Like other bored suburban youths in Southern California, Orange County’s D.I. voices disgust with a stagnant society through sarcastic humor, cynicism and punk’s tension-relieving pace. Despite a revolving-door lineup that, at various points, featured Adolescents guitarist Rikk Agnew and his younger brother Alfie, D.I.’s general sound — propulsive melodies, careening guitars and snide upfront vocals by former Adolescents drummer Casey Royer — has remained fairly constant.
Team Goon finds Royer, Agnew and future guitarist John Bosco (Calabro, here on bass) critiquing ’80s degeneration. “Nuclear Funeral” inserts Biafran spoken satire, while “Venus De Milo” and the ironically understated “Richard Hung Himself” (used in Penelope Spheeris’ 1984 wasted-youth movie Suburbia) both discuss suicide. The 1986 reissue adds three songs; the CD includes a rendition of Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge.”
Ancient Artifacts has thin production and uneven material, but manages to come through powerfully in spots. While “(I Hate) Surfin’ in H.B.” is merely a teenage whine, “Spiritual Law” unplugs the TV generation’s vacuous culture, and “Hang Ten in East Berlin” brings subtle harmonies into play. (The cassette and CD tack on a batch of live tracks, including a cover of the Adolescents’ “Kids of the Black Hole.”)
The much-improved Horse Bites Dog Cries (which includes remakes of “Hang Ten” and “Spiritual Law”) best showcases D.I.’s gripping intensity. “Living in the U.S.A.” jabs at the nation’s bleakest qualities, while “Johnny’s Got a Problem” portrays a troubled youth about to explode. The lightning tempo on “Youth in Asia” offsets the vocals’ robotic repetition, a contrast to the sweeping “oh-oh” chorus in “Pervert Nurse.” The CD and cassette add “Bedrock.”
With Royer and guitarist Bosco as D.I.’s core, What Good Is Grief to a God intermittently maintains Horse‘s song quality but is elsewhere lackluster. “No Mistakes” shakes a clenched fist at the world; “Girl Scout Camp” again rings with Jello-like satire. Overall, it’s a good record impaired by predictable songwriting and guitarist Mark Cerneka’s unimaginative solos. The cassette and CD add “She’s Obscene”; the CD also boasts a remake of “Johnny’s Got a Problem.”
If nothing else, Tragedy Again (which throws “On Our Way,” an odd ’60s hippie send-up, into the usual hydrospeed attack) vouches for the band’s stamina. Bonus track: “Cocktail Flu.”