Kidd Spike was a guitarist with one of L.A.'s first punk rock outfits, the Controllers, but by 1980 he was eager to do something a little more eclectic, and he joined forces with vocalist Axxel G. Reese to form the Gears. the Gears enthusiastically embraced the fast and loud part of punk, but they also threw in dashes of surf music, garage rock, blues, and cool sounds of the '50s, and their first album, Rockin' at Ground Zero, is a killer blend of punk speed and fury tempered with greaser cool. Reese is a solid vocalist with plenty of swagger in his voice but no wasted affectations, while Spike's thick, gutsy guitar work and the crash-boom-bang rhythm work of bassist Brian Redz and drummer Dave Drive keep these songs in forward momentum at all times. the Gears could sing about cars, girls, and good times with tongue just slightly in cheek on tunes like "Let's Go to the Beach" and "Darlin' Baby," but "High School Girls" and "I Smoke Dope" show they weren't afraid of more dangerous pleasures. "Don't Be Afraid to Pogo" is a great (and only slightly ridiculous) punk anthem, and they chronicle one of the most infamous real-life moments in the war between L.A. punks and cops in "Elks Lodge Blues." "Teenage Brain" is angst at its most enjoyable, and "The Last Chord" and the title cut both manage to make the end of the world sound cool. Rockin' at Ground Zero is good, raucous fun from an unjustly overlooked band; the rise of hardcore made bands like this seem obsolete at the dawn of the '80s, but history and this album prove these guys truly had the goods.-- Mark Deming
TRACKS: baby runaround - let's go to the beach - don't be afraid to pogo - elks lodge blues - teenage brain - wasting time - darlin' baby - trudie trudie - high school girls - the last chord - heartbeat baby - rockin' at ground zero - i smoke dope - keep movin' - last chance - Don't be Afraid to pogo.