Los Angeles is this country’s second biggest city, and has probably produced more bands than any other city, save for New York. As long as rock `n’ roll has existed, LA has been a crucial center of pop-cultural activity. In the sixties, The Byrds and Love were at the forefront of the psychedelic movement. A decade later, X, Gun Club and Black Flag showed that punk was alive in Southern California. And in the eighties, Motley Crue, and Poison made the Sunset Strip known for makeup and cocaine binges as well as its music scene.
More recently, bands like The Eels and Rilo Kiley have brought attention to the Silverlake indie scene. But the adrenaline inducing excitement of the seventies punk era is making a bit of a comeback as well in bands like The Icarus Line, The Bronx and Your Enemies Friends. Though these bands bear little sonic resemblance to TSOL or The Circle Jerks, the energy of the LA punk era is certainly alive and well.
The most interesting of the bunch, Your Enemies Friends, has finally released a full-length, despite having existed for several years. You Are Being Videotaped, the band’s first proper album, is a punk album, disguised with synthesizers, crisp production and songs that run well past the three-minute mark.
Fans of the band and label-cum-libelmongers Buddyhead were given a preview of the album when first single “Back of a Taxi” was included on the outstanding Gimme Skelter compilation last year. “Taxi” is controlled chaos — a crisply produced single with an irresistible chorus and siren-like synth hooks. It’s a deceptively well-written song, because despite the spastic dancing it’s capable of inducing, it’s bound to cause a healthy level of discomfort for whoever’s listening.
“The One Condition” and “Pollution of Nonsense” are like-minded songs, swathed in distortion and Moog throbs. But the LA fivesome aren’t a one trick pony. The title track, “Easy Assault” and “The Comfort System” are substantially longer punk rock epics, while “Census” is a moody keyboard piece, reminiscent of mid-period Depeche Mode.
Your Enemies Friends don’t follow typical punk song structures by any means, nor do they stick to basic power chord progressions, but it’s their defiance of said norm that makes them punk. But when singer Ronnie Washburn duets with bassist Dana James on the sassy “Business French Kiss,” one can’t help but be reminded of a young John Doe singing alongside Exene Cervenka at the Whisky.
Pretty Girls Make Graves – Good Health
Quicksand – Slip
Failure – Magnified
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.