Search Results for "Album Review"

Album Review: Dead Bars – “Regulars”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5



Album Review: LAGS – “Soon”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give a listen to Soon below!



Album Review: The Bouncing Souls “Crucial Moments”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5 Stars



Album Review: Bars Of Gold – “Shelters”

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

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

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

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

4/5 Stars



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/5 Stars



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5 Stars



Album Review: Burn Burn Burn – “Chosen Family”

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

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

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

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

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

 



Album Review: Gamblers – “Straight No Chaser”

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

Give “Straight No Chaser” a listen below.



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”