Search Results for "Album Review"

Album Review: The Murderburgers – “What A Mess”

Hailing from Scotland, The Murderburgers are a catchy pop-punk band that writes songs about anything and everything, including alcoholism, depression, and other sad subjects – in happy-sounding songs.  It sounds confusing, but it works. What a Mess is an excellently put together album, with driving drums, guitar, and bass and high-end vocals (think Screeching Weasel – but with a slight Scottish brogue). The harmonies in each song really make them, though – especially since the band tends to shun the standard verse–chorus–verse style of songwriting.

Each song is a self-contained story about something, including ruining Christmas Eve. (Hey, things happen, right?) and singer Fraser Murderburger has a knack for telling these stories and opening his heart up without losing even the tiniest bit of punk credibility, since the songs are just so goddamned good.

This is their sixth full-length album, in addition to EPs and solo albums, and yet, the music still sounds fresh and new. What a Mess is definitely not a rehash of the band’s past, yet it maintains their musical sensibilities and is immediately recognizable as a Murderburgers release at the same time. They have some magical power to keep what works while still growing and maturing as a band.

The album opens with “Turning 30 Was An Eye-Opener” – which starts off as an acoustic-almost-acapella song before breaking into fast skate punk type music, and explores life at 30.  It’s a great way to open the album and prepare the listener for what’s to come.  Stand-out track, “The Art of Being a Sad Sack of Shit” is brutally honest and real, as is the aforementioned “I’m Sorry About Christmas Eve” (which is referenced later on, in “The Things That Help You Sleep At Night”, somewhat tying the whole album together, as that is the second to last song).

The album ends on a positive note, with the singalong, “The Thing That Helps Me Survive” – a song with a lot of whoah-ohs and the repeated lyrics, “I want to stay alive…”. And I agree – I want this band to stay alive and keep releasing music like this. It’s real and raw and worth a listen or on hundred.

Overall, whether you’re already a fan of the band or this is your introduction to the band, this is an all-around great album from a band that is definitely going places. This just might even be the release that breaks them big time, considering just how good each and every song is. Ideal for fans of Descendents, Direct Hit!, and Welter.

4/5 stars



Album Review: Buck-O-Nine “FunDayMental”

Buck-O-Nine has returned with their first album in over twelve years. FunDayMental finds the ska veterans doing what they do best, combining a wide variety of ska and punk elements into a catchy amalgam. A ska-malgam if will. (Nothing like a cheesy ska pun to get things going.)

The album opens with a bouncy punk ode to nights out with “Paint the Night Red” featuring just a small hint of the ska to come. It is definitely more punk than the rest of the album, but it is also a nice acknowledgement of the band’s roots. They return to this ska influenced punk with “Monday Morning” later in the album.

Coming from a band who came to prominence in the nineties ska scene it’s hard to believe there’s no horns until song two, as “Top of the World” is the first of several songs that showcase a two-tone soul, complete with bouncy bass lines and steady rocking brass sections. This up tempo rude sound can also be seen on “Don’t be Afraid” and “Tuff Rudeboy”, while the title track “FunDayMental” showcases a slower vibe. The best of this English influence is the closer “Dust it Off” which features a call and answer between slow driving brass and a bright guitar. It has an infectious groove that will keep your toes tapping.

This album features a couple of highlights, the first being “With You I Can” a love song that has a bright summer day feel to it. It is an optimistic slow stomp with a upbeat brass line. “Cold was my soul but my heart was made of gold, I rolled upon you and it changed my world” they deliver in this playful love song that makes you believe that “With you I can accomplish anything”. The second highlight is “YaYa” a rocksteady reggae jam written about grandkids. A more unique subject matter in a world that overtly tries to avoid the negative thoughts of aging, this song has a warm and happy feeling that almost makes me look forward to seeing my own grandkids.

FunDayMental rounds out with a couple of remakes of some Buck-O-Nine classics “Irish Drinkin’ Song” and “My Town”. The first song takes the original and makes it more of a group sing along as the verses feature layered vocals. This effect takes away the confessional nature of the original but most likely makes it more like the live versions where the crowd provides the supporting layers in the vocals. It is unclear if this remake was really needed, however the updated version of “My Town” is very well done. Opening with a not-so-subtle nod to rocksteady legends Toots and the Maytals, the song does not stray far from the original with a distinctly fun nineties style ska punk feel. However when viewed from the perspective of this album which feels a bit heavier with songs about love and growing old and was recorded by band members playing their parts in different states, it comes across as a wishful throwback to days where listening to music and hanging out with your friends was the most stressful part of the day. “As time ticks by I never stop to ask and never wonder why my soul is sound, I’m in my hometown”

FunDayMental is very close to being a top notch album but it feels like there is a lack of cohesion. The harmonies in the vocals and brass, the gang sing a longs, and in some cases the guitar work, all feel a bit patchwork at times. Ultimately it is a little distracting and the album quality suffers a little, however I am very excited to see these songs played live. Buck-O-Nine definitely know how to write some quality ska tunes, hopefully they can clean up the recording side on their next release.

