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 Dying Scene Album Review: Forever Unclean – “Best”

Let’s give some love to the Danish punk scene. For years, the scene has become more and more noticeable and we have a lot of bands to thank for that. In September ‘19, when I was going through an insomnia-filled three days, I decided to go on a deep dive and that’s when I discovered […]

Let’s give some love to the Danish punk scene. For years, the scene has become more and more noticeable and we have a lot of bands to thank for that. In September ‘19, when I was going through an insomnia-filled three days, I decided to go on a deep dive and that’s when I discovered this band, and that might have been the second best thing to happen to me in that year. But let’s get on with this review. Back in January of 2022, a Danish skate-indie-punk trio called Forever Unclean released their first full-length LP via Nasty Cut Records (EU), Disconnect Disconnect Records (UK), and Hidden Home Records (US), consisting of 11 tracks. If you’re already familiar with Forever Unclean, they are pretty known for their short and one-worded title tracks, which we were introduced to on their EP’s Float, Woof, and Shreds. And that, much to my joy, is still the case with Best.

With Best, I took a different approach than starting from the top with “Dream.” When I first heard the record I decided to put it on “Shuffle” like some daredevil. The first song I heard, was “Kold” sung in the band’s native language Danish, and it became a favorite from the first guitar riff before the vocals come in. While it could fool one and sound uplifting and energetic, the lyrics do put another spin on the song. “Jeg er ligeglad nu”, translated to English “I don’t care right now”.  I’ll admit, speaking Danish myself, I do think it’s nice to see the band dabble in Danish, knowing that it might only be appreciated by their Danish fans. But they took a chance and it definitely paid off.

Next up is Mandy, a cute love note to someone special. “I really need a break from reality with you, with you”, this song is unbelievably catchy from the first verse, and then picks up its pace around the 30-second mark, once again showing off how the three-piece work so well together, from the supporting vocals laying a good background to Lasse’s raw, impressive vocals. This could become a fan favorite in no time. I’ll even go as far as saying, this song should be pushed a lot more; send it to someone you love next Valentine’s Day or Anniversary.

“Smile” is the penultimate song on Best, and opens with Leo’s carefree and rapid drumming. I find this song might be where he shines through, yet the way Lasse and Troels complement the drumming, with their talents on the guitar and bass, gives me at best, ‘90s grunge vibes towards the end, probably why it deserves a mention. While I love punk, getting that hint of grunge from anyone has me hooked when I pick it up.

While I could give a track-by-track review of the record, I believe you need to check it out yourself and not get too influenced by a review. I’ll say this: the record packs punch after punch and you’ll only be glad you heard it. Even from listening to their previous material for three years, it’s very clear how these guys have grown into the band and with each other, the raw emotions transferred in the lyrics, while the instruments play some more uplifting music go with them. Throughout the record, you will are met with short songs, but they pack a lot and there’s no dropping the ball on this record. The trio does know how to properly mash genres, borrowing from the early ‘90s rock, and fast-paced pop-punk, and showing how not all indie music has to be quiet and can take a punch to it. The emotional display that we are met with on the album really benefits the band lyrical-wise, as a few bands before them haven’t been shy of showing a different emotional range on their records. Forever Unclean does it differently, with shorter and more packed songs with lyrics that make you reflect since I could ask them if they were doing a lot of self-reflecting while writing.

From the first listening, I knew this record was going to be on my top ten AoTY List, and I’m glad to say it still is even with all the releases that came this year.

If you want to catch them, they are supporting ALLDEEPENDS and Sewer Cats on selected dates, starting already Friday, November 18th in Copenhagen!

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1916

Hailing from upstate NY, Celtic rockers 1916 are an explosive concoction of the modern Irish Punk movement with an original mix of psychobilly which gives 1916 a sound that stands apart from other bands of the genre.

