Union Thugs / Out Of System Transfer – Le Combat Reste Le M​ê​me / The Struggle Stays The Same


“Is there a more perfect trio than headphones, sidewalks, and anti-fascist anthems? If there is, I don’t want to hear about it because the latest 2023 split from Union Thugs and Out of System Transfer is perfect for late summer strolls and park picnics with some Marx and Bakunin at your side.

“Le combat reste le meme  / The Struggle Stays the Same” is the new 7” split from Rebel Time Records, as well as other labels and distros such as PM Press and Fire and Flames Music. It was released in May of this year. The involvement of so many fantastic groups and supporters really makes this an incredible international effort. It features two tracks from Montreal IWW folk-punks, Union Thugs, and two from New York anti-folk heroes, Out of System Transfer. It covers a surprising breadth and depth given the short run-time, making it perfect for repeat listens as you go on with your day.

With alternating groups, we start with a reggae-to-ska tune from Union Thugs with some lyrics that fit incredibly well with the musical choices made. ‘J’avance’ is just that, a track that lyrically covers the personal and political will to continue and push despite the struggles we face as individuals and a collective, as well as a song that starts with a reggae beat that eventually leads to a more upbeat and fast-paced rhythm, echoing the idea of finally achieving our goals. The chorus repeats the song’s title, with some great verses that include lines like “Malgré la job /  malgré le sang / Malgré que le boss vole tout mon temps.” It’s a great track that sets the tone for the rest of the split.

The next number is from New York’s Out of System Transfer, heavily rooted in the idea of ‘songs-of-place.’ Both of their contributions on this release paint an image of being in a specific state-of-mind and geography, and how these interact with our day-to-day life and our psyche. Musically, I’m hearing some great trombone work, as well as the other typical instrumentations for folk-punk. The track arrangement of this release is great as we get to go from a reggae track to one that feels like a good transition into what these bands usually play.

The third is a great Union Thugs cover of Guthrie’s “All you Fascists.” It’s an anthem that slaps anytime, all the time. This rendition has a lot of energy. It doesn’t stray too far from the original spirit, offering no real added bells or whistles, but that’s not what we want out of a track like this. What we want is exactly what’s delivered: a classic anthem that is performed from the heart with tons of energy.

We close out the split with “Beneath my Feet,” a track that wouldn’t sound too out of place as an unreleased gem from The Mountain Goats. It’s a personal tune focused on urban anxiety and social alienation, but remaining hopeful. The lines  “Yesterday I walked home past the drug store and the laundromat / The light was growing softer, like a soldier just before the end / I held the door a beat or two and nodded like I used to do / Sometimes it even helps to just pretend,” really say so much and serve as the perfect closer.” (Spring Magazine)