You take a quick glance at the Adolescents' latest release, Balboa Fun Zone, and at least one cynical question comes to mind. That is, shouldn't this original SoCal punk band have hung it up already? After all, each of the group's members is pushing the big three-0.
But give a listen to Fun Zone, and it's clear that the Adolescents have aged gracefully. The sound is every bit Adolescents--beat-intensive rhythms whipped into a lather of melodic string anguish. What's more, the band manages to maintain a fresh perspective on its past. Songs like "It's Tattoo Time" (Agnew has 32 of them), "Allen Hotel" (a veritable den of iniquity in the band's early days) and the self-explanatory title track are ample evidence the Adolescents have matured without growing stodgy.
Being in a seminal punk band, however, carries a lot of legendary baggage to own up to, and, as guitarist Rikk Agnew sees it, is not without its drawbacks.
"Everybody seems to want us to live in a time warp or something," bemoans Agnew from his home in Los Angeles. "They don't want us to grow, to stretch out and mature a little bit. Hey, we'll always be the Adolescents and keep the name as long as we want, no matter what we do. We just would rather do what comes naturally to us, not keep coming with the same sort of stuff that sounds like the first album. Seems that a lot of people would have us sound the way we did ten years ago."
As one of the original SoCal punk bands of the late Seventies and early Eighties, the Adolescents set a standard of hard and fast punk leavened with melody and arrangements, a style that was often copied but rarely surpassed. As is often the case in punkdom, the band broke up amidst personal problems by 1983 and stayed fractured until re-forming in '87 with the release of Brats in Battalions. After a few personnel changes (you need to quit thrashing for a few seconds to keep up with the Adolescents' revolving door line-up), the band now sports a near-original staff. Agnew is joined by his brother and guitarist Frank Agnew, bassist-singer Steve Soto and new drummer Sandy Hansen.
Perhaps encouraged by the return of three original members, the band's record company, Triple X, has been pressuring the Adolescents to mimic their earliest work.
"Our five-song demo we just did for the label was rejected because they said we didn't sound `Adolescent' enough," Agnew complains. "It kind of sucks in a way to be caught in a niche like that."
Even with public sentiment and label demands sniping away at their
MD120 music, Agnew says, "A few
compromises will have to
be made, but it'll still be
recognizable as our own
In light of all this
tinkering with the
will the band be
able to retain its
alienating prospective new converts?
"Oh, hey, there are plenty of our fans
from the old school who are backing us in
a big way," Agnew says. "Plus, kids
who've heard about us but were too
young years ago to come to the shows are
now getting behind us."
Agnew also thinks
scene "is starting to pick up again. Things got burned out for a while, what with all the glam rockers taking over the clubs. Besides ourselves, there are other early punk bands re-forming like the Stains, the Grim, Wasted Youth. The shows we've been doing have all sold out recently, which makes the club owners more receptive to doing more shows." He adds that the diverse audiences showing up for Adolescents' gigs recently--"more of a mix between longhairs, preppy types and basically normal-looking joes instead of just skinheads and punks"--are making it easier for the band to play at more established venues. "Hell, you almost say it's in to start liking punk bands again."
The Adolescents will perform at VFW Post 720, 4853 East Thomas, on Friday, March 24. Show time is 7 p.m.
"Everybody seems to want us to live in a time warp or something."