Search Results for "Album Review"

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.



Short/Fast/Loud: Ground Score – “Old Theories on Society”

I love being surprised. That’s the best part of going out to shows—seeing what your local scene has to offer. Punk rock is one of those ever-growing beasts that depend on the little guy to create, create, create—sometimes they move up and out and become a national touring act, sometimes they don’t. But make no mistake, every band you ever loved was a local band before they blossomed into scene-revered artists.

Portland’s Ground Score surprised me with their songwriting talents. Their album Old Theories on Society is a skate punk loveletter packed with big melodies and rousing lyrics. Look no farther than “We’re Still Here,” an anthemic, earnest rallying cry for all the people who’ve survived in the face of life’s tragedies. You could call it Ground Score’s “Bro Hymn,” if you needed a waterline. Other tracks, like “A Thought of You” are minor and atmospheric, without sacrificing the band’s chugging throwback sound. There’s enough subtle diversity here to make for an engaging listen, but the songwriting—Ground Score’s backbone—is an omnipresent highlight. 

Old Theories on Society is a diamond in the rough, waiting to be discovered by lovers of sunny, skate-ready punk rock with just a hint of lived-in grime.

Check out: “We’re Still Here,” “A Thought of You,” “Lost in the Unknown”

 



Album Review: Nightmarathons – “Missing Parts”

As a reviewer, I go into every album with the hope of liking it. It’s easy to forget, that behind the paragraphs, there are people. We have thoughts, feelings, and ideas regarding what makes music great, what makes it special. Punk rock can be analyzed both objectively and subjectively—I can break down the lyrics, but I can also talk about how they make me feel. I think the most effective recommendations hang on a merging of the objective and subjective: what are they doing,  how does it work, and what does it make me feel?

Nightmarathons from Pittsburgh had me considering a lot of these questions. Missing Parts is their debut album, released by A-F Records—who have, in the last couple years, positioned themselves as one of our most exciting contemporary punk labels. Nightmarathons play the sort of melodic punk that I can’t help but keep returning to, time and time again. Think: The Menzingers, Dead Bars, Elway, Nothington and you’re on the right track. Their band bio throws a curveball into the mix, an angle that seeks to invigorate and intrigue: “Nightmarathons melds varying punk, post punk, and first-wave emo influences to create their own unique take on melodic punk rock music.”

First-wave emo? Like Embrace, Rites of Spring? That sounds awesome. That sounds like a fresh take on punk’s most muscular contemporary genre. But why do my words feel so loaded? Why am I talking about the difficulty of reviewing when I should be talking about Missing Parts greatness? Because objectivity and subjectivity do not always align. For me, this is one of those cases. Nightmarathons have a great logline and Missing Parts is as competent a debut as any—but more often than not, it just doesn’t stick.

Which is why I hate giving star reviews. Who can boil down a work of art to a numeric system? An album can do ten things right and three things wrong, but if the ten good are ten great, the three get lost in the mix and vice versa. No five-star album is perfect and no one-star album is completely imperfect, they’re just different ratios of good and bad, weighted by importance by some schmuck with a keyboard. This is my way of saying that Nightmarathons does most things right, leaving me with the question: is it enough?

Missing Parts is an album of anthems. Across its runtime, there are prime moments for screaming along, jittery moments before choruses where you can fully expect to be swept up by the rhythm of a crowd. This is the sort of punk rock that takes a work week to appreciate. It takes a full week of saying yes, sir and no, sir—until you’re looking at the clock and thinking about the last five minutes of your Friday and watching the minutes drip away so slow and thick they might as well be honey. And then, when you’re released, you go to the show. You hear these downbeat anthems, you dance and sing and drink way too much and you let everything out in a silly, sad bout of catharsis. We laugh at all the modern punk cliches, but it describes Nightmarathons’ melodic punk perfectly. This is music meant as an antidote to whatever ails you. If you look around, you might realize Nightmarathons aren’t alone in this approach.

The songs on Missing Parts, for the first listen, entirely passed me by. I was looking for hooks, looking for something to etch itself into my memory, and I was left with empty hands. But, repetition breeds familiarity and soon, on my fourth or fifth listen, I realized that there was actually some admirable songwriting on Missing Parts. Songs like “Closer,” with its rousing chorus of, “Take a bow, disappear/ turn my back, so insincere!” became an earworm with time. “Cull Your Heart,” with its thick and fuzzy guitar lines makes good on Nightmarathons’ promise of melding first-wave emo with melodic punk. The band becomes more intense and immediate as the album continues with “Honor System.” “Simple,” with its languid pace and earnest delivery shows a diversity of sound that passed me by entirely at first.

