Operation Ivy’s only full-length studio CD, Energy, is aptly named. Ever since it dropped in 1989 on Lookout! Records, it has been a driving influence in the ska and punk scenes. The band that spawned Rancid was short-lived, but completed the fusion of punk and ska that was started in the 80s.
The first thing that stuck out to me about Energy was its raw intensity, which is probably my favorite aspect of the CD. Songs like “Bombshell” and “Jaded” have probably been responsible for more broken noses than Mike Tyson. Part of what makes it so intense is their attitude. Operation Ivy fully exemplified the punk attitude of the 80s and the ska attitude that long preceded them. The combination created a new genre called ska-punk or ska-core. The sound is unique to say the least, although they may have to give some of their credit to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
Something else that made this CD great was the way the band melded the two previously disparate styles of ska and punk rock. Few bands before them had tried to combine the traditionally relaxed rhythms of ska with the energy and attitude of punk. Certain songs like “Unity” and “Bad Town,” my personal favorite, blend the two styles very well. Surprisingly, cacophonous gang vocals and guitars strumming on the upbeat can sound good together.
As a bass player, I always like to listen to what the bass is doing in each song. Matt Freeman does a great job writing catchy bass lines. He is one of my favorite bass players for not only his work in Rancid, but on this CD as well. Songs like “Bombshell” and “Bad Town” make me admire his talent. Without Freeman Op Ivy would not be nearly as cool as they are.