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Agent 51

Since forming in 1995, San Diego's Agent 51 has been getting people's attention with forceful nihilistic punk rock that has lots on its mind. While you might not immediately expect heavy-duty politics from a band with an ironic comic book/spy movie aesthetic (see their skinny ties and conspiracy-oriented liner notes), Agent 51 offers some serious piss-and-vinegar socio-cultural commentary on a variety of issues, from the global the personal. At the same time, they're not shy about delivering silly tongue-and-cheek pieces that reveal their goofball sense of humor. Musically, they resemble some of the seminal Berkeley bands from the Gilman's heyday, especially Operation Ivy and Rancid. Like those bands, Agent 51 shows a thorough familiarity with punk history, spiking their punch with tastes of out-of-control ska, streetwise Oi!, and even Irish punk.

After changing their name from Area 51 in 1997 (thanks to a glut of identically named bands), Agent 51 generated plenty of excitement with their first record, Red Alert, released in 1998 on Alphabet Records. In 2001, the punk provocateurs came back with a follow-up, the massive 20-song Just Keep Runnin', on Adeline.

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