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10 Essential Southern California Hardcore Songs, As Picked by the Authors of ‘We Got Power!’

Jordan Schwartz
Earlier this month, Diffuser.fm took a peek inside 'We Got Power! Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California,' a new book about the second wave of angry guitar bands to have washed over the Golden State. The photos tell part of the story, showcasing snotty young kids in dilapidated concert venues, yelling into microphones, but to truly understand SoCal hardcore, you've got to hear the music. With that in mind, we asked the book's creators, David Markey and Jordan Schwartz, to email us their 10 essential Southern California hardcore songs. True to the music, their responses were short and to the point — no longwinded rhapsodizing from these scene vets. We jotted down our own thoughts on each track and plopped in links to YouTube clips, so that you might rage along to these Cali classics. Enjoy.


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The Chiefs, 'Scrapped'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "The best unknown SoCal hardcore band."

Our take: "Had it up to here with all this s---." Sounds like hardcore to us! We're not sure why these guys aren't up there with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, but it's not because they missed the point of the music.

 
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Wasted Youth, 'Problem Child'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "Circle Jerks' little-brother band."

Our take: Farty bass gives way to some seriously nasty guitar, and while the vocals are a little buried, we're guessing this one's about some kid who skulks around town, refusing to play by society's BS rules. And if it's not, it should be.

 
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Agent Orange, 'Everything Turns Grey'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "Beach punk still rules, OK?"

Our take: Finally, one we know! Agent Orange is one of our favorites, especially when they go off on demented Dick Dale jags. This one's more crunch than twang, but it still makes us want to try surfing in our Docs.

 
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Lost Cause, 'Born Dead'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "More obscuro-core from some Orange Country suburb."

Our take: "Doctor said the chances are slim/ the baby's already dead within," the frontman for this little-known outfit sings, presumably describing his own birth and explaining why he's such an ornery adolescent. Around the 1:45 mark, discomfort turns to rage, and the band breaks into an all-out sprint.

 
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Secret Hate, 'Get on the Bus'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "Long Beach sons."

Our take: Even with the rad bass intro, this tune only clocks in at 55 seconds. Angry yet catchy, it seemingly adds "excessive grooming" to the list of the things to get pissed about.

 
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Modern Warfare, 'Dayglo'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "Never knew much about these guys. Good tunes."

Our take: Boasting the most angular, creative guitar riffs on this list, 'Dayglo' sounds like a Devo LP played at 45RPM.

 
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Mood Of Defiance, 'Divided States Of America'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "Our beloved, featuring Hatha Watha on vocals."

Our take: "America has no money/ America's poor." Wait, what year was this recorded? Obviously, the message is timeless, and it's always nice to hear a female take the mic and give us a break from all the testosterone.

 
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The Dicks, 'Kill From the Heart'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "The only out-of-the-SoCal-area band on this list. Austin, Texas' greats."

Our take: Sometimes, the only way to save a loved one from being lame is to bust a cap in 'em.

 
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Nip Drivers, 'Dog and a Cow'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "They thankfully came a couple years later, just as hardcore became rigid in style."

Our take: There's a nursery-rhyme quality here, until the end, when things turn fast and ugly. If kindergarteners were to hear this, they'd lock the teacher in the closet and get to snorting Pixie Stix.

 
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The Plugz, 'Mindless Contentment'

 
 

Dave and Jordan say: "Part of the original L.A. scene that spawned hardcore. East L.A.'s own."

Our take: Is that Exene Cervenka of X wailing away in the background? If so, it makes us like this blast of bubblegum nihilism that much more. Singer Tito Larriva keeps telling us he doesn't want to do anything -- but he's clearly game for writing great hooks.

 

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