The historical view is that punk rock was invented to save the spirit of rock & roll from the bloated excess of the mid-'70s, the worst of which was embodied in that symbol of the prog rock era, the concept album. The T4 Project debuted 30 years later with an album as outlandishly over the top as those cracked, star-studded mid-'70s rock operas about experimental flying aces and Viking explorers by Hawkwind's Robert Calvert. Descriptively titled Story-Based Concept Album, the record is an amalgam of those plot-driven oddities The Who Sell Out and Green Day's American Idiot. The mainspring of the T4 Project is guitarist and producer Shannon Saint Ryan, who had previously led the obscure hardcore act Meet the Virus under the name T4. (In virological terms, T4 is a bacteriophage: it infects and kills harmful bacteria, specifically E. coli. Embarrassingly, the liner notes of Story-Based Concept Album suggest that Saint Ryan doesn't understand that T4 attacks and destroys harmful cells, not beneficial ones. Oops.) With music and production by Saint Ryan and lyrics and lead vocals by Jason Cruz of Strung Out, Story-Based Concept Album is just what it says, a rock opera about a pair of teenage punks in love and their struggle in a violent and oppressive society, shot through with satirical commercials aimed at specific elements of what used to be called the military industrial complex.
The recording of Story-Based Concept Album took three years and brings together a genuinely impressive band that covers three decades and two continents' worth of punk history: besides Saint Ryan and Cruz, the listed members of the T4 Project are: Trotsky (Subhumans) and Spike T. Smith (the Damned) on drums; Jay Bentley (Bad Religion), Tony Barber (Buzzcocks), and Mike Carter (Glass & Ashes) on bass; Paul Roessler (.45 Grave) on keyboards; Fletcher Dragge (Pennywise), Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks), Peter DiStefano (Porno for Pyros), and Armand Tambouris (From Satellite) on guitar; and Naked Aggression's Kirsten Patches singing the female vocal parts, along with a 37-person vocal choir. Story-Based Concept Album was recorded in 2006, available only as a direct digital download from the T4 Project's website. It was officially released in 2008. ~ Stewart Mason