With the use of deadly force by police in the national spotlight following the decisions not to indict the officers involved in the Michael Brown shooting and Eric Garner’s chokehold death, the time couldn’t be better for the release of a protest anthem.
Orange County punk veterans the Adolescents are back to heed the call with their new album La Vendetta… è un Piatto che va Servito Freddo, a Sicilian phrase meaning “Revenge is a dish best served cold. We are pleased to premiere one of its 16 tracks, “Double Down,” here.
While the latest controversies surrounding the use of deadly force by police center on the cases of black men, and that’s certainly a huge problem in the U.S., the Adolescents are focusing on the case of police interaction with another minority — those who suffer from mental illness.
La Vendetta…, which is due on Feb. 10 via Frontier Records, as well as its title track were inspired by the plight of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with schizophrenia, who was beaten to death by three members of the Fullerton Police Department in 2011. The album’s cover, designed by Madrid-based artist Mario Rivera, depicts former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos’s head as a giant pink piñata as a homeless man with a baseball bat prepares to take a swing while his fellow street people cheer him on.
Adolescents singer Tony Reflex, who first gained our attention as a teenager back in 1980 as the voice of “Amoeba,” a hit off of the first Rodney on the ROQ compilation, is now a 51-year-old public school teacher who discusses the issue of police brutality with respect and intelligence.
"The situation that unraveled with Kelly Thomas was a big concern for us," Reflex says. "Especially in the way law enforcement handled it. The situation is not as uncommon as one would think and it’s becoming more and more typical in law enforcement response when they get somebody who they miscue on and they assume the person is being belligerent or defiant when in actuality the person doesn’t understand or is literally hallucinating and is not comprehending their directions."
Reflex points to the plight of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot by police who mistook his toy gun for a real weapon last month. “The child has this BB gun and law enforcement comes on the scene and they give a direction that the child didn’t understand clearly,” Reflex says. “When you talk to a child who is 12 you tell him, ‘Put that down’ or ‘You need to set that down right now,’ not just ‘Show your hands’ or ‘Drop your weapon. Show your hands.’ A kid doesn’t understand that.”
The punk singer goes on to say that it’s high time that police change their policies in dealing with such situations. “They’ve got a pretty typical way of doing things that are antiquated and outdated,” he says. “Their responses and the directions they give to people are clearly not working, because we’re seeing more and more incidents on a daily basis of law enforcement taking their job way over the top. That was the catalyst [for the album’s title, cover art and title track.] The ‘not guilty’ verdict for any of the officers involved in the beating of Kelly Thomas was unreasonable and an indicator on how little some citizens are valued by law enforcement, especially if they fall outside the parameters of what’s considered normal or typical behavior.”
It’s these sort of issues that continue to fuel the Adolescents more than three decades since they broke out of Orange County and were one of the forerunners of the West Coast punk scene. La Vendetta…, which features 16-tracks of authentic, hard-charging punk rock,marks the band’s return to Frontier Records, which released its self-titled “blue album” in 1981. The release also coincides with 35th anniversary of the label, known for releasing albums by such punk stalwarts as the Circle Jerks, indie rockers Young Fresh Fellows and Paisley Underground mainstays the Three O’Clock and the Long Ryders.
For Reflex, who has adopted various surnames throughout the years, playing punk rock never gets old. “I’ve been playing this music since I was 13,” he says. “Making music’s been something I’ve always done. The genre is something that I’m fond of. I don’t feel like it’s something that’s passé…I enjoy making records and making music. It’s something that I’m going to keep doing as long as I have the ability to.”