Search Results for "Album Review"

EP Review: Dollar Signs – “I Need Some Space”

Dollar Signs, the Charlotte based folk-punk powerhouse, have released a short but very sweet EP of re-recorded tracks from their early days. I Need Some Space, released on January 18th, 2019, is only four tracks long, coming in at a tight less than 10 minutes, but is a little something anyone who hasn’t heard the band before should dive into.

Dollar Signs always bring this lively, humorous, and often painfully relatable energy and with I Need Some Space they just keep killing it. A mixture of pop-punk, the fun of ska, the melancholy of emo, all set to a depressive backdrop masked with a partying atmosphere. In a sonic sense Dollar Signs bring a pleasing sound, bringing new life to these old tracks. It’s hard not to bounce along to each and every track, even the slower more downbeat tracks have a decidedly Dollar Signs rhythm to them that makes them addictive.

It’s only four tracks, less than 10 minutes in all, but it’s a great way to dip a foot into Dollar Signs’ extended catalogue and check out some rad tunes from their earlier days. Whilst it’s only a new coat of paint to older tracks, it’s still good fun, and after the brilliance of their latest album This Will Haunt Me, going back to their earlier days to show they’ve always had a special something is a great feeling. The opening track, “Endless Bummer,” comes from an album of the same name released in 2012, which is perfectly within the era this EP takes place in.

The method of storytelling, literal representations mixed with harsh metaphor, and consistent references to drinking gives off a bit of a Wil Wagner/The Smith Street Band vibe. Though even with the connection, Dollar Signs have their own style, and manage to talk about relatively ridiculous events and use rather strange choices of words whilst still maintaining a very real and emotional vibe. “It’s not my party, but do you guys gotta do coke off the TV?” on “2011,” “That was the Summer, when I first got rocky mountain spotted fever,” on “Endless Bummer,” almost awkward lines with an almost awkward delivery which just add to the charm and appeal of the band.

With the leaps and bounds the band has taken over the year, and the growth the band’s music has undergone, it’s great to hear them up-scaling their old tracks. There are of course a few tracks I think would’ve fit perfectly on this little release and been an amazing experience to hear re-done from their past, such as “Come On Eileen, Seriously,” “Hikikomori,” or even “The Pizza Man Cometh,” but the four collected here are also perfect choices.

I Need Some Space is a delightful EP detailing the past of a delightful band. With last year marking the release of what could be Dollar Signs’ greatest album, revisiting some deeper cuts is a good refresher on their journey forward. You can listen to the EP below.



Album Review: Saves the Day – ‘9’

Last October, Saves the Day released their ninth studio album. Appropriately (or maybe lazily) titled 9, the album has been said to be an autobiographical representation of the band’s 20-something year career in music. And honestly, that sounds like a great idea on paper. Quite frankly however, maybe it should have stayed on paper, with the history of Saves the Day getting a book treatment instead.

If you take 9 at face value, it’s an enjoyable album. The music sounds good- the first half of the album is full of throwbacks to the band’s earliest days when they were primarily Lifetime wannabes. “Suzuki” is barely a minute long, and “It’s Such a Beautiful World” was written to be shouted by a crowd back at the band. Even the cheesefest that is the album’s opening track, “Saves the Day” is fun if you just want to hear Saves the Day play a song like it’s still the late 90’s. Chris Conley’s voice is still nasally, but his singing on this record is at a considerably lower register than the last few Saves the Day records.

The main fault with 9 is that it’s really only good when taken at face value. With a lyricist like Chris Conley at the helms, an autobiography telling the Saves the Day story should work. But in a cruel and ironic twist, the album is Conley at his most lyrically shallow. Gone are the images of being a jukebox, or served up as pig. Even the clunky metaphors of throwing out his heart (that surely became the inspiration for several tattoos) are missing. This album is all about what it’s like to be a member of Saves the Day. And while that has worked in the past (just listen to “Shoulder to the Wheel”), being in Saves the Day is not a universal feeling despite the sheer number of people who have played in this band. But what’s even worse is that the songs all romanticize nearly everything: “Side By Side” skips through the years recalling highlights of recording and playing to large crowds, “Rendezvous” paints a picture of a perfect overseas tour, and “It’s Such a Beautiful World” is about how perfectly fun touring with friends can be.

