Music

Adolescents: The Complete Demos 1980-1986

Hunter Felt

This collection of early demos from the seminal California punk band only really will appeal to diehard fans, but who else would even think of buying a collection of punk rock demos?"


Adolescents

The Complete Demos 1980-1986

Label: Frontier
US Release Date: 2005-03-22
UK Release Date: 2005-04-04
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I was going to evaluate this collection of demos from the legendary California punk band the Adolescents under the following criteria: Either The Complete Demos 1980-1986 fails as an album because it is only worthwhile to collectors and die-hard fans, or it succeeds as an album because the demos are interesting enough on their own that it will appeal to a slightly broader audience. Ultimately, a collection of punk rock demos from a band that really had a limited (although spectacular) career can only hope to attract collectors and die-hard fans. To criticize the album for not appealing to a broader audience, or trying to argue that it is more than an interesting footnote to punk rock history, would be doing a disservice to the album as a whole.

The question then, becomes how does the album work in filling in the little gaps in the band's history? Well it doesn't get more historic than the first four tracks of The Complete Demos, which features the Adolescents' first recording session. Unfortunately, the tracks are little more than pieces of history, considering that they seem to be recorded on an answering machine in an entirely different room from the one the band was practicing. The CD booklet helpfully contains lyrics to these songs, but it hardly matters since the melody, let alone the lyrics, are completely obscured by the non-existence production. In any case, the songs (particularly the embarrassing "Black Sheep") are the weakest in the band's catalogue, and at this point the Adolescents were completely undistinguished in their sound.

A scant few months later, the band got it together (punk bands never need a long incubation period). "I Hate Children" bursts out from the muck of the first four tracks with a blast of sonically crisp venom. These later demos are still fairly lo-fi, but following their first demo tape, these later tracks sound as slick and produced as a Steely Dan tribute album to Burt Bacharach. "No Friends" and "Who Is Who", highlights of the Adolescent's immortal self-titled debut, appear here in only moderately changed forms. Still, these two songs show how the Adolescents began to blend genuine sunshine pop into their hardcore sound. Little did they know at the time that this subtle combination of hardcore and traces of pop melodies would become the foundation of the California punk rock sound.

This second demo tape ends with "Wrecking Crew", perhaps the Adolescents' finest moment, with Tony Reflex's bored monotone of suburban disaffection suddenly segueing into a burst of pure rage as he screams "Bring on the Wrecking Crew!", wishing destruction on the social structure that has brought him up. It is such a powerful song that Suicidal Tendencies effectively rewrote it for their quasi-hit "Institutionalized" (which is, of course, also really great). The CD follows up "Wrecking Crew" with, well, "Wrecking Crew". The next batch of demos happens to begin with a new version of "Wrecking Crew", this one a little spacier, almost psychedelic in nature. The contrast between these two versions of the same song marks one of the few points on the disc that truly reveals a little bit about the creative process of the Adolescents. The Adolescents played relatively simple songs, so when they changed the mood or tone of a song, even slightly, the results were radically different.

The other interesting highlight buried in this album is "Richard Hung Himself", a song left off of their Welcome to Reality EP. Its presence isn't enough to tempt anyone but the faithful, but it's a rather fascinating example of the band trying to find a different stylistic groove. The band slows down the tempo just enough that the track lurches into an almost heavy metal mood. The lyrics, an honest and harsh evaluation of a suicide, are far beyond such, well, adolescent stuff as "I Hate Children": "Stiff blue painted cat wired to the roof / Cyanide in the darkness and dangling goat hooves / Floor covered in dirt, dead grass, and decay / Now Richard joins them and calls it escape". It's hard to follow them when Reflex spits them out in his pretend English accent, but, on paper, they're something close to poetry. After a handful of mediocre renditions of Adolescents classics like "Ameoba" and "Self Destruct", "Richard Hung Himself" points to the future, specifically the 1986 Adolescents who were a heavier and more thoughtful version of the band. This band is featured on the album's final two tracks, demo versions of "The Liar" and "The Peasant Song", which, although they lack the teenage energy of the earlier songs, wrap up this overview of the Adolescents's career by showing the band successfully surviving maturation.

So, how does the album rate? Well, for a demo collection, it works fairly well as a listening experience (with the exception of the first four songs). There are a few hidden jewels in here, even if most of the album is really unnecessary. It's more notable for its behind-the-scenes look into the creation, and development, of the California punk rock scene. In other words: It's a good purchase for collectors and die-hard fans. The rest of us will stick with the studio albums.

6

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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