ADOLESCENTS: BRATS IN BATTALIONS (1987)
1) Brats In Battalions; 2) I Love You; 3) The Liar; 4) Things Start Moving; 5) Do The Freddy; 6) Losing Battle; 7) House Of The Rising Sun; 8) Peasant Song; 9) Skate Babylon; 10) Welcome To Reality; 11) Marching With The Reich; 12) I Got A Right; 13) She Wolf.
No surprise when I say that nobody really needs to hear anything by the Adolescents other than Adolescents, for the safe, simple, predictable reason that when the Adolescents started recording their second album — a whoppin' six years, sixty member changes, and six hundred personal cataclysms after their first — they were no longer adolescents, and what use can one make of an Adolescents album in name but not an Adolescents album in nature?
Even though, somehow, for these 1986-87 sessions the band managed to get most of its original, and best, lineup, back in place (except for Frank Agnew, replaced by his no less Agnew, but much less talented brother Alfie), Brats In Battalions suffers from punk's commonest disease: the inflammatory conflict between the acute desire to grow and the gross inability of growing. By embracing various substyles and experimenting from different angles, Cadena, the Agnews and the rest of the band are clearly trying to say something. But oh how better it was back when the only thing they were trying to say was that they couldn't really say anything.
The whole album is summarized fairly well by their misguided cover of 'House Of The Rising Sun', which they start out as a «regular» dirty folk-blues number and then, after a couple verses, transform into hardcore. The question is — why? It doesn't sound like a meaningful reinvention; it sounds like lame self-parody, neither angry, nor funny, just dumb. And one big, dumb joke like that can actually be enough to soil the whole experience.
There is still enough decent material here to compensate, and it is interesting to watch the band's guitarists diversify and complicate the rhythm work, taking lessons from the thrash and speed metal scenes while still retaining a completely punkish attitude — the title track is a prime example of that approach; if only the entire album managed to uphold the same spirit, but, alas, trouble starts seeping in already on the third track. 'The Liar' is a slab of anti-Reaganist propaganda, so crude it makes the Dead Kennedys sound like Jean-Paul Sartre in comparison ("Reagan plays the liar, power's his desire, there's nothing in the world we can do!" — how about calling on Superman?), and only matched for embarrassment by 'Marching With The Reich', whose first chords recall Blondie's 'One Way Or Another' and whose spirit is about as frivolous as Blondie's, too, even though the message is supposed to be serious.
Honestly, things could have perhaps worked out better if the band just dropped the «hardcore» pretense completely and became a Black Sabbath tribute ensemble, because the best thing they could do at that point was hammer out metallic riffs, e. g. the 'Spirit Of The Universe' look-alike in 'She Wolf' (should have dropped the odd psychedelic interludes, though) and the Stooges kind of darkness-filled 'Things Start Moving'. Instead, they are caught somewhere in the middle between becoming a real band of musicians and an amplified social manifesto, but not working hard enough to become the former and too lenient and embarrassing to justify the latter. Despite the few good songs, this is a rather obvious thumbs down.
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