REVIEWS 2003
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Audities | Amazon.com/CD Universe | Aaron Milenski | Daily Breeze
Bucketful of Brains | Seattle Weekly | CJSF - FM | FYD | Mohair Sweets
The Big Takeover | Shake It Up | Indieville.com | Culture Bunker | Outsight
Outsight Internet Radio Interview | Zoopa Loop | Skratch | Caustic Truths
Creem | Carbon 14 | Tucson Weekly


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from: Audities

Back in Los Angeles, after the first blast of local punk rock bands, came a group made up of three brothers (Joe, Mike & David Nolte) and 2 friends that took the energy of punk and infused it with the inventive sounds of 60's garage and psychedelic bands. L.A. Explosion!, released that same year, was an incredible debut that reminded everyone of what made rock n' roll so exciting in the first place: memorable tunes, rockin' rhythms and unforgettable lyrics!

—Dennis Dalcin

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From: Amazon.com/CD Universe

The Last — L.A. Explosion reissue

For reasons that remain somewhat obscure, The Last seems to have remained one of the least known bands of the Los Angeles pop explosion of the late-70s and early-80s. Their debut album, reproduced here on CD for the first time (and sweetened with a half-dozen fine bonus tracks), is every bit as seminal as singles, EPs and albums from the likes of The Plimsouls, Three OíClock and others. Perhaps the lack of a major-label follow-up kept the band from greater acclaim, because it certainly wasn't the music.

Unlike many of their contemporaries, The Last brought several different influences together in their music, from surf to chiming British Invasion harmony singing (e.g, The Searchers-like "This Kind of Feeling," The Kinks-like social commentary of "Century City Rag"), to anthemic tunes that had the pop-punk energy of The Undertones, The Dils and The Clash (e.g., "Bombing of London"), to neo-psychedelic tunes like the opener, "She Don't Know Why I'm Here." This was a band equally at home gigging with the Go-Go's as they were with Black Flag.

Unlike their live shows, however, the sound on this disc (originally released in August of 1979) is very tight and clean. Its combination of punk energy, chiming pop guitars and harmony singing, and Farfisa-like organ makes something of a bridge between the power-pop and punk of the late 70s and the paisley underground of the early 80s. Having formed in 1976, the band pre-dates the US arrival of the UK punk explosion, and their initial influences were grounded in the 60s, rather than the 70s. Clearly, though, punk energy flowed through the band throughout the years leading up to the recording dates for their debut.

Song highlights include the punky "Slavedriver" (with a wonderfully cheesy organ riff to underline the Stranglers-like vocals), the beach tune "Every Summer Day," the new-wavey "Objections," and the Buzzcocks like anthem, "I Don't Wanna Be in Love." The band's gothic, dramatic cover of "Be Bop A Lula," inspired by John Cale's remake of "Heartbreak Hotel," has a very Doors-y atmosphere, and Vitus Matare's flute solo adds a winsome note to the melancholy pop of "Someone's Laughing."

Bomp has rolled out the red carpet for this reissue of the album they originally released in 1979. In addition to the original fifteen tracks, a half-dozen bonus tracks have been added, including both sides of the band's first two singles, the A-side of their third single, and a cut from Bomp's "Waves" compilation. The singles' distant, reverb-drenched sound is primitive compared to the album's polish, but the raw energy they display gives a hint at the band's live sound. The thick CD booklet includes an extensive new essay on the album's creation by the band's Joe Nolte, photos, lyrics and contemporaneous notes from Nolte's journal documenting the recording and song writing.

This is a five-star reissue of a seminal album of Los Angeles rock.

—Eli Messinger

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From: (source unknown — taken from Bomp web site)

The Last are still around, but their first album, L.A. Explosion is worlds away from the louder, less emotional music they play today. The songs show the inner turmoil that would lead to more than one band member spending time in a mental hospital. The songs have 60s style Farfisa organ, thin-sounding guitars and Beatle-inspired harmonies, but have a fierceness and power that confirm their place in the punk generation. Ironically, this is the most powerful and enduring album of the 70s California punk scene, and there's not a distorted rhythm guitar on it. This is a sadly neglected masterpiece.

