El Centro Alto

Ever wonder what it would sound like if someone took Social Distortion’s Mike Ness and castrated him? Someone must have done just that and rechristened him Crabby, who in turn, formed El Centro. Alto is a combination of SoCal fads that have all passed their expiration dates, including Sublime-ish reggae-punk ("Wait,” "Push”) and uplifting "message” punk ("Poonjab”), all performed with major label production backing and dollar signs in its eyes. The guitars crunch with all the requisite menace in all the right spots, the bass is virtually inaudible and the drums pound like, well, standard issue punk rock drums. The political messages that singer Steven "Crabby” Cabler feebly tries to force-feed his audience end up getting lost in all of the dubious posturing and sloganeering he sees fit to work into virtually every song on Alto (to no worse than on "Police and Thieves”). This only serves to underscore the feeling that El Centro are what punk rock would sound like if it came in a box. Much ado has been made about the fact that Cabler recently survived a terrorist attack in Indonesia, which is a genuinely horrific thing — they missed and he was allowed to contribute to this dog pile. (Finger)