One of Southern California’s best-loved hardcore bands, the Adolescents helped establish the blueprint for Orange County punk, along with Agent Orange and Social Distortion. Although their music was the most standard-issue of the three, the Adolescents’ blazing energy and quintessential teenage snottiness gave them an instant connection with their audience, and defied their upbringing in California’s bastion of staid conservatism. Their original lineup was only together briefly—founding bass player Steve Soto remained the sole constant member until his death in 2018—but they managed to issue a trio of influential albums— Adolescents (1981), Brats in Battalions (1987), and Balboa Fun*Zone (1988)—before calling it a day in 1989. They reconvened in 2001 with Soto and vocalist Tony Reflex leading the charge, and went on to release five more studio albums, including 2018’s Cropduster, which arrived just one week after Soto’s death.
Adolescents were formed in 1980 in the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton, at the border of Orange County. Lead vocalist Anthony Brandenburg (aka Tony Montana, aka Tony Adolescent, aka Tony Reflex) joined up with bassist Steve Soto, who’d just left Agent Orange. They first recruited guitarist Frank Agnew (who’d just left the charter lineup of Mike Ness’ Social Distortion), guitarist John O’Donovan, and drummer Peter Pan. This lineup splintered quickly, however, and the latter two were replaced by guitarist Rikk Agnew (Frank’s brother) and drummer Casey Royer; both had been playing in the Detours, and both had been original members of Social Distortion. Later that year, the group issued the classic hardcore single “Amoeba” on Posh Boy Records; the track also appeared on the inaugural Rodney on the ROQ compilation, assembled by legendary L.A. punk DJ Rodney Bingenheimer.
In 2001, Reflex, Soto, Royer, and the Agnews reunited for a few sporadic gigs. The rekindled bond resulted in the Unwrap and Blow Me! EP, which was issued in 2003. Live at the House of Blues, a concert album and DVD recorded at Disney World, arrived in 2004. Their comeback LP, OC Confidential, was released in 2005. The band—now primarily consisting of just Reflex and Soto with a revolving cast of touring musicians—set out on the road in support of the album. The updated incarnation recorded a split EP with Burning Heads in 2009, later issuing their fifth LP, The Fastest Kid Alive, in 2011. The release of the American Dogs in Europe EP coincided with a 2012 European tour in support of Kid. Their prolific late-era output continued with a new release arriving each year, first with their sixth LP, Presumed Insolent, in 2013, followed by 2014’s La Vendetta… E un Piatto Che Va Servito Freddo. Another split EP—this time with Russian outfit Svetlanas —was issued in 2015. The Adolescents’ seventh, Manifest Density, arrived in the summer of 2016 via Concrete Jungle. On June 27, 2018, just days after finishing up an East Coast tour with the band, co-founder and bassist Steve Soto passed away in his sleep. His last LP with the group, Cropduster, was released later that July.