Starting as an acoustic duo in 2006, singer Billy Herring and original drummer Steve LaDue played the traditional Irish ballads of the Dubliners and Wolfe Tones in the local pubs in and around their home-town of Rochester, NY.  They decided to call themselves 1916 to get people interested in Irish history.  In 2010 they took the music to a new level with the addition of electric guitars, traditional instruments, and a full drum set.  Within a few months of trying their new sound, 1916 were opening for the likes of the Dropkick Murphys, 21 Pilots, and New Politics, among other national acts.

On St. Patrick’s Day of 2012, 1916 released their first studio album, A Drop of the Pure, to rave reviews.  That same year, 1916 became the first band from Rochester, NY to get their own Pandora station with the addition of their music to the Pandora genome project.  With their music now reaching a global audience, the boys would soon gain fans all over the world.

The following year, 1916 released their sophomore album, Stand Up & Fight.  This new album, featuring a collection of covers and originals, had a more polished sound than the raw punk feel of  A Drop of the Pure.  This new full length album also featured more traditional Irish instruments to give the new LP a fun and full sound.

As the band continued to evolve, they kept touring and playing as many shows as possible.  With bigger audiences came a larger fan base for 1916 to interact with.  The band has always enjoyed hanging out with the crowd both pre- and post- shows.

In November of 2014, the guys went back into the studio to begin recording their third album, Last Call for Heroes.  Released in December of 2015, Last Call for Heroes was met with great enthusiasm from critics.  Named one of the “best punk albums of 2016,” both home and abroad, the new album appeared to have given the band the momentum they needed to move forward.

Mandolin player Jon Kane joined the band in early 2016, just before the boys hit the road to join Flogging Molly on their Salty Dog Cruise.  After a whirlwind spring of touring through the Bahamas and Europe, Jon was just what the band needed as he brought his energetic and fun stage persona into the fold.

The sound had certainly become streamlined and unique, but it wasn’t until 2017 that upright bassist Ryan Hurley would join 1916 to give the band the final integral piece that gives the music its psychobilly flavor.  Ryan quickly found a new home in 1916 and the band now finds itself on the edge of yet another amazing year of recording and touring.

In 2019, the band welcomed the thundering drums of Tony Presutti to take over behind the kit. Soon after that, 1916 further expanded their sound by the addition of accordion player Sam Sarratori to the crew!

Chat Pile

5 Awesome Albums You Need To Listen To Before Finalizing Your 2022 AoTY Lists

Chat Pile

As we near the end of 2022, music critics, publications, and fans alike are busy putting together their year-end lists. Did your favorite band put out a new project that you love? Did you discover a new artist altogether? Whatever tops your list will surely fill you with a sense of nostalgia for the music year that was. Sometimes, however, some truly excellent projects need to be revisited. Before The Dying Scene contributors put out any year-end list, some projects we did not cover throughout the year deserve some love! Without further ado, here are five punk/punk-adjacent albums released in 2022 that you may have missed.

The Chats: Get Fucked

Ironically, the first artist covered in this collection is one many readers have likely already checked out. That’s okay, though, because the only criteria we’re going off of is whether Dying Scene covered their 2022 release. And we didn’t.

The Chats are a garage punk-y band from Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. The band has made a name for themselves in their short career with a viral hit in their pocket; their 2017 single “Smoko.” The song and its accompanying music video have been listened to and viewed millions of times, making it a track with mainstream success that few new punk bands have experienced now in recent times. They’ve built on this acclaim and continued their string of releasing solid material with their 2022 release, Get Fucked.

Get Fucked continues in the style the Chats have made their trademark early in their career. The hallmarks of this style include sneering, bratty vocals, straightforward garage guitar riffs, and simple yet catchy songwriting that harkens back to early British punk bands while still not sounding dated. Clocking in at under 30 minutes, this is no-nonsense pub rock/garage punk that makes for a fun listen. If you haven’t already checked out Get Fucked, start with the single 6L GTR.

