Strung Out
Agents of the Underground


4.5
superb

Review

by Julio Babilonia USER (16 Reviews)
September 24th, 2009 | 129 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Strung Out has finally released what will probably become the defining album of their career.

Punk has been declared dead for years by those who still wait for the likes of Refused to regroup and Against Me to release another Reinventing Axl Rose. Albums like A Wilhelm Scream’s Career Suicide and Propagandhi’s Supporting Caste would in turn provide a very strong case to the contrary. Sure they may not sound like the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, or early 90’s Bad Religion, but evolution is necessary for the genre to survive, and it so happens that evolving is one of the things Strung Out does best.

The band’s dedication on improving their musicianship, their focus on technicality, and an ever present hunger to explore and expand have led Strung Out from the catchy Warped Tour worthy punk tunes of Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues to the face melting tracks found on Exile In Oblivion. With their 6th album, Blackhawks Over Los Angeles, it finally seemed that Strung Out had found their comfort zone and that, like many bands before them, they would be destined to release different versions of the same album until finally calling it quits. This is the part where you listen to Agents of the Underground and feel like a fool for doubting the band’s creativity and will to evolve.

Agents of the Underground is fast, energetic and powerful. This time around, instead of adding lots of new elements or trying to bring in outside influences the band does the exact opposite, they synthesize themselves. The album contains the energy and melodies of Teenage Wasteland and mixes it with the power and technicality found in Exile and Twisted by Design. They also found the way to keep an outstanding balance in their melodies and song structures. They succeed in bringing heaviness and speed without the need to sound like a frustrated metal band while at the same time keeping the songs flowing with smooth precision. Songs like “Black Crosses”, “Ghetto Heater” and” Dead Spaces” are all excellent examples of this.

Strung Out’s signature energy and musicianship is still kicking it hard, finding the members performing as good as ever. Cruz’s vocals are a perfect match to the music and is the backbone keeping the album together while Kiley and Ramos’ superb guitar playing and Burn’s hard hitting drumming become the driving force. One could argue that, like in Blackhawks Over Los Angeles, the album lacks the improvement in musicianship that the band used to show with every new release, but the fact of the matter is that Strung Out has reach their potential when it comes to their ability to play. A point that is hardly worrisome given that the band’s musicianship is truly superb.

As good as this album is, there are two things that are potentially bothersome. The first thing is the seeming lack of diversity of the album. As a whole Agents of the Underground, for the most part, sounds quite similar, however inside each song there are multiple things going on. The songs themselves have diversity, showing different levels of intensity, mixed harmonies, changes in melodies, etc. Some of these details are small and not immediately noticeable, but they are the key that keeps the album from getting repetitive and tiresome despite the similarity between the songs. The second bothersome aspect of the album, which is tied to the first, is the vocals. As excellent as they are and as much as they match the music the fact is that they tend to get monotonous. Throughout the album, aside from a few moments, Cruz stays along the same tone and with the same amount of energy. Eventually the lack of diversity in the vocal delivery could be a potentially annoying factor for some.

In the end, Agents of the Underground turns out to be the most complete album of Strung Out’s career. By using their own beginnings as influence Strung Out has managed to create something more refreshing and cohesive, and after 15 years and 7 albums that’s something to be proud of. The fans who love the metal-like Strung Out will still favor Exile, and the ones who love the melodic punk/pop-punk anthems will still favor Teenage Wasteland, yet in spite of that, by their evolution coming full circle, Agents of the Underground will probably turn out to be the defining album of their career.



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user ratings (146)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
jitteryzeitgeist (3.5)
Another quality release from Strung Out. Nobody is surprised....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Cesar
September 24th 2009


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First review since February, feels good.

Album streaming at www.myspace.com/strungout

CushMG15
September 24th 2009


1802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've only listened to the stream once through but It sounds as tho I'm gonna end up agreeing with you. The review is solid, but maybe a little more detail of specific songs would be good. All in all tho, good job.

OllieS
September 24th 2009


2031 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

F*ck I can;t wait to listen to this

dangerass
September 24th 2009


10 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This really is the best album they've done since An American Paradox. This is the first album to really have a distinct tone and vibe since that album.

EasternLight
September 24th 2009


2700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

im getting this. sounds so good

EDIT: IT IS FUCKING GOOD OMG

understone
September 24th 2009


51 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album is awesome, any punk fan should listen to it.

Good review, posd

FNYANKEZ
September 25th 2009


6 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

nice review. I have to agree this is a great album. Strung Out keep finding ways to tweak things while remaining true to their own sound to keep things fresh yet familiar.
At the moment I'm hooked on "Heart Attack", "Jack Knife" and "Dead Spaces"
Anyone curious in hearing it, it is currently streaming on their myspace page
http://www.myspace.com/strungout

StrizzMatik
September 25th 2009


3189 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

This really is the best album they've done since An American Paradox. This is the first album to really have a distinct tone and vibe since that album.

You mean since Exile

Album rules a lot harder than Blackhawks, don't know if it will top Supporting Caste for punk releases though.

dangerass
September 25th 2009


10 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

No I don't. I mean since AAP. Exile had some good songs, but it was very inconsistent.

PuddlesPuddles
September 25th 2009


4772 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So whoah.

Extremely digging Jack Knife and The Fever And the Sound

CushMG15
September 25th 2009


1802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

After about 5 listens, Exile reigns supreme over this. It's a little better than AAP, but it's way for satisfying than Blackhawks.

Cesar
September 25th 2009


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Exile is probably still my favorite Strung Out. This one is still amazing though.

BrahTheSunGod
September 27th 2009


1279 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Holy shit. This was a 4 when I first listened through the stream a few times; I just got the pre-order package today and physically can't turn it off. Straddling a 4.5 or 5 right now, and is in danger of taking over Exile's spot as my favorite of theirs (and i FUCKING LOVE that album).

EasternLight
September 27th 2009


2700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

they sound very similar to propagandhi.

fucking awesome stuff.

Spare
September 27th 2009


5308 Comments


holy shit didn't know this was out

Digging: Best Witches - Wishes

BrahTheSunGod
September 28th 2009


1279 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

people seriously need to notice this album...
underrated band, they tour like hell, great guys too, and STILL don't get much recognition.

Cesar
September 28th 2009


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cruz said the album title is in honor to the fact that they have successfully managed to stay underground all this years and be successful while still having the freedom to do whatever they feel like doing with their music.

RandyfromPennywise
September 29th 2009


752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Anyone talking shit on Exile, you are wrong. Best punk album of all-time. I will let you finish, but it is the best punk album of all-time.

I'm illegally downloading this at the moment, cannot wait for it to finish and listen to it through for the first time.

Deathcar
September 29th 2009


1534 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love the opening about Punk not being dead, definitely true.

This is going to be a contender for top ten of the year with me, such a great record...although none of the highlights are as good as the likes of Her Name in Blood, Scarlet, Kill Your Scene et al, as a whole I think this is possibly their best.



Waior
September 29th 2009


11451 Comments


Haha. Yeah, not for me. I will however congratulate you on your feature.



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