Cerritos’ Channel Three (aka CH3) was one of the Southern California suburban hardcore bands signed to the pioneering Posh Boy label. An aggressive, speedy mixture of West (Black Flag) and East (early Ramones), the CH3 EP and Fear of Life album are fairly typical genre fare, and not very inspired at that. The young quartet’s lyrics predictably concern school, girls and the angst of growing up middle-class. The one-take-live-in-the-studio feel of After the Lights Go Out benefits from crisp, balanced sound and charged-up performances. Singer/guitarist Mike Magrann’s wordy originals are routine enough that a burning version of the Stones’ “Stupid Girl” is easily the record’s highlight.
The trio on Airborne is far more proficient and creatively developed than any prior CH3 lineup; the songs — three of the four written by Magrann with ex-Stepmother Jay Lansford (who likely has a lot to do with the band’s improvement) — are strong aggro-folk of some note.
The even-better Last Time I Drank finds the Magrann/Lansford writing/singing partnership firing on all rockets. Putting a mature post-punk sensibility to melodic hard-rock with an occasional Southwestern twist, CH3 comes through with an exciting record that packs a punch yet keeps both feet on the ground. Making memorable music this energetic without collapsing into raucousness or resorting to metallic precision isn’t easy, but every song on the album finds a way to do it. Perhaps the Aerosmith cover (“Lord of the Thighs”) is a clue. Of all the early punk bands, CH3 is one of the few that outgrew the genre without sacrificing its credibility.