In the days where a huge corporate rock band like Rage Against the Machine reunites to enrich themselves under the guise of protest music, seeing a band who lived their message as DOA did is engaging and inspiring. When DOA was tearing up stages in protest to all they saw wrong with the world, there was no major label money, no big arena shows and no slick videos, just some kids trying to make a difference.
No one should be expecting quality recordings of these early events in DOA’s career. While the first show (On Broadway, San Francisco, 1980) is actually surprisingly audible, it’s immediately followed by by a second San Fran show at the Old Waldorf the following year which is poor even by home movie standards. Most of the DVD splits the difference between the two. What is missing in sound quality is made up for in DIY charm that captures the real energy and spirit of these shows. While I’m sure it’s no substitute for having been there, Smash the State is likely the next best thing, capturing the band in all their rabble-rousing glory.
Bonus material includes a music video of only slightly better quality than the homemade live clips and a Canadian news report on punk from 1979 which heavily featured DOA, the latter being an interesting window into a time when punk was not so cool as it is today.
There is little question that DOA, love them or hate them, were the real deal. Can you imagine Rage or System of a Down forgoing the big paycheck to play the Anarchist Anti-Canada Day gig? While DOA has yet to realize their dreams of change, watching Smash the State leaves little doubt that the band believed in them. It’s so convincing that I’m surprised there’s actually a copyright on the box. I guess the world’s still that imperfect.