It’s impossible to discuss No More Censorship without pointing out that Dave Grohl was the drummer, though there are many popular misconceptions that should also be addressed. It wasn’t Grohl’s first recordings; Mission Impossible did a split single and appeared on hardcore compilations in 1985 when he was only 16, and Dain Bramage, which emerged from the ashes of Mission Impossible, had a full-length album, I Scream Not Coming Down, that came out the following year. You can download it for free at Bandcamp, but the vinyl will cost no less than $100 at Discogs.
It also wasn’t the first Scream material by a longshot, nor was it the best (as Grohl himself will likely concede). All of the first three Scream records with original drummer Kent Stax, but especially the 1983 debut Still Screaming, showed the band to be among the most accomplished of the potent DC hardcore scene, combining the proto-pop-punk songwriting ability of Dag Nasty with the musicianship of Bad Brains.
It’s not even the most widely known Scream album to feature the mercurial musician. The band’s swansong Fumble was recorded in 1989, but didn’t see release until Dischord put it out until 1993, three years after Scream had called it a day. By that time Nirvana had already taken over the known universe, and In Utero was only a few months away from release.
No More Censorship was, however, the first Scream album to feature Grohl. It was released in 1988 via reggae label RAS Records who signed the band away from Dischord in an attempt to kickstart a rock division. That never really happened and the album unceremoniously fell out of print until last year when Southern Lord reissued a limited run of 1,500 on vinyl for Record Store Day Black Friday. They did so thanks to noted photographer Naomi Petersen (she of SST head Joe Carducci‘s Enter Naomi tome), who found the original tapes and passed them along to vocalist Peter Stahl before she passed away in 2003. Showing that sometimes things indeed come full circle, the album was remixed at Grohl’s 606 Studio.
Southern Lord Records is now reissuing the album for good. The recording, since rechristened NMC17, comes with entirely different packaging, layout, and design with the inclusion of photos, lyrics, poetry, and other personal writings from the band during that era, collected in an extensive booklet.
This album is not only worth seeking out for the novelty. By this point the band was maturing beyond primal hardcore. The lineup, rounded out by Peter’s brother Franz Stahl on guitar, second guitarist Robert Lee Davidson, and bassist Skeeter Thompson, was a cohesive unit bolstered with the young, talented drummer. It embraced post-punk and went in a mainstream direction, even if the lyrics were still rooted in the social critiques that the Reagan administration famously inspired in punk rock.
Although there doesn’t appear to be any contemporaneous reviews of No More Censorship online (please share some in the comments if you know of any), the best bet is that this album was derisively looked at as Scream’s “metal album.” Read any book about hardcore and that is always the pejorative description when a band loses its way. Listen to latter efforts from bands as disparate as TSOL, Warzone, and nearly every band in the potent Boston scene and you can hear it as well.
You can definitely hear it on No More Censorship. “Hit Me” has a slide guitar that is more Guns ’N Roses than Gun Club. “God Squad” starts off like funk metal before the riff kicks in, not at all unlike Aerosmith’s “Draw the Line.” The title track could have been penned by Raging Slab if they wore make-up instead of buckskin. “Run to the Sun” is a ballad, for the love of Ian MacKaye!
These facets might have caused concern amongst scenesters at the time, but hindsight shows that this is a solid album, one that just didn’t conform to punk rock norms. The band wrote catchy, heavy songs. “Something in my Head” was too early to be an alt-rocking radio hit and too late to smash up a mosh pit, but it could have worked in either setting. Album closer “No Escape” showed off Thompson’s elastic bass and the young Grohl’s versatility while the gang chorus and searing leads showed Scream reaching for something special and not caring if they might alienate some fans in the process.
Scream reunited with four original members several years ago, recording the Complete Control Recording Sessions 10” for SideOneDummy Records at Grohl’s studio. Previous to that the Stahl brothers put out Box Set under the moniker Wool, and Peter sang for doom metallers Goatsnake. Those albums are all worth owning and NMC17 is worth having alongside of all of them regardless of who drummed on it.