—Aaron Milenski

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From: The Daily Breeze, RAVE section
February 1st

The Last formed in a Hermosa Beach garage in October 1976, according to leader Joe Nolte's liner notes to this long-overdue first domestic issue of the pioneering South Bay band's 1979 debut.

X, the Germs, the Alley Cats, the Weirdos — the Last gigged with them all in the early days of the Los Angeles punk scene. The quintet (brothers Joe, Mike and David Nolte, plus keyboardist Vitus Matare and drummer Jack Reynolds) also shared rehearsal space in a former Hermosa church with Black Flag and Redd Kross.

The band's live shows were uproarious, but underneath the chaos, its songs had structure and pop smarts. Joe Nolte infused the band's first single, the kinetic raver "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" with the spirit of the 1960s garage bands he loved. And pounding rockers such as "Slavedriver" and "I Don't Wanna Be In Love" gave the band plenty of punk credibility.

But L.A. Explosion wasn't one-dimensional. Its surprising range included the dead-perfect Merseybeat of "This Kind of Feeling", the amped-up Beach Boys tribute "Every Summer Day"8 and the combination of slashing guitars and hooky melodies that fuel "Walk Like Me" and "Looking At You."

One wasn't always sure what was coming next from the Last, but whatever the style, one could count on it having passion and tunefulness, enhanced by the brothers' unique vocal harmonies.

Bonus tracks on this CD include the band's first three singles, including the raw, brilliant original version of "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" and the superb title track (inexplicably left off the original album).

So where are the Nolte brothers now? David's currently touring as a member of British songwriter David Gray's band; Joe and Mike are working on a new Last album, the band's first since 1996. Four stars.

—Sam Gnerre

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From: Bucketful of Brains

The Last — L.A. Explosion

The Last are a band who have been true to their name, as they have "last"ed more than 20 years in the Los Angeles music scene. L.A. Explosion takes us back to their humble beginnings as a bunch of Hermosa Beach-boys having a good time doing their special brand of melodic surf-punk, marked by Joe Nolte's warbling lead vocals and fluid guitar picking, along with Vitus Matare's oft macabre keyboards (Nolte's brothers Mike and David are also in the band, but Nick decided to try acting instead-just kidding). The album is an array of styles within that framework; you get the psychedelic strains of "She Don't Know Why I'm Here," the punky "Bombing Of London," "Slavedriver," and "I Don't Wanna Be In Love," the ultimate summer anthem "Every Summer's Day," a beautifully Beatlesque tune called "This Kind Of Feeling," one that has a similar Beau Brummels influence, "Someone's Laughing," and a dance number that puts the "Oi!" in joy, "The Rack". Bonus tracks include early 45 versions of some of the album's tunes, as well as the weird "Hitler's Brother," on which drummer Jack Reynolds does his best Johnny Rotten impression, and the title track that never was, the rockabilly-flavored "L.A. Explosion".


It's been a long time coming for a good sounding CD reissue of this seminal Los Angeles album. A big "thank you" should go out to Greg Shaw and everyone else at Bomp for making it happen.

—David Bash

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From: Seattle Weekly
March 12-18

The Last — L.A. Explosion

Fine archival affair from one of SoCal's more overlooked punk-era outfits.

