These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016

The '90s were obviously an important time for OC music. It's typically the period that most people think of when they slap a label on our native sound—the flourishing third wave ska movement, pop punk and FM alt rock. And while '96 in particular did furnish with more than a few OC classics, the artists of the era are way more interesting and diverse than people give us credit for, even after looking back 20 years later. There's naturally going to be some gems in this list you haven't thought of since Baywatch was on TV and Bill Clinton was in the White House, some you never even knew existed. Some of them have a fixed spot on your road trip playlist for all eternity. In the spirit of brushing up on some of our unique OC history at the beginning of a brand new year, we take a look at 20 albums celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2016.

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016 (8)

The Vandals
The Quickening
The average full length album ranges between 10-12 songs and usually runs anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. But The Vandals were never known to follow the rules, and their album The Quickening is a testament to that. With 15 songs squished into less than 30 minutes—28 to be exact—the album runs the gambit of irregular subject matter. From dumb girlfriends to vegetarianism and Allah, the subject matter is relative only under the pretense of sheer randomness. Yet, somehow, The Vandals pull it off with grace, making it one of their best albums, ever. (Mary Carreon)

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016

Fu Manchu
In Search Of
For a band from San Clemente, one of the sleepiest—if not the sleepiest—town in Orange County, Fu Manchu’s In Search Of blends head banging guitar solos, gorgeous riffs and percussive breakdowns reminiscent of Black Sabbath. The not-so-sleepy band artistically defies the music that comes out of OC. It’s not really punk. It’s not quite heavy metal. It’s not exactly psychedelic rock, either. Instead it’s an evenly divided mash up of all of the above. It’s rebellious, sludge-y and alluring in all the ways a great rock band should be. And In Search Of highlights the band at their best. (Mary Carreon)

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016 (9)

US Bombs
Garibaldi Guard!
U.S. Bombs were still a pretty new band in ‘96, the year they solidified the second (of many) lineups with frontman Duane Peters' bruised and bloody punk rock side show. Anchored by co-founder Kerry Martinez on guitar, Steve Reynolds on bass, the late Chuck Briggs (of the Dischords) on guitar and Alex Gomez on drums, the band put out their second album on Alive Records. While Warbirth will always top our list of the Bombs' classic releases, Garibaldi Guard is definitely worth owning, if nothing else for Peters’ monologue intro that sounds like one of the greatest punk rock valedictorian speeches ever rambled from a bar stool. Songs like “All the Bodies” and “Go Back Home” are a couple highlights that will still inspire plenty of bone breaking stunts in dry, abandoned pools. But no matter what activity you may engage in while listening (even some extreme garage cleaning on a Saturday afternoon) the energy of this album should allow you to unleash your inner Master of Disaster. (Nate Jackson)

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016 (10)

Mr. Mirainga
Mr. Mirainga
This Fullerton four piece (by way of Mesa, AZ)  always occupied a weird space in OC's punk scene. Their sound incorporates a fusion of pop, Latin and alt rock to their sound in the vein of bands like Big Drill Car. Through the mid ‘90s, they played Warped Tour and hit the road with the likes of 311, Sublime and Space Hog. Their biggest break of all during this time appears to be the octane-fueled tune “Burning Rubber," which made it onto the Ace Ventura II: When Nature Calls soundtrack. It came out on their ‘96 debut release on a short-lived contract with ill-fated MCA records, full of zany punk energy and mispronounced Spanish words (see the track "Jalopeno Eyes"). The song "57 South" is a manic ode to the Orange Crush that deserves to be played at high volume as you honk at swerving assholes trying to cut you off. (Nate Jackson)

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016 (5)