Positivity, especially in this day and age, is important to hold on to, but if we’re being honest it’s the darker aspects of Conley’s lyrics are what attract people to Saves the Day to begin with, and it’s probably why it feels like so much of 9 is a very middling album. But then you get to the closing track: the 21 and a half minute long “29.” Similar to Daybreak’s title track, “29” is a suite of songs stitched together, and it offers some of the strongest moments on the album, with the lyrics finally diving into the darker side of a touring lifestyle. From run-ins with black ice to strained relationships with loved ones back at home, “29” injects some much needed realism into the story being told on this album. It’s just unfortunate that it’s all in a single song instead of being broken up and scattered throughout the track list.

To reiterate: 9 is not a terrible album, and the songs can be fun if you don’t think about them too much. But as far as being an entry to the Saves the Day discography goes, it’s the least essential chapter in the band’s history to date.

2.5 / 5



Album Review: Anarchists “Anarchists – Single”

Blasting out of New York City, Anarchists have released their first self titled single, Anarchists. With a total run time of nine minutes this single is a delicious little snacky cake. Throughout the entirety of the nine minutes they bring super catchy hooks and every chorus seems designed for a large group sing-a-long.

“Real Shit” opens the single with a blaring buzzy guitar blast before settling into a poppy rockabilly sound. While “July” brings a syncopated sound that is very similar to the dirty ska sounds of early Rancid, including a keyboard interlude that commands your feet to move. The last song “I’m Not Surprised” starts off as an angry look at the state of the world today but is injected with a surprising level of humor, which takes an edge off the level of pessimism presented.

Anarchists feel like they are channeling the entirety of the Hellcat Records label. They have a little bit of everything that defines that label, a touch of rockabilly, a touch of ska, a vocal delivery that is equal parts punk sneer and pop sensibility and their attitude strikes at heartfelt and poignant but not without a sense of humor. If this snack is a hint, I have my fork and knife banging on the table excitedly awaiting the full meal.

5/5 Stars



EP Review: Call It A Day – “Mind The Gap”

You know you’re in for some good skate punk when the drums eagerly roll in to energetically pummel you around the head after a whole two seconds of a guitar intro. Call It A Day waste little time in letting you know that this is going to be technical and this is going to be fast-paced punk rock. Two minutes of the opening song on their debut EP Mind The Gap zip by before the outdo snaps you out of your sugar rush reverie.

It might be the multicultural nature of their country, or their history of world class, fearless cuisine, but French bands always seem to have that little bit extra in terms of genres to add to their punk rock ratatouille. Call It A Day are no different and this is typified by their ability to rip through skate punk verses before smoothly transitioning into some head banging riffs. ‘Empty Promises’ adds some harmonies adds some harmonies to make it a standout song and a promise of what is to come from these guys.

Mind The Gap closes with the song ‘Valium’, which possibly has the best chorus of the three songs. One slight flaw is a verse that does little to distinguish itself from countless other euro-skate punk offerings. If anything, that’s being picky, as it’s no easy task to craft vocals over a mile-a-minute skate punk verse. Once the song slows a little the vocals truly shine and some intricate guitar work and an instrumental break lead into an outro that showcases how good the vocals can be.

Like their culinary countrymen and women who put French cooking on the map, Call It A Day have the ingredients and talent at their disposal to create something truly memorable. With this EP they are serving tasty portions of skate punk. A little extra prep work in the songwriting kitchen and these guys will be a real force. I’m eagerly awaiting their next course to see if they have tweaked the receipt to turn a good band into a great one.

Stream the EP below.



Album Review: Drug Church – “Cheer”

Drug Church - Cheer

Drug Church‘s sound has been this constantly developing and evolving being, but they’ve never found their feet quite as strongly as they have in Cheer. Their prior album, Hit Your Head from 2015, played with some experimental elements and explored their take on punk, and leads so well into their sound on Cheer. Released on November 2nd, 2018 via Pure Noise, the album has this aura about it, listening in feels nostalgic in an odd way, like hearing a band you love finally find themselves and hit a sound you feel will make them explode.