If you were a 45 collector in the late '70s, your brain was no doubt seared by 1977's "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" from Los Angeles' the Last. The song's lo-fi psychedelia was exhilarating, a Who-13th Floor Elevators composite whose dark, slightly malevolent vibe made sense against the backdrop of the then-burgeoning punk scene. 1979 finally saw the group drop its long-playing vinyl manifesto, and now, newly remastered to sport a far more expansive sound and filled out with never-on-CD bonus material (three 45s plus a compilation cut), it's easy to hear why the album has long been adjudged a key artifact of its time. From so-called "paisley pop" gems like the jangly, surf-rockin' "Every Summer Day" and the sweetly tenored Merseybeat of "I Don't Wanna Be in Love" to the decidedly more complex Noo Wave stylings of baroque garage rocker "A Fool Like You" and the bizarre Devo-esque twitch of "Slavedriver," the album's a virtual travelogue of what was going on then in the Amerindie underground. It's equally easy to understand why the band was overshadowed by L.A. club contemporaries the Plimsouls, 20/20, and the Knack; the Last was too all-over-the-map for A&R types to get a handle on the group. (Rerecording-and emasculating-"She Don't Know . . . " for the album as a sweet jangler was a misstep, too.) At any rate, the disc's a must-own, both on historical terms-detailed liner notes from vocalist Joe Nolte are a plus-and as a fascinating musical document.

—Fred Mills

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From: CJSF - FM
British Columbia, Canada

Charts
Top 75 for the week ending Friday, March 21, 2003

01 Beans, The inner cosmosis Foreverbad
02 Mossman Vs. Mr. Tsunami at dub corner Dispensation Records
03 *Various Melt-Banana/Big D and The Kids Table split Fork In Hand
04 TIJUANA BIBLES fiesta! Trophy
05 Calexico feast of wire Quarterstick
06 Jerk with a Bomb pyrokinesis Scratch
07 Scarboro Aquarium Club poisoned Le Grand Magistery
08 CAT POWER you are free Matador
09 Langford, Jon & His Sadies mayors of the moon Bloodshot
10 Be Good Tanyas, The chinatown Nettwerk
11 Owl & The Pussycat s/t Kill Rock Stars
12 Sea and Cake, The one bedroom Thrill Jockey
13 Frankie Sparo welcome crummy mystics Constellation
14 Last, The l.a. explosion! Bomp

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From: FYD
March 3

The Last — L.A. Explosion

It's a crime, I know, that I'd never heard them until now. But, see, that's always been something that Bomp's done really well. Re-introducing stuff when the timing's ripe and the collective ear's ready to appreciate it again.

Formed in 1976 and fueled at the inception by mid 60's garage and psych, the Last ended up taking these sounds and combining them with the first gurgles of US and UK punk which was just hitting the shelves. It makes a pretty vivid collage. Kind of like if Chad and Jeremy had formed Sham '69.

I mean, I always liked bands like the Vipers and other garage rock revivalists, but there was always that foppish "let's play dress up" element to their work. They'd craft neat originals that sounded dated, but they didn't add anything to it, and it was all some weird costume. Like when you buy brand new furniture that's been roughed up and chipped to look distressed and antique. Why do that?

This stuff? This is alive, original and listening to it's kind of like playing dodgeball, because a bunch of stuff is going to get thrown at you and you never quite know when it's coming. Dig the juxtaposition of "This Kind of Feeling," a beautiful, British-explosion-y strummer with it's "oh-woe"s and unrequited love, and "Bombing of London," with its opener that's somewhere between "Rock and Roll High School" and a battlefield fife and drum, and then it folds into the interplay of lead singer call and snotty chorus response on alternating lyrics, and it sounds like an out take from "That first album by that one UK punk band in the 70's." And even then, it breaks down in the middle to do a Japanese "nee nee nee nee nee nee neeeeee nee nee" thing. Complete with gong. Crazy.

This album has so much to give. "Walk Like Me"'s pretty much as punk as you were going to get back then. The pace is quick, the vocals are crumpled into a straight growl that gets louder every chorus. Even then, they sneak a recurring bit of guitar sunshine that sounds wonderfully out of place. "Slave Driver"'s similar in its attitude, but the frantic joy of the keyboards really lifts it off the ground and helps it transcend the usual. Then, two seconds later? You're in "Every Summer Day" which is totally Jan and Dean with its "I wanna go back to when the world was free...Southern California 1963." What's going on here?! (And then, back again. That song, when released as a single, was backed with the polar opposite, "Hitler's Brother," included here as a bonus track.)

