Record Review - 4 August 08 2001

True to the punk ethos, TSOL followed few if any rules governing how a band should act and what their next step should be. Back in the punk heyday that enveloped Los Angeles and neighboring Orange County (the band's home turf), TSOL blindly chased their muse into areas unknown and unexpected. How else do you explain the advent of an album like Beneath the Shadows?

Roundly dismissed as wimpy by cookie-cutter punks who can't use it for a good mosh, the disc was a curious follow-up to the more primitive and frantic Dance With Me. In 1982, the punk scene surrounding TSOL and other area bands like Black Flag and the Adolescents was turbulent and volatile. It was an unlikely time to decide to not just adorn your record with keyboards, but actually mix the damn things equally with the guitar.

Beneath the Shadows takes the edgy darkness from Dance With Me and tempers it with a baroque dreaminess. The songs swimming in this atmosphere exceed simple punk formula, resulting in a record that seems strangely out of space. Neither wholly goth, pop or punk, it's easy to see somber tracks like "Walk Alone" embraced by any kid enthralled by alienation.

Despite the many albums released under the TSOL banner (mostly on Restless Records) in the interim, Disappear is for many the true follow-up to Beneath the Shadows. After a tragicomic decade-plus that included the familiar addiction/burnout/clean-up routine, everyone from the original lineup (minus drummer Todd Barnes, who died in '99) is back together. Not as morbid (despite the deceptive cover art) as Dance With Me, as aggressive as the debut EP, or as pretty as Beneath the Shadows, Disappear works its own pop-punk magnetism. A bit short in the risk-taking department, it nonetheless generates a fair share of energy. The band pulls off a satisfying listen, the wisdom of experience playing in their favor.

TSOL play the Echo Lounge Sun., Aug. 12.??