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Friday, April 6, 2012

Adolescents: The Fastest Kid Alive


1) Operation FTW; 2) Inspiration; 3) Wars Aren't Won, Wars Are Fought; 4) One Nation, Under Siege; 5) Babylon By Bomb; 6) Too Fast, Too Loud; 7) Learning To Swim; 8) Can't Change The World With A Song; 9) Orange Crush; 10) Serf City; 11) Jefferson Memorial Dance Revolution; 12) Tokyo Au Go-Go; 13) No Child Left Behind; 14) Branded; 15) Peace Don't Cost A Thing.

Something like five years in the making — it took the band so long to record the songs, in fact, that everybody had enough time to forget that they even existed. Where OC Confidential was met with at least some reviews and even a faint appraisal, The Fastest Kid Alive justified its title — it came and went so fast, nobody had the proper time to notice it. Which is a pity, because it is certainly no worse than its predecessor.

With not a single Agnew in sight, guitar duties this time are handled by Mike McKnight and Joe Harrison; never heard of either before, but they handle their duties well. As usual, people will want to complain about the way-too-clean sound, but let us just remember that it's been a long, long time since the Adolescents were really «punk»: musically, this is just good old-fashioned rock'n'roll that happens to have borrowed some chainsaw guitar for the rhythm tracks. And for that kind of music, Fastest Kid Alive is neither over- nor underproduced. Just the right amount of crunch for those who like it medium rare.

The cool news is that the long wait period has not decreased the songwriting capacities: Steve Soto and Tony Reflex are still baking kick-ass anthems that may have — not always, but fre­quent­ly enough — loud catchy choruses, colorful poppy solos, and sometimes, even offer fun little twists on well-known riffs. Nothing is genuinely great, but there is enough genuine energy, fast tempos, and cute hooks to keep you occupied throughout.

Most importantly, perhaps, you get the feeling that they really have things to sing about — the album is even heavier loaded, on the socio-political side, than OC Confidential, and the intensity of the singing and playing stays on the sincere side for most of the show. Of course, the impact is slightly muffled by the fact that most of these songs were still written in the Bush years, but, as you can understand, only slightly. This time, Tony and Steve take it out on America with such vengeance, I'd gladly offer them to emigrate to Russia, a paradise-haven of freedom and progress in comparison, if I only could. But, humor aside, acute hatred may be bad for politics, yet it is usually good in art, and here, it serves as first-rate fuel.

Monotonousness of the Adolescents' anti-war feelings aside, the songs are fun once again. The opening ʽOperation FTWʼ, with its four-time "Hello!" and a list of all the countries that the USA might have an issue with, might be rather flat, lyrics-wise, and quite predictable from the second verse on, but the trick sticks, with the listener getting himself a crudely hilarious basic piece of rock'n'roll to blast from the windows of his Obamanos-decorated car. And then, one by one, they flash by, always fun while they're on, not entirely forgotten when they're gone.

Personal favs include the aptly titled ʽCan't Change The World With A Songʼ (sure enough); the aptlier titled ʽSerf Cityʼ (with blatantly ironic elements of surf rock from Steve's Agent Orange past); the intelligently emphasized "fuck you"s of ʽJefferson Memorial Dance Revolutionʼ; and the album closer ʽPeace Don't Cost A Thingʼ, which tries very hard to recapture the breakneck ominousness of ʽKids Of The Black Holeʼ — and comes somewhat close.

But personal favs do not really mean anything on an album where all the songs essentially sound the same. The impor­tant things are the drive, the tasty sound, and the... well, let's call it «careful attitude towards melodic flow» or something like that. I enjoyed it. It didn't exactly revolutionize my views on American foreign policies, or on the timelessness of punk rock lyrics, but I had my­self a good time, and that's worth a bit of a thumbs up. Now you, too, can be a good boy/girl and go fight the system for about fourty minutes.

Check "The Fastest Kid Alive" (CD) on Amazon


  1. Thanks for reviewing "The Fastest Kid Alive" George. It's sad that this album went under the radar of reviewers outside a random fan post here and there, but maybe it's an issue with the album being an import and the lack publicity for it. (Outside of the bits of info the band released throughout the years)

    In the end, it's better that you gave it its first formal review online.

  2. George!

    Have you heard Rikk Agnew's "All By myself" solo release from 1982. It was
    supposed to be material for the follow-up to the1st Lp but Rikk Agnew left
    and recorded all the instruments and vocals/(hence the title) and released the songs on Frontier records. To me, its the logical true followup to the "Blue" album and its in your Letter A review requirements. Plus...its pretty damn good.