Album Review: D.I. – Ancient Artifacts

D.I. Ancient Artifacts album cover

Growing up in Orange County, CA during the 80s, little did I know that a wave of punk rock music had washed ashore that would etch its mark on the music landscape forever.

Probably, because I was wading around in it when the surge hit.

The sometimes woe-is-me, but often battle-the-man lyrical angst never resonated in my world. But the fast and mostly simplistic chords embedded in songs, often less than three minutes, did catch my ear. My older brother jumped on this train and as a result indirectly introduced me to the punk rock bands of the day as he was generally my chauffeur to school and other extracurricular activities.

I quickly discovered bands like Social Distortion, Adolescents, GBH, TSOL, Dead Kennedys and D.I., among others. Only one I took with me into adulthood once the scene died – Social Distortion. Another, I bought a number of albums by and break out every now and then, simply to bring back memories and listen again for the first time. D.I. was this second favorite as I pretty much dismissed the rest. My brother, also, eventually released his attachment to all those bands once he grew out of that phase.

D.I., sometimes branded using a small “x” for the periods, were initials for any number of phrases, most of which I won’t repeat here, none of which proved true. Though, “Drug Ideology” apparently holds the initial meaning. They still tour today, in fact, D.I. was in Portland just a few years ago at a really small club. The band also boasts a staggering number of members since singer Casey Royer founded D.I. in 1981 with guitarist Rikk Agnew. Royer has fronted the band ever since leading a round robin of drummers and guitarists for nearly 40 years.

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D.I. Ancient Artifacts Album Review

D.I. didn’t find much popularity outside of Orange County but helped place Fullerton on the map as the heart of the emerging punk rock movement from the area. D.I. released an EP for their first effort but their debut album Ancient Artifacts in 1985 got my attention as it did many others. The nine song album stretches just more than 23 minutes long and switches off between melodic fast-paced classic punk rock grooves or slow and bleak blaring guitar with a slumbering bass that sounds more like a bunch of kids aimlessly putting something together in an after school garage band. Yep, pretty much a lot of the punk rock music of the day.

Ancient Artifacts opens with a kicker and eventual classic with “O.C. Life,” a well-constructed song featuring an awesome harmony and interplay between the guitar and bass. Indeed, 714 was my childhood phone number area code but I did not tattoo it on my head!

Ok, now imagine walking into a dark and damp bar in the middle of the day. As your eyes adjust, you focus on a bored bartender behind the counter and see a few already hungover patrons nursing their drinks. You realize live music comes from the far corner, where a band plays this slow, drabby song using the same chord over and over, the singer mostly just kind of shouting the lyrics. That’s “Purgatory II.”

“Stand Up” brings the pace back up to speed and while “Eringzo” sounds like you returned to the bar it’s not as a slow and a lot more fun.  By the time you get to “(I Hate) Surfin’ In H.B.” the homogeneous nature of most of the songs becomes apparent. “Falling Out” offers another ripper in the vein of “O.C. Life” while “Hang Ten In East Berlin” delivers one more D.I. classic and keeps the pace quick punk pace going.

“Wounds From Within” returns you to the bar and Ancient Artifacts closes with “Spiritual Law” which in many respects summarizes the album by blending the quick simple punk beats with the slow-paced drear. Best of both punk worlds!

You cannot characterize punk music with complex time signatures, intricate guitar solos or even lengthy guitar solos marched along by a drummer who sits behind an impressive drum kit. Actual singing? Debatable. You certainly won’t find any of this on Ancient Artifacts. But you do get a pretty entertaining run of songs, some you might skip after a while but nonetheless a handful that keep you coming back for something original, away form the 80s ordinary and relatively easy to get into.

Grade: B-

D.I. Ancient Artifacts Track List:

  1. O.C. Life
  2. Purgatory II
  3. Stand Up
  4. Eringzo
  5. (I Hate) Surfin’ in H.B.
  6. Falling Out
  7. Hang Ten in East Berlin
  8. Wounds from Within
  9. Spiritual Law