Strung Out

Agents Of The Underground

Written by: PP on 06/10/2009 21:17:34

Strung Out are an underground punk rock institution. They've been together for 20 years now, sold over one million records, inspired countless bands - including acts as different as Avenged Sevenfold and Rise Against - with their technical metal/punk hybrid sound, and released six albums before "Agents Of The Underground", a record that has received more album of the year calls than I care to count. But with seminal records like "Teenage Suburban Wasteland Blues" and "Twisted By Design" under their belt, does "Agents Of The Underground" live up to both the hype and the expectations?

In short, yes it does. The album opens strongly with "Black Crosses", which goes straight to the (rather long) list that I'll just dub 'the best songs Strung Out has written'. The technical lead guitar line is easily the best riff on the whole record, and the high-flying melodic bass-guitar on the background during the chorus is a great lesson of how to use the bass properly for any young and aspiring punk band. Vocalist Jason Cruz's voice is much smokier than what I remember, but this could be an effect of the smoother and more polished production in comparison to their raw previous album "Blackhawks Over Los Angeles".Together with "Ghetto Hearler", "Nation of Thieves" and "The Fever And The Sound", this song is the reason why people are going batshit about this album all over the internet, and why shouldn't they? I don't recall having heard metal and punk played together better than these songs before. Each of these tracks is also among the most melodic tracks Strung Out has written since their pop punkish early career.

Later on the record, the band displays two very different sounds: one that lends itself to hardcore punk, such as on the scream-laden title track, and another where the band are at their poppiest since "Teenage Suburban Wasteland Blues". "Ghetto Healer" is a good example of the latter - you could almost argue that Cruz sounds almost happy here compared to his usual angst-filled, half yelled singing style that you'll find on a track like "Heart Attack". But don't fret, the band never truly deviates from the core Strung Out sound that we've heard, well, for more than a decade now. So if you're a fan of their more metallic output, "Agents Of The Underground" can be argued to be, if not the very best, at least very close to being the best 'newer' Strung Out album. Me? I'll probably never feel like any Strung Out album will top "Teenage Suburban Wasteland Blues.", but I'm fairly sure I'm in the minority. Regardless, "Agents Of The Underground" is a very good album that all punk fans should consider adding to their collection.

8

Download: Black Crosses, Ghetto Healer, Carcrashradio
For the fans of: Pulley, Bigwig, Rise Against, Good Riddance, Lagwagon
Listen: Myspace

Release date 29.09.2009
Fat Wreck Chords

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