SMOGTOWN: Incest & Pestilence: CD

Jul 19, 2011

This is a hard place for any band to be. 2000’s Fuhrers of the New Wave stands as one of the best punk records in the past ten or so years. It stands—as an album—as one of the definitive monoliths and testaments to the best of California punk rock. No gaps. No hesitations. It’s a conceptual whole, a united front, and an achievement. If all goes well for a band, with age comes depth. Smogtown’s at their best in their exploration behind the cinderblock walls, the gated communities, the sale and the harmful fiction of Orange County “paradise,” the cul-de-sac of suburbia’s “culture” that’s sold as a type of “freedom.” In reality, it’s where teenage animals are made and caged and where they often attack. Songs like “Subdivision Endproduct” are perfect examples of Smogtown continuing to X-ray and debunk these sacredly-held real estate and high capitalism illusions. In Incest and Pestilence, Smogtown branches out in several directions. In “Waste of Breath,” it’s sunny, pop-pleasure tackling organized religion. “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing” nods to Saccharine Trust-style horn skronking. In “Let’s String up the New Marketeers,” Smogtown addresses the world outside of their geography: “You can wear their shoes and steal their blues / let them clean up the waste.” But not all of the risks paid off for me. What follows isn’t a “You should never change; Bad Religion yourselves forever.” They aren’t even flat-out disappointments, but elements that are preventing me from unequivocal praise of the record as a whole and the ridiculously high and unfair bar I’ve set for the band. 1.) The song “Fuck My Chick in a Skate Ditch.” You can do better. 2.) The way-too-long sound clip about guns. (Sorta interesting the first listen; annoying every other time.) 3.) The last song on side two ends sounding almost like practice outtakes, then goes into an acoustic jam. The album ends with a whimper, not a cage breaking. Leave the acoustic jams for the compilation tracks. Uneven, yet still very worth picking up.

 –todd (Modern Action)