Mike Palm: Guitar, Vocals
Scott Miller: Drums
James Levesque: Bass, Backing Vocals
Steve Soto: Bass, Backing Vocals (Tracks 1,13,14,15)
Straight outta nowhere, Agent Orange stepped up and created a genre that was never seen before or since, surf-punk. This is compilation of their early work. It includes their stellar first album (Tracks 2-9), and some other tracks that didn't make the cut. Also an Interview from 1981 is included as track 16.
I'll say right upfront. This album isn't very accessible. It takes a few listens to get into it, but when you do it's extremely rewarding.
The first track is their most famous song 'Bloodstains'
, as it says in the liner notes, this is the original version which gave them their record deal. If you listen, you can easily tell why, as it's far superior to the other version included. The bass is far more noticible (Played by The Adolescents' Steve Soto) and the energy of Mike's vocal preformance is much more energetic. The scream right before the surf solo at the end of the song is probably the best mix of a punk scream and a surf shout I've ever heard. This feature is not included in the album version.
Up next is the actual album 'Living In Darkness', consisting of track 2 through 9. This is also what I believe is the weakest part of this album. Why? Mainly because the album kinda runs together and because the production is different then the other songs included they feel too close to one long song. However, their are highlights in those 8 songs.
'Too Young To Die'
has a wonderful freak-out at the end and the guitar sounds like it's creeping up on someone, while the drums and bass slowly build the momentum, until they get far enough to have Mike scream "WE'RE ALL TOO YOUNG TO DIE!!!!!!" Which brings the song into a sonic barrage of noise, which is what the song was building toward the whole time.
'Everything Turns Grey'
is a very dark song both lyrically and sonically. "No matter what they think, or do, or say, everything turns grey...' The song basically continues on this path fleshing out near the end with a terrific solo before ending upbruptly. The song feels like Mike was sitting alone in a dark dreary room when he wrote it.
is an instrumental. It's also a cover. It's pure surf with punk distortion poping up at all the right places. Another awesome bassline and basic surf drumming pop up in this one making it one of the albums best.
'The Last Goodbye'
, obviously is not the last song on the album. It has a wonderful build-up throughout, which leads up into a the energy hits a peak and the guys basically sound like their about to pop, but bring it down and up again, extending the song into a healthy 2:50. One of the longest on the album.
'No Such Thing'
has the most depressing lyrics on the album, and that's no easy task. Other than the lyrics, it's kinda standard. "There's no such thing, it doesn't really matter to me, I know there's no such thing, Isn't that a relief? There's no such thing." The 'no such thing' is love, obviously. Another great solo rounds out this rather solid song.
'A Cry For Help In A World Gone Mad'
contemplates the future while thinking of the past. Mike sounds frantic throughout, desperately trying to find some sense of help. Oddly enough according to the liner notes, this was their first attempt at the song, they never played it before this track, never rehearsed or any other takes.
'Bloodstains (Darkness Version)'
is not as good as the original version. This version is much faster and missing the angry vocal preformance of the original version. Also the solo, while very similar, just doesn't sound as good.
'Living In Darkness'
, the title track. The longest song on the album, with 4 minutes under it's belt. This song is a sum up of everything that's happened on the album. "I feel safest being alone, living in darkness, living in a world of my own" the chorus chants over garbage can lids (!) crash together and another awesome guitar part from Mike. The verses are quite powerful as well."Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, I thought I knew somebody I could trust, Now I'm not too sure..." They emphasize the lonliness Mike feels throughout the song, musically, it's probably the best on the album.
is another cover/instrumental. The longest instrumental on this release, it sounds much like the original version only with much more POWER
, the song feels like a freight train, I kid you not. Another great preformance from the band, this is the best cover on the album. Surf-punk at it's finest, there are times when it feels like the band is gonna fall apart.
should have been on the original album. Period. I guess it wasn't included because it's pure punk, no surf at all. The song has a very Descendents-esque bassline and poppy guitar riff. The best part of the song is, well, the breakdown. The insanely catchy guitar riff screeches to a halt as Mike declares how nobody has the right to push him or the band around. The band come crashing back with him yelling "WHAT'S COME OVER ME, I'M FEELING DIZZY, PLEASE WON'T SOMEONE MAKE IT STOP!!!" Definatley a classic Agent Orange song.
is the third and final cover/instrumental here. It's another classic surf song made louder by their punk edge. Another great bassline and surf-beat over classic surf guitar. It's not as good as 'Pipeline', but that doesn't take away from how great this one is.
& 'Bored Of You'
are both kinda disappointing. They sound very dull and the vocal preformances are both very similar. The lyrics are kinda generic too. "I'm so bored of education, I'm so bored of you, it's such a frustrating situation, and I don't know what to do", proclaims 'America'. While not particularly generic, the preformance on this track gives you that impression. 'Bored of you' contains an awesome bassline, but has lyrics that are very dull. They sound like a Descendents song from 'Milo Goes To College', but not as clever. "I'm sick of coloured hair, don't care about what you wear, I hate the things I see, don't care about anarchy." It's just tough to listen to this song and try to like it. It's just not very good.
is excellent. The last song on the cd, this song is pure Hardcore punk. The delivery is so bitter and intense, you'll want to sing it along soon after hearing it begin....
"Alma mater, (STABBED IN THE BACK!)
bloodstain slaughter, (STABBED IN THE BACK!)
labeled as a freak, (STABBED IN THE BACK!)
Seven days a week...... "
The song is basically about people's little nuances, and unlike 'Bored Of You', it works here. The explosive delivery, lightening fast drumming, scrappy sounding guitar and insane sounding bassline close up this album in a fitting conclusion of a screamed "EL DORADO!!!"
The interview from 1981 basically is a radio interview with the band, which is very informative and fun to listen to. It deserves to be listened to at least once. Or when you're bored.
Bloodstains (Original Version) - 5/5
Too Young To Die - 5/5
Everything Turns Grey - 4.5/5
Miserlou - 5/5
The Last Goodbye - 5/5
No Such Thing - 3.5/5
A Cry For Help In A World Gone Mad - 5/5
Bloodstains (Darkness Version) - 3/5
Living In Darkness - 5/5
Pipeline - 5/5
Breakdown - 5/5
Mr. Moto - 5/5
America - 2.5/5
Bored Of You - 2.5/5
El Dorado - 5/5
Finally, this album is excellent and should be heard by every punk fan, or just those who feel like listening to something different. It's not for everyone and is not very accessible, but if you stick with it, it'll be worth it.