Chat Pile: God’s Country

While the Chats’ Get Fucked oozes fun and charisma, God’s Country by Chat Pile (not to be confused with The Chats) switches gears into abrasive and disgusting cacophony (This is a compliment of the highest order).

Chat Pile, hailing from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is a self-described noise rock outfit that some music media lumps into the sludge metal category. Whatever you want to call it, Chat Pile burst onto the scene in 2022 with the release of their debut album God’s Country. While the band formed in 2019 and released EPs after that, their 2022 debut served as a real coming-out party. God’s Country was met with critical acclaim, currently at 87% approval on Metacritic.

Don’t trust the critics; take this record on a spin yourself. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but for anyone that enjoys noisy, unvarnished, and brutal rock music, this record may be for you.

While the instrumentation provides much of the mood, and truthfully this record would still be enjoyable if you only treated the vocals as sonic texture, a dive into the songwriting serves as horror itself. The vocalist of Chat Pile, under the pseudonym Raygun Busch, described the themes in God’s Country as ranging from homelessness to a 1974 mass murder of six restaurant employees in Oklahoma City. If you missed God’s Country and are intrigued, check out the opening track for the record “Slaughterhouse.”

Fresh: Raise Hell

In July of 2022, Brighton emo/indie/pop punk rockers Fresh released their new record, Raise Hell. Before the release of Raise Hell, Fresh was perhaps best known for their 2021 single “Girl Clout,” an anthemic indie rock track about disingenuous performative feminism in the punk and overall music community. The star in this track is the simultaneously emotionally vulnerable and biting songwriting and vocal performance of Kathryn Woods.

Raise Hell is a natural follow-up to the path set forth on that 2021 single as Fresh comes through with an 11-track suite of melodic emo/pop punk/indie rock tracks. (Full disclosure, this is not my favorite style of music, but Raise Hell has proven to be something that continues to draw attention and re-listens.)

Each track comes with at least a few moments of clever songwriting, a fun riff, or something in the overall composition that seems to transport you to the emotional place the song is trying to evoke. This means that even if one song is not one’s favorite on the album, something still makes it stand out. Check out their single “Why Do I,” and if you’re into it, consider giving the record a listen!

Petrol Girls: Baby

Throughout punk rock history, much of the excellent material is born out of anger, anxiety, or isolation from society. It’s unfortunate that the genre often reaps its most memorable moments from the unjust actions of society, but that is something that comes with the territory. Baby, the new full-length record by UK/Austria-based hardcore band Petrol Girls, is now a vital part of this tradition.

Hardcore/Post-Hardcore/Riot Grrrl act Petrol Girls have always been incredibly politically active, specifically on feminist issues. Still, the developments around women’s reproductive rights over the last couple of years seemed to light an even greater fire for the band. Baby is the band’s rawest, most vitriol-filled, and angriest project. While the disdain is palpable, the songwriting is always well-crafted, with much thought put into it. On many songs, albums, or pieces of media that deal with political or social issues, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being ham-fisted. This trap never reveals itself on Baby as the issues at hand are of grave importance and are treated as such.

The music matches the message, too, as, in a similar way to the aforementioned God’s Country, this record is not necessarily a pleasant listen. The math-rock and post-hardcore influences that have always been present in their work show up in even greater abundance. The texture is like sandpaper on many songs, providing a perfect backdrop to the vocal performance and lyrics, which take center stage. A short-form review like this can’t do justice to this project’s depth and gravity. If you missed out on Baby, do yourself a favor, acquaint yourself with the single “Preachers,” and listen to the whole album.

Soul Glo: Diaspora Problems

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the term “rap-rock” used to be cause for apprehension. There are, of course, some stand-out successes, but for the most part, you knew you were in for something that was likely tacky, aesthetic over substance, and not a great listening experience. This trend has recently changed with several artists, such as Show Me the Body, Slowthai, and City Morgue, producing a much more palatable and harmonious fusion of the genres. Another such artist at the forefront of this effort is Soul Glo, who released an excellent project, Diaspora Problems, in 2022.