"I Don't Wanna Be In Love" rips. That's the only word for it. And it pre-figures sounds later made by bands like the Urinals where it's the guitar and the chorus going dowwwwwwwwn dowwwn down after every shout. Also includes a spooky stab at "Be-Bop-A-Lula," which, according to singer/guitarist Joe Nolte, was inspired by John Cale's version of "Heartbreak Hotel."

This re-issue has some great liner notes by Nolte. An interesting essay on the album's creation that really helps contextualize it. Apparently, these guys used to open for folks like the Dils and Black Flag, and I bet that was pretty wild because, with a lot of these songs, you can really hear how they'd fit those gigs once freed from their studio cages. Yeah. I'd a liked to see that.

Re-issue includes original single and compilation tracks. Fans of British invasion, garage punk, or 70s UK punk'll find a lot to love here. There's even talk of a new album, which would be really cool. Check them out.

—(JM)

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From: Mohair Sweets
March

The Last: L.A. Explosion (Bomp)

Unfortunately I missed the Last album when it came out originally way back in the late 70s. Damn I wish I would have had the chance to live with it all these many years. Not much I can do about that now but thankfully Bomp has reissued it with six bonus tracks and liner notes by vocalist/guitarist Joe Nolte who tells the tale of the making of the music, and the scene, in LA back all those years ago. The band (built around the three Nolte brothers) craftily melded sunshiny pop-psych, classic garage and surf and drove it all home with a passionate early-days of punk drive (think Modern Lovers, Blondie, Groovies). First run through I must admit I was a tad baffled but second crack at it hit me like a brick. Brilliant stuff and considering my general anti-LA bias that is really saying something. (21 tracks. 57:01 playing time.)

—Arthur Green/Mohair Sweets

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From: The Big Takeover
#52

The Last: L.A. Explosion (Bomp)

At last it's reissued! One of the most remarkable bands of the fertile late 1970s L.A. underground scene, The Last were a rarity then, a group that fit equally well on the punk bills (Their first gig, after a year of rehearsing, was at the Masque in the Summer of 1977 with the freakin' Avengers and Dils!!! Lucky bastards!) and the power-pop bills too.
Because this September 1979 debut was mis-produced (it's much cleaner than their three earlier singles, or the superb but import-only Painting Smiles on a Dead Man LP that followed), the group failed to attain the general acclaim they did locally and in Europe. But like other great mis-produced records (such as both New York Dolls LPs and the Heartbreakers' L.A.M.F.), one can still find the greatness. And many did: Bill Stevenson of The Descendents declared that The Last his inspiration for his better-known group's more hardcore punk-pop mix (he later produced The Last's lesser late-'80s LPs on SST). And on the hand, early '80s L.A. Paisley Underground scene bands such as Three O'Clock, Rain Parade, Bangs (Bangles), and others fashioned careers by focusing on The Last's '60s flavors.

Fortunately, this reissue tacks on all three pre-LP singles and a comp. track, so newcomers must, repeat must, start with tracks 16-21. This is what the band sounded like from 1977-1978, when L.A. punk was new and this unique band was caught raw and dirty, instead of sanitized for radio after punk's commercial failure. A comparison of the three songs that were re-recorded for the LP says all that needs saying. The original "She Don't Know Why She's Here" (covered these days by old fan, ex-Minutemen/fIREHOSE star Mike Watt) remains the classic-heck even the cleaned-up LP version is great! Its dive-bomb melody ignites the Nuggets-esque garage-psychedelia, adding juice to leader Joe Nolte's staggering lyrics the capture the odd vacancy in many young people in L.A., then and now: "This one's for you/You modified petrified hypocrites/God! To raise your children like goldfish/In plastic naugahyde cells." Likewise, their Beach Boys/Jan & Dean-inspired "Every Summer Day" (Brian Wilson and Dean Torrance nearly sang backing vocals) is a punky update of the "Fun Fun Fun"/"I Get Around" form. The bouncy, cool "L.A. Explosion" is yet another punk-pop-'60s strain.

