By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
By the time you read this, Smile will have been officially broken up for a couple weeks, but we'll still be angry at them for being a bunch of selfish twats who decided whatever they had to do was more important than keeping together one of OC's most consistently awesome rock groups. Assholes. Fronted by Michael Rosas, Smile's sound and look changed quite a bit over the years. They formed in the early '90s as a blistering, ballsy grunge trio featuring bassist Aaron Sonnenberg and drummer Scott Reeder. The more recent, jangly, Beatles-influenced incarnation of the band featured Bob Thompson on bass, Matt Fletcher on keys and his brother James on drums. Brilliant, beautiful, complex, poignant and honest. And now, very missed. Fucking fucktards.
6. The Crowd
It took 20 years for someone to hear the Crowd on the radio, says drummer Dennis Walsh—and then it turned out that it was actually the Offspring. Story of their life: if Posh Boy's Beach Blvd. comp had come out in 1999 instead of 1979, the Crowd would have been the Offspring, with whipcrack pop-punk songs like "Modern Machine" (still catchier than anything the kids loitering around the Block listen to) and "Right Time." Too bad that the only credit they get for basically blueprinting California pop-punk is from us, the 'zine Razorcake and the counter guys at record stores. Still, there's a happy (but not flashy) ending: the Crowd's sound lives on in bands like the Offspring and Green Day, but the Crowd themselves live on, too, slogging toward their silver anniversary on the small-club circuit just for the fun of it. Never mind that they've got more kids than chords between them these days; as one of their favorites sayings runs, "Nice guys finish last—but it's a marathon, not a sprint!"
7. Phil Shane
He has never held another job. Neither waiter nor dogwalker. From a tender age, Phil Shane has made his living playing in the band. At 13, he played where Jerry Lee Lewis played (the Chicsa Lodge just outside Tupelo, Mississippi); the money from his gigs helped his mom out after his dad lost their house in a game of dominoes. For 30 years, he has sweated out pure Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley and "God Bless the USA" in the trenches of OC bars and lounges, for the bluehairs at Harpoon Henry's and the seedier bluehairs at the Fling in Tustin. And now he's gone Vegas, baby. It's his lifelong dream made crushed velvet and flesh, and it's all thanks to the Tropicana and his spitfire wife, the love of his life, Michlene.
8. The Middle Class
They're best known for kicking off West Coast hardcore in 1978 with the still-bracing "Out Of Vogue" single, but Fullerton's Middle Class have yet to get the slash marks in the history books they deserve. Out of step when Minor Threat were just idle teens—and with a 15-year-old drummer hopped up on Dr. Pepper, too!—the Middle Class were blazing past contemporaries like the Weirdos, the Bags and even the Germs (with whom they shared the 1979 Tooth And Nail compilation; a great LP if you can get it), with Gatling-gun tempos and prototypically sociopolitical lyrics. And when hardcore finally caught up with them (and related demo-level-only band Der Stab—find that tape, sucker!), the Middle Class rose to another level entirely, transplanting the urban gloom of British bands like Joy Division and Gang of Four to OC as part of an even more historically neglected suburban post-punk scene. Guitarist Mike Atta used to sell semi-discography CDs out of his vintage store Out Of Vogue in Fullerton; over 20 years later, they're still as DIY as the first time around.
Joyride were one of those hot-shit OC bands that came up just before the dawn of the Offspring/No Doubt era, a band people liked to point to as yet another example of the county's rock & roll richness that always seemed to go ignored by major labels. As we all know, the majors finally moved in on OC, but Joyride somehow escaped their attention. Still, they managed to put out two great albums on Dr. Dream, both loaded with slamming speed-pop and ferocious monster riffs, sprinkled with melodies that recalled peak Replacements. They broke up in 1996, drummer Sandy Hansen and lead guitarist Mike McKnight both yearning for a stable family life, while guitarist Steve Soto (who first suckled the teat of semi-fame in the Adolescents) and bassist Greg Antista forged ahead with other projects—Soto with 22 Jacks, Antista with the almost-as-bitchen-as-Joyride Foxy.
You talk with Sideswipe's Michelle Mangione and Sally Landers, and they seem as screwed up as anybody else. How is it that they're able to transform their everyday woes into such wise and exquisite music? The two and their band sound like some starlit cross between the Indigo Girls and the Who, with a goodsome dollop of the Beatles. They are that good.
11. Big Drill Car
Big Drill Car may have lacked the introspective wisdom of an R.E.M., but for a college-rock act, they rivaled Nirvana for sheer punk energy. Founded in 1987 by Frank Daly and Mark Arnold, the quartet played Nirvana-esque power-pop with plenty of catchy hooks and funky rhythms, yet never strayed from their modest garage band roots. Daly's self-penned tunes like "No Need," "About Us" and "Reform Before" illustrated the band's aural evolution from garage to grunge, although it wasn't above Big Drill Car to play jokey cover versions of their favorite Billy Joel, Devo and Cheap Trick songs. In 1991, the band recorded their sixth album, Toured, live at New York's CBGB's for a paltry $200. Following a three-year hiatus during which the band went through several line-up changes, they signed a contract with Headhunter/Cargo Records and released the shoulda-been-classic No Worse for the Wear, a riff-heavy, punchy-rhythm album that appealed to all the rock revivalists who had become as sick of grunge as Big Drill Car had by that point.