Agent Orange
Virtually Indestructible
This album came out 10 years after This Is The Voice, which didn’t only prove the endurance of Agent Orange.It also confirmed that punk rock wasn’t just a phase. What makes this album particularly interesting is that Mike Palm—the creative brains behind the band—made changes to his line up for this album, and the band experienced little to no hiccups. Agent Orange brought the juice, like they always have, despite having new band me mbers. Although Palm’s vocals and guitar power stand out over his other bandmates, Palm and crew concocted an album good enough to please the critics and fans alike. (Mary Carreon)

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016 (7)

Dick Dale
Calling Up Spirits
Popularly known as the king of the surf guitar, Dick Dale’s Calling Up Spirits is an ode to the Native Americans. Although the album blends of cover jams, fresh renditions of his surf hits and ecologically driven songs, it was scrutinized in many ways back in ’96. But what fails to be pointed out is that the album beautifully weaves homage and artistry praising a group of people who deserve to be recognized for multiple reasons, including their simplicity of life. Looking past music critics’ judgments about how albums are supposed to be, Calling Up Spirits is one of Dale’s musical gems and one of the best album to come from an OC musician. The album proves to have a timeless quality, as it continues to catch the ears of both the youthful and the wise. (Mary Carreon)

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016 (11)

Imaginary Friends (cassette)
Before finding his soul (and fame) in a stack of Motown wax, Laguna Hills-bred soul singer Aloe Blacc was spiting his heart out as the mouthpiece of Emanon on cassette. The OC-bred rap group spent plenty of years rocking the stage during early  Abstract Workshop parties at Detroit Bar (RIP). This was back in the day when Blacc actually did need a dollar. Backed by the nimble breakbeat production of DJ Exile, the pair released an indie-rap masterpiece called Imaginary Friends on cassette (re-released on CD in 2001) capturing the rhythmic cadence of the Golden Era with a little bit of dust kicked on it to give the record that dirty shine you just don’t hear in hip-hop anymore. (Nate Jackson)

The Ziggens
Ignore Amos
Smack dab in the middle of The Ziggens’ 12-album discography you get one of their lesser known gems that’s kind of a bitch to find for those of you still into those...what are they called again? Oh, CDs. But if you do manage to locate a physical copy of Ignore Amos, be sure to turn it up and let their ‘90s backwoods cowpunk and hilarious acoustic guitar folk wash over you. Skunk Records’ sturdiest signees are still plugging away after all these years, and these tunes are definitely emblematic of the bands endearing, all-over-the-place aesthetic. From the frothing, beady eyed opening salvo on “Domestic Violins” to the hilarious campfire jam “Orange County,” you’ll definitely get a taste of life in the burbs during a period of rock that took pride in being a No Man’s Land. (Nate Jackson)

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016 (6)

Reel Big Fish
Turn The Radio Off
Regarded as one of Reel Big Fish’s greatest albums, Turn The Radio Off is fast paced and full of sarcasm, wit and energy, making it the quintessential mid-‘90s party album. With songs about quitting your day job, feeling the pressure to look cool in the public eye, and a girlfriend who becomes a lesbian, Reel Big Fish cover a spectrum of topics with an in-your-face sound that defined a large part of the ‘90s. As the local ska band from Huntington Beach, Turn The Radio Off is filled from front to back with reworked classics and newer jams that made Reel Big Fish a ‘90s OC staple. (Mary Carreon)

These 20 OC Albums Are Turning 20 in 2016 (2)

Jackson Browne
Looking East
In Looking East, OC’s Jackson Browne delivers graceful, enthusiastic pop that maintains the ‘70s style folk rock that he’s best known for. And although some critics claim maintaining the same sound and style is a sign of no progress, I’d like to offer the flip side. Perhaps maintaining the same sound is a sign of not selling out and staying true to what made you great, which is what Browne did in Looking East. Yet, his masterful songwriting chops offer a wide realm of diversity allowing for minimal repetition, as his catalog showcases his ability to rock, belt out ballads, write self confessing lyrics as well as songs containing social commentary. Browne’s upbeat guitar chords and messages about the power of positive thinking make Looking East some of his best. (Mary Carreon)

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