Authority Zero: Stories of Survival

Categories: Nothing Not New
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Artist: Authority Zero
Title: Stories of Survival
Release date: June 22
Label: Suburban Noize

I have a friend who's a native Phoenician and longtime fixture in the Valley punk scene, both as fan and musician. He loves West Coast punk, thinks Southern California spawned the best of the best punk, especially in the scene's early days. I'm from Michigan, lived in Chicago and all over Indiana, family's from Minneapolis. To me, a lot of the best early punk came from Cleveland, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Detroit.

Pagans over Circle Jerks. Zero Boys over Adolescents. Naked Raygun over TSOL. He'd probably disagree with me on all those choices, because he loves all those early Orange County punk bands. He seemed really taken aback when I said I didn't care much for Bad Religion, the band that perhaps most typifies the second wave of Orange County punk. I wonder what my buddy thinks of Authority Zero, a Mesa band that sounds a lot like Bad Religion.

These guys have been around the better part of two decades now, not unfairly earning stature as local legends by conquering the Valley punk scene and making a splash nationally, selling records in the tens of thousands (impressive in this day and age) and playing large clubs around the United States and doing bigger shows with pop-punk stars like Pennywise and package deals like Vans Warped Tour. 

I just wished their new record was more exciting. I'm guessing this is the kind of band you have to see in concert to get the full effect. Songs like "Brick in the Wave" are supposed to be rousing, with its anthemic, sea-chanty chorus, but I was left unmoved. 
Part of it is my aforementioned bias against this particular brand of SoCal-bred, Offspring-style skateboard punk -- where any natural edge and danger in the music has been sandblasted away for a cleaner, tighter sound. In other words, it's a lot more Huntington Beach than it is Detroit -- and you like what you know.

The record starts with a bang: "The New Pollution," a song presumably that is an indictment of the record industry, has not only the best guitar riff but also the best vocal hook on the entire record, with Jason DeVore announcing, "Here we are! Here we are! / We're the new pollution." It's a great fist-pumper, and I had high hopes after that song, but the record caught my attention only a few times after that. "Brick in the Wave" is one more ambitious and best-realized tracks and "Get It Right" makes good use of guitarist Zach Vogel's considerable talents and "No Way Home" is fiery album-closer.

The album really lost me on the four or five ska-infused tunes, where DeVore sounds like Billie Joe Armstrong fronting Sublime. Again, more personal bias here, but I really hated Sublime when they were around. 

It's good to see a Valley act bust out and "make it" as a band. DeVore and Vogel are especially talented (bassist Jeremy Wood is a whiz, too, but oh-so-busy on the frets). DeVore's got a strong singing voice with the perfect SoCal inflection for this music and a talented songwriter, too. The songs have plenty of hooks and lyrics that connect. Like I said, they've earned the right to be called Valley punk legends. But "Nothing Not New" is about matters of taste, and Authority Zero just doesn't suit mine.

Authority Zero - "Crashland"

Best song: "The New Pollution" 
Rotation: Medium
Deja vu: "Hang 10 in East Berlin"
I'd rather listen to: Descendents' Milo Goes to College
Grade: C+

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment 
here.

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