3.5/5 Stars



Album Review: The Jasons – “Blood in the Streets”

The much-anticipated new album from The Jasons, Blood In The Streets is finally here and it does not disappoint. The hockey-masked boys bring more horror punk goodness that would absolutely be at home on a Ramones-core album. Catchy as always, the album kicks off with the titular track, “Blood in the Streets”, which is a happy little song about the streets flowing with rivers of blood – and I’d expect no less from this band.

The Jasons have definitely evolved and grown as a band, without losing any of what makes them… them. The sound is fuller and slightly more polished than previous offerings, which makes for a great album that really highlights the lead vocals, as well as the stand-out backing vocals.  It’s immediately apparent that this album is something special, and like the song says, it’s “Red Blooded American Punk Rock.”

As expected, there are Friday the Thirteenth themed songs. “It’s Still Crystal Lake To Me (No Matter What They Call It In Part 6)” particularly stands out (and damned right, it is still Crystal Lake!) “You Should Never Have Re-Opened That Camp” is one of the harder tracks on the album with gang vocals that stay with you as soon as you hear them – largely due to the unique timing of the chorus of the song.

Actually, sing-along choruses are part of what makes this album such an instant classic. I’ve been singing “Kay-Em 1” since I first heard it – it got into my head. This is a band where everyone can really sing, and it shows here.

There’s even a more hardcore-styled song mixed into the album – the short and sweet, “No Motivation”, which is an unexpected interlude nested in the middle of the album.

“Mark’s Legs Don’t Work Anymore” is just classic Jasons, as are “JJ Was a Headbanger” and “Dead Fuck”.  With lyrics like “his penis isn’t broken/he’s so well-spoken” – it tells the unfortunate story of Mark, as many of their songs tend to be full stories. They even take a detour and get into the politics of punk with “Scene Police (Static)”, which is an interesting departure from the usual themes of blood and horror movies – and an awesome punk rock anthem. I’d argue that “3Ds Got Ramones Jeans” – is also a bit of a punk anthem – even if it is just a homage to someone’s new pair of pants that improved their life and looks.

The album closes off with “I Jacked Off to Dee Dee Ramone” – a song that could just as easily be by the Queers, only it’s… better. The same can be said of “Chili is a Stoner”. (If that’s sacrilege, so be it. Complaints are being accepted by the guy with the machete down by the lake.)

If you already are a fan of The Jasons, this album will be a much-welcomed addition to your collection. And if you’ve never heard them, it’s a great introduction – and the 14 songs of pop-horror-punk perfection will leave you wanting more.  If anything, The Jasons are a band that consistently delivers the goods and hopefully will keep doing so for some time to come. The world needs more songs about Jason Voorhess and Camp Crystal Lake, after all.

5/5 stars



EP Review: Goodland – “Like All Else”

At first, I was hesitant to review this band because of their name. Goodland kind of sounds like a country band, no? (Sorry to say, that’s not my thing.) And you know what? That was a terrible way to approach this EP, as I was pleasantly surprised by this emo-punk band that instantly reminded me of Two Tongues – and is perfect for fans of Say Anything and Saves The Day. With vocals that sound so much like Chris Conley and emo lyrics about relationships, these are four songs that fill a gap in the current emo-punk styled released and are much needed.

The three-piece band from Wisconsin definitely has passion behind everything they do, though they are at their best when the music is faster and fuller, as on “Same Time, Same Place” versus the opening track, “Where You’ve Been.” The almost jangly emo-pop song has a super-catchy chorus and guitar hook that makes it the stand-out track on the EP.

The dual vocals work well, as do the lyrics, which clearly come from the heart. Goodland is a band with a future ahead of them and I am looking forward to hearing more from them, such as, perhaps, a full-length album.

You can listen to the name your price EP below.

4/5 stars



Album Review: Not On Tour – “Growing Pains”

Hailing from Tel Aviv, Israel, the punk band Not On Tour have released their latest offering, Growing Pains, on SBÄM Records. It has been a four year wait, but it was worth it. The seventeen-song album is a collection of female-fronted punk songs, not a single one of which clocks in at more than two minutes. And it works. That’s all this band needs to get their message across, and are a perfect choice for fans of bands such as Bad Cop/Bad Cop, The Distillers, Be Your Own Pet, and Tilt.

Sima’s vocals really stand out – her voice is more melodic than on previous offerings from the band, but it’s definitely not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing because this girl can sing – and she doesn’t lose any of the raw passion that is on display in their earlier albums while doing so.

