T.S.O.L.….many of you know the name, especially if you’re of a certain age, like me. And some of you, like me, might only know who the hell they are because of Steven Adler’s T-shirt with their logo on it in back in 1987. I dug that because it looked rather military, but I never investigated any further. So, 30 years later the band’s latest offering The Trigger Complex (out now, Rise Records) finds its way into my mailbox. Now, having never heard a single note before, I can only judge this one on its own merits and not against any previous works. So here goes.
I have always had an aversion to that shitty-sounding, screamed count off, “1-2-3-4! 1-2-3-4!” primitive punk of the late 70’s-early 80’s. It’s goddamn noise and makes my ears bleed. And I’ll admit, that’s what I thought I was in for with this band. Thank the Gods that wasn’t the case. There is a ton of great melody to be found here, most notably on songs like “Sometimes”, and my personal favorite “Satellites”, either of which would be perfectly at home on the Valley Girl or Tuff Turf soundtracks. But they both are markedly better than any of that sorry-ass pop-punk that’s been floating around for the last 15 years or so, that’s for damn sure.
Opener “Give Me More” kicks the door down to start this party and there are some tight vocal harmonies throughout. “The Right Side” has a decidedly British New Wave flair to it and takes a break from the fast stuff to be more mid-tempo while “Why Can’t We Do It Again” adds some Latin-flavored percussion behind the main beat, and like the previous track the piano and synthesizers enhance the flavor of both tunes. “I Wanted to See You” was another instant favorite, starting with the way the vocals come in on the odd count, and continuing on with a riff-driven melody and catchy hook that I found myself humming later on.
“Nothing Ever Lasts” is an uptempo number strummed largely on acoustic guitars, except for the solo which is a shining moment on the track, and once again the keys enhance everything just right. The youthful lyrics and high speed action of “Going Steady” make for yet another winning track, especially the part that says, “I knowing a guy that knows a guy who can get us in” referring to the club. We’ve all been there, whether we were the ones promising the hook-up, or hoping to reap the rewards of someone else promising that coveted entry without paying the dreaded cover charge.
“Don’t You Want Me” is much different than the other tracks. It is slower-paced and walks with an undeniable swagger. And no doubt it will worm its way into your brain, too. “Bats” sees the piano and synth taking the lead on a rather moody instrumental piece which closes things out. So my first foray into the world of T.S.O.L. was highly enjoyable, I had some fun, I rocked out, and The Trigger Complex is a very well-put together album. It’s got catchy tunes without losing the punk sensibilities that got this band to where they are in the first place. Hey, almost four decades later these boys are still going strong, so they must be doing something right…right?
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Satellites”, “I Wanted to See You”, “Sometimes”, “Going Steady”, “Don’t You Want Me”