Lyrically the album is quite dark, an approach on growing up and fitting in with a hopeless backdrop, focusing in on poverty and mental illness as foundation. Starting with the opening track ‘Grubby,’ someone unwilling to grow up and a comment on conformity meaning an easier ride, but a shorter one. This rolls into ‘Strong References,’ a track based on vocalist Patrick Kindlon’s nude modelling experience when he was younger. It doesn’t have quite the impact of a lot of the other songs, but it certainly paints an uncomfortable picture and leads into the quite direct conversation on the black dog of depression in ‘Avoidarama.’ The latter has an energetic and addictive sonic atmosphere, from the constant flowing beat to the scratch of the guitar.

Some of the imagery and language used is quite bleak, particularly within ‘Dollar Story,’ painting a vivid picture of poverty outlined with mental illness. “There’s an energy to poverty you can’t run from,” followed later by a raw and telling line “You can adjust to anything if you’re leaving.” The anger and determination in the song is complimented by the ending, rejecting the previous message desperately.

On top of the fantastic lyricism and vocal performance from Kindlon is a sonic triumph still firmly in the grit of the genre. Tracks like ‘Unlicensed Hall Monitor’ echo their way in and beg for the listener to move with it. There’s a distinct flow to their sound, a style amongst a grunge leaning punk atmosphere. As Kindlon screams out; “A grown man who can’t handle his life for shit, a scummy fraud who wants to be your boss, can’t handle his shit,” the music swells and explodes along with him. Then on Conflict Minded the band switches perfectly from chaotic and aggressive with Kindlon’s vocals to a softer gentle sound with the fantastic guest vocals from Carina Zachary of Husbandry.

The final track, Tillary,’ has that gentler beat to it, still bursting forth in peaks of emotion, but the band shows a mastery of range. The soft plucking rolls into their sound so well, combined with the subject matter of police and the poison of power, and the intensity Kindlon puts into it, ‘Tillary’ becomes an iconic part of Drug Church’s whole discography as we’re led out of the album.

Drug Church bring forth their previous aura, this strange nostalgic feeling of the trashier side of growing up, Kindlon has said it himself before. It’s raw, his hoarse voice, the whine of the guitars, the energy and emotion of the performance from all side. It’s growing up in the suburbs in a bad neighborhood, it’s finding yourself while there are no solid footholds for you. And most of all, it gets under your skin and truly stays there. Cheer is an amazing album, front to back, that explores this side of life like never before.

Stream the album below.



Album Review: Spoilers – “Roundabouts”

Spoilers have been around the UK scene for a couple of years now so this, their debut album, has been hotly anticipated by those in the know.  The band features ex and current members of Southport, 7 Day Conspiracy and More Than Normal and the release is a four-way collaboration by Boss Tuneage, Brassneck Records, Little Rocket Records and SBAM Records.  The guys play driving melodic punk rock that brings to mind bands like Leatherface, Snuff and Goober Patrol.  The album is generally on the poppier end of the spectrum and liberally sprinkled with Hammond organ (provided by Lee ‘the Mod’ from Snuff).  Tracks such as See You Ringside and Pushover switch gear and have more of a straight up punk leaning and it will be interesting to see if the band incorporate more of this sound moving forwards.  This is an extremely solid release which will certainly tick all the boxes for fans of their aforementioned musical forefathers.

Spoilers are supporting the legendary Guns’n’Wankers on their upcoming UK reunion shows so, if you’re lucky enough to be able to get to one of those, make sure you get there in good time to check them out.

4/5 Stars



Album review: Reel Big Fish “Life Sucks…Let’s Dance!”

 

Best known for ushering in the third wave of ska in the mid-90’s Reel Big Fish are back with their ninth full length studio album Life Sucks…Lets Dance!, their first since 2012’s aptly named Candy Coated Fury.

Reel Big Fish make their living taking serious lyrical content and covering it in a sugary-sweet wrapper and delivering it with upstroke guitars, bouncy brass work, and wonderful vocal harmonies. They have perfected the craft of making people dance to songs about depression, self-doubt, failed relationships, and the grind of everyday suckitude. Life Sucks…Lets Dance! continues this premise with fourteen ways to dance away life’s grind.

The album opens with the titular “Life Sucks…Let’s Dance” and it’s clear that this album is meant to be a distraction from reality. ‘They’re saying things are worse than they’ve ever been, looks like the bad guys are going to win, and nobody here is gettin’ out alive….maybe if we have some fun we won’t feel so bad’ Aaron sings over a happy sounding trumpet line. This dichotomy is also present in “You Can’t Have All of Me” where he laments about all the things in life that are vying for his time and how he does not have enough time for himself, presented alongside a sublime trombone solo.

