The Grateful Dead and punk rock have largely occupied distant corners of the pop music universe, but the Bay Area jam band's celebrated motto — "What a long, strange trip it's been" — also describes perfectly the storied history of veteran Southern California punk group TSOL.
The Times is premiering the debut video for "I Wanted to See You," from the band's first new album in nearly eight years, "The Trigger Complex."
It takes a flow chart to track the group's ever-evolving lineup, but TSOL is returning to action with a core of three original members. The band emerged as part of the volatile Long Beach-Orange County punk scene in the late 1970s and early '80s.
Lead singer Jack Grisham, guitarist Ron Emory and bassist Mike Roche are accompanied by longtime keyboardist Greg Kuehn and the lineup's latest addition, former U.S. Bombs/One Man Army drummer Chip Hanna.
"I Wanted to See You" opens solemnly, in a cemetery — a familiar gathering place for surviving members of the punk rock community who have attended more than their fair share of funerals of friends and family members through the years. Among that group is TSOL's original drummer, Todd Barnes, who died of a brain aneurysm in 1999.
The lyrics deliver an ambiguously framed message of yearning — to a lover who has left, a friend or loved one who has died or perhaps even a vice that has been reluctantly rejected. Maybe it's directed toward all of the above.
We've got sunny winter days
And I wanted to see you
And laughter in the pain
And I wanted to see you
And everything changed
And I wanted to see you now
The song, which Grisham, Kuehn and Roche wrote with another Southern California punk veteran, Frank Agnew of the Adolescents, begins on a gracefully melodic, elegiac note. It soon segues into a hard-hitting central section that accompanies visuals of the band playing while surrounded by an audience of young goth-punk fans in ghoulish pancake makeup, black hair and dark circles around their eyes.
"What could possibly go wrong?" Grisham said of making the video with director Trevor Ward. "You take a few hundred punks, jam them in a building with only one small exit door, crank up the heat and the amps and then you roll film? It's a recipe for success. Oh yeah, and the faux fur — everyone looks good in fake fur."
TSOL will start a new round of shows Saturday at the Observatory in Santa Ana, with another L.A.-area stop scheduled for Feb. 8 at the Teragram Ballroom. The group also has shows scheduled April 14 in San Diego and April 15 in Las Vegas.
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