79. Teen Heroes

A review on the Rolling Stone website says, "Orange County's Teen Heroes prove that grunge can come from just about anywhere." What the fuck? Teen Heroes were about as grungy as an obsessive clean freak's bathroom—which is to say, they weren't. Teen Heroes were really pure and sun-drenched, playing occasionally angsty power-pop with sweet, soaring guitar lines, fizzy keyboards (courtesy of aural mastermind Ikey Owens) and smooth harmonies—think Phantom Planet and Weezer. Their name was surely some kind of stab at irony, but it became true: gooey little kids loved their brand of zany, hum-along pathos. Sadly, they only released one album, the excellent Audio Satellite, before breaking up.

80. Dodge Dart

Go to any coffeehouse in Costa Mesa at around 11 a.m. and you'll see tired-looking ex-rockers with pale skin and dyed hair. Ask any one of them if they played in any bands during the '90s, and they'll undoubtedly say yes. Ask to hear some of the music—if the band recorded any—and you'll be blown away. So fucking much amazing music was created in Costa Mesa that never made it out of this small swath of strip-mall-festooned suburbia, because just as soon as a band seemed poised to go somewhere, some member would be hauled off to jail or rehab. For every brilliant Costa Mesa band that could have been something, there's a bitter ex-junkie and some equally bitter band members who watched everything turn to shit, which is kind of what they thought would happen anyway, because that just seems to be the Costa Mesa way. Dodge Dart's Nick Sjobeck perceptively touches on this sad true-life saga in "911 (Who is Gonna Dial)," which starts off with the line "All my friends are co-dependent ex-narcotic junkies."

81. The Angoras

Being the lone guy in a chiefly chicked-out band isn't just about getting an occasional nipple flash in the tour van at 1 a.m.—it's about keeping up with the energy, daring and spunk of three gorgeous womyn. Not content to just stand back and preen for their audience, the Angoras went out and earned it on the bloodstained stages of OC clubs throughout the '90s. The lovely Paula, the vivacious Alison and a delicious girl named Yami kept rock hazardous, and would easily have rendered you a foot shorter without warning had they been wielding chainsaws instead of guitars. These weren't your run-of-the-mill, talent-deprived cutie-pies like the Donnas, either, so drummer Tim had to provide a masculine balance to the unpredictable quartet, mooring their sound from liquefaction into chaos. Alison's move to New York put the band on a melancholy hiatus, and until they're back, diet-rock will remain safe and sound.

82. Riotgun

The best way to witness authentic punk rock is in a dank club with the aroma of someone else's vomit lingering magnificently in the air. Fullerton's Riotgun know this well, because as dank clubs go, they've worked the circuit. For 10 years, Riotgun have played an assortment of clubs, closets and parties. Head songwriter Larry Hernandez is an elementary school teacher by day, rocker by night, and as the driving force in the band, he sings loudly and wields a Les Paul that weighs more than your momma's lunch pail. This four-piece holds past memberships in a plethora of notable old bands, where staying "truly punk" is as spontaneous as walking, talking, or shutting your eyes as you ralph unto the porcelain altar. Fitting, because Riotgun are the perfect band for those nights of gazing at the world through Pukenicolor-tinted glasses.

83. Trespassers William

Trespassers William paint luxurious sonic vistas, often colored by acoustic instrumentation and the heavenly vocals of Anna-Lynne Williams. Alongside guitarist/keyboardist/producer Matt Brown, the group envelops listeners, practically putting them in trances—good, not-bored trances. In concert and on disc (2002's Different Stars is a prime example), the Irvine foursome can be as spellbinding as Coldplay; take you on gauzy journeys a la Spiritualized; and recall the heartwrenching efforts of Mazzy Star. Hear how they take a U2 song, "Love is Blindness," and make it shimmer more than ever. Together since 1997, they've been spun on KCRW, reap glowing national press, and are a favored soundtrack choice for MTV reality show producers.


84 Save Ferris' Monique Powel
Photo by Jeanne Rice

84. Save Ferris

Frontwoman Monique Powell likes to talk about boys, bodily functions, and her perverse love of chickens and clowns. She's ballsy, brassy, funny, captivating and claims she can write her name in the snow with her own pee like guys do. Powell leaves that demure coy shit to Gwen. Whether singing about spam or depression—and Save Ferris have written songs about both—Powell puts on a powerhouse performance, showcasing her classically trained pipes. Save Ferris caught a lot of hell from the outset for two reasons: Their plucky, positive outlook and that damn bear hat that bassist Bill Uechi used to wear (they've since lost both). But with Powell hell-bent on doing the solo thing for a while, the band's days seem numbered, if they haven't packed it in already.

85. The Goods

After playing in Electric Koolaide but before he moved to Austin to play in Fastball, guitarist/singer Tony Scalzo played in the Goods, a jangly Costa Mesa pop band that shared members with all those other Costa Mesa bands like 4, Dodge Dart and the Women. Bassist Nick Sjobeck once said that Scalzo can pick up any musical instrument and within half an hour write an amazing song. "Wherever he's planted, he would bloom," Sjobeck once told us. Such was Scalzo's musical aptitude. Lyrically, he favors poignant fantasies. Many of the Goods' songs indicated both Scalzo's ambition and his drive toward destruction. This, from "Clock Keeps Tickin'": "I'd like to set the world on fire/But then where would I sit to watch it burn?"

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