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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Adolescents: Presumed Insolent

ADOLESCENTS: PRESUMED INSOLENT (2013)

1) The Athena Decree; 2) Conquest Of The Planet Of The See Monkeys; 3) Forever Summer; 4) Riptide; 5) In This Town Everything Is Wonderful; 6) Big Rock Shock; 7) Dissatisfaction Guaranteed; 8) Presumed Insolent; 9) Broken Window; 10) 300 Cranes; 11) Snaggletooth And Nail; 12) Daisy's Revenge; 13) TicTac At The Alligator Tree.

Two years later, the Adolescents are back and their formula has not changed half an inch. There is a new guitar player (Dan Root) replacing an older guitar player (Joe Harrison), but who gives a damn? The Adolescents were never known for individualistic styles of guitar playing. What matters is that the album is even more monotonous than its predecessor, and offers the listener an even harsher retro-encapsulation of the band's classic sound that you thought was possible — one of the most rigidly conservative «rebel» albums I've ever heard.

The sound is every bit as pristine and exciting as it used to be, but this time around, the songs are really glued together — same length, same tempo, same chord patterns, same mood for each of these thirteen numbers. Worst of all, the production is muddier and more muffled than it was for Fastest Kid, so that the guitars rarely sound as «crisp», and the vocals are diffused in the mix and lack proper rousing power. The basic aural impression is a rather «sludgy» one, and no matter how much of an effort the band makes, the songs never make me want to clench my fist like ʽKids Of The Black Holeʼ used to do.

A few of these numbers have power-pop potential that is never properly realized — I think that ʽBroken Windowʼ, for instance, could make better use of its vocal melody, had Tony bothered to record his voice more prominently, or had one of the guitar players bothered «coloring» that tone a little differently. But the thing is, they are still operating on this «strictly spontaneous» basis, where too much seasoning is supposed to spoil the broth — a mistake, because times, brains, and attitudes have changed well enough since 1981 to allow this «spontaneity» to be tinged with genius. Within these thirty-two minutes worth of music lies a perfectly palatable power-pop EP, with a running length of 15-20 minutes; all they had to do was give themselves a little more time and a little more sophistication to get it out of their system.

But no, this is «hardcore punk», pretending to old glories, and now it doesn't even have the come­back excite­ment of Fastest Kid, let alone the fact that each of these songs probably took five minutes to write. The song titles look appealing — ʽTicTac At The Alligator Treeʼ is one of my favorites, regardless of what it is all about (the words are predictably undecipherable throughout, and hunting for lyrics to hardcore punk albums is not my favorite cup of tea) — but the emotional punchline is always the same, and fully predictable.

Consequently, as much as Fastest Kid was a pleasant surprise, so is this quickie follow-up a major relative disappointment, a stern exercise in «purism» that can only appeal to the band's original bunch of devotees — 45-year old geezers for whom the ideal adrenaline rush has been permanently defined as a concentrated blast of speedy Californian punk, regardless of how much effort or talent went into it. Alas, a thumbs down.

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