“Growing up isn’t something we can make happen when we want it to / But since we’re all growing up together, I guess I’ll grow up with you,” The Linda Lindas sing warmly on the title track of their debut album. In those two lines, the teen/tween LA punk band sum up the entire spirit of the record – a stomping, supportive encapsulation of the difficulties that come with adolescence, particularly in the pandemic era.
The last couple of years might have been a struggle for all of us, but some good things have come out of it. The Linda Lindas’ accelerated trajectory from fledgling act on their local DIY scene to international ones to watch is one of them and it’s all thanks to a viral video of them playing the riot grrrl rage of ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ at the LA Public Library in March 2021. They’ve already earned the respect of major punk heroes like Bikini Kill, Jawbreaker, Alice Bag, Best Coast and more, and proved there are more visceral anthems where their breakthrough track came from.
‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ closes out ‘Growing Up’, released on legendary label Epitaph, but there’s much more to discover from the youthful future icons before you get to it. ‘Fine’, written by 13-year-old bassist Eloise Wong, is the closest to the viral smash sonically speaking, sharing an anger that’s delivered in throaty yells as the band refutes society’s general consensus that the problematic messaging behind a popular film (which one remains a mystery) isn’t actually OK at all. “You hear us shouting but you don’t feel a word,” Wong shouts, later railing against the world: “You think it’s fine / You tell us it’s fine / It’s not fine.”
Like the process of growing up, the album hurtles through different emotions, packing in the full spectrum and intensity of life. There’s loneliness and desolation – Wong’s ‘Why’ bears a distant goth riff as she sighs “I look up and see the sun / I didn’t want it anyway / So I just drown out everything / Cos I cannot feel this way.” At other points, things get silly and carefree, like on 17-year-old guitarist Bela Salazar’s ‘Nino’, a lively, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it short blast about one of her cats.
Throughout there’s a lot of wisdom that we’d all do well to pay attention to. Sisters Lucia (15, guitar) and Mila de la Garza (11, drums) suggest appreciating what we already have rather than wishing for something else on the polished rock of ‘Magic’. Lines like “Maybe reality is better?” might be easy to scoff at, particularly in recent times, but it’s a reminder to be grateful for the way life pans out. “If I could go back in time / And just change that one thing,” they sing, “Maybe now would be different / But part of me would always be missing.”
Although it nods to some bleak parts of life, ‘Growing Up’ is largely a celebration. It celebrates the band’s multicultural heritage (they are half-Asian and half-Latinx), with Salazar contributing the refreshing ‘Cuantas Vecas’ as a nod to the Latin culture that makes up part of her identity. The title translates to ‘How Many Times’, while musically it shifts from the rest of the album’s punk ferocity to a Bossa Nova rhythm and indie current. “I’m different, not like everyone else / And not the whole world will understand me,” the guitarist sings in her ode to outcasts, her lyrics feeling less like angsty missives and more like salutes to individualism.
The album, too, celebrates community and being there for each other – something that’s become increasingly important in the last two years. Unity and encouragement flow through the songs, each feeling like a gentle reminder that The Linda Lindas will always have your back. It’s an energy that the world could do with more of – whether you’re the same age as the band or long done with growing pains.