There are several songs that have the classic Reel Big Fish vibe. There is the trumpet fanfare fueled and angry “Pissed Off”, the 80’s rock “Bleached Thang, Baby” that sounds like a song they forgot to put on Why Do They Rock So Hard?, and “Another Beer Song” which copies the themes from Turn the Radio Off’s “Beer” but with an opening chorus of ‘Whoas’ that sound lifted from the Misfits “American Psycho”.

Where Life Sucks…Let’s Dance! really seems to shine is in the second half. “Ska Show” and “The Good Old Days” are two covers from Forces of Evil which featured several members of the current Reel Big Fish lineup. These two put the ska in ska-punk and are highly danceable tunes. This is followed by “G.D. Beautiful Day” which may be my favorite track on the album, is a bright shiny happy middle finger to all ‘these assholes trying to ruin my life’. It’s an optimistic song that is almost out of place on a Reel Big Fish album. The album ends with “I’d Rather Get It Wrong” and the instrumental “Walter’s Highlife”. The first a toe tapping ska tune about being in love, even if it is not a perfect love. The latter being exactly the type of instrumental you would expect from someone wearing Hawaiian shirts all the time. It’s got infectiously sweet guitar work, bright beautiful horns, and a Caribbean samba vibe.

The one miss on this album is “Bob Marley’s Toe” which, when based on instrumentation alone, is an absolute banger of a reggae tune. But upon further review of lyrical content, it seems out of place. RBF have never shied away from joke songs but this one falls flat and the “I wish this song was longer/No you don’t” breaks the fourth wall a little too accurately.

Life Sucks…Let’s Dance! is not breaking new ground for Reel Big Fish, however it delivers one of their catchiest albums and some songs find them at the best they have ever been. It’s a very solid 4 out of 5 checkered pork pie hats.

4/5 Stars



Album Review: Face To Face – Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions)

In August 2018, Face to Face released this reworked retrospective (woah check out the alliteration there) which is somewhat speciously tagged as “Acoustic sessions”.  Sure, these versions may be unplugged and slowed down, but the first mournful twangs of steel guitar in opener All For Nothing (Laugh Now, Laugh Later, 2011) let us know this album is going to be more than Trevor Keith and an acoustic guitar.  We are treated to 10 tracks, spanning the bands impressive back catalogue, which have been re-imagined and given new life as Americana/country inflected jams.  Disconnected (Don’t Turn Away, 1992) starts with Keith solo acoustic before the rest of the band come in on the chorus with a really nice harmony and it’s a super chilled song.  Shame On Me (Reactionary, 2000) continues in the same vein and it’s great to hear some of the little fill-in riffs come to the forefront of the song where in the original they are less of a focus.  Keep Your Chin Up (Protection, 2016) starts with a jangly riff and settles into a rockabilly feel with the bass and percussion taking the lead during the verses.  Next are two songs from 1995’s Big Choice, Velocity and AOK.  The former starting with a melancholic Trevor Keith intro, building to a brighter almost euphoric chorus (“Never look down, never look down, just keep my focus straight ahead and try to walk this line”).  The latter has a touch of bluegrass going on in the instrumentation with more steel guitar and banjo-esque string picking –  it’s very cool.  Don’t Turn Away (Over It Ep, 1994) returns to the rockabilly vibe and next track, Blind (Face to Face, 1996), is more laid-back ala Shame On Me.  The album closes out with two relatively fast paced efforts for this release, Ordinary (Face to Face, 1996) and Bill Of Goods (How To Ruin Everything, 2002).

Face to Face are closing in on 30 years as a band, albeit with a few line-up changes and a few years of inactivity.  It’s heartening to see the attention and love that has been taken in creating this collection.  Interestingly, 8 out of 10 of these tunes are on their 2005 retrospective Shoot The Moon so they are obviously songs the band hold in high regard.  If you are an existing fan, this album will have you dusting off your old records (or whatever the digital equivalent is of that) and it is well worth checking out for old and new fans alike.

