Home Grown - Act Your Age (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Home Grown

Act Your Age (1998)

Outpost Recordings

When Green Day got big with 'Dookie' a lot, and I mean A LOT, of kids started punk bands. It was suddenly kind of OK to play that kind of music outside of the previously small segment of punk communities throughout the USA. At the time labels gobbled up already-established bands to replicate the magic with, at best, limited success. Even with punk's 1996 resurgence, I would argue that it was when Blink-182 released 'Dude Ranch' to much success on Cargo/MCA in '97 that this second wave of major label interest again swooped in and picked up a lot bands which were formed post-'Dookie.'

One of these was California's Home Grown, a quartet whose music, like Blink-182, mimicked more of a Descendents style of songwriting updated for the 90s- alternating between overtly silly and deadpan serious songs with little or not warning. However, Home Grown's silly side veered more towards witticism and quirkiness, as opposed to Blink-182's sophomoric brand of potty humor.

Home Grown's second album, 'Act Your Age,' was released in June, 1998 by Outpost Recordings, which was part of the MCA crop of sub-labels. With major label experience and, probably, funding behind them, Home Grown went ahead and recorded a slickly-produced album which still sounds great and has some excellent songs on it. The band, which had already demonstrated an innate skill for writing and composition on their debut album 'That's Business,' was able to continue plying those skills and put them into an environment that spruced up the sound of their recordings. There isn't much new or improved here, because the band was already pretty damn good. On this album, it just sounds better.

Home Grown's sound isn't entirely 'punk.' Pop-punk... maybe? It feels more that these songs, often featuring frolicking guitars and even ska at points, qualify as something else. Maybe their own genre? Serious songs like "Nowhere Slow" (lack of accomplishment), "Your Past," and "Reflections" (both about lost love) comes across as heartfelt and genuine. Silly songs like "Wow, She Dumb," (sick of stupid girls) and "Surfer Girl," (again love lost, but as a funny story) are fun to listen to.

The silly-seeming song "Envy Me" is a surprising examination of how young girls (and even women?) sometimes treat each other. A more informed person than myself may be able to pick it apart as a shallow attempt, but at the time I found it rare to see a male writing an ultimately serious song from the female viewpoint. However, "Last Nite Regrets," about drinking and hooking up with a friend, comes up short. The narrator blames himself for this act and, it seems, his "one night stand" partner seems to blame him, too. But in the context of the song the act was consensual and, even as friends, it takes two to tango. Frankly, it just doesn't work.

Speaking of potential mis-steps, "She's Anti" is written silly and performed in quite a catchy way, but the subject matter: a social outcast who then becomes a school shooter, doesn't seem so humorous through the lens school shootings over the past twenty years.

What is unarguably the most 'punk' song on the album, "Grow Up," is blisteringly fast and, at a time when bands were probably *encouraged* by their labels to write a teen angst song, this one shines through the whole lot as one of the best of the 90s in both intensity and honesty. Plus, the drumming... oh my the drumming.

Sometime after this album, the label folded. Home Grown would go through several lineup changes, including their phenomenal drummer Bob Herco, who had to leave the band to focus on recovery following treatment for a brain tumor (seriously, one of the best drummers I have ever heard). They would eventually release another LP and couple more singles/EPs via Drive-Thru Records before disbanding. Although they didn't strike it big, 'Act Your Age' is an awesome album both at the time (compared to its contemporaries) and even now twenty years on. Looking back and listening to it all the way through again, the biggest complaint I have is probably the length: at fifteen tracks long (not including the genuinely funny and self-deprecating hidden track "Too Many Stops") it feels a bit over-stuffed. A few of the tracks on the album could've likely been shuffled aside for a companion EP or single.