San Francisco’s Adam Widener has released some excellent rock and roll over the last few years, most recently his LP Vesuvio Nights. Later next month Widner will tour the Midwest as Adam and the Cola Kids. After the tour, Adam tells me he plans on recording yet another LP.
Widener is a true punk rock historian, and his ten-track playlist of some of his influences will take you on a ride that is heavily rooted in punk but definitely includes tangential styles (much like Widener’s own music – huh). Widener introduced me to some acts I’d never heard before, and I’m guess you’ll find something new, also. In short, Adam knows his shit. His tour dates are below his educational discussion of his selections. Listen, learn, and enjoy:
The Subsonics — “Change Their Places”
My favorite band of all time! I saw them when I was sixteen as I was first starting to go to local shows. They played this little pizza place and Rockin’ Clay Reed came out wearing this black sparkle velvet one piece suit thing. He was slobbering as he sang and when he moved his mouth away from the microphone, there was this long string of snot that followed. That image is still burned in my brain. ‘Change Their Places’ is a great representation of their pop sensibility. Think if Buddy Holly joined the Velvets but played the guitar like he was completely strung out on speed.
Mary Monday and the Bitches — “Pop Gun”
Hozac out of Chicago just reissued this EP. I got it awhile ago from whatever punk blog that I grab stuff from. Tyrades covered it on the Killed by Trash comp too. When we played the Night Light in Oakland a few weeks ago, this older guy came up to me and was stoked that we covered this song in our set. He was telling me he actually saw Mary Monday live back in ’70s along the likes of Crime and The Nuns. So cool! I’m glad this stuff is still out there getting recognized.
Protex — “Don’t Ring Me Up”
1980’s ‘Strange Obsessions’ is a great record all around. It’s chock full of snappy sentimental numbers that go from Undertones-like pop punk to sharp as nails English new wave. The production of this song and record can’t be tangled with either. Whenever I’m recording, I’m always striving for this sound. It’s mid-fi to the max and everything just melts together as one cohesive punch. I feel like its got a mod-revival slant on it as well. No one would ever call this a mod record, but there’s some simple elements of it here and there.
Richard Hell and The Voidoids — “Love Comes in Spurts”
This was a hard record for me to get into the first time I heard it. I thought it sounded like the Talking Heads. It was punk, but not the kind of punk I was used to. ‘Love Comes in Spurts’ is one of his more rocking numbers and I especially love Robert Quinn’s guitar playing here. He was so sloppy yet so precise and diligent at the same time. He just played so effortlessly. I almost went and saw Richard Hell at City Lights books a couple years ago, but I was too afraid to meet him.
Testors — “Bad Attitude”
One of the more obscure punk bands to come out of ’70s New York. Although, I’m glad Sonny Vincent has a strong cult following now. He can do no wrong and the Testors are a prime example of his musical reckless abandonment. ‘Bad Attitude’ is just so raw and untamed sounding. It doesn’t sound like it came from the ’70s, but maybe something alive today in some twisted lo-fi universe. ‘Mk Ultra’ is a great song too.
The Penetrators — “Life Stinks”
I pretty much love everything that the Penetrators ever did. Their recordings are punk perfection as far as I’m concerned and this song is no exception. ‘Life Stinks’ punches you in the gut in just the right way. Every time I listen to this song, I want slam a 40 ounce throw a television set out of the window. No lie!
The Makers – “I’m Not a Social Kinda Guy”
The Makers self-titled middle finger record was at the pinnacle when they were still young, wild, and out of control punks. I dig their softer Sub Pop stuff too, but this song really hits my sweet spot. I think it’s the way the guitar player relies more on fuzzed-out single notes as opposed to straight up power chords I think this helped set them apart from their ’90s Estrus Records garage punk contemporaries. Good soundtrack to hate the world with.
The Units — “I Night”
Awesome late ’70s San Francisco synth punk. They eventually became a little more polished, but their earlier lo-fi stuff is to totally die for. They’re like the grey middle ground between The Screamers and Devo. Less abrasive than the Screamers, but not as intentionally pop artsy like Devo. This song totally blows my mind. I wish I could play that beginning synth lead on a guitar. I have no idea why these guys didn’t make it bigger.
Human Eye — “First Taste of Crime”
Human Eye’s self-titled first record was a soundtrack to a particular time in my life. Every track on that record sounds completely different yet they work so well with one another. ‘First Taste of Crime’ is a particular favorite because it crams all of Human Eyes best alien noise punk into a minute and a half all while being incredibly dynamic and in-your-face. I was on tour with another band a bunch of years ago and we stayed at Timmy Vulgar’s house. I slept in the basement next to one of his giant prop eyeballs. It was pretty cool.
Tyrades — “Cut Your Feet Off”
One of the most maniacal and erratic punks bands of the 21st century. Everything about this song and record is right up my alley. It’s really energetic, but there is this underlining herky-jerky new wave slant that really appeals to me. I like how this song also utilizes that stop-start approach. It’s three chord punk, but played so angular and sharp. A total ripper!
Adam and the Cola Kids Midwest Tour:
09/12 – Springfield MO – College Street Bar & Arcade
09/13 – Joplin MO – Blackthorn Pizza & Pub
09/14 – Kansas City MO – Vandels
09/15 – Des Moines IA – Vaudeville Mews
09/16 – Minneapolis MN – Johnny’s House
09/17 – Green Bay WI – The Crunchy Frog
09/18 – Milwaukee WI – Bremen Cafe
09/19 (early show) – Chicago IL – Bric-A-Brac Records
09/19 (late show) – Peoria IL – Pizza Works
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article mentioned Widener opening for Warm Soda. Unfortunately, Adam won’t be playing this show. But it’s still going to be rad and you should definitely go.