Then, taking on the LP's 15 tracks and adjusting for the engineering, the LP eventually makes its mark. The smacking "The Rack," the I hate work anthem "Slavedriver," and the surf-pop loving "Looking at You" are more examples of Nolte's superlative songwriting and observant lyrics, as he makes the old seem new. Even their cover of Gene Vincent's 1956 #7 rockabilly smash "Be Bop a Lula" is redone as a psychedelic freakout. Everywhere the three Nolte brothers' (Mike and Dave) harmonies blend over Vitus Matare's superb keyboards, and Jack Reynolds' drumming provides modern edge. It's wonderful for anyone who likes the genres The Last straddled and fused, a sing-along LP for fans that like some kick as well as nuances in their pop.

Any chance Bomp! could do us another favor, and finally give the much better-recorded, sadly never-issued 1980 second LP Look Again a release at last? (Only a four-second EP appeared)? What a great historical artifact sitting in the vaults all these years! And hey, how about a U.S. issue for Painting Smiles, which was as good as this band ever sounded? All three together are "this kind of feeling" at its very best. "Watch me turn your world around/Take your mess back underground" Meanwhile, Joe & Mike Nolte's latest Last still plays around L.A. (www.bomp.com)

—Jack Rabid

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From: Shake It Up
March

The Last: L.A. Explosion (Bomp)

The Last emerged from the LA club scene in the late Seventies with the energy of punk, the hip of New Wave and armed and ready with an encyclopedic knowledge of Sixties rock. Led by Joe Nolte, the reverberations created by this outfit's original aural blast are still being felt within the LA underground today. And unlike so many other outfits from that era, The Last is still going strong on the club circuit.

On "L.A. Explosion," one hears the proto-punk energy of The Seeds ("She Don't Know Why I'm Here") next to the absolutely perfect approximation of the early Beatles that "This Kind Of Feeling" presents. They also show their smarts with "Every Summer Day," which pulls off a perfect Beach Boys imitation. All of this happened, mind you, during a time when most other bands just wanted to make the kids in the skinny ties pogo.

Much like an eternal and refreshing breath mint, this is the kind of musical explosion that just lasts and lasts.

(* * * * out of 5)

—Dan MacIntosh

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From: Indieville.com
Mar 31 - Apr 6 2003

The Last "L.A. Explosion" ( Bomp Records )

When did we become so disgusted by the blending of punk with pop in the form of Avril Lavigne?  How detached have we become from a time when the two genres used to go hand-in-hand?  Remember The Buzzcocks?  Remember The Undertones?  Remember The Last?

L.A Explosion was The Last's debut album.  Starting off a relatively obscure career on a relatively obscure (and yet important) Burbank, California label - that being Bomp! Records - the band were to record some of the best L.A punk nuggets ever to be committed to tape.  And listening now, many people will be surprised to discover how dang catchy they are.

Short and succinct, the fifteen songs on L.A. Explosion (as well as the six reissue-exclusive bonus tracks) run the gamut from cheery pop ("This Kind of Feeling," "Every Summer Day") to neat-o psych ("She Don't Know Why I'm Here," "Bombing of London,") to Buzzcock-y punk-pop ("I Don't Want To Be In Love," "Looking At You").  It's a perfect mix, and it characterizes a perfect debut album by a band of hooligans who were formed before the Sex Pistols even released their first single.  Influenced as much by the sixties "punk" sound as the Ramone climate that the band had been born unto, they were certainly a creative lot.  Stray genres also find solace in L.A. Explosion - "Slavedriver," for example, has a powerful surf guitar part, and the album's third last song just happens to be a cover of "Be-Bop-A-Lula."

The bonus tracks, meanwhile, are a Last fan's most sacred dream.  Alternate, more psychedelic versions of "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" (which I personally like very much) and "Bombing of London" are included from their 1977 debut 45.  Then comes different versions of "Every Summer Day" and "Hitler's Brother," the latter of which was a b-side of the "Every Summer Day" single from 1978.  An early version of the album's title-track (from the 1978 single) is also included.  Then, to top things off, the band's spaced out contribution to Bomp Records' Waves compilation is thrown in for good measure.  Poising ultra-modified vocals over a heavily distorted guitar/drum/bass background, it sounds as it was a Jupiter import from the 60s.

To be blunt, this could be the best reissue of 2003 so far.

89%

[Vitals: 21 songs, distributed by the label, orig. released 1979; reissued 2003]

—Matt Shimmer

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From: Culture Bunker
April
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From: Outsight

The Last: L.A. Explosion (Bomp)

The Last is, some ways a first. The group of the late '70s is a surf-punk amalgamation well salted with bright, memorable lyrics. At the time, The Sex Pistols had not yet come to be but Blondie and The Modern Lovers were beginning to give rock some new life. Joe Nolte from his vantage point on the West Coast sought to infuse surf-pop with mid-'60s psych-rock for something more vital. This is a reissue of the band's debut album, originally released in 1981 on Bomp! Bonus tracks and liner notes from Nolte himself make this a worthy and important document about the nascent West Coast punk movement of the late '70s and it is certainly a pre-punk power pop gem with psychedelic roots. (4)

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From: Outsight Internet Radio Hour
May 4

RADIO INTERVIEW — Click here to listen via Real Audio!

[The Real Audio clip above is an online interview Joe gave. It's about 15 minutes long, and covers a lot of topics, from recording LA Explosion in the '70s to Joe recording a solo project the previous week. Many cuts from LA Explosion were played, but are edited out from this archive.]

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From: Zoopa Loop
May 12

The Last "L.A. Explosion" ( Bomp Records )

When The Last came into view from the effervescence of the L.A punk scene in the late seventies, they personified the perfect connection between their present-day allies which seized upon the rebel energy of rock 'n' roll and increased it in an explosive mixture of fury and no-future attitude and the thousands bands which over the previous decade had brought oodles of sugary melodies and psychedelic flavours to our good old rock'n'roll. "L.A. explosion" was recorded during the first semester of 1979 before to be released on August 15th of the same year  through Bomp Records (concerning the release date, I have some contradictory infos as the promotional sheet I received with the album mentions that Bomp released it in 1981, so was it first self released by the band?) which recently decided to re-issue it without forgetting to add a cool batch of bonus tracks which are principally made up of the three singles the band recorded between November 1977 and November 1978.

If it's not the very first incarnation of The Last which is present on this album, it's surely not far from being the case rallying around Joe Nolte (guitars, lead vocals) two of his brothers Mike (vocals) and David (bass) as well as Vitus Mataré (keyboards, flute) and Jack Reynolds (drums and percussion). The 15 original songs show that the band had decided from the beginning to break free from the quite direct and spiteful nature of punk rock to orientate their music towards some more melodic aspects ogling the Beach Boys during some cuts ("She don't know why I'm here", "Every summer day"). And although all these smooth vibes don't leave the listener throughout the album the band could'nt have helped writing for my pleasure few caustic fast punk rockers ("Slavedriver", "I don't wanna be in love" ,"Bombing of London") whose lyrics reveal either a form of bitterness about unhappy love affairs ("I don't wanna be in love"), war ("Bombing of London") and daily disillusions ("Someone's laughing") or some strong wishes of independence ("Walk like me", "Century city rag"). Both of these feelings are moreover underliyng in most of the numbers whatever are their musical natures.

I am gripped by the contrast between the fresh and lively touch of the vocal lines and the severe but realistic tone of the words the band set down on the paper. A bit after the manner of The Ramones, The Last have this very genuine way to describe some short almost harmless moments of life that each of us has already lived one day ("She don't know why I'm here", "This kind of feeling"). Only the very weird "We're in control" which was originally recorded for the Bomp Records compilation "Waves" shows another facet of their music bathing in lysergic rock where the liquid filtered vocals drag artificially the listener off somewhere between earth and space. The other bonus tracks include early versions of "She don't know why I'm here", "Bombing of London" and "Every summer day" whose rougher sound fits more in with my idea of their live performances. Although in the booklet, Joe Nolte agrees to tell that he would have preferred something rougher about the sound of "L.A. Explosion", I think on the contrary that owing to their work on production they have known how to preserve their powerful touch without pushing the melodies into the background. Both of these qualities that stand out in this album make this re-issue an essential release of 2003 and could mark the beginning of a sort of revival for surf/pop/rock 'n' roll music which has been forsaken for too many long years. Rock'n'roll sometimes awards his best prizes with a lot of delay.