4.5/5 Stars



Album Review: Horror Section – Self Titled

I’d not come across St Louis’ Horror Section before seeing their name on the Dying Scene review list but I’m very glad I took the time to check them out.

This, their self-titled debut, was released back in December on Eccentric Pop Records and serves up 16 slices of horror themed pop punk – and damn fine it is too.  There is a strong, ominous Lillingtons vibe on tracks like They’re Inside, First Kill & Remains while there are lighter, poppier moments such as Are You There, Rooms and Echoes & Make Them Pay.  Elsewhere we get more straight up driving punk rock, examples being Murder & instrumental track Working Title.  The horror influence is clearly there through the whole album but, where previous Eps are dedicated entirely to specific horror movies (The Omen, Season of the Witch etc), you could easily listen to a portion of these songs oblivious to their macabre influence.

The album is consistently excellent from start to finish and so catchy that you’ll be singing along on your second listen.  If you’ve got a soft spot for Ramones-core meets early Fat Wreck skate/pop punk then these guys will be right up your street.

4.5/5 Stars



Album Review: Sally Draper – “How is That Fair?”


Sally Draper, punk rock from Northern New Jersey, are back with How Is That Fair?, a follow-up to 2017’s Does Too. This album finds this duo continuing to explore a variety of punk rock styles in a chaotic mixture, with a little help from some friends.

How is That Fair? opens with “The War on Memes” a track that is strongly reminiscent of early Against All Authority. Blisteringly wild punk with a upstroked ska breakdown and an anti-authoritarian sneer. “The president tweets while Florida drowns, The president tweets while Vegas bleeds” they “preach to the choir” over wild guitars. This aggressive chaotic punk with catchy hooks is also on display in the next song “Unconfident in Shorts”.

It’s in the third song we start to see other influences creep into this album. “No One Writes About Baltimore (except David Simon)” has an infectious sugary sweet guitar lick that is punctuated by a raspy vocal delivery. The dichotomy between the two has a distinct early Fake Problems feel but with the distortion cranked up. This comparison gets revisited later on the album with “Luxury Mattress”

From there Sally Draper brings in an Against Me! vibe with “Moral Compass” which seamlessly drops into “Warning Sign” and “The Time I chose to go to Prague”. The first is drum heavy with a cleaner guitar delivery that is more akin to the White Crosses era AM!. “Warning Sign” has a droning guitar sound over a marching drum beat with a deeply intrinsic vocal scope. Which gives way to “The Time I Chose to go to Prague” a slow jam which tones down the chaotic vocal presentation and gives us a more jangly rock tune.

The concern with this album is the inconsistency in the vocal delivery. It is perfectly suited for the wild chaos of “The War on Memes” and “Unconfident in Shorts”, it delivers an emotional wrench in “Warning Sign” but it seems a bit forced in “The Time I Chose to Go to Prague” and does not quite hit with enough emotional intensity for the album closer “I’ll See You in My Dreams”.

It took me a few spins of How is That Fair? to get a real sense of what Sally Draper is attempting to accomplish, an intersection of chaotic anger and introspective musings where it is impossible to tell if it’s the singer or the instruments that are on the verge of a breakdown. I feel like the band is on the right track in terms of creating their unique take on punk. There are just a few inconsistencies that keep this album from truly reaching its potential.

3.5/5 Stars



Album Review: Lee Corey Oswald – “Darkness, Together”

Lee Corey Oswald - Darkness TogetherLee Corey Oswald‘s latest album is a fantastic step forward for the Portland based punk/rock act. Darkness, Together forms this particular sound of small town America, desperation, emotional loss, growing up, and dreams of something bigger. It’s an album I didn’t give the time it deserves in 2018, but truly grew to love as I listened through.

The band has put together a great sound over time, with some iconic lyrical shaping through their past releases, and that continues on for Darkness, Together. Lee Corey Oswald originated from Scranton in Pennsylvania, building themselves in the vibrant punk scene alongside bands such as Title Fight and Tigers Jaw. However after moving to Portland, they took the lifestyle and indie scene from the area and weaved influence from it into their sound. There’s an emotional urgency at times, but also contemplation and poetic strings of thought, notably within the track “Neighborhoods.” Lee Ellis, the vocalist, ponders the idea of a regular life and expectations in a suburban neighborhood, building to a beautiful delivery of “As your kids grow they’ll help in the garden, go to school, just to learn it’s not what they belong in.”