Most of the songs have a California in the mid-90’s punk feel, though that doesn’t remotely mean they are a nostalgia-type act, as each song is fresh and new at the same time. It’s just hard to compare them to other bands that are playing now, and that’s a good thing. Sometimes being reminded of the past, with something that stands on its own two feet as well can be refreshing. Not On Tour is absolutely a breath of fresh air in the punk scene and one of the better bands that is regularly releasing records these days.

The album kicks off with the fast, hardcore skate punk sounding “Daddy”, which is 48 seconds of pure energy followed by the slightly longer “Fantasy World” (1:09). Each song on the album is instantly catchy and something you want to listen to over and over, because Not on Tour are masters of the art of leaving you wanting more.

Stand-out songs include the title track, “Growing Pains,” as well as the interestingly timed “N.O.T. Funny.” Though in all honesty, there’s not a bad song on the album, which is an achievement for the amount of songs on it.

You can check out and download the album below.

5/5 stars



Album Review: Cokie The Clown – “You’re Welcome”

I made a mistake.

It was school vacation week in my neck of the woods recently, and as such, I had the privilege of spending a lot of really awesome time with my eleven-year-old. I also knew I had a review of the upcoming Cokie The Clown album coming down the ‘pike, and assumed – rightfully – that listening to the album with my kid in the car or in the house with me would be a terrible idea, so I decided to take a solo trip to the grocery store one evening and to give You’re Welcome a preliminary listen in the process. As it turns out, there might be worse places than a grocery store amidst the suburban sprawl of the greater Boston area to fire up an album like You’re Welcome for the first time…but there aren’t many.

While Fat Mike hasn’t been shy about wearing his heart on his sleeve for the duration of his three-plus-decade career, You’re Welcome finds that concept amplified: his heart is not merely on his sleeve, but ripped out of his chest and torn to shreds on the floor for all of us to see. You’re Welcome kicks off with “Bathtub,” which finds our protagonist Cokie accompanied by only whatever substances are coursing through his clown veins as he tells the story of waking up in the middle of the night to find his significant other facedown in a bathtub after an overdose, and the resulting uncertainty and dread that came along with wondering if she’d taken her final breaths. Buckle up, my friends, because the ride only gets bumpier from there.

Over the course of the next half-hour or so, Cokie takes the listener on a ride that is at  times painfully honest, uncomfortably raw, disturbingly complicated, and is undoubtedly going to piss a lot of people off. There are songs like “Fair Leather Friends” and “Fuck You All” that take thinly-veiled shots at people in Mike’s — er, Cokie’s — personal life that he feels have cheated him, screwed him, abandoned him and otherwise taken advantage of him. “Pre-Arrainged Marriage” theoretically tackles the subject of love, but through the prism of his two previous high-profile failed marriages. Listeners who read the NOFX autobiography The Hepatitis Bathtub several years back might recognize the story that “Swing And A Miss” graphically details, involving the failed and successful suicide attempts of a previous roommate and the fallout that ensued. “Punk Rock Saved My Life” and “That Time I Killed My Mom” shed a little more light on the relationship – or, ultimately the lack thereof – with his parents that was documented on past NOFX tracks like “My Orphan Year” and “Happy Father’s Day.” There’s “The Queen Is Dead,” a heart-breaking ode to a deceased longtime friend that comes across as one of the most tender, genuine moments that Fat Mike has committed to tape. While the bulk of the subject matter is painful, it is oddly enough the themes of narcissism and unresolved anger and self-martyrdom that rear their heads in tracks like “Pre-Arrainged Marriage”and “Negative Reel” and to a lesser extent “Down With The Ship” that I found more cringe-worthy and uncomfortable than the themes of suicide and parenticide and overdosing and bondage that were more prevalent.

Sonically, You’re Welcome plays more like a sad carnival soundtrack than a traditional “punk rock” album. If you give it a listen looking forward to it being composed of two-and-a-half minute anthemic skate punk songs, A) you’ll be wildly disappointed and more importantly B) you should have known better. There’s no standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-repeat in the bunch, meaning You’re Welcome isn’t an uptempo, sing-along style album the way that the Home Street Home musical and soundtrack that Fat Mike and friends put together a few years ago was in spite of its own disturbing imagery. While the musicianship and production are stellar (containing contributions from Travis Barker and Dizzy Reed and production from the mighty Danny Lohner), the majority of the instrumentation is largely present as a means of providing a loosely-built latticework. Fat Mike’s Cokie the Clown “character” — and I’ll save the remainder of my armchair psychoanalysis for another place and time — is by all means the star of the show, and if that means that sometimes songs are going to meander and switch tones and seem a bit unfocused and chaotic and largely just be narratives rather than traditional “songs,” that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

