Transmissions from Planet Speedball

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The third album by ADZ -- basically a re-formed Adolescents featuring a revolving door of musicians behind singer/songwriter Tony Reflex -- finds the group with a nearly complete reunion of the early Adolescents, missing only guitarist Rikk Agnew. Unlike the basically lighthearted pop-punk of the first two ADZ albums, there's a dark undercurrent to Transmissions from Planet Speedball. A sometimes harrowing song cycle that depicts a first-person descent into drug abuse and self-destruction, the album is in some ways like a late-'90s reworking of Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade, ditching that album's conceptual sprawl but keeping its forward motion and yowling intensity (as well as its psychedelic leanings -- the album's highlight is a snarling pure punk version of Syd Barrett's "Lucifer Sam"). Even the lighter material, like the Queers-style "Bob Cut and a Lunchbox," is pretty desperate. Transmissions from Planet Speedball is a surprisingly potent and unflinching look at the dark side of rock & roll life that delivers a powerful message without resorting to sensationalism or preaching.

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