Search Results for "Album Review"

Album Review: A Crash Republic – “Homewreckers: Sweet Apathy”

Boston’s A Crash Republic have been around in one form or another since 2008, their middle school days. A couple of the guys studied music at fancy pants universities then they reconvened, found themselves a drummer and self-record, produced and released Homewrecker: Sweet Apathy. The EP is the beginning of a trilogy, chronicling the main protagonist’s embracing of counterculture and (presumably) dropping out of ‘normal’ society. The theme is evident without becoming all consuming in case you are not quite ready for another immersive sci-fi saga complete with comic books, novels and masks (ahem Coheed, we’re looking at you).

Stylistically, this falls loosely under the pop punk banner however that is such a limiting term nowadays. Vocals are shared between Nick Tello and Andrew Sullivan, one snotty ala Devon Williams from Osker and the other a more typical Bostonian/Dropkick Murphys style. The trading back and forth works really well as does the combo of the two in the frequent harmonies. There is a strong metal influence which shines through at every opportunity with Dragonforce-esque twiddling riffs and Steve Rehm’s blast beats getting in on the action too. There’s even a tasty bit of a cappella to close out proceedings at the end of “Watch Your Luck”.

This is a really strong debut, it’s very well produced with catchy and layered tunes that combine into an extremely cohesive 6 song introduction to the world of A Crash Republic. You can check out a stream of the entire release over at New Noise and also on streaming services.  Roll on part 2!

4.5/5



Album Review: AJJ – “Ugly Spiral: Lost Works 2012-2016”

B-side and rarities compilations can be hit or miss. On the one hand, they’re a way to collect and gather non-LP tracks into one place, which is particularly great for non-obsessives who don’t track down every out-of-print 7-inch or promotional flexis with demos. On the other hand, because these songs are from a number of recording sessions, putting them together in one place can give the final product something of a disjointed feeling. AJJ’s Ugly Spiral: Lost Works 2012-2016, released last summer on SideOneDummy, largely avoids the latter while gathering a number of unreleased songs, a handful of non-LP singles, and alternate takes.

As the title implies, these songs only span a four year gap. Specifically, they come from a four year gap in which the band released Christmas Island and The Bible 2– two albums that have a fairly similar sound in a discography that is overall varied from album-to-album. In fact, one of the unreleased songs is the title track from Christmas Island and it sticks very closely to that album’s aesthetic. Opening track, “Space & Time,” similarly sticks to the optimistic side of AJJ shown on The Bible 2 with declarations of “I’m close enough to happy to say that I won’t throw my memories away.”

Out of all of the songs here, the one that sticks out the most is the band’s cover of Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut.” AJJ has recorded plenty of covers in the past (many of which have made their way onto the band’s previous rarities collections Rompilation and the digital only Rompilation 2) but this is the first one that really feels surprising because Pink Floyd hardly seems like the type of band AJJ would cover. And yet they do an admirable job- you can tell it’s not the band’s usual style but it doesn’t feel out of place even on a collection of songs that are from a handful of different sessions.

Like almost any other b-sides compilation, Ugly Spiral isn’t likely going to turn on new listeners (or win back any former ones) but it still provides access to unreleased songs and a way to tide over fans while the band gears up for their next proper studio album.

4 / 5 Stars



Short/Fast/Loud: Abolitionist – “A New Militance”

Here at Dying Scene, we’ve been talking a lot behind the scenes about how to maximize our content—not only covering more, but covering better. We’ll be making some changes to our output in the coming months, and the end goal will be to provide our writers with more opportunities to write in-depth reviews, editorials, and interviews. Part of this is adapting our review format—there is simply too much out there to cover and full-length reviews just aren’t time effective. That doesn’t mean we’re getting rid of longform reviews (we’d rather die), only that when we do them, we’ll be investing more in them and treating them as we would a feature. For the rest, we want to cover the multitude of bands that are working hard out there but might get squashed under the great wheel of the album submissions game. Short-form reviews—as short and loud as punk itself—will be a way for us to cover more while still providing honest, dependable feedback. Let us know what you think of the new format, we plan to roll out capsule reviews as they accumulate from here on out.

Political punks Abolitionist are back with A New Militance, an eight song album that is neither LP or EP, but inhabiting a weird Twilight Zone all its own. Personally, I prefer this in-between format—it’s a reflection of punk itself, refusing arbitrary rules and following the muse. A New Militance continues Abolitionists’ post-hardcore-ish punk rock with a little more emphasis on the post- this time around. This results in meatier leads throughout, such as that on the metallic and stomping “RED.” The changes are welcome additions, but personally, I think A New Militance would be an even stronger album taking their influences further. This is a band of chugging claustrophobia, but with the taste of something new, it makes one wonder what they could do with sparser, airier, more subtle instrumentation.

