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Thirty-four years after their stellar debut album, Rockin’ At Ground Zero, Los Angeles punk rock icons, The Gears, finally return with their followup, a perfect sequel to the legendary LP that defined them for so long.
Like Rockin’, When Things Get Ugly begins with drums. When “Down In The Basement,” a rollicking paean to long defunct underground club The Masque, kicks in, The Gears are alive and well again. The songs are a little longer, but the tempo hasn’t slowed much, and Axxel G. Reese hits the notes in his trademark wild style even if his vocals are slightly deeper. Kidd Spike remains the guitar god he always was from The Controllers to now. “Uncle Lanny’s Farm” delivers some serious Turbo A.C.‘s-style surf punk, while “When Punk Rock Rules The World” (with LA jazz meister Elliott Cane) riffs like Iggy Pop‘s Killy City and New Values. “FUF” (“Fucked Up Family,” featuring Steve MacKay of The Stooges) is classic Gears, and “The Wizard of Blas” attacks reality tv and social media culture with crashing finality. Excellently produced by What Records? pioneer, Chris Ashford, it’s the triumphant return of one of LA’s best without the sneering insincerity that usually marks such occasions.
Picking up where you left off over three decades ago is no easy feat. Obviously The Gears still live it in one way or another or their return wouldn’t be so successful. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 30 years for the third album.
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