ADOLESCENTS: OC CONFIDENTIAL (2005)
1) Hawks And Doves; 2) Lockdown America; 3) Where The Children Play; 4) California Son; 5) Guns Of September; 6) Pointless Teenage Anthem; 7) Death On Friday; 8) Into The Fire; 9) Within These Walls; 10) Let It Rain; 11) OC Confidential; 12) Monsanto Hayride; 13) Find A Way.
For representing Orange County's pride and joy, the Adolescents have certainly earned a right to reunite anytime, anyplace and in any line-up, as long as it brings further pride and joy to concert-going headbangers. However, playing old hits live is one thing, and recording an entirely new album is another — especially considering that even their mid-1980s output wasn't too hot; what does the band have to offer us now, with most band members in their fourties?
Answer: the second best album to bear the name of Adolescents. No longer rough and tattered, boasting the cleanest, most distinctive production they ever had, OC Confidential reinvents the band as a semi-intelligent, highly melodic pop-punk act, comparable (and, in the reviewing circles, many times compared) to the likes of Green Day but, somehow, still looking as if they'd arrived at this kind of sound entirely on their own.
In any case, regardless of how wary one might feel about pop-punk, OC Confidential is certainly not an attempt at going commercial — it's merely an attempt to sound their age without sacrificing too much of the old punch. Unfortunately, Rikk Agnew is absent from this reincarnated version, but brother Frank is still in, and his chainsaw riffage has not changed one bit since 1980; improved production values, in fact, make it sound tighter and angrier than ever. Ditto for Steve Soto's bass work, and with Tony Cadena back in the band, they have overcome the singing problem that was so rampant on Balboa Fun Zone.
Most importantly, the songs are fun! No silly misguided covers, no failure-bound experimentation, just yer basic catchy-chorus-based rock'n'roll. More than half of the numbers invite you to sing along, and if it weren't for the generally lame lyrics, I'd happily go along. (Then again, I do not see any reason to condemn the record for the low poetic and primitive social level of the lyrics — most critical assessments of punk rock usually praise the lyrics if the music is good and laugh at the lyrics if the music is awful; with a minor handful of exceptions, punk rock artists rarely scale the heights of Lou Reed, or, in fact, feel the need to).
A lot of effort has been put in these choruses, as well as into the surprisingly high quality of background vocals. 'California Son', 'Guns Of September', 'Lockdown America', 'Let It Rain' — all of these and more show a completely new level of songwriting. Of course, there is a downside: they actually sound like consciously planned and crafted pieces of music, rather than the God-, or Satan-driven clouds of dark energy delivered in 1980. But this is where we have to remind ourselves of the date of release: you cannot ride the same dark cloud for twenty years.
Last time the band tried to consciously shift its image, it ended up with the absurdity of Balboa Fun Zone. This time, they ended up with tighter, catchier, polished music that will make you smile rather than clench your fists, but what of it? (At least someone did the job better than Pink and Avril!) As long as you refrain from digging too deep into the lyrics and concentrate on just savoring the moment, OC Confidential is good one-time proof of the punk's-not-dead thingy. There's hardly any reason to savor it more than once, of course, but isn't a flash in the pan exactly what the whole idea is about? Thumbs up, over and out.
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