I’m still struggling with what I ultimately think of You’re Welcome in anything resembling a larger sense, which I understand is not maybe the ideal thing to say in a review of an album. I really like the bulk of it, though I have a hard time listening to it for long stretches. While I have long-since tired of the veneration of the degenerate GG Allin or Darby Crash or Sid Vicious types as the bellwether of what it means to be “Punk,” I applaud the choice to pull in some stylistically and artistically different directions and to tackle uncomfortable, challenging topics by way of performance art. From that perspective, You’re Welcome is a resounding success. It’s not an album you’re going to keep on repeat (well…if it is, you may want to have the assistance of a professional therapist or twelve at the ready). It’s not going to launch a series of copycat albums that turn into their own genre. It will probably leave you deeply disturbed on your trip to the grocery store, as you balance images of a nineteen-year-old Fat Mike showing his recently-deceased friend’s parents the exact spot they cut his lifeless body down and a grown-up Fat Mike covering his soon-to-be-departed mother’s face with a pillow as you try to weigh your bagel flavor options. And that’s exactly the point.



EP Review: Knocked Loose – ‘Mistakes Like Fractures’

Knocked Loose, the Kentucky based hardcore outfit, come screaming out the gates once more with a new 3 track EP; Mistakes Like Fractures. Heavy, dark, and embodying all the best of beatdown hardcore, these 8 and a half minutes are well worth your time.

The title track, which opens this short 3 song package, is this dark powerhouse of a hardcore track. From the chorus screaming out “Mistakes like fractures,” to an ominous breakdown in “I followed the rabbit, I found my fucking ending,” the track is put together so well. Transitioning from this track into the next, ‘Slings and Arrows,’ their sound attacks from all sides. In the modern era of hardcore, it can seem difficult for a band to find a sound both unique and yet still very much rooted in the genre, but Knocked Loose emanate this angry, loud, and emotional presence that really does stand out.

Ending off this short piece is what I’d consider the shiniest of the 3 diamonds gathered here. ‘All My Friends’ is a fun track to listen to, but doesn’t let go of that darkness, and the breakdown could be one of the best I’ve heard in quite a while. Evoking thoughts of Code Orange with the alarm-like shrill guitar breaking in at times, this track especially is sign of great things to come for one of the premiere modern hardcore bands. Knocked Loose kick some teeth in with this EP, and I can’t wait to see what the next album has in store for us.

Mistakes Like Fractures was released on April 4th, via Pure Noise Records. You can check out the EP below.

5/5



Album Review: Dead Bars – “Regulars”

Ever since I heard that first self-titled EP, I’ve been rooting for Dead Bars. They write simple songs that can paint a world in four lines of lyrics; they have big melodies that translate into bigger singalongs. They tap into that communal, we’re-all-in-this-together punk spirit—and seeing them at Fest this last year, I saw for myself how the gospel had spread. And why not? Dead Bars have continued to grow in new and interesting ways while still honoring what they are at their core—a band of big dreamers. They’ve gone from an Off With Their Heads-adjacent, No Idea Records gritty pop-punk band to a loud, hopeful band of rock ‘n roll devotees. Dream Gig was the first step in a peaceful coup, but it’s on Regulars where the dream is realized.

What’s apparent immediately is just how good Regulars sounds. With Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Afghan Whigs) wearing the production hat, Dead Bars have never sounded better. This is a band that doesn’t pull from a specific sound as much as a specific spirit. Regulars is KISS, Tom Petty, The Clash, Motorhead, The Replacements, and Nirvana, even if they sound like a sort of minimalist Lawrence Arms. The important thing is this: the guitars are loud and distorted, the drums sound like thunder, and the words are true. Dead Bars is the Prometheus of rock ‘n roll, stealing pyrotechnics from the Gods to set the small stage ablaze.

This Ramones-y devotion to the power of music is on immediate display with album opener “Freaks.” Dead Bars are trading in hope and optimism—and it’s clear they hold an earnest belief in the power of music. On “Freaks”, this optimism rears its head as unity, as the chorus rages: “This one’s for the freaks, you’re all sick freaks!” It’s a rallying cry, as gritty as it is catchy, and I’d put a good wager that in a dark club, with a cold beer, it’ll be an anthem for all the like-minded weirdos who still see rock ‘n roll as kin to salvation.

It’s this direction that makes Regulars feel like Dead Bars have reached their own personal enlightenment, as if, release after release, they’ve shed their non-essential parts and now, with their sophomore album, have embraced the truest form of themselves. Which means, they’re songwriting is as great as ever. Minimalist, heart wrenching, with a sly sense of self-deprecating humor.