But, that being said, A New Militance is a good listen. In the long tradition of Abolitionist concept albums, this one focuses on a worldwide feminist uprising. Mid-album banger “ACTUALLY” begins with the line (an ode to mansplaining), “Actually… just shut the fuck up.” Righteous, cathartic, and maybe just a little funny—Abolitionist are still as scrappy, interesting, and devoutly political as ever.

Check out: “PINK,” “ACTUALLY,” “NOPE”



Coral Springs – “Always Lost, Never Found”

Dutch 5-piece Coral Springs have been around since 2011 and, so far, have put out a few Eps and appeared on a couple of compilations. By their own, admission their output has not been particularly prolific to date, however a line-up change in 2016 seems to have provided sufficient impetus for the band to put out this, their debut album.

The band cite, amongst others, Rise Against and New Found Glory as inspiration – in fact Coral Springs is the name of NFG’s home town! They lean more heavily on the pop punk side of the spectrum however the album is interlaced with noodley guitar riffs to add some extra depth, as well as a few quieter introspective moments. Jo’s vocals sit somewhere between Haley Williams and Cinder Block, working really well with the poppier songs but with enough range to go big or dial it back when needed.

The album gets off to a great start: “I Lost Track”, driving punk rock with a slight metal edge; “Taking A Fall”, classic skate punk palm muting leading to the uplifting chorus; “Voices” with a definite No Use meets Tilt vibe. Next up is a slice of pure pop punk joy, “The Alluring Sea”, which brings to mind All We Know Is Falling era Paramore. The chorus will get stuck in your head instantly and, if you’re like me, you’ll listen to it several times on repeat (much to the delight of my nine-year-old daughter). “State Of Denial” continues in a similar vein before “Ghost” slows things down with a more emo, atmospheric feel building to a full on punk rock ballad. “Anchor” and “One Gesture” pick the pace back up again before “On A Hold” kicks in with its homage to the My Friends Over You riff by the aforementioned ‘Glory. The song also features guest vocals from UK thrashers Almeida which works really well. Next up, “Determined” rocks along nicely with pleasing gang style back-up vocals and “Easier To Hide” gives Jo an opportunity to show off her impressive vocal range. Album closer, “Roam” is another stand out track, similarly finding me reach for the repeat button again and again. It’s another pop punk belter with chugging guitars, awesome harmonies on the chorus and an opportunity for the whole band to get in on the act vocally. There’s a cheeky breakdown that builds back up to a repeat of the chorus (don’t forget the “woah-oh-oh-ohs” in the background) to close out the song. It’s glorious and a fitting way to sign off.

As far as debut albums go this is really excellent. Quality from start to finish with a very well-honed sound which is both recognisable and unique at the same time. Always Lost, Never Found is out on Umlaut Records and SBAM Records on 22nd February, I highly recommend you check it out.

4.5/5



Album Review: Vandoliers – “Forever”

An awful lot of material finds its way into my inbox on a fairly regular basis, and I truthfully don’t engage with a lot of it, either because nothing grabs me in the press kit, or because it’s wildly outside my area of interest (who knew Skrillex was still around?!?). Though a lot of what the Bloodshot Records roster has to offer doesn’t make it to the pages of Dying Scene (much to my chagrin), I’ve always been a fan of the vast majority of their lineup, so of course I fired up the new Vandoliers album, Forever. Even a cursory look at the album cover and tracklist while waiting for the album to load didn’t exactly instill the warmest of fuzzies that we weren’t in for another outlaw-country-punk-by-numbers offering; train tracks? Check. Songs about raising hell? Check (“Troublemaker”). Song about traveling? Check (“Miles And Miles”). Songs about being no good/down on one’s luck/drunk? Check (“Fallen Again,” “Bottom Dollar Boy,” “Nowhere Fast”). song about something that sounds like it’s a reference to a southern thing that a New Englander such as myself might not understand? Check (“Shoshone Rose”).