Musically the band naturally shifts through faster punk sounds and this incredibly catchy rolling flow. The first track “Asbury Waters” has a heavier sound, with more emphasis placed on each tone, and a rather deliberate delivery. This transitioning into the fuzzy and bright ‘Neighborhoods’ shows the range of the band, keeping their own flavor across their styles. Thematically they do the same, melding the different ideas they’re playing with and seamlessly flowing from one to another. There’s the idea of growing up, escaping expectations and subverting cliche to live your own life. This features across “Asbury Waters,” into a different form through “Neighborhoods,” then is placed much more firmly through “You Want To Be Right or Happy.” The tracks discuss running from the past, denying the present, and the darkness of the future.

There’s so much to identify with in the current climate, from stories of alienation in the suburbs, growing up, love and loss from friends to the bands we all cherish. ‘Desperate,’ despite the repetition of ‘You’re in love, in love, in love‘ and ‘We’re in love, in love, in love,’ subverts a love song into the idea of his love for someone, who loves another, yet they still both feel a love which gives them a togetherness in the protagonist’s mind. “Free Stuff” perfectly encapsulates a satirical presentation of how we all do what we need to get by in the modern day, whilst “Curse Words” goes back to the other side of suburban living in moving back in with your mother and helping her out.

But where all these themes so brilliantly captured come together is in the final track, “Darkness, Together (11/20/85).” The loss of a friend puts everything into perspective, and contemplating how to cope with a world that keeps moving on past you. The closing lines to the song are all too relatable, ‘And all the bands that we would talk about, if only you were still around.’ The desperation for just one more conversation on something which draws so many people together. The name of the album truly matches what it discusses, the idea of darkness, depression, and all these negative things, and how we experience it together, even if apart.

Darkness, Together was released on October 12th, 2018 via A-F Records, and can be streamed via Bandcamp here.



Album review: No Real Hero – “The Forest”

Hailing from Montreal, No Real Hero have unleashed a new EP, a follow-up to their 2014 self titled album. The Forest will have you feeling nostalgic for the early days of Fat Wreck Chords. Their brand of punk infused metal delivers a message of rebellion and heartbreak. The easiest comparison to make is Propagandhi. They are both Canadian, they both liberally use epic guitar riffage to highlight their punk sneer, and both seem intent on kick-starting a revolution.

The Forest opens with a track that seems pulled from Tron, dark and ominous with an electric pulse. This shroud is shredded by a barrage of guitar licks and a bombastic rhythm as “Comfort and Sorrow” makes it clear that this band is not here to play nice. ‘What’s good to you don’t mean shit to me’ they snarl as they lament about how people ‘Seek comfort in other people’s sorrow’.

“Broken Waters” a song about mourning the death of a child perfectly mirrors rage and despair with changes in tempo. One minute anger and swelling guitars, the next a soliloquy of despair. It’s a heartbreaking look at the helplessness felt in the mortality of someone so new to the world.

The incendiary nature of this EP shines through on “This is Home”. ‘Just watch us kids come together/we rise our fists high and strong’ is the riotous call to arms for despondent kids unsure of the rage they feel or their place in life. A song that one can only imagine would be amazing live, with all the kids that this song mentions singing along with their fists raised in solidarity.

“The Forest for the trees” provides a lush and technical display of guitar chops. Then we reach the pinnacle of the album, the closer “Red and Black” a song that explores a purposeful overdose on the part of a young girl upon the realization that her boyfriend shared her nude pictures. It’s a dark exposè on current social trends that plague our society.

The Forest is a short but intense offering from a band that takes a familiar style and completely makes it their own. This may be the only time I say this, but if they added a little more of that electronic Tron-esque sound from the opener to the rest of the album, I would not complain.

4.5 / 5 Stars



Album review: Twenty2 “Nice Knowin’ Ya”

After a decade long hiatus, Montreal’s Twenty2 are back with a new EP Nice Knowin’ Ya. Picking up where they left off, 2006’s Defective, this album is full of emo-tinged pop punk delivered with a familiar angsty sneer and melodic rage.

Nice Knowin’ Ya blasts out of the gates with “Intro(vert)”, a sub-minute explosion of frenzied guitars and intense anger. “I don’t care if you don’t get it, it’s ok if we have to end it here and now, because I have no time and alone I’m just fine” Jon yells with a sense of defiance.