Soul Glo is a trio from Philadelphia that has quickly risen to be one of the punk landscape’s most exciting and unique voices. They are simultaneously a hardcore band and a rap outfit. They deal with serious themes like racism and consumerism but also love to inject absurdist humor.

Soul Glo has built a lot of momentum since their formation in 2014, and Diaspora Problems feels like the culmination and crowning achievement of this moment in their career. As their first release on Epitaph Records, this is likely the most prominent platform the band has ever had. The record is abrasive, hardcore, and at times features production reminiscent of a classic east-coast hip hop (think Public Enemy’s classic It Takes a Nation of Millions…) style but updated and outfitted to the unmistakably punk leanings of the group.

Much like Baby from Petrol Girls, the songwriting themes on this record are too nuanced and in-depth to cover in this kind of short format, but do yourself a favor and check out Diaspora Problems, along with their single “Driponomics (Featuring Mother Maryrose).”

Wrapping Up 2022

We hope you discovered some new bands or excellent projects released in 2022 through this collection. Obviously, there are far more than just these five albums that may have slipped through the cracks for some people. Let us know your favorite albums from 2022 that may have yet to get the press or hype they deserve!

While this was just a quick summary of some of these projects, it is impossible in this format to give them the in-depth analysis they deserve, so please consider checking out the ones that intrigue you.

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Abe Partridge

Partridge received national and international recognition in early 2018 when he released his first official full-length release, Cotton Fields and Blood For Days, to rave reviews and substantial airplay on Americana radio. It landed Partridge a lengthy feature in The Bitter Southerner and the album was chosen to be one of their “Top 30 albums of 2018.”

When Partridge is not writing or touring, he is creating his folk art paintings, which now hang in art galleries around the Southeast and in the private collections of Tyler Childers, Mike Wolfe (American Pickers), and Rick Hirsch (Wet Willie).

Album Review: Cigar – “The Visitor”

Remember that time your dad went to the grocery store to get milk and never came back? That’s the exact heartbreak us skate punk fans have felt since Cigar released Speed is Relative 23 years ago and disappeared into the ether shortly thereafter. Good news! Dad’s back, and he got the milk! Or, in this […]

Remember that time your dad went to the grocery store to get milk and never came back? That’s the exact heartbreak us skate punk fans have felt since Cigar released Speed is Relative 23 years ago and disappeared into the ether shortly thereafter. Good news! Dad’s back, and he got the milk! Or, in this case, Cigar’s back and they’ve got an awesome new record.

The wait was long, but it was worth it. With their Fat Wreck Chords debut The Visitor, Cigar picks up right where they left off on Speed is Relative. This record delivers more of the crazy fast, ultra melodic punk that earned the band’s 1999 debut its deserved status as a cult classic among skate punk diehards. Actually, I think this record might even be faster than the first one! Yes, two decades have passed, but these guys have defeated Father Time. They still have the same youthful energy that originally drew me to their music; I’m confident it will win many new listeners over as well.

Cigar wastes no time getting out of the gate, as “These Chances” kicks off The Visitor at a breakneck pace, and immediately rolls into the equally speedy “Legacy of the 7 Piles”. Right off the bat, drummer Jon Sortland is firing off like a fucking machine gun on drums; seriously, this guy is a lunatic. New bassist Jonathan Hischke shows off his chops with riffs that will make your fingers bleed just listening to them. Frontman Rami Krayem turns in a great performance once again, with some creative guitar parts and equally impressive vocal range.

I loved the album’s lead single “We Used To” when I first heard it a few months ago, and that’s still the case. This song has “instant classic” written all over it. But when trying to pick a favorite track, it’s a complete toss up for me. There are no stinkers to be found here. “Gone Wrong”, “Classic You”, “Forget About Me”, and basically everything else on this record is on par with the fan favorites of Speed is Relative.

