fun Fact #1 – Excel beat Machine Head to the punch by 10 years with their cover of The Police’s “Message in a Bottle”
Excel Fun Fact #2 – According to the Metal Archives, Excel considered suing Metallica for a hot second over the similarities between “Tapping the Emotional Void” and “Enter Sandman.”