Review Summary: When referring to the Adolescents' self-titled debut album, it makes adjectives like "essential" and "indispensable" understatements within hardcore punk rock.
With over 100,000 millionaires living within its boundaries, Orange County, California is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Better known as the O.C., it’s also a cesspool filled with ignorance, narcissism, and spoiled teenagers that is considered praiseworthy by MTV and fashion magazines. It should not come as a surprise then that hardcore punk emerged from this filth to counter every stroke of eyeliner.
The Adolescents formed in 1980 and released their debut Adolescents
in 1981, before disbanding later that year. The lineup that came to fruition to produce their debut united the talents of bassist Steve Soto, guitarists Rikk and Frank Agnew, drummer Casey Royer, and lead vocalist Tony Cadena. Rikk and Royer were from Social Distortion, while Soto was formerly a member of Agent Orange, giving the Adolescents a mature collection of established O.C. musicians.
Starting a punk band takes some effort, but sounding better than lawnmowers and wind chimes is another story. To really make waves, the punk band has to be talented, unique, and controversial. Not only do the Adolescents meet each criterion on their self-titled album, they exceed them. Adolescents
satisfies hardcore punk traditionalists and modern punk enthusiasts alike because Rikk Agnew is a beast on guitar, the album transitions between the tame and uncontrollable flawlessly, and every song is worth talking about. Even the monotonous tracks on the album “Rip it Up” and “Who is Who” manage to deliver an addicting chorus at blistering paces to avoid being qualified as filler. Other seemingly typical rushed hardcore punk songs like “Self-Destruct” and “Word Attack” are phenomenal because they accelerate with concise imagery of youth and turn corners around ferocious beats. The album’s weakest link is that as a re-release, its inclusion of the final three songs from the Welcome to Reality EP lack the same spunk heard on the original thirteen.
Perhaps the greatest sequence of punk rock songs in history occur on the album with “Kids of the Black Hole,” “No Way,” and “Amoeba.” “Kids of the Black Hole” epitomizes the scene at the time in a sensational fashion, while its lyrics rival the phenomenal music. Tony Cadena sneers with a potent youthful sincerity in a moment recollecting,
The nights of birthdays
The nights of fry
The nights of endless drinking
The knights of violence
The knights of noise
The nights that had to end for good, still not understood, by the girls and boys.
Cadena and crew knew the phenomenon and were well aware of its half-life. To surround these words of wisdom, a skipping drum beat and popping guitar riff create a ticking time bomb. Rikk Agnew then arrives to penetrate the walls of noise with a short solo that provides for the songs’ climax. “No Way” begins with a perpetual pounding, before a seamless gear shift into a few creative licks by Agnew. A backup harmony provided by Steve, Rikk, and Frank, only emphasizes Cadena’s screams of “No Way!” Immediately after, “Amoeba” starts into a hypnotic chant of its title, a prelude to a song addressing the irony of the scientists’ work. Such a simple creature with so little awareness of its surrounding environment is prominent on the slides of microscopes and in the bedrooms of O.C. homes. Its undeniable catchy rhythm and “Amoeba” chant possesses enough strength to hook listeners, but a lasting solo by Agnew between chants completes the song.
is hardcore punk that will never be heard by the stubborn, simple-minded guys and gals basking in the sun on Laguna beaches. It combats ignorance, narcissism, and materialism with intensity, symbolic of hardcore punk’s glory days and a landmark in punk rock. It belonged to the kids of the black hole, and it’s still a weapon against our oblivious society today.