And with lyrics like, “I’m growin’ up, yeah, I’m growin’ up/ but I just threw up,” “Pink Drink” is about as simple and direct as you can be. Still, this song, with probably about a short verse full of unique lyrics, captures a lifetime. Even the title (which doubles as its chorus) is evocative. We all know what a pink drink is, we’ve seen them in bars, we’ve had friends make fun of us for ordering them. They represent taking your medicine with a spoonful of sugar, they’re a confectious means to an end, and in “Pink Drink” they’re also a sign of world-weariness, of getting older and not having the energy to maintain appearances. The burn of whiskey, the bite of vodka loses its luster—and you look around, and realize no one’s impressed anymore. That’s “Pink Drink.” The trials of growing up have always been at the heart of Dead Bars—but there’s something empowering and defiant in the way they capture that angst and then also stick their flag in it. On “Pink Drink, “No Tattoos,” and others—could’ves and should’ves are confronted head-on, and maybe a pink drink won’t save you, but maybe it will—if only for tonight.

The title track, “I’m a Regular,” is a clear highlight of the album, capturing Dead Bars at their most intimately anxious. Ushered in by ringing feedback, vocalist John Maiello snarls, “I’m a regular here, but nobody knows my name.” It actually highlights one of my favorite things about Dead Bars—the microcosm of their scope. We feel millions of little things a day, flights of fancy and minor frissons of panic, all instantly recognizable and largely left totally unspoken. “I’m a Regular” examines a funny, melancholy intrusive thought with rock ‘n roll gusto, bursting forth into a huge name-dropping chorus (“And it’s way Tom Petty, I’m livin’ like a refugee!”) We may not be living in a Cheers episode, but the internal dilemma (why the fuck not?) roars loud and clear. “I’m a Regular” is a snotty, riotous ode to living under the radar.

C.J. Frederick, original member and lead six-stringer of Dead Bars, is a strong presence on Regulars—where for the first time, Dead Bars truly feels like a ‘guitar band.’ This time around, the songs are distinctively riffy, with big muscular licks opening songs like “Time Takes Away”, “Rain,” and “I Need You.” The propensity for solos is also higher and welcome, bringing the music and lyrical direction into total synchronicity. For a group of guys who worship rock music, what’s more religious than a sick trilling solo? Here, they aren’t just talking the talk, they’re now walking it too, emulating the magic as if they’re the only ones who can keep it alive.

Dead Bars are underdogs, and when they aren’t, well, I’m not sure if they’ll be Dead Bars anymore. Regulars prove the band can put forth a product that is both polished and cohesive, and still be those same scrappy dudes who daydream of killer riffs and big singalongs. Somewhere in between the rock ‘n roll dream and the gutter realism of DIY punk is Dead Bars, and with Regulars, as always, it’s a pleasure to see where the two meet.

5/5



Album Review: LAGS – “Soon”

It’s great to hear a post-hardcore/punk blend out of Italy, especially when it’s as moreish as LAGS‘ latest Soon. The album, a followup to their previous full-length Pilot, hones in on a practiced and passionate sound with only a few sore spots along the way.

Kicking off the album, Knives and Wounds comes out of the gate hitting hard. A heavy and vivid track that gets things going extremely well. There are a decent few little sonic licks and vocal inflections on the album that stick in the mind, starting with the rolling ending for this first track as well as the cry out of “We are knives and wounds.”

The lyrics on the album have this melancholic flavor, with moments of great aggression, whilst the sonic side of things keeps up a rolling aggression at most times, but does dip and flow with the vocals. The post-hardcore side of the band seems to meld quite well with an almost old-school post-punk flavor they inject under the surface of some tracks, they’ve got this Fugazi-reminiscent air about their sound. There’s that anger prevalent in their sound, mixed with tinges of sadness. It’s not something all together new, but a very inviting take on the genres. A great example of this mix is the track “The Bait,” where the track has this desperate melancholy to it, but both guitar and cymbals burst in as Antonio screams out “It’s over now.”

There’s a bit of repetition on some tracks throughout the album, which is often used quite well, however some tracks feel as though they would have greatly benefited with being cut just a little shorter. Showdown, and Second Thoughts, in particular run a bit long with what’s provided. Not to say they’re bad tracks, they’re still solid outside of this. To contrast that are tracks like Echoes, which, true to its name, also repeats out a phrase “I’m kneeling, and it’s killing me off, everything in my days is just misread.” But with the atmosphere of the track and what surrounds these moments it comes across quite a lot more effectively.

Capping off the album is a bonus track titled Il Podista, an Italian jam with LAGS’ flair on it. It’s an interesting way to cap off the record, but it fits quite well and is a nice sign of the band’s roots and identity. Even with the dark focus of the album on a mixture of rebellion and loss, it’s a very enjoyable listen, and Il Podista at the end is a solid bonus to it.