The Visitor‘s closing track “Knocked Down” is introduced with an a cappella intro, and for a brief moment in time, you get the impression that Cigar might actually slow down. But this glimpse into a seemingly softer side of the band is short-lived. They quickly hit the gas, opening up the circle pit one more time with a rapid fire skate punk anthem to rival “Mr. Hurtado”.If you like punk rock fast enough to set a land speed record, The Visitor is the record for you. With any luck, Cigar won’t keep us waiting another 23 years for the next one!

Buy The Visitor
Physical / Digital

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DS Album Review: Hayley & The Crushers – “Modern Adult Kicks”

It’s summer in 2002 and it’s about to be golden hour while you lay on your bed staring at the ceiling. You are dwelling on some fight you had with your mom. Every friend you have is out having fun or on vacation- unreachable by phone and you’re swearing off each and every one of […]

It’s summer in 2002 and it’s about to be golden hour while you lay on your bed staring at the ceiling. You are dwelling on some fight you had with your mom. Every friend you have is out having fun or on vacation- unreachable by phone and you’re swearing off each and every one of them. Your last ditch effort of hope points to a Walkman and a bike while you ride the familiar streets of some suburban Midwestern town with headphones filled with relief.

Flash forward to 2022 after a pandemic and a half has washed over you and you’re still sitting with the same feeling of being grated by life, but you have time to step into the Crushverse and kick it with Hayley & the Crushers. Modern Adult Kicks is an album that houses singles released from 2021 and some fresh new tunes from the band and most have adult themes paired with power pop fun that are sure to ride with you from your morning coffee to a late-night vinyl dance sesh. By the way, this album comes in a limited edition blue raspberry for those vinyl aficionados.

Modern Adult Kicks starts off strong with the single “Taboo” which offers this hefty guitar riff as Hayley’s dark and devious voice coaxes you melodiously to the stranger side of power pop. You’re gonna follow her and you’re gonna love where it’s headed. In the 2nd verse, the first four lines are delivered such a mood of heavy desperation and need. You hear it in the annunciation of T’s and the beaks in guitar. “Taboo” connects this memory of that feeling while looking out of the window in The Lockdown of 2020. You wanted to go out, but you know it was taboo.

The album goes on to carry The Crushers’ more polished sound for your tender punk heart. The band has described this album as an example of “how to grow up without growing jaded.” Nothing could be more rightly said about it. The death of the ego really prevails in the sound of Hayley’s sharp guitar playing, lyrics, and titles of songs in this album. Songs like “She Drives”, “California Sober”, and “Overexposed” bring out this perfect mixture of sunny pop-tempo painting this scene of punks enjoying life knowing full well everything around them is burning (this is fine). Which is just the kind of macabre sense of fun that most of us who survived the past few years may need right now. Don’t worry for all you tough guys out there the album still houses the familiar punk sound echoing the frustration and need to thrash around that resides in most of us.

In her own words on Sound Digest, Hayley has written a little year in review which gives insight into what this album may mean to her. It is in this touching honesty as she writes about being a musician during the pandemic, getting her shit together, and driving to really refine her career as a musician. All the touring she wanted to do for the band’s last album which was released in 2020 never got to come to fruition. All that hard work and self-reflection came to be in March of 2021 when the band was signed by Josie Cotton to her record label Kitten Robot Records. The band got to work with Paul Roessler remotely as well as in person for Modern Adult Kicks and the album was mastered by Mass Giorgini (Squirtgun). The band is gearing up for a tour that begins September 23rs, 2022 and it is one that you may not want to miss out on.

