Album Review: SUBURBAN ANNIHILATION The California Hardcore Explosion / From the City to the Beach: 1978-1983 – (Compilation by Henry Rollins)

Futurismo Records are releasing this incredible hardcore compilation album this month. As compilations go, this is full of a pretty incredible track list from Dead Kennedys to Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies to Adolescents.

Henry Rollins, the ex-lead singer of formidable punk band Black Flag (also State of Alert and Rollins Band) has cherry-picked a wonderous track listing of twenty-five bangers. I could hear the thought that had gone into it as I was on the edge of my seat listening, wondering who would pop up next. Song after song hopped onto the screen as I sang along to lyrics I haven’t heard in years, mixed with bands I had only recently seen live. It’s an album that needs to be on the shelf, on your playlist and in your brain.

The production from Futurismo Records is excellent. Honing the sound quality of music, especially hardcore punk music from the 70s/80s can be tricky. It wasn’t all high-level studio recordings, and getting the quality up to standard for this day and age sometimes just doesn’t happen. The attention to detail here is palpable and I am happy to report that every track sounds clear, not distorted (more than it should be) and is a listening pleasure.

I almost want to just add in the tracklist here and leave it up to you to go ‘Oh right – wow ok – I’m buying this’. However, that would leave my role in all of this kinda null-and-void. So I’ll take you on a walk through this punk party trip down memory lane. Whether you were around when these bands started or are just dipping your ears into the hardcore punk world, there is something here for you, twenty-five things to be precise.

Adolescents lead the way on the album with ‘I Hate Children’. An introspective look into the world of child-rearing. How if kids are left without love, they will feel hated and be led into a world of hatred.

Dead Kennedys come up pretty quickly with ‘Chemical Warfare’ and later with ‘California Über Alles’, popular tracks from a hardcore punk band that have crossed music genre lines and filled venues since 1978, and who are doing another UK tour this year.

Dead Kennedys – Chemical Warfare

Suicidal Tendencies match the satire of Adolescents with their number 6 spot ‘Fascist Pig’. That well-known chorus;

Riot squad, bash their heads
Kick their ass until they’re dead
I want to be a fascist pig
Love to fight, what a thrill
We don’t stop until we kill
I want to be a fascist pig

I want to be a fascist pig

Suicidal Tendencies – Fascist Pig

T.S.O.L ‘Abolish Government’ is topical. Both in the US and UK, maybe worldwide at this point. Anyway, what is punk without anarchy? An anarchist future used to seem like a cool post-apocalyptic mess of nicking whatever you wanted from the shop and spray-painted ‘A’s all over the place. Nowadays, abolishing all government is starting to seem kind of beautiful. Build a cosy brick house by a stream, plant some nice smelling flowers and don’t let any of those little piggies in.

T.S.O.L – Abolish Government

Circle Jerks are an open wound for me. I had the chance to finally see them last year at Rebellion Festival and missed it. Can’t listen to them without feeling that pinch. Managed to do it for this album with ‘Beverly Hills’ and ‘Live Fast Die Young’. So – thanks very much Henry Rollins.

The Gun Club are up soon after, with the punk love ballad, ‘She’s Like Heroin to Me’. I wonder how many cans of stale beer were downed listening to this, whilst thinking of some transient goddess at last week’s show.

Negative Trend making an appearance on this album was nice, though not a surprise, as Henry Rollins absolutely loves them. Hailing from the US, Negative Trend went from 1977 – 1979 and only played a few shows. ‘How Ya Feeling?’ is a great track, that captures the sound of early hardcore punk whilst holding a carefully orchestrated composition.

Track 16, Channel 3 ‘Manzanar’ is a great, noisy, fast punk song. I hadn’t heard it before and enjoyed every little bit of it. The sneaky bass, the crafty guitars make it almost sped-up surf rock if it wasn’t for the loud trilling drums, and lyrical content. Checking out the band further, a lot of their songs fit a similar sound, I like them a lot. For more information behind the song look up Manzanar. It was an American-based concentration camp used to incarcerate over 10K Japanese soldiers in WW2.

Agnew O.C. is another band I had never heard of. I don’t know how, ‘Life’ a bit of poetic genius and, again, topical for the last few years we’ve had:

So I wanna be a member and I wanna be a name
And I wanna be a local face and play the social game
Dancing through a time warp in your dinosaur trends
The limit of your mind is what they’re counting on all ends
Listen to the media present it as a fact
Fall in your orders cuz you don’t know how to act
Travel on estranged cuz you don’t know your own way
They’ll get you in the end then you’ll pay

Agnew O.C. – Life

The Weirdos take over track 22 – we are nearing the end here! ‘Helium Bar’ is a bop of a track. It’s always great when a band can make a timeless classic from five lyrics or less.

D-beat extremers, Middle Class can’t go without a mention. A true American hardcore punk band from the 70’s. These guys knew what they were doing and did it well. ‘Insurgence’ is a great track and an excellent introduction for newcomers to the scene.

Adolescents are both the opener and close to this compilation. The choice of ‘I Hate Children’ and ‘Kids of the Black Hole’ may be a potent comment from Rollins’ about the face of society currently.

Adolescents – Kids of the Black Hole

The whole album comments like a story. The songs, their placement, the lyrics and heritage of each track. Perhaps the entire album is Henry Rollins’ ode to the Government-faced black hole of politics, money and greed we are flailing about in. Perhaps it’s a really great hardcore compilation.

Probably it’s both.

Check it out, and let us know what you think. The compilation, SUBURBAN ANNIHILATION The California Hardcore Explosion / From the City to the Beach: 1978-1983 is out on 24th February.

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Review By Jess Milner:  Twitter Website / Facebook / Instagram / TikTok 

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