The title of this 16-song collection, Complete Demos 1980-1986 -- clocking in, as true short-sharp-blasts of hardcore should, at just under a half-hour -- might lead you to believe it's less focused on a certain time frame than it really is. Although it was recorded between 1980 and 1986, all but three of the tracks were done between March 1980 and July 1980. In essence, then, it's like hearing an unreleased Adolescents debut album with three bonus tracks, as all of the 1980 recordings predate their actual 1981 self-titled debut (also referred to among the faithful as "the blue album"). Seven of the songs on the 1980 demos (which include two versions of "Wrecking Crew") would be redone for The Adolescents, so as you'd expect, they're very much in the early Southern Californian hardcore style of the official album. Although the speed and energy jumps off the VU meter, fans can't get too over the moon, as the fidelity is often pretty mediocre. True, that's not something that matters to punk listeners as much as it does to followers of many other styles of music. But be warned that, although this will certainly be of interest to Adolescents devotees, the sound is quite substandard on about half of this material, the vocals suffering the most. The first four tracks, in fact, were recorded in Tony Reflex's garage in March 1980 on cassette. Though they brim with prototypical teenage rebellion, even the more forgiving aficionados might find the lo-fi result a significant loss, since none of these four songs were redone for The Adolescents. Things improve a lot on the four May 1980 numbers done at Phantom Studios -- and you can hear the band's attack getting fuller and more metallic -- but the five July 1980 cuts, recorded at the Casbah in Fullerton, are pretty muddy. (As the liner notes admit, the original tapes for the Casbah recordings were lost, and what you hear on this CD was "mastered from nth generation collector tapes.") Again the sonic mush is a loss for serious Adolescents worshipers, as among the Casbah material are versions of "Creatures," "Self Destruct," and "Amoeba," as well as the simplistic-to-the-point-of-moronic "Do the Eddie." Rounding out this archival release are the previously unreleased 1981 track "Richard Hung Himself," the last to be recorded by the early-'80s Adolescents, and later (as done by Curt D.I.S.S.) a highlight of the Suburbia soundtrack. There are also two efforts from 1986, when the group reunited after a gap of about five years.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger