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Paradise City


When singer Ben Tegel talks about the Vacation, the hard-rock band he leads with Steve, his guitar-playing brother, he uses the word "punk" a lot. "I got into a lot of punk music in high school," he says. "Even the classic rock bands I like have that punk attitude." If anything, the loud-lovin' Los Angeles quartet is a throwback to the city's sleaze-rock scene of the mid- and late '80s, when leather pants, teased hair, and lots of "my, my, my serpentine" talk ruled the airwaves. Only these guys sport ripped jeans, natty 'do's, and songs about drinking their dinner.

On the Vacation's self-titled debut album, Tegel and his bandmates tear through 11 songs that sound like last call on Friday night. "We like to drink," he laughs. "I tend to romanticize that lifestyle."

The Vacation was originally released in 2004 as Band From World War Zero on the small British label Echo. Rick Rubin's American Recordings picked up the album, resequenced it, and remastered it for maximum grit. The result is a more focused CD that gets in and out in less than 40 minutes. "It's the most pure distillation of the rock-and-roll spirit," says Tegel.

Like most L.A. rockers, the Tegels weren't born there. They were raised in Granite City, a tiny town in southern Illinois that's teeming with steel mills. "I love the Midwest, but I always knew I was going to leave," says Tegel. "I always had a magnetic pull toward one of the coasts."

A blue-collar midwestern aesthetic courses through The Vacation — from the opening blasts of "White Noise" to the grimy "Cherry Cola." Yet songs like "Destitute Prostitutes" and "Hollywood Forever" are layered in flashy L.A. riffs and seedy imagery straight outta the Guns N' Roses songbook. "I always end up writing love songs to L.A.," says Tegel. "It's a microcosm of American culture, for better or worse."
Sat., May 13, 10:30 p.m.

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