—Renaud Rigart

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From: Skratch Magazine
May

The Last "L.A. Explosion" ( Bomp Records )

Dude, these guys were great. I mean, really. I had a blast with them and their surf-meets-traditional-punk-meets-'60s pop antics. Bust out those skinny-ass black ties, drink lots of PBR, and dance around like there isn't a frikkin war going on and that you failed that math test yesterday. Life is short and weird, and it's good that bands such as The Last come around and just knock out the fast and fun tunes for those who know there is crap out there but why do we have to stand around and smell it and be all whiny about it? Totally get this band and this record, then call me up to tell me what you think. If you hate it...whatever. If you like it, then I'll come over with that case of cheap beer before we catch these guys down at the club. Oh, and if you have pegged pants and some Beatle boots, that would be so rad!

—Mark Whittaker

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From: Caustic Truths
Issue 90

The Last "L.A. Explosion" ( Bomp Records )

The Last is, some ways a first. The group of the late '70s is a surf-punk amalgamation well salted with bright, memorable lyrics. At the time, The Sex Pistols had not yet come to be but Blondie and The Modern Lovers were beginning to give rock some new life. Joe Nolte from his vantage point on the West Coast sought to infuse surf-pop with mid-'60s psych-rock for something more vital. This is a reissue of the band's debut album, originally released in 1981 on Bomp! Bonus tracks and liner notes from Nolte himself make this a worthy and important document about the nascent West Coast punk movement of the late '70s and it is certainly a pre-punk power pop gem with psychedelic roots.

Rating (out of 5): 4

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From: Creem Magazine
June

The Last "L.A. Explosion" ( Bomp Records )

The beautiful thing about simplicity is that if something sounds cool the first time somebody does it, there's no reason that it shouldn't sound cool the second time—or the hundredth time. And the beautiful thing about human artistic endeavor is that just as soon as you think you've heard it all, some unknown gem from a long-forgotten band passes across your desk, and the only thing you can do is try to pretend like you've known about them all along (because the idea that something so good could have existed without your knowledge is too painful).

Not only are the practitioners of today's garage rock scene not the innovators of the genre, they're not even the first folks to rip it off. Hermosa Beach's the Last was (and is) a self-consciously retro band that mined the Nuggets compilation for pop-punk gold.

If the first psychedelic era was over by the dawn of the '70s, the first revival began in 1975 when Joe Nolte wrote "Century City Rag," a rave-up that provided a welcome distraction from the prog-rock band he was playing with at the time. Within a year, Nolte and his brother Mike formed the Last. Chronologically they pre-date the Ramones' first record and served as a direct link to the brilliant '80s Southern California punk of Black Flag and the Descendents.

This release is a welcome reissue the brilliant but scarce1979 L.A. Explosion album, plus some bonus tracks (singles and compilation cuts).

From twangy harmony-laced psychedelic numbers like "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" to bashers like "Slavedriver" and "I Don't Wanna Be In Love," the Last provided the blueprint for the Southern California hardcore sound of the '80s just as surely as the New York Dolls provided the blueprint for the Sex Pistols.

