STEEL - ADZ (Steel Cage)
The cover might hint of a metal band but these guys actually qualify for veteran status in the L.A. punk scene. Vocalist Tony Reflex was a founding Adolescent and I remember bass player Bruce Duff from Jeff Dahl's cool, if all over the-place, "Scratch Up Some Action" LP in the '80s. What you expect is what you get - twin-guitar, foot-to-the-floor Rock Action, of the rawboned kind. More rock than punk - but no complaints from this quarter.
This is their sixth album and ADZ (pronounced "ads") absolutely reek of The Real Thing. This is the sound of four guys who know what they're going after and do it with power and grace. Economical and guitar-drenched blitzes like "ADZ R Go!" and "Heat" grab you by the throat and pin you to the wall. And anyone with the good sense to cover Turbonegro's "Good Head" deserves a denim medal (or a firecracker up the arse).
It doesn't all go for the jugular; a few tunes just knee you in the nether regions or stamp on your feet with heavy duty boots. "Just Like Dylan and the Hawks Blues" is a hard-hitting diversion down a Detroit Highway 61, while "Mama Married a Mau Mau" consumates a union between the Deviants' "Pappa Oo-Mao-Mao" and something more acrid. The ditzy tremelo surf trimmings are a neat extra.
Tony Reflex is an interesting and arresting vocalist, equally capable of growls and shrieking yowls. George Paras lays it on goodly and thick with the guitar, and the line-up has since been expanded with the addition of a second six-stringer in Sylvia Lacroix. Fair enough, 'cos these are twin-guitar tunes.
Despite the solid background of the players (a couple of them dabble in soundtracks and all sorts of commercially-oriented work), "American Steel" was recorded on zero budget and using ProTools. I know a lot of people are down on ProTools and their skin goes clammy at the thought that digital techncology can actually make something sound a lot better. They might have a point when it comes to making a dishy but musically talentless TV soap opera star sound like she's hitting the right note (when, prior to that, the only time her tonsils were tickled was by her agent on a casting couch). Otherwise, I can't work out why anyone is pissed off at the thought of computer programs making it easier for the likes of ADZ (or Bro Wayne Kramer - check out "Adult World") to record quickly and cheaper outside the confines of an expensive studio. My Apple Mac's WYSIWYG program makes it easier to write HTML than code pages by hand. Sermon over.
Categorising bands by their precursors gets tiring so let's just say the influences are myriad, good and Motor City in their origin. I've dipped me toe into the Lalala live scene and, to put it bluntly, parts of L.A. resemble a musical wasteland with more hair bands than a sensible fan can bear. ADZ redress that imbalance. God bless 'em - and Steel Cage, the label they sail on. - The Barman
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