Nightmarathons is a lot of things, but to call Missing Parts anything but a grower would be misleading. I ended up liking this album a lot more than I originally thought, but the problems I had with it on the first listen are the same I had on the tenth: a relative lack of boldness. Missing Parts loses itself in a lot of similar sounding songs that take a fair amount of objective observation to decipher from their surroundings. This is not to say they are not good songs, but that they lack immediacy and verve. These songs—or, as we established earlier, anthems—should roll out with a gut punch. They should sound strong and singular, but more often than not, they roll by like a black car on a black night with broken headlights. Missing Parts is a good album full of good songs that take too much objectivity to be great.

And that’s why the ratio is all kinds of fucked up. Nightmarathons don’t do much wrong, but the one thing that doesn’t work for me is like a blanket that muffles the entire album. It’s the emotional hook—that feeling of yeah, I get that—that doesn’t deliver until all other choices have been considered. I’m out here looking for the mirror image—the subjective hook front and center, the thing that pulls you in and makes you comb through the music to support whatever intangible feelings it gives you.

If we’re being fair though, I can’t deny that Nightmarathons did grow on me. In time, I found myself recognizing songs and remembering snippets of lyrics, but ultimately: the subjective recognition only took me so far, and regrettably much too late. Missing Parts is a wildly competent album that will surely have its devout followers, but as with anything—if it doesn’t catch you hard, it might not catch you at all.



Album Review: Tightwire – “Six Feet Deep”

Red Scare might just be my favorite label, and while others have come and gone; or, alternatively rose to prominence and kept chugging under the radar, it’s easy to see why. Red Scare was the punk label that gave us the Lawrence Arms, Menzingers, Copyrights, Direct Hit!, Arms Aloft, MakeWar and many, many more. The way I see it, it’s all B.R.S. and A.R.S, the B.C. and A.D. of turn of the millennium punk. Before Red Scare, melodic punk meant double-time drums and skate rat intensity, the stuff you’d find on Epitaph and Fat Wreck—hardcore’s singing cousin. Red Scare gathered up bands who were picking at the other 90s punk—Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music, Radon, Avail, Crimpshrine. Punk rock has been melodic since the beginning, but it wasn’t until Red Scare that melodic punk (or beard punk, or orgcore, or whatever), became a codified part of our sonic landscape.

Which brings me to one of Red Scare’s latest offerings, a pop-punk band called Tightwire that I have seen almost zero buzz for. Which is, admittedly, really fucking weird. I mean, c’mon guys! This is Red Scare! They basically built the basement on this shit! Why isn’t everyone putting Tightwire on the proverbial chair and dancing it around the Jewish wedding like we did for Success? My theories run amok, and my data offers little. Six Feet Deep was released all the way back in October. Maybe it got lost in the Fest shuffle? Maybe October is just an awful month to release anything? My realest theory is that on first listen, listeners just weren’t that interested. A sad, bummer of a theory—but considering that was my first reaction, I think it holds the most weight.

Tightwire is a gooey, sticky peanut butter and honey sandwich of a pop-punk band that has hooks for days and a sense of humor as well. They belong to the Dillinger Four school of punk rock, in that their status as a band feels incidental at best. Throughout Six Feet Deep, there’s a very real feeling that maybe this band was never supposed to make it out of the garage, and we, the listeners, are just lucky and dumbfounded it happened at all. Because that’s the thing: Tightwire sounds like a catchy pop-punk band, the kind we’ve all heard ad nauseum—but after a couple listens, the hooks set in. I listened to the lyrics. I smiled, I sang along, and suddenly, I had favorite songs. A little while longer, and I had a favorite album. Another listen, and I needed to show it to people.

Tightwire’s lack of immediacy on first listen might be due to saturation of the genre (or a couple of well-loved juggernauts soaking up all the love). Deja vu is seldom welcome in music, and pop punk is a genre that wallows in it. Tightwire doesn’t exempt themselves from any wallowing, as I’d say Six Feet Deep is more rigidly traditional than other modern genre offerings like Direct Hit! and Hospital Job. There are chugging chords, sugary choruses, shimmering harmonies—and they’re propelled by drums, bass, and guitar. But the point is this: genre doesn’t make for good songs, songwriting does. And Tightwire has killer songwriting across the board.