—Brian J. Bowe

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From: Carbon 14
Issue 23 - July

The Last "L.A. Explosion" ( Bomp Records )

The Last were really the first — the only band in 1977 that could get away with playing in both of L.A.'s mutually disdainful punk rock and power pop scenes. Whether on bills with punks the Alley Cats, the Dils and the Avengers or skinny-tied popsters the Zippers, 20/20 and the Plimsouls, the three Nolte brothers and Vitus Matare stood out with an (at the time) rare combination of Beatlesque harmonizin', blurrily strummed p-rock fury, and Farfisa-and-Rickenbacker-stoked '60s garage — Hermosa Beach's equivalent to the Real Kids and the Flamin' Groovies. They directly influenced disparate folks ranging from the Urinals to the Bangles, the Descendents, Three O'Clock, Mike Watt, the Gun Club and Rain Parade, although the Last didn't sound much like any of 'em. (Intriguingly, Joe Nolte almost joined Black Flag as lead singer after wild man Ron "Chavo" Reyes walked out for good in the middle of a show.) For the first time, the Last's crucial 1979 debut album is available on CD, with Joe Nolte's detailed liner notes and '79 diary excerpts, bonus-track early singles and compilation cuts (including the doomy psychedelic aberration "We're in Control"), the boss-hating punk rocker "Slavedriver," the Beach Boys nostalgia of "Every Summer Day," the sinister, slowed-down Doors-y version of "Be-Bop-a-Lula" and the feverishly tangled anthem "She Don't Know Why I'm Here." Now, would someone please put out the Last's long-lost, unreleased second album? Thank you.

—Falling James

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From: Tucson Weekly
October 30
Rythm & Views

The Last "L.A. Explosion" (Bomp!) - 4 stars

Long before Robert Pollard tried on his British accent for size, Joe Nolte began his ascent to being one of the most unknown, yet greatest American songwriters.

In fact, it was in 1976 that Nolte formed his band The Last in Los Angeles with brothers Mike and David. Frustrated with the state of rock in the late '70s, Nolte began looking back to the early '60s for influence. Rather than merely trying to sound like his predecessors, as Pollard did with Guided By Voices (and became a hero for it, perhaps deservedly so), Nolte aimed to get into their heads and write songs as if he were a young John and Paul. The synthesis of his efforts materialized into The Last's first and greatest album.

Though L.A. Explosion didn't move a lot of units in 1979 when it was first released, it did showcase Nolte's knack for writing over-the-top pop songs with a punk-rock edge and ethic. The band held a special place among the L.A. scene, because they could share a stage just as easily with the likes of Black Flag and The Avengers as well as pop groups like The Go-Go's; they're even credited with helping to influence the bands that eventually formed the Paisley Underground scene (think Bangles, Dream Syndicate and Plimsouls). After all these years of being way out of print, their original label decided it's as good a time as any to re-release this nugget of underground music history.

Unlike their early singles (provided on the reissued CD as bonus tracks), which more resembled their gritty and abrasive live set, Explosion is overproduced and cleaner. Nonetheless, one need look no further than the first three songs for a peek inside their brilliance. "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" (along with the scathing "I Don't Wanna Be In Love") shows just why bands like the Descendents were so influenced by The Last, with its pop-punk assault into chapter one of "How To Browbeat Women" in song form. These days it's even a staple in punk rock vet Mike Watt's set, as well as their own.

The textbook love-pop of "This Kind of Feeling" follows, complete with "Oh oh/It looks like I'm in love with you" bubblegum antics that make it irresistibly catchy. And, to showcase their punk energy, they follow with "Bombing of London," a nod to their affection for The Clash; while the equally energized "Slavedriver" is a dead-ringer for something local favorites The Okmoniks might conjure up in their garage.

And to make sure you know where they're coming from, Nolte and Co. offer up "Every Summer Day," an homage to Southern California circa 1963, or the time before the Beatles landed and the Beach Boys were king. (They came this close to getting Brian Wilson and Dean Torrance to sing back-ups on the song, if it weren't for conflicting schedules.)

So, there you have it: a lesson in a band that was all but forgotten in the annals of American music history, but whose influence is even more apparent today. In a time when "garage" bands like the White Stripes and Hives play stadiums, and pop-punk bands clutter the airwaves with stale biscuits of regurgitated crap, it's about time we found out who the originators and instigators of this music really were.

—Brian Mock