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A-Side Graffiti
T.S.O.L. A-Side Graffiti Punk Rock Theory
Tuesday, February 6, 2024 - 16:18
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"I think it’s important for a band to keep pushing... trying new things,” says Jack Grisham, vocalist for legendary SoCal punk band T.S.O.L. “If not, you might as well do the county fair circuit... not that there’s anything wrong with that. You’ve got to make a living somehow!” For T.S.O.L., that “new thing” is their ninth studio album A-Side Graffiti, which comes out February 27, 2024 via Kitten Robot Records. The 12-track explosion of force was produced by Paul Roessler (The Screamers, Nina Hagen, Josie Cotton).

A frenetic collection of originals and some covers, including “Sweet Transvestite” (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and a surprisingly symphonic interpretation of Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World,” A Side Graffiti captures the band at a creative apex. The follow-up to 2017’s The Trigger Complex, the album kicks off with the propulsive kick of “Low-Low-Low” with its title enjoying a spirited gang chorus. “We are a part of something great, a movement that was started 50 years ago, and continues through our loyalty to a sound and a way of thought,” he explains about the track. “Out there in the world, we may be low, but in here, on the dance floor, we are kings.”

Their rousing take on the aforementioned “Sweet Transvestite” (which features Keith Morris of Circle Jerks/Off fame in the role of “Brad”) shows off Grisham’s rendition of Tim Curry’s campy cult favorite that undoubtedly will prove to be a live favorite.  “We were asked to pick a song to be included on a tribute album—a dedication to an old radio D.J. who played quirky tracks,” he explains. “’Sweet Transvestite’ was on the list of songs available so we chose it. But when we delivered our version, we were told that they’d expected us to ‘punk it up’ and that it was too close to the original. Hmmm. I’m not sure how much punker we could’ve been.”

The bold first single, “Swimming” is a West Coast punk anthem in waiting. With searing guitars and a rhythm section ready for an old-school pit, it launches out of the record with sweat and teeth. “Yeah, I guess you could call me a hedonist, or at least a selfish motherfucker who’s been mired too many times in the pleasure of the flesh—swimming in a blonde sargasso sea,” he says enigmatically of the song.

The album closes with two covers, a slight reworking of Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” (“The world may be wonderful but the fucking humans trying to control it aren’t, so I changed the lyrics. We added real strings, and Ron put down a feedback guitar track. It poses a question now—is it wonderful, when those that would rule us are such fucking tools?”) and a refreshingly sparkling version of David Bowie’s “Can You Hear Me?” with a few all-star friends. “It was Bowie’s birthday,” Jack recalls. “I’ve always loved his Young Americans period. I called up some friends: Frank Agnew from the Adolescents (who has also worked with T.S.O.L. in the past), Chip Hannah, who played drums on the Trigger Complex, Murphy from Sugar Ray (who somehow was credited with being in T.S.O.L. at one time), and our own Greg Kuehn. We laid this track down through the mail—the boys doing their parts at home, and then I went into Kitten Robot studio and threw down the vocal. Look, it might be a little too smooth for some of you, but maybe when you feel like being romantic, you can put this on and use it as a backdrop to some adult fun.”

Starting off in the Huntington Beach/Long Beach, CA scene in the late ‘70s, T.S.O.L. (short for “True Sounds of Liberty”) is revered in the punk community which celebrates their iconic band logo as well as the band’s wealth of punk anthems.  Now, four decades later, the band soldiers on with no less passion or fury.  “I’ve done my share of wiggling to the oldies, but shit, it can get boring,” concludes Jack. “Maybe we were supposed to do the fair circuit, that when we first got together in 1980, we were only perfect, or at our best for a few days or months, that those players with their styles were never meant to be more than that in that configuration…shit, oh well, back to the present.” Looking at his new record, he concludes, “Here’s this…  a few covers, a few requests, a couple what ifs, and a why not. I hope you enjoy it.”


A-Side Graffiti track list:

  1. Low-Low-Low
  2. Rhythm of Cruelty
  3. Sweet Transvestite
  4. Ghost Train
  5. Never Go Home
  6. Nothing's Ever Right
  7. One Thing
  8. Good to be Home
  9. The Way You Groove
  10. Swimming
  11. Wonderful World
  12. Can You Hear Me