True Sounds of Liberty

It’s incredibly unfortunate that some people can go their whole lives without the thrill of seeing a true punk band play a live show.

It’s incredibly unfortunate that some people can go their whole lives without the thrill of seeing a true punk band play a live show. Maybe you have honestly never had the opportunity (hard to believe unless you’re from Antarctica), maybe you’re unfamiliar with the genre, or maybe you’re just sensitive. Whatever the reason, this situation needs to be rectified immediately, and seeing time-tested punk rockers T.S.O.L. perform this weekend at the Satyricon is the perfect opportunity to raise your fist and dance your face off.

T.S.O.L, short for the True Sounds of Liberty, is not your average punk band. Like many alternative bands of their era, T.S.O.L. was formed as a direct reaction against the ridiculous Orange County disco scene. By 1979, before they had ever even put out a real record, they had a word of mouth following that made them popular throughout California. Pretty soon, they were headlining venues like the Hollywood Palladium, and had other up and coming So-Cal bands like Bad Religion and Social Distortion opening for them. While some of their contemporaries have taken the corporate road, T.S.O.L. has somehow managed to stay relatively underground for 28 years, a surprising accomplishment considering their talent and energy.

You can sit all day and argue about who “invented” punk music. If you do that, you are nothing but a gigantic walking cliche. The Sex Pistols were mostly a noisy fashion advertisement, and although The Clash was excellent, their music just wasn’t that hardcore. The argument that people should be having is who really made the genre frightening and revolutionary, not who has the most recognizable logo. T.S.O.L. is much more the forgotten half-brother of Glenn Danzig and the Misfits than they are the collective bastard-child of the Ramones, and that is a good thing, as far as thought-provoking music is concerned.

Since their inception, T.S.O.L. has always been spooky. All at least 6 feet tall, the band members wear the pale-white face paint of the dead, and front-men Jack Grisham and Ron Emory write lyrics that are terrifying and completely inappropriate. But its not just an act–we are obviously not talking about Marilyn Manson here. For as many horror-show lyric songs they write, there exists a corresponding amount of intelligent, political anthems. Songs like “Abolish Government” and “Peace Through Power” are right on the spot, and can be listened to repeatedly. The standout track of their debut album Dance With Me is “Code Blue,” by far the greatest, catchiest and funniest song ever written about the gruesome topic of necrophilia. I can’t emphasize that fact enough. This band is adept at making groovy graveyard hymns that give you vicious goose bumps.

The singer’s voice comes through very clean in the records, more singing than shouting, and gives off a fast and satanic Jim Morrision-esque kind of vibe. Like the infamous Doors front man, T.S.O.L. has been though their fair share of tumultuous times, but unlike Morrison, they obviously made it out alive.

A nasty break-up in the 1980s nearly cost them the rights over their own music. Endless litigation stemming from a fight in a Hollywood club in 2002 left the band deep in debt. But, in true punk fashion, the original members of the band rallied and put out an excellent new record, I Disappear, on Nitro Records. They also appeared both on compilations and on-stage with label-mates The Offspring, AFI, and The Vandals.

2007 is by far the best time in their storied career to see this band play live for one reason: you get to see them play songs from their entire repertoire. Classics like “Silent Scream” and “Funeral March” are like punk-rock meat and potatoes when paired with the blistering modern sing-a-long “Wasted”. Yes, it would have been cool to see them play with the Dead Kennedys back when they were still on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles record label, but honestly, I would rather see them cull their set-list from their whole catalog. And seeing them Friday night at the low-key Satryicon is better than any venue in Los Angeles. If you are extremely lucky, you might just hear them play a version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” that will leave you shaking in your shoes. It’s worth a shot.

TSOL, Mercy Killers, and 800 Octane Friday the 12th SatyriconAll-ages$12