Like fellow Southern California punk stalwarts Agent Orange and Social Distortion, TSOL remains resilient and restless, bulldozing through ever-changing pop trends with consistency and coherence. Unlike those contenders, the burly men behind the miscreant melodies of "Code Blue" and "Die for Me" remain an intact brotherhood, minus the death of drummer Todd Barnes. Early on, their music slammed into the night teeming with antipolitical slogans like "Abolish Government." Barely months later, they mutated into a deft and darker musical unit, unleashing Dance with Me (1981) and Beneath the Shadows (1982). These iconic records featured keyboards, even strings, combining the bombast and finesse of English counterparts like the Damned and Siouxsie & the Banshees with an equal nod to Gothic literary style on songs like "Silent Scream"; imagine Bram Stoker as a juvenile delinquent in a battered leather jacket. The last decade has been the band's unexpected zenith. Albums like Disappear (2001) and Divided We Stand (2003) mixed trademark vitriol into an adult brew lacking none of their intelligence and intransigence. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Free Downloads, offered in 2009 via the Web site of clothing company Hurley, matched their classic pace and frenzy, especially on the catchy chaos of "She's Got a Bomb."
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David Ensminger