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by Cullen James
Rocky George is a hell of a guitarist, and one who is simultaneously well-liked and hated by those who would normally be just fine with his catalog of work. Punk fans have a major issue with George. He’s the person primarily responsible for moving Suicidal Tendencies away from punk and into thrash.
Due to a variety of record-label, personnel line-up and legal problems, Suicidal Tendencies had a huge break between their seminal, self-titled album and it’s follow up Join the Army, the former released in 1983, the latter in ‘87. During that time, George had a huge influence on singer/band leader Mike Muir and the sound of the band. But JtA can still be classed hardcore punk and is one of the most listened to skate-punk albums of the era.
But then came 1988’s How Will I Laugh Tomorrow … ? and almost everything punk about ST had changed. Musically, at least. Thematically, Muir was still writing about the same stuff, but it was now framed by thrash and somewhat progressive metal. Even incorporating some funk elements when bassist Robert Truijillo joined the band and they released Lights…Camera…Revolution! in 1990.
George stayed with the band until 1995 (and three more albums) and played for other bands, including the Cro-Mags, until joining Fishbone in 2003.
George has what has come to be understood as a typical metal style. His rhythms are succinct but full and his solos are frenetic and tasteful and have influenced many guitarists to date. Some of his earlier work suffers from bad tone and bad recording quality. Typical of many metal guitarists of the early-to-mid 80s, those early adopters of high-end effects, his solos are over-produced – they have too much chorus, too much compression and lose some of their bite. Notes meld into each other rather than being distinct. Notice, however, how different his sound is on Lights…Camera…
Suicidal holds a special place in my heart as one of the first metal bands I ever started listening to and the first punk album I ever heard. Because of that, I’m probably very forgiving of the change in style – evolution, I guess. Regardless of what you may feel about the band, George is well-worth listening to.
All Cullen wants is a Pepsi. Just a Pepsi. And she wouldn't give it to him. Just a Pepsi.