Jason Shevchuk is one of those enigmatic characters that you read about in history books and think "gosh, I would love to pick his brain, if even for just an hour." His body of work, his lyrics and music, even his ‘career’ moves have become the subject of speculation and obsession for a growing cult of Shevchukian fanatics. Thankfully, unlike H.P. Lovecraft, Wernher von Braun, and any other “pickable” brains from history, Shevchuk is not dead and his creative career seems far from over.
His true genius became apparent in the late 90’s when he emerged as the scene-stealing vocalist for the now-legendary hardcore group Kid Dynamite. Shevchuk’s role in Kid Dynamite eclipsed that even of former Lifetime guitarist and over-all hardcore champion, Dan Yemin. What started as the ‘Dan Show’ quickly became the ‘Jason Show’.
Kid Dynamite went supernova in 2000 with the release of the genre-defining Shorter, Faster, Louder and Shevchuk’s departure from the world of music. Shevchuk attempted, briefly, to leave behind his musical talents for the world of higher education. For Shevchuk, and just about every musician before or after him, the musical calling was not an easy calling to ignore.
Almost as soon as the dust from the collapse of Kid Dynamite had settled, Shevchuk had already been sucked back into music and was brain storming his next endeavor; None More Black.
NMB emerged onto the national scene with fists swinging in 2003 with the release of their debut record, File Under Black. Sure, it was still hard and loud, like Kid Dynamite, but NMB backed a much more satisfactory punch. The melodies were bigger, the lyrics hit harder and the scope of the music became transcendent. The epic “Drop The Pop” showcased the band’s start-stop guitar work, and drizzled it with the signature grit and wit of Schevchuk’s vocals. Lines like, “Pretty sure I don’t believe in god/ but I can pretend for a little while”, showed his ability to graft an air of levity on to weighty topics.
The band further expanded their sound and ruffled some feathers along the way, with their second album, This Is Satire. The album covered just about every aspect of an examined life from the high-brow to the low-brow. The opening track, “We Dance on The Ruins of the Stupid Stage”, was a bombastic declaration of love for the turbulent punk rock life style, which, Shevchuk by this point, had excepted as his path in life. Or so it seemed...
A year after This Is Satire dropped, Shevchuk put the breaks on NMB. The dreaded “Indefinite Hiatus” appeared as their myspace status and it seemed like the doors were shut. Shevchuk, incapable of shutting off his musical outlets completely, began a short-lived project called LaGrecia. But the door hadn’t shut all the was on NMB.
In 2008, the band announced a odd, one-off reunion in their hometown of Philadelphia. Then, other shows began trickling in. Before too long, the creative juices began flowing and the band announced that they were going to record a new album.
That new album, Icons, was only just released last month, but it was well worth the wait. Unlike many other bands that release an uninspired comeback album after a number of years in hiding (Weezer, Rancid, Dillinger Four etc), Icons is a triumphant return for NMB. The music, they lyrics and the energy are in stride for a bold new step for the band. Songs like “Iron Mouth Act” boil over with heavy punk rock passion and classic NMB sound. All the reasons why the first two albums were so noteworthy are intact on the new record, but it is definitely shows four year’s worth of growth, both technically and creatively.
While I’m glad that None More Black is back in action, I still can’t get over my Shevchuk obsession. Every musical project he is involved with is not just good, but interesting and progressive. His lyrics, his music and his creative direction are the envy of every musician and songwriter in the rock world. With Icons being a success, all eyes of the punk world will be on None More Black and Shevchuk as they plan to make their next move. As a commenter on punknews.org stated, “Shevchuk is my copilot”.