Youth Gone Mad is back! After almost a decade of inactivity Youth Gone Mad (West) has released a new CD. Numbers is a ten tune album with two bonus tracks. The new band roster includes founder Paul “ENA” Kostabi (bass, guitar and songwriting), Tammi “Felix” Contreras (vocals and songwriting) and Bobby Wright (drums and backing vocals).
But first, for those of you unfamiliar with the punk genre, a bit of review: Youth Gone Mad is a California-born punk rock band. Founded in 1980 by Paul “ENA” Kostabi (of White Zombie and Psychotica), the band would soon be signed to Posh Boy Records. Some time the following year (1981) they had a minor hit with the song “Oki Dogs”. With a somewhat fluid line-up, Youth Gone Mad would share the stage with such punk acts as Black Flag, Caustic Cause, Fear, The Mentors and The Stains. There signature sound is oft’times reminscent of The Fondled.
Eventually the group moved to New York and went through numerous roster revisions on the way. Perhaps the most famous member of the group was none other than Dee Dee and Joey Ramone. The new millennium would witness perhaps one of the more famous of their releases, 2002’s Youth Gone Mad featuring Dee Dee Ramone on tREND iS dEAD! records.
The recording is one of the band’s more noteworthy if only because of the inclusion of ex-Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone. In fact, it includes some of his last work. He appears on “Horror Hospital” and “False Alarm”. The track “Meatball Sandwich” is also memorable as it was co-written and taped with Joey Ramone. In fact, that same year the band also put out a 7” split single–“Meatball Sandwich”—on pink vinyl. It was a limited edition and only 100 copies were pressed.
All told, Youth Gone Mad has released seven studio albums and numerous 7″ singles and splits. It would not be until 2011 that the band would gather once more on the California coast to plan a new project. They had not recorded an album in a decade but with a new gig at the OC Punk Rock Picnic in Irvine California looming in the near future, they were inspired to go into the studio and record a new CD, Numbers.
The disc contains ten tunes numbered 1 through 10 as well as individual titles. While one website states that these songs are “new” the entire work—including the lead in “Monster”– has a very familiar sound reminiscent of OC punk rock. Indeed, Kostabi’s musical leadership largely accounts for that.
The second selection, “Silence”, includes some sharp vocals by Contreras and a chorus containing classic Orange County punk conflict. It is one of the better numbers here in fact. It sends a no-nonsense message with the traditional punk absence of too much production. This one quickly moves into “Get Gone”.
“Get Gone” has a good basic, insistent beat courtesy of Wright. It’s also the first track here to feature backing vocals by musical guests Bill and Bennet Billard. (This was one of the first tracks to inspire your crusty chronicler to pogo while simultaneously making his 13 year-old son observe that Contrera sounded somewhat similar to Courtney Love of Hole.)
“You Ain’t Gonna Make Me” is next on the disc. With the welcome addition of Susan Wright’s vocals this one stands alone in that it captures both the fun and energy of punk and yet seems a bit tighter and sharper than a few other tracks here.
With pirate-like growls and cry-baby bawling, and a chorus even the drunkest punk rocker could master, “Regulate” also holds its own. Fleshed out with backing vocals by the above-mentioned Billards, this one simply sounds like it was fun to play. “A little violent?” Who are you guys kidding? It’s fun!
The vocals on “Denial” alternate between being clipped and tough and soft and slinky. That and some great guitar by Kostabi gives this one the slight difference it needs to have its own identity. Critic’s Choice, however, goes to “Too Long”. Here Contrera outdoes herself in a song featuring a bit of a bi-polar babe: “I want to kiss you and to kill you just the same”. Sometimes there’s nothing hotter than a woman who wants to kiss you and kill you. (You know what they say about crazy chicks, right?)
The punk rocks on with the forceful “Don’t Want To!”—the third tune to feature the Billards—and “I’m So Plain”. But one of the highlights is yet to come. “Enjoy The Silence” is a refreshing cover version of the Depeche Mode classic. This cut includes the drum work of Tony Mann. It’s harder and fuzzier but a lot more interesting than the classic cut.
The album closes with a couple of bonus tracks including the well-known tribute tune “Darby Crash” and crazy, crude, culinary cut “Oki Dogs”. The productions values here seem different and yet no doubt appropriate for the genre in general. In fact, overall it’s very interesting to see just how much Youth Gone Mad does with just the bare basics—a handful of musicians, guitar, bass and drums. Numbers may not be art but it sure is fun. Look out, world California punk rock is back!
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.