Conservatively guessing, I’ve listened to this bad boy at least thirty-five times in the last three or four days, so at this point I’m pretty well acquainted with the music contained herein. I’ve also been an unabashed fan since I heard their legendary “blue” album not too long after it was released, so I’m also well acquainted with their history and what they’re capable of when they set their minds to bringing the rock. That said, I can say with all conviction that they do, indeed, rock as only they can. Is it the same as the “blue” album, you ask? Well, no it isn’t, you ninny, but it also isn’t 1981, is it? You want rehash, pop that oldie into your player, bury your head in the sand, and pretend we’re still living in Reagan Country, kiddo. What it DOES sound like is TSOL’s more recent efforts, an extension of that original into new and interesting places. The dual octave guitar stuff that sounded so fuggin’ cool back then and ended up being one of the trademarks of the “OC punk” sound is still all over the place here, but it’s used in different, often subtle ways. The tempos are slower for the most part, but the intensity, the conviction, the thing that made them “hardcore” is still there, right up front, and so is the pop to temper the rage and give everything that musical “sheen.” The lyrics, the one place they could’ve totally fudged and gotten away with it, remain substantive (at least from what I’m able to make out) and Tony serves them up as only he knows how. They’ve even added a few new influences to the pot to give the stew a more interesting flavor (is that a dash o’ ska I’m hearing there?). Most importantly, though, this feels REAL, which is more than one can say about so many of the older bands who’ve decided to give the punk rock cash cow another milking—no resting on their laurels or riding on their name here; these guys have obviously put in the necessary work. You can bet that, as a fan, there are places I would’ve loved to see them go—a couple of no-frills thrashers here and there would’ve been nice—but I’ll gladly ignore roads less traveled if they keep coming up with songs just as amazing as “California Son,” which to me sounds just as crucial as anything else they’ve come up with to date. In short, yeah, I’m stoked as hell to have another crucial album from these guys, one that gets better each time I listen to it. Let’s just hope they’re planning to stick around awhile to keep building on what is already a solid foundation. Now if you’ll excuse, I gotta go and hit “replay” and spin this puppy again.