Punk and metal bands don't die like they used to. These days they just keep coming back. In the case of seminal SoCal surf/skate trio Agent Orange, they come back again and again and again like punk-rock zombies. This time around, the band promises to play its 25-year-old songs "tighter and faster than ever." Sounds like fun if AO can pull it off. But the band's true allure resides in its genre-bashing sound, which combines Dick Dale, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, and Green Day. The boys may play their songs at thrash speed, but the sound begins with cascading chords of surf rock. Guitarist/singer Mike Palm, drummer Dusty Watson, and bassist Perry Giordano also provide a great example for how heavy music doesn't have to belong exclusively to macho bruisers. You could almost mistake these, er, shapely guys for Yo La Tengo, if it weren't for the dyed hair and blazing hands. But that's what makes 'em some of the most approachable punkers around. Yeah, the Offspring bandmates were fans and were even said to have ripped off Agent Orange in one of their biggest hits. But why go for the nth generation when you can get the original article? Nowadays, with the hardcore scene awash in imitation, bands that were there the first time around have rightfully acquired a hallowed mystique. Agent Orange can still play fast and loud, but this band doesn't have anything to prove at this point, which makes it a godsend in a genre whose performers too often try to shove authenticity down your throat. Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
The foursome's debut album, Testing the Atmosphere, showcases twelve tracks perfectly suited to the wide range of teen emotions. For those in the throes of their first romance, there is "Oxygen," a sensitive piano ditty for young lovers. The album's first single, "Walking Disaster," is an anthem for the angst-ridden, with its alt-rock edge and lyrics that fairly scream self-doubt and confusion. Big 10-4's radio-friendly sound might be something you'd expect to hear in the background as your little sister watches Laguna Beach, but don't be surprised if you find yourself not only singing along but also learning every word. Alexandra Quiñones
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