Like the inevitable sense of quiet dread sets in after an explosion, the emotional side of this album kicks in after the first song. Perhaps showcasing that “alone I’m just fine” is not entirely accurate. “Won’t Hate” has distinct change of energy, stepping down the rage and giving it a melancholic feel. “I’ll never be the same without you, I know I’m better off without you, I will turn around and leave you behind” is delivered in a way that is difficult to figure out if he is talking to someone else, or attempting to convince himself. This self doubt is layered over a driving rhythm and soaring vocal melodies.

“Radio Mind” continues the punchy instrumentation and soaring melodies found throughout this album, but also double-downs on the emotional response to “Intro(vert)”. “I haven’t been here long enough, I hate to look back but it’s tough to move on” opens the song “Can’t Hold on, Can’t Let Go” who’s title alone suggests that there is a distinct sense of regret involved in the situation this album is presenting.

There are a couple of stand out tracks featuring guests. The first one being Stephen Egerton from the Descendents on “I’d Rather Die”. This song puts the anger back on display and the guitar work has a more frenzied feel. When Jon’s vocals come back in after the guitar solo there is such anger and resentment, it’s a palpable chill-inducing moment. This song definitely explores the angrily-accepted side of the emotional spectrum on display in this album.

The other guest track features Al Nolan from Canadian punk band Almighty Trigger Happy. The last and titular track “Nice Knowin’ Ya” is the perfect example of a band creating highs and lows in the exploration of emotions. The guitars are aggressive and in your face, the drums explode and make you feel every hit, the bass line driving and complementary, all of which on fire with angst but then drop off so quickly in the breakdown it’s a free fall of energy that ends with a primordial scream. The call and answer vocals, as well as the harmonies are executed perfectly. “Fuck you and everything you want from me. Got no time for anything but my need, I gave you even my own sanity, what’s left is just for me.” screamed on the verge of a breakdown shows that “Alone I’m just fine” was definitely not true.

Nice Knowin’ Ya leaves a little to be desired, I wish there were more songs like the title track and “I’d Rather Die” as some of the other songs start to blur with similarity. However this album shines because of the honest lyrical look at the feelings we all experience after an emotional fallout. The rage-fueled things we say, in a sub-one minute song, versus the depth of the feelings we experience afterwards, in five songs across fourteen minutes.

3.5/5 Stars



Album Review: Loose End (pop punk) – “Overthinking Everything I Know”

With so many pop punk bands coming out of Australia at the moment, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. Loose End from Melbourne make their attempt to have an impact with their second EP ‘Overthinking Everything I Know’. The release, recorded by Chris Vernon from Belle Haven, is a follow up to their self-titled effort in 2017.

The EP opens with ‘Cracks in the Curtains’ with dropped-D crunchy riffs coming straight in followed by familiar (and welcome) chugging guitars under an upbeat verse melody. The chorus here is one of the strongest on offer from this release and almost becomes an ear-worm. The new single ‘Hiding in Someone Else‘ follows with shouting vocals that come in without warning followed by the melody. This method can work on a pop punk song but it needs to be more thought out (they would do well to listen to Senses Fail‘s song “Is It Gonna Be The Year?” from earlier in 2018).

Third track ‘Doesn’t Matter’ flows quite nicely to begin with but the chorus falls a bit flat, it feels like it is missing a big hook, in fact the best parts of the song are the ‘woahs’ after the second final choruses. ‘The Stress & The Envy’ picks things up somewhat with a bouncy riff and well thought out chorus. This is a song that could easily be found on a WSTR album (a band they unsurprisingly cite as an influence).

On ‘Identity’ Loose End push things in a slightly different direction with a somewhat heavier sound than the other tracks. Given they listen to Comeback Kid and Trapped Under Ice, it makes sense that they delve into this territory. I cannot help but feel like this song is lost in the middle, not quite working as a heavy song nor a pop punk one. Closer ‘Jordan Street‘ is the first single of the EP, and is a decent enough pop punk effort with cliched but genuine sounding lyrics, the transition from the verse to the chorus is quite impressive and shows what this band are capable of.