“Draggin’ Me” opens the album with screeching atonal feedback, before galloping into its absurdly singable melody. “Told Ya” is probably my favorite of the tracks, a mid-album singalong targeted at the sort of ‘friend’ you can’t help but rubberneck as they go William Tecumseh Sherman on their own life. It has one of my favorite choruses of recent memory (“I don’t wanna say I fucking told you so, but I fucking told you so.”) and the lyrics imbue it with an irresistible smart-aleck energy. Listing favorite tracks from Six Feet Deep is an exercise in tedium, as there are thirteen tracks and all of them are pretty worthy of pontification, but if I allow myself one more, I’d like to shine a light on “Body Language” and it’s absolutely gorgeous melody—highlighting Tightwire’s harmonic prowess along the way.

Six Feet Deep is the best album I’ve heard no one talk about. Which is a shame, because although it doesn’t attempt to broaden the soundscape of pop-punk, it’s essentially a perfect, almost classical, execution of the genre. Tightwire are a deceptively competent group of musicians, and their debut stands to weather the storms of taste. Maybe not now, but someday, Six Feet Deep will be considered latter-day canon, rightly placed beside other contemporary classics.



Album Review: Crywank – “Wearing Beige On A Grey Day”

crywank_wearing_beige_on_a_grey_dayCrywank are an anti-folk/folk-punk act based in Manchester who have just released their latest album Wearing Beige On A Grey Day, and they’re one of the most important voices in the genres today. With their encapsulation of depression and anxiety, combined with incredible creative imagery and unique wordplay, Crywank have consistently created haunting and addictive music. Wearing Beige On A Grey Day is the band’s sixth full length album, and third studio album.

Wearing Beige On A Grey Day takes the Crywank sound, often slightly understated and at times rather haunting, and adds new instrumentals and layering with some ominous brass on the tracks “I’ll Have Some In A Bit” and towards the end of “Unassimilated Normie.” The multilayered instrumentals combine quite well with the backing of moody acoustic music that’s akin to their first album James is going to die soon. There’s signature peaks of emotional explosion, something Crywank do quite well, notably in the almost deranged moments during “Drippy Droopy Pidgeonhole.”

The band has always had some incredibly strong lyrical work from James Clayton, both in writing and his emotion fueled performances. This album is no exception, with Clayton finding even more provocative angles to approach discussion of his own mental space as well as those around him. There’s a heartbreaking relevance to the album, with unique and strong imagery and metaphor combining to make a relatable experience. There’s new ground tread with “Blood,” separating from, yet still keeping relevance with, the general concept of the album; about not being able to feel alright. Blood discusses tragedy and society’s insistence on glossing it over, redirecting blame and to forget rather than find respect for those involved. James’ incredibly powerful lyrics are in full force for the entirety of the album, and here the lines carry real weight; “This is not a call for guilt, this is just a request for respect, the blood may not be on our hands, but we sleep in their beds, oh we sleep in their beds.”

The album feels a lot more directed than their previous, Egg on face. Foot in mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. The more compact runtime gives a more solid concept to build around. It’s also nice to see the band has kept up with their trend for uncomfortable hand drawn album art. From front to back Wearing Beige On A Grey Day is terrific, another step forward for the ever growing Crywank.

You can give the album a listen down below.



Album Review – Terror – “Total Retaliation”

terror_total_retaliation

Terror, the LA stalwarts of hardcore, came swinging back with their latest album Total Retaliation. Released back in September, 2018 via Pure Noise, the album deserves a listen from any hardcore fan. And if you listened back when it came out, I’m here to tell you why you should be spinning it again.

The album starts incredibly strong with “This World Never Wanted Me,” a hard rejection of conformity and a triumphant yell of “Thank god this world never wanted me.” Terror do that classic hardcore sound perfectly, encapsulating a genre and exploding out with blistering beatdowns.

The album starts on rejecting the world that doesn’t want them, and keeps a solid concept of a rebellion against humanity. Keeping the basics of hardcore themes, Terror actualize this in an interesting and direct way with describing the world itself as what has become stained and overbearing. But in that they still find retaliation in their determined and anger fueled delivery. Terror have a lot to say on the album, and run through a host of subjects they feel are tearing society apart. In doing so they keep with their central concept, and also manage to use some great wordplay to get across their message clearly but not resort to hamfisted cliche. Tackling issues from authority to religion, Total Retaliation pulls no punches.

