In a scene increasingly littered with mallpunk junk, California's 1208 is a rock & roll life raft. Pumping out music with an edge and an intensity sorely lacking in the genre these days, this South Bay-reared quartet effortlessly teeters between melody and mayhem on its exhilarating second album, Turn Of The Screw.

1208, formed in 1995 and named for the apartment number the group first shared, plays punk like it's the only thing that matters in the world. Just check the apropos anthem "Next Big Thing," which scoffs at the corporate-merger music world's sinister, 'sign 'em and drop 'em' ways; "Time To Remember," where power pop and punk fuse with blissful results; or the irate authority-damning charge of ""Smash the Badge.""

Such approaches make perfect sense with the understanding that 1208 were weaned in the presence of landmark groups like Descendents and Circle Jerks. In fact, for frontman Alex Flynn, punk rock is in the blood. One of his uncles, Greg Ginn, co-founded Black Flag and launched SST Records. The other, Raymond Pettibon, is a reputable artist known worldwide.

Still, good breeding didn't get Alex and his bandmates guitarist Neshawn Hubbard, bassist Bryan Parks and drummer Manny McNamara on the Epitaph roster. Diligent roadwork, exceptional tunes, an enthusiastic local following, plus guidance from their friends in Deviates were what helped the group earn the attention of Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge. Dragge in turn co-produced 1208's acclaimed 2002 debut Feedback is Payback with console veteran Darian Rundall, who counts Pennywise, Yellowcard and Strung Out among his credits.

Their first album now gives way to Turn of the Screw. And although 1208 has re-teamed with Rundall, the band's approach to record making has been slightly altered this time out. Re-thinking Payback's dual guitar attack, Alex has since shifted to full time microphone duties, yielding more inspired utterances and sharper lyrical focus than ever. Meanwhile, Neshawn's communicable, guitar riffs continue to be bold and memorable, as the outfit's punchy, rhythmic bottom remains unchanged with Bryan and Manny.

The proof is in the fabulous blast of ""Fall Apart,"" which chronicles a disastrous relationship and is executed with time bomb accuracy by the band. But 1208's musical growth is just as evident on tracks like the inventive, acoustic number, ""The Saint,"" or ""Everyday,"" which boasts subdued six-string dynamics that soon unfold into a riotous song for disconcerted youths worldwide.

""We play in this band because it is what we love to do and cannot imagine doing anything else,"" explains Flynn. ""Life is too short, and we intend to put our all into our music until it's over.""

Living up to these ideals, ""Not You,"" is the sonic equivalent of that sentiment. If anything, this sludgy, muscular musical middle finger toward the conventional world best cements 1208's objective. Give Turn of the Screw some ear time and you'll discover one of the most promising CD's of 2004.

Outside Looking In




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