And so here, my friends, is a quick lesson in why you don’t judge a proverbial book by its cover or whatever. Forever is a damn fine album that further blurs whatever dividing lines are left between punk and Americana and outlaw country while injecting its own uniquely Texas flavor. As fate would have it, I fired up this album and Lenny Lashley’s newest album both for the first time on the same day, and couldn’t help but think that the Vandoliers might be where Lashley landed musically if he’d grown up in El Paso, TX, instead of the greater Boston area. The fiddle riff that kicks off album opener “Miles And Miles” instantly transports the listener to a place that maybe doesn’t exist on a map, and is maybe more of an idea than a tangible place. The double-time drums and feedback build up of “Troublemaker” evoke a modern, rambling Johnny Cash sound before the mariachi-style horns kick in and bring the song in a different direction. Where a band like Mariachi El Bronx will use the horns in a traditional style, songs like “Fallen Again” or “All On Black” find Vandoliers incorporating them in a way that adds extra, unique texture and depth to their cowpunk sound, sort of the way a band like Dropkick Murphys will incorporate bagpipes or Flogging Molly will weave accordion into a punk song without making them sound like traditional jigs and reels. The former of those tracks, “Fallen Again,” with its guttural, singalong chorus that imagines what might have been had Lucero been a little more Texas than Tennessee, has quickly become one of my favorite songs of the year.

So cast aside whatever you may have in the way of aspersions, my friends, and check out the new Vandoliers album, which is remarkably their third full-length in four years. I know it’s due out in February, but this album just begs to be played and sung along to at full-volume on the open summer roads. Forever is due out this Friday (February 22nd) on Bloodshot, and you can – and should – still pick it up here.

Rating: 4/5 stars



Short/Fast/Loud: Dollar Signs – “This Will Haunt Me”

Here at Dying Scene, we’ve been talking a lot behind the scenes about how to maximize our content—not only covering more, but covering better. We’ll be making some changes to our output in the coming months, and the end goal will be to provide our writers with more opportunities to write in-depth reviews, editorials, and interviews. Part of this is adapting our review format—there is simply too much out there to cover and full-length reviews just aren’t time effective. That doesn’t mean we’re getting rid of longform reviews (we’d rather die), only that when we do them, we’ll be investing more in them and treating them as we would a feature. For the rest, we want to cover the multitude of bands that are working hard out there but might get squashed under the great wheel of the album submissions game. Short-form reviews—as short and loud as punk itself—will be a way for us to cover more while still providing honest, dependable feedback. Let us know what you think of the new format, we plan to roll out capsule reviews as they accumulate from here on out.

Dollar Signs have been flying under the radar for a couple years now, poised for something bigger. This Will Haunt Me may very well be that something bigger. The Charlotte quintet pride themselves on their tongue-in-cheek sad sack anthems that straddle the lines of hardcore, pop punk, and folk punk. They drive forward with a garagey energy that brings to mind the likes of Jeff Rosenstock (who singer Erik Button is a vocal dead ringer for), while being self-deprecating, young, and painfully open. This Will Haunt Me continues the grand tradition of punk rock as talk therapy, and Dollar Signs work through their shit with talent to spare.

Check out: “Cryhard,” “Tears/ Beer/ Fears”



EP Review: Awful Din – “The Price We Pay”

Awful Din are a Brooklyn, NY based emo/pop-punk act, and their latest release, The Price We Pay, is the band’s third EP; following their last EP Super Powers from back in 2017. Released on January 25th, 2019, Awful Din have built a pleasing sound which lies in their fusion of emo and pop-punk.

With vocal twinges akin to those found in folk-punk, pop-punk riffs, and emo ambience, the band brings all these elements together in an addictive package. This EP, more than their previous two, really cement a sound for the band. Whilst the tracks aren’t all that layered and don’t experiment too far, they escape the cliche of their genres through their fusion and the rather unique vocals.

The Price We Pay begins on a more melancholic note with “Come Home,” but grows into an aggressive rebelling against that side of things. On the way Awful Din explore the idea of not feeling good enough, but acts as an outward voice attempting to pick someone back up that’s in that hole. The track “God of Tricks” starts on “Boy you’re gonna fight yourself into an early grave,” but ends on “There’s no love lost between us, only blood.” The song embodies the togetherness that the punk scene prides itself upon.

In fact the EP as a whole keeps that as a foundation, moving right into “Emerald Bay.” There’s leaning on each other, finding solace in that their pains aren’t suffered alone. But this track finds it’s way to the darkest point on the EP, “I listened to what she had to say, then I threw myself into Emerald Bay.” The crashing music and passion behind it moves and sways with the vocals, giving more weight to the words. Awful Din have great synergy as a band, and are finding themselves as a unit quite fully.

There’s anger and resilience to be found within the EP, as well as a vivid picture of melancholy. Woven through The Price We Pay is a story of leaving, of overcoming, and of love. It starts on a contemplative note, steeped in negative emotions, but ends triumphantly with a clean break in “Wish You Well.” As a full package The Price We Pay is a glorious little piece, and the parts that make it are each solid. It’s a promising path forward for Awful Din, and I hope we see even more growth on to a debut album.

You can listen to The Price We Pay below.

4/5 Stars



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