“We started a war, then we made art,” a rather powerful and frankly quite beautiful idea presented on the track “What It Takes,” is sign of the rather detailed thought the band took in writing this album. It’s not always hits, some sections come across a little awkward or generic, but they’ve got some amazing diamonds scattered consistently throughout Soon. As I mentioned at the start of the review, it’s quite a moreish album, listening to one track leads you to the next, it’s an enjoyable listen and a sign of great things to come for the band. There’s still places to improve, and Soon isn’t without it’s faults, but it’s definitely worth your time.

Give a listen to Soon below!



Album Review: The Bouncing Souls “Crucial Moments”

My first The Bouncing Souls album was The Bad, The Worse and the Out of Print, I remember vividly not knowing any of their music but loving the chaotic artwork on the cover. Prior to this album I had a few punk albums, but I was totally obsessed with ska. Reel Big Fish, The BossTones, Goldfinger, Buck-o-nine and Mustard Plug dominated my CD player. One day at the behest of some of my more punk friends I decided to check the Souls out, and it changed my musical taste forever.

It probably seems weird that an album full of rarities, b-sides, and alternate versions should be a person’s first intro to a band like the Souls. However it is in these choices of cover songs and the laughs and outtakes, where it became obvious that there is a very distinct feeling in a Bouncing Souls album. On every album of theirs that I discovered afterwards there is a strong sense of brotherhood and camaraderie, a nostalgia for simpler times with your friends, and a sense of fun. For every “Gone” there is a “Bullying the Jukebox” for every “Turned my Back on You” there is “Wish Me Well, Go to Hell”. They mine the emotional depths but never leave without displaying at least a little of the optimism that can only be found among your friends. You could say that haphazardly finding The Good, The Bad, and the Out of Print was my Bouncing Souls crucial moment. Which leads me to the actual Crucial Moments EP, a six song celebration of the bands thirtieth anniversary.

This album represents every aspect of The Bouncing Souls that people have come to know and love. It opens with the titular track and delivers a prototypical punk rock set on simmer style that is familiar to every album. It is a nostalgia fueled rocker which displays the bands ability to discuss heavier topics without abandoning a sense of hope. “These chords stick with me, this ink etched in me, these crucial moments played on repeat” Greg sings as he reminds us that these moments will play on repeat forever.

This nostalgia driven rock and roll shows up again on “Here’s to Us” a song that brings to light the darker times that have plagued the band and how they know that those times will not last because they have each other. “The world can have the past, we know they won’t last, because we got each other” shows that the power of camaraderie and their ability to find a light in the dark is still an ideal that they are steadfast to present in their music. There are a lot of little things that have always made the band unique, Bryan’s bass lines being one of my personal favorites and this track may be some of his finest work.

While these two songs make it seem like they have moved away from their classic punk rock sound, this is where “1989” and “4th Avenue Sunrise” prove they can still shred with the best of them. The first being the about the community they discovered through having “no talent just a dream” and how they “Stick together, that’s the deal, Gotta make something, make it true, All together with all of you.” It is a punk rock ode to all their friends and all the good times they had even in bad situations. While “4th Avenue Sunrise” is a bass heavy blitzkrieg, clocking in under two minutes, that emphasizes a dark romanticism.

The highlight of the album is “Favorite Everything” an upbeat love song. The Bouncing Souls are at their finest with this type of pop-laden bouncy rock, (See also “True Believers”, “Hopeless Romantic”, “Private Radio”, “Manthem” or “Kate is Great”), which in these case is a song about comparing music to the love of their life. There is so many great analogies, from “You’re the greatest compilation” to “You’re the song that bring a tear, embrace the love, embrace the fear”, that specifically speak to the comparison of one’s love of music to the love one has for another. Simultaneously a happy love song and an emotional expression of words that can be difficult to articulate.

Crucial Moments ends with “Home” the saddest song the Bouncing Souls have written this side of Anchors Aweigh. It is a significant change in the tempo set forth in the earlier parts of the album but cranks up the emotional weight. “Home” proves to be an endless place where fear and sadness will never reach, a place away from a world that just does not care. Proving once again that even in the saddest depths of a Bouncing Souls song there is always a sense of hope and a small glimmer of optimism.

In a celebration of their thirtieth year as a band, The Bouncing Souls have proven that they are timeless. To paraphrase their own song, Crucial Moments has songs of punk and songs of joy, a love song about girls and boys, songs of metal and some English stuff, and some hardcore to make us feel tough. This album is a six song reflection on the band’s legacy, one of lighting our darkest times while reminding us to enjoy the good times with the people around us.

5/5 Stars



Album Review: Bars Of Gold – “Shelters”

Evolving from the seminal Bear vs Shark and Wildcatting, Bars Of Gold have been quietly building up a following since their debut “Of Gold” was released in 2010, and they follow up their excellent 2013 LP “Wheels” with “Shelters”; the first album they’ve issued exclusively through Equal Vision (despite reissuing their back catalogue through the label recently).

