NOTHING'S PRETTY IN PUNK : But the Loud, Antagonistic Sounds of Superficial Love Continue to Attract

Mike Boehm covers pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

A cynic might say that anyone who still has a taste for punk rock at this late date must have done too much slam dancing without a helmet.

The slammers will be there--in force--when four bands from Orange County's original punk rock wave convene for a show Saturday night at UC Irvine. The lineup is headed by the original TSOL (for legal reasons, the band has been renamed Superficial Love--the song that led off its first release 10 years ago), and also includes the original Adolescents, Shattered Faith, and the Crowd.

The Orange County punk wave began to roll in the late '70s and early '80s, inspired by the British punk explosion and its repercussions on the Los Angeles scene. Music that was loud, fast, irreverent, antagonistic, and simple to play had a special attraction for kids growing up in one of the world's tidiest, most placid expanses of suburbia. Whether to rebel against those suburban norms, or just to experience a jolt of excitement, a substantial segment of Orange County youth soon got punked out, to the horror of their parents.

Surprisingly, a fair amount of what those novice rockers churned out holds up well a decade later--mainly because a sense of pop melody and humor underlies the best of Orange County punk, separating it from more dated hard-core ranting.

Also surprisingly, many of the punks have shown staying power as musicians. The original Adolescents (singer Tony Montana, guitarists Rikk and Frank Agnew, drummer Casey Royer and bassist Steve Soto) crumbled almost immediately after that first album, but all of the members, now in their late 20s and early 30s, have continued making records with various bands (Social Distortion, the most tenacious and cohesive of the original OC punk bands, has a burgeoning career, with a successful 1990 major label debut album and a recent arena tour opening for Neil Young and Sonic Youth).

Jack Grisham, Ron Emory and Mike Roche of the original TSOL lineup also are still playing in bands. They will be joined in the reunion show by drummer Todd Barnes (a hard-rock version of TSOL is still in business, but it no longer includes any of the founding members).

The first reunion of the original TSOL in December, 1989, drew a large audience to the Celebrity Theatre, showing that punk fans' nostalgia for the original OC bands has become a lucrative commodity (next month, Triple X Records will issue a live album recorded at a second TSOL reunion gig in Hollywood).

"It's kind of like when they get all of those '50s and '60s bands at Knott's Berry Farm," the Adolescents' Soto (whose regular band these days is Joyride) mused recently about the upcoming punk reunion show. "I always wondered if we'd end up doing this at Knott's Berry Farm when we're 45 years old."

Who: Superficial Love.

When: Saturday, March 23, at 8 p.m. With the Adolescents, Shattered Faith and the Crowd.

Where: UC Irvine's Crawford Hall.

Whereabouts: Take the Corona Del Mar (73) Freeway to the UniversityDrive exit, go east to Campus Drive, turn right to Bridge Road; go right again. Crawford Hall parking is on the left.

Wherewithal: $18.

Where to call: (714) 856-5547.

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