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Ill Repute, Agent Orange, SNFU
Eighties punk is not dead. Like random lineages through the Great Plague, a few bands survived through the dark early 1990s, maintaining a link to the famed hardcore heyday of 1983. Back then, bills featuring Agent Orange, SNFU, and Aggression were as common as beer and cost about the same. Five years later, hair metal clogged the scene, Seattle began to rumble, and punks struggled for identity. At least three bands, Agent Orange, SNFU, and Ill Repute, made it through intact. They're still touring, cranking out new material, and keeping the SoCal sound alive.

All three groups were influential in their time. The stripped-down chord progressions, the surf-influenced bass lines, and the full-throttle drums defined a cohesive sound and spawned hordes of clones. Of those original three, each created a niche: Agent Orange punked out Dick Dale; Ill Repute purveyed Nardcore (Oxnard hardcore); and SNFU tempered skate punk aggression with humorous songs about cannibal cafes, talking ceilings, and snapping turtles.

Today, all three sound different, yet still likably familiar, like meeting an old friend after 10 years. Ill Repute is the least changed and arguably the best of the three. Their latest release, And Now, plays like hardcore how-to, the perfect blend of energy and inventive chord structures. Agent Orange, the oldest, is known mostly for the work on their '81 punk classic Living in Darkness. They took the anger of three-chord British punk and stylized it with surf, a wholly American form of music. The outfit's most recent effort, '96's Virtually Indestructible, is a solid hard rock record. SNFU spent much of their time over the last decade being themselves -- a Ritalin-fueled cavalcade of comedy. Fyulaba, released two years ago, is chock-full of everyday weirdness.

For all the great albums over the years, nothing compares to all three bands' live shows. (Especially Ill Repute, who can fuel pits faster than they do at the Indy 500.) The '80s may be over, but the chance to catch the best punk it had to offer is possible this week as SNFU, Agent Orange, and Ill Repute perform separately.

-- Robert Arriaga

Ill Repute and Agent Orange play Sunday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively, at the Cocodrie, 1024 Kearny (at Broadway). SNFU play Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 9 p.m. at the Cocodrie. Tickets are $8 for each show; call 986-6678.

 
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