Here, the band perfect the light work they’ve made in the past of throwing genres in a blender, crafting an urgent, accomplished sound across a nine track album that rarely hands over a track that clocks in at less than four minutes. Despite taking heavy influence from jazz and post rock, “Shelter” is a punk album at heart, with versatile, accomplished instrumentation cycloning around the fits and starts of sonic anxiety from Marc Paffi’s elastic vocal.

Bars Of Gold are yet to etch out the same cult status of the members’ former outfits, but here they proves they deserve all of the same plaudits. From the frantics of “Madonna” and “$20”, to the delicacies of “Montana” and “G”, the band have created a varied, complex collection of meandering twists and sharp turns, surpassing and building on everything they’ve put together to date.

“Shelter” is an album that’s been well worth waiting six years for. It’s a pleasure to listen to and a marvel to explore at greater depth, and there’s should be little doubt that it’ll introduce Bars Of Gold and their back catalogue to a sea of new listeners. For those that enjoy their music off-the-wall, raw and passionate; this is for you.

4/5 Stars



Album Review: The Old Firm Casuals – “Holger Danske”

The second “Get Out Of Our Way” kicks in, you get a feeling that The Old Firm Casuals aren’t fucking about on “Holger Dankse”. There’s no holding back from bassist Casey Watson as he leads the beginning of the album with a menacing snarl, delivering a statement of intent and a spit in the face to those that would write the band off as a mere side gig.

Once the middle finger to the world is over, The Old Firm Casuals enter into more familiar territory with Lars Frederiksen’s trademark wail on “Motherland”, an ambitious, anthemic street punk track firmly rooted in the big chorus approach he’s become known for over the years.

From here, “Pendulum” begs you to throw your weight around in a pit, and the anti-fascist tones of the record reach their first climax here before “De Ensomme Ulve” segues into the title track. “Holger Danske” tells the tale of the album’s eponymous Dane, in what feels like the original album opener enduring on the tracklisting despite more visceral content entering the fray as the writing went on – for all its intent and swagger.

Next up, “Casual Rock-N-Roll”, creates an effortless marriage of AC/DC and Lars’ “…Wolves” era that throws up visions of Mashall cabs and mohawks, letting the band cut loose and have fun before “Traitor” brings The Old Firm Casuals right back to the line of punk and hardcore that they’ve walked so well in the past.

The album’s such a patchwork of genres at this point that it’s almost disorientating, but that’s meant entirely in a complimentary way: it’s a “best bit” of sorts from each genre that the band touch on, living as both a throwback and a breath of fresh air, so much so that the uplifting “The Golden Fall Pt. 1” giving way to Casey Watson’s growl on Sick Of It All-esque throwdown “Thunderbolt” doesn’t even feel jarring.

“Overdose On Sin” kicks in with a solid bass solo and bulldozes through a snotty, two minute hardcore before the woahs return for “Nation On Fire” (which could easily have been a lead track on the record) and the record yields with a five minute epic in “Zombies”.

“Holger Danske” is a landmark record for The Old Firm Casuals. It’s an album by a group of experienced and confident musicians making music on their own terms, with little regard to what other people expect them to sound like. There’s no hammering the songs into a fixed genre, no restrictions on the ideas, and it’s a thrilling listen because of it – especially if you’re a fan of the collective work of its members.

The Old Firm Casuals have delivered a well balanced full length that has depth, quality, passion and piles of energy in “Holger Danske”, and it’s absolutely one of the best punk records of 2019 so far.

4/5 Stars



Album Review: Be Like Max – “Save Us All”

Las Vegas ska-punks Be Like Max are back with their fourth album Save Us All. Immediately it strikes as a throwback to the Suicide Machines brand of hardcore punk with massively catchy and danceable ska breakdowns. Being Produced by David McWane, of Big D fame, probably has a lot to do with the tight evolution of the ska influence.

This album is chock full of vitriolic hardcore punk with an undercurrent of brass driven ska. Sometimes the syncopated guitars are used to provide a bouncy backdrop, other times the brass is in the breakdown and given room to expand the sound of the song. The opener “Time Flies When You’re Having Work” gives a prime example of both. While “Elitist Punks” and “The Boss is Stealing” are examples of how to use a horn section to give blisteringly fast punk a chance to breathe.

“At least I’m not a Toucher “ holds nothing back in a song that extols the singers faults while simultaneously providing a vicious take down of real life villains like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. “I’m not a Role model, but at least I’m not like Cosby. What a piece of f**cking shit”. The chorus delivers over a fantastic change of pace that hammers home the dichotomy of the self-deprecation versus the criticism of people who use their position of power in heinous ways.

