I don't know if it's totally accurate to call Adolescents "underrated" -- you'll find Adolescents back patches at almost any punk show and their praises have been sung by giants like Bad Religion, NOFX, Rancid, The Offspring, and blink-182 -- but they feel a little slept-on compared to peers like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and the Descendents, who regularly dominate best punk lists that the Adolescents are left off. That's a shame, because their 1981 self-titled debut album is absolutely one of the best and most unique punk albums of all time. It turns 40 this month, and in honor of the anniversary, we're looking back on it.
Adolescents were regulars of the Orange County punk scene (and they shared members with Social Distortion and Agent Orange), and they initially lasted for less than two years due to inner-band tensions, with members going on to be involved with D.I., Christian Death, Legal Weapon, and more. In spite of all the tension -- or maybe because of it -- Adolescents wrote a groundbreaking punk record. Rippers like "I Hate Children," "L.A. Girl," "No Way," and "Amoeba" completely captured the essence of early West Coast hardcore, as razor-sharp and snotty as anything by the Germs (whose Pat Smear briefly joined Adolescents) or Keith Morris-era Black Flag. Even if they had only written those kinds of songs, we'd still be talking about Adolescents as legends today, but this album took it a step further with an ahead-of-its-time mix of punk, goth, and metal that helped usher in a new style of hardcore on the West Coast and eventually worldwide. "We were trying to be middle-class punk, but half the band also wanted to be Black Sabbath," vocalist Tony Cadena told the LA Times in 2007. Much is made of how Black Flag introduced a Sabbath influence into hardcore on 1984's proto-sludge classic My War, and not to take anything away from that album, but Adolescents were onto something similar three years earlier.