SMOGTOWN: Incest & Pestilence: CD

Jul 19, 2011

After more than a decade of constantly playing their assorted releases, I think I’m well versed enough with their oeuvre to say with some authority that, by my reckoning, there are two Smogtowns: Compilation Smogtown and Album Smogtown. Album Smogtown (which, for the purposes of this discussion, includes Singles and EP Smogtown ‘cause otherwise we’re just chopping things down into tiny little bits and lose the whole point of discussion), is responsible for some of the best punk/hardcore/whatever to come out of OC over the past decade, doozies of releases like Beach City Butchers, Fuhrers of the New Wave, Domesticviolenceland, and the legendary Smog on 45 EP. Utterly faboo stuff for the listener, but one helluva line of nine-hundred-pound gorillas for Compilation Smogtown to get over, and let’s be honest, if we were talking about damn near any other band, the B-list songs these cats hand off for their compilations would be grade-A contributions. When stacked up against “Bad Vibrations” or “I’m a Jerk,” however, a tune like “I Wanna Fuck My Chick in the Skate Ditch” just doesn’t have a hope in hell. Both Smogtowns make their presences known on the album under discussion and they make for an album that, given the monsters it has to live up against, is uneven by comparison. A number of factors no doubt come into play—this is their first full-length in a good long while, lineup changes resulting in only half the original lineup being involved all the way through, and the fact that it was recorded by their own admission “over a long period of time”—that likely mucked up the process of coming up with enough tunes to satisfy both Smogtowns, so a melding of the two became a necessity here. What all this blathering boils down to is this: While this is by no means a shitty album, the boys have, to their detriment, set the bar pretty goddamned high for themselves. Some truly kickass moments are in abundance here, like “Subdivision End Product,” “If We All Have Guns We Can Melt All the Love,” and the “stray way the fuck off the beaten path” brilliance of “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing,” to name just a few. Peppered here and there, however, are songs that are clearly B-listers, and as a result, this falls just shy of their own standard, making it “good” instead of “mind bogglingly great.” Could I recommend this release? C’mon, dude, this is Smogtown we’re talking about. My adoration remains unchallenged and I have yet to run into a release of theirs that ain’t working miles ahead of their peers, this one included. I just wish they’d left the comp tracks where they belonged and had been content with unleashing another doozy of an LP (albeit it a shorter one) on the unsuspecting public, ‘cause there’s one definitely in evidence here.

 –jimmy (Modern Action)