Then there’s “F**k the News” a warning to pay attention to the divisive nature of the news cycles, as Fox and CNN are both the same in their goal of making you distrust the other side. This song is then broken up by a ska-interlude that feels more like a punk-goes-swing invasion that would be at home on a Cherry Poppin’ Daddies album. Immediately following that comes “Give it Up” with what feels like an extension of “F**k the News” but with a different ska twist. These two songs seamlessly create a two act play on the theme of distrusting what you are force-fed.

Not all the songs in the album have that in your face punk attitude as “King of the House” and a cover of Mephiskapheles’ “Doomsday” showcase the bands ability to create a skanking beat. However even these songs hold tight to the theme of self-reflection and the idea that the world has gone crazy. In a rare spot of levity, the album ends with “Home Away from Home” which gives us a little bit of the fun good time bouncy ska that most people think of when someone mentions the word ska.

With Save Us All, Be Like Max have crafted a ska album that defines the ska genre in 2019. This album delivers a mix of hardcore punk and energetic ska that is equally self aware and socially conscious. It is an aggressive, in your face attempt to make you dance.

5/5 Stars



Album Review: Burn Burn Burn – “Chosen Family”

Seattle’s Burn Burn Burn has always stayed firmly on my radar. As a young Against Me! fan, specifically the type to pride himself on liking Crime! more than White Crosses, I couldn’t help but take note of a band named after a sloppy, intense anarcho-anthem. Which, in retrospect, is funny—as Burn Burn Burn has nothing to connect themselves to that folky vein of anarcho-punk outside of their namesake. Still—they pull from melodic punk as much as skate punk and the result is fast, catchy, and unafraid of treading into vulnerable territory. With vocalist/lyricist Drew Smith at the helm, Burn Burn Burn feels as much like a diary as it does a party. Chosen Family is another night of headbanging and honest talk, and it comes with the band’s best songwriting to date.

The album opens with “Top Shelf,” a fast-paced rager with the emotional and melodic hook inhabiting the refrain, “I wish you had believed in me!” It’s a simple, direct song that sets the stage for the rest of the album, as well as a solid one-two (then: three-four) punch of some of Burn Burn Burn’s highlights. The next in this sequence is “Catharsis Now,” a catchy banger that features infectious backing vocals and some heart-wrenching lyrics. More so than any of their previous albums, Chosen Family truly feels cohesive in this respect. It’s a real album made with a vision in mind—and on it, Burn Burn Burn seem to have discovered themselves as well, carving out their own respectable niche in the broad, and sometimes monotonous, world of melodic punk.

“Gold Chains and Party Shirts” is one of my favorite tracks on Chosen Family. The title reflects the sense of humor inherent in Burn Burn Burn’s approach to punk rock, and the song itself straddles the line between big singalongs, chugging guitars, hardcore screams, and bendy solos—to put it simply, it captures Burn as they’ve never captured themselves before. “Sharks” continues the winning stretch with a Rancid-ish song that can’t help but pull you back to the joy you experienced hearing your first punk album, back when summer’s meant freedom and the future was a distant dream.

A good album isn’t anything more than good songs put in the right order and Chosen Family is a testament to that. It’s not a flashy album of production tricks or uniqueness for uniqueness’ sake—but it is a showcase in songwriting, and across the board, it excels. There are faults, of course (there’s always faults), and they show most in Smith’s lead vocal performance. The notes aren’t always hit, and the tone suffers from excessive straining. For the most part though, it does its job, while introducing another aspect of Burn Burn Burn’s story: that the songs they write are not disposable. They are personal, foundational to their identity—and they mean enough to be sung, vocal cracks or not.

Chosen Family is without a doubt Burn Burn Burn’s greatest work to date. It sounds like them, while simultaneously codifying what them means. Songs like “20th and Hendo” and “Gold Chains and Party Shirts” may very well come to represent the band’s live shows, fists in the air with voices raised and hoarse. Chosen Family is a raucous punk rock party built on an honest love for all the came before it, as well as the worn-on-the-sleeve emotionality that keeps it connecting to new listeners. It’s a worthy party, and I’m happy to be invited.  

 



Album Review: Gamblers – “Straight No Chaser”

With their debut EP “Straight No Chaser”, Northwich’s Gamblers have set their stall out as a band that makes energetic, fun and catchy garage punk. EP opener “Casket Face” wastes no time channelling The Bronx and Cancer Bats, delivering a refreshing kick in the face for those impatient for something to jump around to, and the band rarely lets up across the six tracks. “Time Less Wasted” arrives with dashes of Fucked Up and The Hives as the mid-record highlight, but there’s no dull moments on a record that’s accomplished far beyond the band’s modest years. “Straight No Chaser” is a great starting point for a band with plenty of promise, and if Gamblers manage to translate this impressive first effort into a full length, they’re going to be very exciting in the forthcoming years.

Give “Straight No Chaser” a listen below.