Modern Adult Kicks is available for purchase

Tour Dates & Locations

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DS Album Review: Pinoles – Just Wanna

Ramonescore: a campy sub-genre of a sub-genre, paying tribute to a legendary band that helped birth that very sub-genre. Bands who participate in the act of Ramones worship typically play light-hearted, upbeat songs about drinking, girls, and drinking because of girls. Some people appreciate Ramonescore for what it is. Others write it off as vacuous, […]

Ramonescore: a campy sub-genre of a sub-genre, paying tribute to a legendary band that helped birth that very sub-genre. Bands who participate in the act of Ramones worship typically play light-hearted, upbeat songs about drinking, girls, and drinking because of girls. Some people appreciate Ramonescore for what it is. Others write it off as vacuous, repetitive pop-punk, played exclusively by guys with Screeching Weasel tattoos. And while I understand those criticisms, you have to be a real stick in the mud to outright hate this shit. It’s fun!

Sure, if you listen to enough of the stuff, you’ll certainly hear a lot of similar (if not exactly the same) chord progressions. And reading through tracklists, you might get overwhelmed by the amount of things these bands do and don’t wanna do. I view all of these idiosyncrasies as a set of strict parameters that must be adhered to when writing songs. It’s easy to write a shitty Ramonescore style pop-punk song (believe me, I’ve heard my fair share), but quite difficult to write good ones when playing by these “rules”.

With their debut album Just Wanna, the Pinoles pass the test. This record delivers everything an old school pop-punk fan could ask for. Nine tracks in 20 minutes, all simple, catchy, and easy to sing along to even after you’ve thrown back a few. Some of my favorite songs are “Padded Walls”, “You Make Me Sick”, “I Don’t Love You Anymore”, “Santa Cruz”, and the title track. These guys don’t fuck around. Just like the Ramones, they get you in and out quick. I appreciate the efficiency.

Like most Ramonescore bands, these Californians wear their influences proudly on the sleeves of their leather jackets. Their frontman uses a Mosrite guitar to deliver a barrage of downstroked bar chords, à la Johnny Ramone. The little “whoa oh-oh-oh” bit on the album’s title track is lifted straight from Screeching Weasel’s “High School Psychopath”. And there are numerous references to classic songs and records sprinkled throughout the lyrics across this entire album. There is no shame in their game, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

Regardless of whether you enjoy this brand of pop-punk, I highly recommend checking out Just Wanna. It’s a very well produced record with fun, no-nonsense songwriting. Listen to the album below, and head over to the Pinoles’ Bandcamp page to download it.

Official Review Score:
4/5 Converse All Stars

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DS Album Review: The Raging Nathans – “Still Spitting Blood”

Within the last few years, The Raging Nathans has been pushing out work one right after another. They released the full-length album Waste My Heart along with two splits and a single in 2021, a compilation album earlier this year, and now for the cherry on top a full-length album Still Spitting Blood. Do the […]

Within the last few years, The Raging Nathans has been pushing out work one right after another. They released the full-length album Waste My Heart along with two splits and a single in 2021, a compilation album earlier this year, and now for the cherry on top a full-length album Still Spitting Blood. Do the Nathans do anything other than touring and making music these days? Probably not; I bet they are currently working on pumping out other singles and splits to soothe our aching pop-punk withdrawals. This type of consistency has not been missed once and they don’t look like they’re going to stop.

This album has banger after banger from start to finish—this is unadulterated quintessential pop-punk. Carrying over from their last album Waste My Heart, where they have tuned into their more melodic/pop side which has sprinkled into the album Still Spitting Blood with just the right touch. Without question, The Raging Nathan’s haven’t forgotten the punk in this album at all and it pulls you right back into a sweaty night shouting lyrics into a mic pointed at the crowd. Anthems like “Nothing I Can Do,” “Still Spitting Blood,” and “Head in a Hole” fill this album with raging joy.

Diving into “Fucked Olympia” with its soft John Hughes suburban snow banked lyrics coupling to the layers of guitar riffs that propel one another into sweet, sweet harmony. It is an unforgettable mix of what complex talent resides in Raging Nathans. This is kind of sound is what you find influences other bands in the scene to make music. True kings of experimenting with their sound without being so overly offensive that lose the ears of their fans. 