On the sonic side of things, of course Terror kills it, heavy rolling drums, deep and always on point bass, and some interesting guitar work which expands but never strays too far from their core sound. Total Retaliation even has a rap interlude, perhaps inspired by the interludes that 90s hip-hop frequently featured though arguably less jokey. There’s something to be said about the comparison between hip-hop and punk music, born from different situations but finding a similar place in rebellion and community. But after just a moment the track is over, and we dive right back into brilliant hardcore with “Spirit of Sacrifice.”

With Total Retaliation the band hasn’t found any massive new ground in their music, but instead have this chaos-controlled feeling with their mastery of the hardcore sound. Always able to flow through vocal inflections and able to so perfectly build a sound that brings anyone right into that local venue feeling the electricity run from the band through the crowd, Terror still remain an important voice in the genre. Terror bring the intensity and determined message only the finest in hardcore can produce, and Total Retaliation is a must listen for fans of the genre.

You can listen to the album below.



Short/Fast/Loud: Bony Macaroni – “Bony Macaroni”

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.

The Netherlands’ Bony Macaroni is a new-to-me band that caught my ear almost instantly. Pop punk is a perennial presence in the punk scene, and boy, have we seen it go through its paces. From The Buzzcocks to the Ramones, from the Descendants to Green Day, from Direct Hit! to Off With Their Heads—with dozens of permutations in between. Bony Macaroni is closer to the Remo Drive, Graduating Life, Modern Baseball strain—sad and introspective, unrepentantly boyish in demeanor, with a hint of folk punk brashness—and deeply indebted to emo. 

EP opener, “Piece of Shit,” is sure to grab most listeners with its bouncy melody and self-deprecating lyrics. “Doom” is dynamic, with arpeggios and soft woah-ohs that explode into a rousing chorus. Bony Macaroni has some killer songwriting throughout its five songs, culminating in the melancholy “Bony the Philosopher.” Coupled with exuberant energy, Bony Macaroni’s five songs go a long way. 

Check out: “Piece of Shit,” “Doom”



Short/Fast/Loud: Agador Spartacus – “Agastonishing”

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.

I’m always on the lookout for rhythmic, melodic post-hardcore to make a comeback. You know what I’m talking about. Stuff that resides somewhere between Fugazi, NoMeansNo, Hot Water Music, and At the Drive-In. Aggressive, angular, creative, and singable.

Agador Spartacus hail from Hamburg, Germany and have come out swinging with the sort of EP that can’t help but turn heads. These guys are killing it with twisty, riffy tracks of guitar-centric post-hardcore that aren’t afraid of big choruses and big atmosphere. Agastonishing is a gun-metal cool release that deserves to be dug up from under the radar. 

“Living Slow/Dying Hard” is fueled with stuttering guitars that switch gears to fuzzed out Snapcase riffs in the blink of an eye, its chorus providing a primal scream-along in the form of its title. “My Beautiful Mind” is another absolute banger, with perhaps the catchiest hook of the album. But this is picking glints from a bucket of gold, Agastonishing is an impressive EP that hooks from the start and then never stops hooking.

Check out: “Living Slow/Dying Hard,” “Tetris”



Album review: Vis Vires – “The Wolves EP”

Los Angeles has a new Oi band Vis Vires, which features members of The Templars, The Hardknocks, and Bovver Wonderland. The Wolves may be their debut four track EP, but they are no rookies and this album full of hardcore street punk anthems, will commandeer your attention.

The EP opens with marching drums before giving away to soaring guitars, while the lyrics build up an us-against-them attitude, as “Witch Hunt” sets the table for all the threats and injustice that face us. Where the next song “Wolves” gives us that hardcore ideology that we are in this together and our unity can ‘destroy the betrayers’ that were defined in the first song. Next up is “Vengeance” a not-so-gentle reminder that perhaps we should not betray their trust. A burner of a tune dripping with rage and showcasing a face-melting guitar solo.

The Wolves ends with a more melodic tune, “This is the End” tones down the hardcore elements and gives their street punk side a little more room to breathe. The subtle change of pace really makes this song standout on the album. It still oozes with anger but really showcases their musicianship, as each band member is given a chance to shine. From the opening drum and bass lines to the swelling guitar work punctuated by a gang chorus, this song draws you into the wolfpack and makes you want to join the fight.

While Vis Vires may not be as frantically charged as Bovver Wonderland or have the same garage buzz as the Templars, they are carving their own niche into the oi scene with a high quality blend of hardcore and street punk. If you are a fan of anthemic, tough as nails music that features soaring guitars overlayed on surgically precise drumming, Vis Vires has something you might want to check out.

