Boiling aggression down to alphabet, Californian punks bare their teeth but fail to bite.
Four decades on the scene can be tiring, yet if this band seem to draw a fine line between fatigue and creative laziness, occasionally seeing their pieces slide from one record to another in updated form, that’s hardly an excuse to avoid issuing fresh material. Fourteen years have passed since Casey Royer’s collective last came up with a longplay and nine since the team’s last EP was out but, soon after producing a covers album, the veterans once again resort to cutting their chestnuts anew and letting the deceptively titled “Greatest Hits A-Z” touch upon each of the group’s previous releases and try to set up a different context by running in alphabetical order. Some letters available in the ensemble’s discography are omitted, though, so a few possible sharp angles appear blunt now – only it’s hard to complain when there’s the whopping 23 tracks on offer, and five of those don’t cross the 2-minute mark.
They still pack a punch, however, what with the unified sonics making these numbers feel like they were composed in the same timeframe, despite the ferocious rock ‘n’ roll of “Reagan Der Führer” or “Hang Ten In East Berlin” betraying their era, and the hectic “Dying In The USA” losing its ecological slant and original refrain alongside “Guns” that lost its sarcasm and sounds too right-wing-belligerent to be funny. Well, opener “Amoeba” – a classic tune Royer co-wrote when fronting ADOLESCENTS – is hilarious, even today, setting a bar for socially charged entertainment to follow and allowing twin guitars to blast merrily, while the bass licks kicking off the sulfurous “Purgatory” define the depth of the quintet’s approach, and “Johnny’s Got A Problem” fathom the old punks’ fury. But there’s also the heavy blues of “Venus De Milo” and the hardcore sharpness of “Obnoxious” which highlight the ensemble’s edge and the vocal harmonies of “Stand Up” which soften its blow.
Not that it shows the veteran’s age – rather, it’s a sign of smooth vintage. As for fresh cuts, perhaps they will arrive soon after this taking-stock album.