You cannot argue with the sentiments in lyrics found in “The Lime Pit” or “The Answer (Smoke ‘Em)” like a hand from a friend just slapping you on your back with support to continue on in your best fight with the impending doom around you. This album is packed with the nostalgia you needed with that new sound you didn’t know you were looking for from Raging Nathans.

This album’s upbeat tempo paired with its combative guitaring and fantastic vocals– lead and backing, really tributes that this is some of the best work to come from The Raging Nathans. That is not a knock on their past material; they are that band that keeps getting better with every album. It is something in the guitar & lyrics that match the aggressive spirit of Propagandhi with a light twist and that essential pop sound from The Ramones just blended together so perfectly, just making every song of this album consumable from start to finish.  

Two songs are out now and one is yet to be released later this week on the band’s Bandcamp page. “Still Spitting Blood” and “Nothing I can do” are some shining examples of what is yet to be heard on this album. Pre-order the digital album or wait for its release in December of this year.

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DS Album Review: The Real McKenzies – “Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea”

The Real McKenzies are celebrating thirty years as a band with a brand new album, Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea (Fat Wreck Chords). The album itself was preceded by the release of the single “Leave Her Johnny”, a traditional 19th-century sea shanty that has been performed by many folk acts over the […]

The Real McKenzies are celebrating thirty years as a band with a brand new album, Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea (Fat Wreck Chords). The album itself was preceded by the release of the single “Leave Her Johnny”, a traditional 19th-century sea shanty that has been performed by many folk acts over the years, and a fitting example of what the album has in store.

Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea is an album of 12 traditional shanties and folk tunes; the title really gives it away in that some are songs of the Scottish Highlands, and others are songs of sea fairing and the sailor’s life.

Time-honoured Scottish drums and bagpipes open the album, with distorted guitars soon joining in, setting out the classic Real McKenzies sound of Gaelic punk rock with a strong traditional folk feel. Foot stomping, fist pumping, hey! shouting, “Scotland the Brave” is one of the unofficial national anthems of Scotland and is as good an opener as you’d expect. I know if I were Paul McKenzie I would open every live show like this!

“A Red, Red Rose”, a poem by the famed Robert Burns, is one of several songs on this album penned by the legendary lyricist and voice of the true Scotsman; “Ye Jacobites By Name” and the stomping “My Heart is in the Highlands” are also penned by his hand. The expected Real McKenzies sound continues on through “The Green Hills of Tyrol” and the lead single “Leave Her Johnny” and “My Heart’s in the Highlands”. 

These songs are legendary for a reason and were written to be performed. I can well imagine a live show, unexpectedly finding myself in the pit, singing my heart out for Scotland in much the same way I sing for Ireland with the Dropkick Murphys. It is important that these folk songs remain as folk songs; that is, songs for the people, to be performed by and for the people, interpreted as needed for the time and audience. While nationalism and pride in your home are often negative traits, these songs remind us that we can be proud without it being at the expense of others.

At this point, the album takes a step down for me. We’re halfway through, I’m fired up, I’m ready to rock and next we have “Sloop John B” performed with acoustic guitar. It’s perfectly good, but I don’t see what it offers above or beyond every other version (Beach Boys excepted). There’s nothing wrong with it, and perhaps those with more polished taste will appreciate the darker feel than the Californian Pop version, but I keep waiting for the electric guitars to kick in with a big fast chorus in the style of so many 90s punk covers. Maybe it would sit better, grouped with other slower songs?

“Drunken Sailor”, picks up where it should be going for me: fast, mean, the way a shanty should be delivered, with the pounding drums and distorted guitars, and shouted lyrics and the cold sea wind rattling the windows, fogged with the breath of a crowd of drunk sailors.

“The Bonnie Ship The Diamond” takes a more traditional folky sound, which is to be expected for the band, but isn’t really to my taste. The Real McKenzies have always felt more like a folk band that listen to punk rather than a punk band that listen to folk, and in that is the uniqueness of their sound. I fear I lean more toward the punk than the folk, so perhaps it is lost on me.