4/5 Stars



Album Review: Pkew Pkew Pkew – “Optimal Lifestyles”

Man, I’m not sure a band has ever spoken to me quite like Pkew Pkew Pkew has. This is a band that meditates on intense life issues like: wanting to order a pizza, but not wanting to be the one that calls; skateboarding, and subsequently getting hurt in your mid-20s; and of course, the age-old battle of people calling you ‘chief.’ Pkew Pkew Pkew is deeply indebted to minutiae, raucous singalong odes to sweating the small stuff. I’ve liked a lot of albums in the last couple years, but these Toronto pop punks are the only ones to make a perfect one. With Optimal Lifestyles, we have their sophomore release—one, ironically, with a lot of weight riding on it, despite the low-key slacker vibe of their music. The drunken louts who practice in apartments, gang vocal about getting drunk (before they go out drinking, of course) are now in the unenviable position of following up perfection.

For those that don’t know Pkew, think of them like PUP’s underachieving cousin. Both bands have a melodic, audience-informed approach to the genre—complete with gang vocal chants you can’t help but get amped for in a live setting. But where PUP is ambitious and technically proficient, Pkew Pkew Pkew play their power chords with an almost garage rock intensity. They come off as just a bunch of dudes who have no idea how their band made it to where they are. They play funny songs with lots of fun parts to shout along to, and they’re really good at it. On Optimal Lifestyles though, the trend is upended, with a few returns to forms. The band has expanded their instrumentation for one, getting weird with their production when the opportunity occurs (check out the sax on “Point Break”), but they also sound less emphatic, less ballsy this time around too—embracing more mid-tempo, alt-rock sounding melodic punk a la Nothington.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but: Optimal Lifestyles is not as good as the self-titled. For all of the original’s charms, the band seems to be trying to shift their core identity, and unfortunately: the new Pkew is not as good as the old Pkew. At times, Optimal Lifestyles is just too damn serious. It’s also too damn long. At fifteen tracks, the fast, loud, brash, and silly vibe of a bunch of twenty-something slackers is lost in a sea of growing and learning that feels continuously off target.

Still though, as much as this is not as good as their first album, it’s also still pretty good. The original band is still in here, somewhere, even if it takes a little cutting through the fat. “I Wanna See a Wolf” is possibly the best song on the album, a perfectly executed banger about something so mundanely stupid I can barely believe it was written in the first place. This is the essence of Pkew Pkew Pkew. Here, we have such delicate lyrics as, “I don’t wanna settle for a coyote, I know they’re easier to see, well fuck that.” There’s also “Adult Party,” which I think straddles the line between new and old the best, where painting a picture of a shitty party full of shitty people builds to an epic gang vocal singalong of, “Rich kids, go fuck yourself, if there’s some in the audience, go somewhere else.” That’s the kind of bravado I love and expect from Pkew.

Album ender, “Thirsty and Humble,” bridges this gap pretty well too. It’s a massive singalong that talks about drinking beers in alleys, the new Red Dead, and caps off with a neat thirst metaphor. The problem with Optimal Lifestyles is that there’s not enough of these moments to make the new Pkew palatable. It almost feels like a third album in that respect, as if we’re missing a link between two vastly different bands. Is the more serious approach bad? Is Pkew Pkew Pkew bad at writing serious songs? No, not really. The songs are fine, but they don’t conjure the excitement and newness (nor the wonderful brevity) of the first album. Slowing down and singing about depression is hardly a novel progression in punk rock in 2019. But maybe, it’s necessary. Maybe the clowns are tired of honking their noses and making us laugh at how dumb they can be. Optimal Lifestyles isn’t perfect, but it is good—and for all of its changes, it doesn’t feel calculated in the least—one sure reminder that buried in this new sound, Pkew Pkew Pkew still lives.

 



Short/Fast/Loud: Slippery Eyes – “Take Care, Be Well”

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.

In Portland’s burgeoning and thriving emo scene, Slippery Eyes is a relatively new band. Take Care, Be Well is their first EP and on it, they craft four songs of tasteful and hypnotic emo. It’s at once sparse and intricate, a mellow meditation with personal lyrics and some instantly memorable melodies. The marvel of this EP is how quickly it manages to catch the listener—lyrics, melodies, and arrangements working in mesmeric tandem. It’s all led by the honey-coated vocals of Cai, at once soothing and emotive. Take Care, Be Well leaves the listener wanting for more.

Check out: “Cut Your Conversation,” “Summer of ‘62”



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”