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Strung Out again: SoCal punk for your earholes

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Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues
(Fat Wreck Chords)
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)
Strung Out's second album – and the first of two they'll be playing in their entirety on their current tour – is definitely their finest work, and pretty much anything a fan of '90s pop-punk could want. Jake Kiley's buzzsaw rhythm guitar perfectly complements Rob Ramos' snarling leads, especially on the perfectly titled "Monster", and the nasty, aggressive sound of "Gear Box" is a hint towards the direction the band would pursue from that point on. Jason Cruz's lyrics are a solid, if unspectacular, example of typically dark urban concerns, from drug addiction to aging to the ever-popular free-floating aggression.

Twisted by Design
(Fat Wreck Chords)
★★★ 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Always ahead of their time, Strung Out greeted 1998 – the year Southern California pop-punk exploded in popularity – by refusing to stand still. Twisted By Design has much more of a metallic edge than its predecessor, and on tracks like "Reason to Believe", Jordan Burns' chugging drums carry the sound into post-hardcore territory you can hear echoing for the next decade. Jason Cruz's lyrics have improved, adding evocative imagery that solidifies his role in the band. The only complaint is that the boys don't sound like they're having quite as much fun here; otherwise, it's a perfect companion piece to STWB.

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