‘Overthinking Everything I Know’ is certainly a more interesting and enjoyable listen than their last effort. I could be wrong, but the press release simply states that they recorded the songs with Vernon, so as far as I’m aware they only engineered the release and did not produce it. I feel like the band could really do with a seasoned producer to come in and help define their sound and craft some stronger hooks. Given that this is only their second release, Loose End have time to keep pressing forward, and these skills may come with time. Their sound is still blending in too much with their pop punk peers from their home country as well as their counterparts from the US and UK. They have some way to go before they have crafted a sound as interesting as someone like Trophy Eyes (another influence they nod to).

Not so much ones to keep an eye on, more a band to keep checking up on every now and then to see how they have developed. They do, however, deserve a bonus point for not singing in a fake American accent like many other UK and Australian bands in their genre.

2.5/5 Stars



Album Review: Misgivings – “Hermitage”

Ah—to be young and punk in 2010. The Menzingers had just released Chamberlain Waits, The Flatliners brought us Cavalcade, and Make Do and Mend (remember those guys!?) were a promising newcomer with End Measured Mile. Suddenly, being influenced by Hot Water Music and Leatherface were in vogue and the result was a golden age of gravel-throated melodic punk groups. Since then, the novelty has worn off and melodic punk soldiers on in a decidedly less trendy manner—existing as simply as any other subgenre, with occasional sleeper hits and a total lack of mania surrounding them.

Misgivings from the UK remind me of that golden era. Hermitage is their new album, courtesy of Lockjack Records, and it almost reads as a tribute to the style. While I’m sure they didn’t intend to write a meta-analysis of early-aughties melodic punk, the album so earnestly delivers on its hallmarks, that at least for me, let’s me nod my head in nostalgia for a time that was eight years ago. So, you have crunching chords, noodly (yet tasteful) fretwork, melodically balanced aggression; all fronted with open-throated, plaintive vocals.

“Call it Off” opens the album with some buzzsaw chords and emo lead stylings. If there’s one style that I think might be having its current heyday, it’s emo, and as I see more and more of its tropes seep its way into proper punk, I wonder if we’re surrounded by albums that are being codified into classics as speak—future punk rock classics largely unlistened to by actual punk fans. Are we, as die-hard punk fans being left behind by our own genre because we are not keeping with the times? I don’t know, entirely, whether the genre is evolving while its getting-older sect is stagnating, but I do know this: melodic punk and emo have always been bedfellows, and they continue to merge in interesting ways, but vitally, only in one direction. Look at Mom Jeans, look at Graduating Life—these are bands on the emo forefront incorporating punk rock in interesting ways, they are big bands getting bigger. Misgivings is not  a hanger-on for playing melodic punk—emo influences or not—but it is a glimpse of the other side of the coin. Traditional punk rock, defiantly or not, is not the powerhouse it used to be. “Call it Off” is a good, anthemic song, but you have to wonder, in 2018, can a melodic punk band playing shout-along anthems truly transcend the genre ghetto?

I don’t think so, personally. But, that doesn’t mean Hermitage is a bad album. It might however mean, that melodic punk is now something of a boutique genre. A throwback in and of itself, dedicated to aging Fest-goers the same way record players and typewriters still move at thrift shops. With the state of the scene treatise out of the way, I’ll say that Misgivings are a competent band, and Hermitage does excel at what it aims to do, even if time has blunted its edge.

There is a lot of strong songwriting across the album. “The Artless Life” is a catchy barn-burner that feels almost Billy Bragg-ish in its rootsy, sarcastic call to arms. It engages in a couple of genre cliches (“everyone is singing out of tune”), but otherwise it features a strong chorus and a worthy arrangement. “The Last Word” is another album highlight. The song opens with a thumping bass line that lets the song breathe before jumping into its centerpiece lick, and in a live setting you could easily picture a crowd singing breathlessly along with, “I might be paranoid, but it’s not crazy!”

Hermitage is a solid album of singalong punk that hearkens back to when this subgenre seemingly ruled the scene. Critically, it both suffers and succeeds because of this: Misgivings is playing honest music that has been made canon years ago; but where punk has been, it also shares its DNA with where punk is going—leaving the album itself in a strange Twilight Zone. Ultimately though, this is punk rock: we’re used to not being relevant, and for those who came of age with gravel-throats and singalongs, Hermitage will feel like coming home.

3.5/5