“Dead Mans Chest” caught me out, opening with the riff of “American Jesus” by Bad Religion, complete with pick slide into the first verse. It’s an interesting take on both songs, but the familiarity of the Bad Religion classic takes away from the familiar “yo hoho and a bottle of rum” lyrics for me. I honestly wondered if they had chucked in a Bad Religion cover, and although it is a classic in this scene, it’s not what most would consider a traditional anthem!

“Swansea Town” is sung by Brenna Red from the Last Gang, and it takes the song in a similar direction to “The Bonnie Ship The Diamond”, with winsome melodies and a feeling of sadness that carries the words through the song.

Closing track “Blow the Man Down” is another traditional shanty sounds like it was a lot of fun to record, but I’m not sure where its place on this album really is. Much as with “Sloop John B”, it is a faithful performance, but it doesn’t feel like the Real McKenzies have really made it their own in any way, and in part that sums up this album. In places it is a Real McKenzies album that just happens to be traditional songs rather than originals, but in part it is also the Real McKenzies playing some traditional songs in a traditional way. I am almost certain these songs would be incredible live, and since they are on tour in Europe from January 2023, I shall make the effort to get out and see them and confirm my suspicions! 

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DS Album Review: The Travoltas & Huntingtons combine forces on new Split LP

Striped Music has been on an absolute roll this year. The Italian pop-punk label is responsible for two of my Top 10 Albums of 2022: The Manges‘ Book of Hate for Good People and Screeching Weasel‘s The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel. Discerning pop-punk listeners know that when Striped is putting out a new record, […]

Striped Music has been on an absolute roll this year. The Italian pop-punk label is responsible for two of my Top 10 Albums of 2022: The MangesBook of Hate for Good People and Screeching Weasel‘s The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel. Discerning pop-punk listeners know that when Striped is putting out a new record, it’s a safe bet that it’s gonna be pretty fuckin’ good.

This split LP from two veteran bands in the Travoltas and the Huntingtons is no exception to that rule. Both sides of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Universal International Problem kick off with a brand new, original song from each band. For the Travoltas, it’s “She’s Gonna Break My Heart in Two”: a sugary power-pop song that stays true to their signature blend of Beach Boys infused pop-punk. The Huntingtons contribute a new track called “I Don’t Wanna Be Wrong” that probably wouldn’t be out of place on my favorite Ramones record Too Tough to Die.

Following these snippets of new music is a steady stream of cover songs. Each band covers two tracks by the other. The Travoltas offer their take on “Hooray for You” off 1999’s Get Lost and “The Last Time You Left” from 2001’s Songs in the Key of You. They do a great job putting their own spin on these; subbing out the guitar leads on the latter song with keyboards was an excellent choice. The Huntingtons, on the other hand, focus on further Ramones-ifying their Travoltas covers. “You Got What I Need” (from 2001’s Teenbeat) is almost unrecognizable, having been stripped down and sped up, while “Anywhere You Want To” (originally on 2002’s Endless Summer) is slightly closer to its source material with a guitar solo faithfully recreating the surfy keyboard interlude of the original track.

Each side of this split LP is rounded out by a cover of a song from the 50’s. The Travoltas provide a souped-up rendition of Johnny and the Hurricanes’ rock ‘n’ roll instrumental “Red River Rock”. They don’t take too many creative liberties with the song, but it’s an enjoyable bookend nonetheless. The Huntingtons cover the Everly Brothers’ mega-hit “All I Have to Do is Dream”. Aside from adding a little flair with some new guitar parts, this is also a pretty by-the-numbers cover, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

If you’re a fan of either of these bands, or old school pop-punk in general, you’ll likely enjoy this split (which, fun fact, is named after a Joey Ramone quote regarding his disdain for guitarists). Rock ‘N’ Roll Universal International Problem is due out on December 2nd. You can pre-order the LP here (US) and here (EU). There’s even a CD version that you can grab here!

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