by Scott Hefflon
From the cover, you can instantly tell things have changed. While the one-sheet boasts “Artists include Rancid, Bad Religion, NOFX, and Pennywise,” a quick look at the list of bands shows “the new school” of hipster bands and garage rock working its way onto the roster. Hey, ya gotta keep up with the times. Ya gotta sell records… So it’s stubborn/naïve to expect Epitaph to stand by their guns and release only mid-’90s-style SoCal punkpop which has so run its course. Luckily, the “older” bands here really step up to the plate and show why they’ve been ripped off so badly by the halfwit local openers who’ve since either given it up or are now ripping off new trends.
Opening is Millencolin with “Fingers Crossed,” showing how far they’ve come and how much they’ve learned. Following is Hot Water Music, sounding gruff and oozing honesty. Next up is The (International) Noise Conspiracy, all sly and ironic, failing to really work up a sweat, but showing clearly why all the angular mop-tops love posing to their music. A brief blast from the past has Pennywise sounding very metal (everything but the vocals). And then we return to the Swedish garage for Division of Laura Lee, who also fail to get the pulse racing in any way, shape or form, but’d sound swanky if I wore turtlenecks and smoked loudly and pretended I was bored and too cool to like anything or whatever those people do. NOFX contributes their Rancid cover from the BYO split, which is a strange move, but a good song. And then Randy stop by to show how wild and fun Swedish garage rock can be. Tuneful and witty, though not their best; I play both their last two records end to end and love them both, so any one song out of its natural context is like a nipple flash to this pervert. Pulley stop in and show that they’ve learned how to distinguish themselves from the Pennywise clones. The Bouncing Souls continue to sound like The Bouncing Souls. Buttsteaks fuck shit up all fast and tuneful and loud and messy and I wonder why these guys aren’t more well-known… Bad Religion‘s “The Defense” takes a while to warm up… Actually, nevermind, it’s a boring song with a few good moments. Deviates sounds like classic Offspring, and while that’s a good thing, uh, how far’s that gonna getcha? Dropkick Murphys kick in one of their “new” songs, the ones with all the bells’n’whistles’n’pipes’n’flutes’n’kitchen-sinks. Always a great time. Rancid stumble embarrassingly through NOFX’s “Bob,” showing how limited and dumb they are. Fuckin’ awful. Death By Stereo offer up an unreleased track that’ll give most of these guys a lesson in ass-kicking hardcore punk, even with this not-so-great song. Next up is Agnostic Front, and, uh, it’s bare-bones AF, which raged pure “back in the day” (the real day, the mid-’80s, not what we now call “the old days,” meaning the mid-’90s), but this is pretty tame and lame and crappy-sounding and repetitive and what they’re repeating was dumb the first time they said it. 1208 grew up on Epitaph bands and it shows. 98 Mute, I dunno, they have what sounds like hardcore punk aspirations and metal desires – like mid-tempo D.R.I. which was a bad idea then and is a bad idea now – but the production doesn’t cover up that they’re not especially good. I don’t remember them sounding like this, but I never bothered with them, perhaps for this very reason. Guttermouth ease us out the door with a snappy silly ditty called “My Girlfriend.” Yup, they still make punk rock fun, and that’s a real accomplishment these days.
(2798 Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90026)