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Album Review: Eat Dirt – “Death is Death”

On the band’s Facebook page, their entire bio is:
“PUNK ROCK FROM THE SOUTH EAST OF ENGLAND.
HUMAN.
ANGRY AT STUFF.”

As such, London’s Eat Dirt’s first full-length album is an awesome example of what a hardcore album should be.  Having been a fan of their EPs, I was anticipating this album and it did not let me down in the slightest. At times melodic, but always hard and driving, this is the perfect music for those days when you need something to get you going – or just want to listen to some real, modern hardcore.

Death is Death opens with the one-minute “Make Peace” – a raging track that leaves you wanting more – and the album doesn’t let up from there.  Commenting on the song, front man Ben Mills says: Our song ‘Make Peace’ is about not allowing yourself to give up on growing and evolving as a person. It’s a rallying call to make a difference in your life and not stagnate, and become a bigot. Too many times people get stuck in their ways and won’t see the world from the other side of the coin. This song is about becoming the best version of yourself and not dying emotionally and intellectually.” I couldn’t have said it better.

The band largely writes songs about the current socio-political environment in the UK, but the themes are pretty universal and apply to what a lot of countries – including the United States – are going through right now. It’s a highly relatable album when there is so much going on in the world to be legitimately angry about.

The title track has a catchy, scream-along chorus that immediately gets into your head, and doesn’t let go. “The Beast” is a slower song that really works –a much more melodic hardcore sound. It’s awesome. “Come and See” has a similar feel – and both songs break up the album’s otherwise relentlessness. It even has a solo, but it absolutely works in the context of the song.

“Night Terrors” is probably my favorite song on Death is Death. With a melodic chorus to break up the screaming lead vocals, it’s just an all-around badass song about being afraid for your safety and refusing to let anyone tell you it’s just okay. Again, highly relatable.

Not a single song on the album goes over two and a half minutes – Eat Dirt are masters of the perfect bite of music to satisfy and simultaneously leave you ready for the next song. This is because every single song on the album is also a great song. Will this go down as one of my favorites of 2019? For sure. Will it be on heavy rotation in my house? It’s safe to say it will be.

Eat Dirt’s Death is Death is out June 3rd on Bearded Punk Records.

4/5 stars



Album Review: Frank Iero and The Future Violents – “Barriers”

Ever since the end of My Chemical Romance, Frank Iero has not allowed himself, or his music, to be pigeonholed. This is evident with his latest project, Frank Iero and the Future Violents, which sounds nothing like previous offerings from the guitarist/singer, yet is equally good as the others have been. Barriers opens with a slower song, reminiscent of a 1950s ballad, which makes the punk that follows all the more interesting. (Not to say that opening track “A New Day’s Coming”  isn’t good – it is.)

The Future Violents lineup is  Iero, Evan Nestor (an alumni of all the Frank Iero solo projects), former Murder By Death bassist Matt Armstrong, multi-instrumentalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy from Dave Hause And The Mermaid and Thursday’s Tucker Rule on drums.

“Young and Doomed” feels like a slightly experimental punk anthem for anyone feeling the frustrations of life in the current times. The song crashes into “Fever Dream,” which almost has a Nirvana feel to it – something totally unexpected that works really well in the context of the album.  I think these two songs are my favorites on an album that I really like for its subdued charms and bursts of energy that keep the listener on their toes. “Moto-Pop” also stands out, as it is a song that would be equally at home on a late 70s punk album. The verses of “No Love” even sounds vaguely like The Cure – which is a surprising twist.

Barriers is, if nothing else, a diverse pastiche of different sounds and styles. It is a roller coaster of an album that takes listeners on an adventure through Frank’s brain and different aspects of music he appreciates and has been influenced by.

Frank Iero’s vocals are at times, like butter – this is especially apparent on “The Unfortunate,” and “Medicine Square Garden” – both at home in the middle of the album. But he hasn’t forgotten his roots from earlier bands and his ability to scream in the best possible ways.

The melodic and catchy chorus of “Police Police”, with almost spoken-word lyrics is another favorite and a song that is hard to characterize. “Hard to characterize” is probably the best way to describe this album, although there’s nothing wrong with that. It makes it more of an adventure, and is a great album when taken as individual songs as well as for listening to straight through.

The album closes with a jazzy ballad, almost a sexy siren song “Six Feet Under” and the sweeping and swooping “24k Lush”. Taken separately, the two songs couldn’t be less alike, but they work. That’s kind of the theme of the whole album – it just works, even if there is no real reason for it to do so. We’re dealing with ambitious professionals here. They knew exactly what they were doing when they put this album together.

Barriers is overall more tame than previous offerings from Frank Iero, especially when compared to his garage rock turn with Frank Iero and the Patience and the rawness of frnkiero and the cellabration. It doesn’t make this less of an album, not by any means, and it sounds nothing like what he did when he was in My Chemical Romance. At the same time, it is probably his solo album that will appeal most to fans of MCR.

4/4 stars



Album Review: Petrol Girls – “Cut and Stitch”

I have listened to Petrol Girls’ latest offering, Cut and Stitch on headphones and on my stereo, and let me say, this is an album that demands to be played, and played loudly. From the spoken word intro to the last note on the album, this is a true feminist manifesto that is perfect for the times and should not – cannot – be ignored.

Easily one of the most popular female-fronted bands around, Petrol Girls are at the forefront of the new feminist punk movement that feels like riot grrrl all over again. And considering what is going on the world over with women’s rights and equality, it makes sense that there would be another rise in feminist punk music. Our music has always been a voice for rebellion and warning, and this album speaks those truths fearlessly.

Petrol Girls are not afraid to experiment with different sounds and styles on this album, as evidenced by the switching between spoken word and the expected screaming-singing style. The short, acoustic duet, “Interlude” is perfectly named and a much-needed breather in the middle of the album.  Cut & Stitch is a daring album; one written by a band that had a unique vision for what they wanted to say. It feels like they didn’t care if it was commercially viable, nor what others thought. This is what they need to get out and share with the world.  This is evident in all the new directions this album takes us in – including a lot of songs that are more melodic than we have come to expect from Petrol Girls.

The sing-song “Monstrous” is probably my favorite song on the album, though it is hard to choose. “No Love For a Nation” stands out with its male lead vocals that really work – and it is a powerful, anti-nationalist song.  “Talk in Tongues”, with its male/female vocals reminds me of Huggy Bear – and really works. On this album, I find the band is often at their best when utilizing their female/male dual vocals.

All in all, Cut & Stitch is a great album. It is a different album that will not meet your expectations, nor will it disappoint. It will, many times, eclipse the band’s prior works.  More than anything, though, it is an important album that speaks to the times we live in, with unabashed honesty and exposes many brutal truths about what is going on around the world. This will make it one of those records for the ages, as much as the uniqueness of the music contained within Cut & Stitch.

4.5/5 stars



Album Review: Dangers Of Love – “Dangers Of Love”

Now and again a release appears from nowhere and clears out all the cobwebs. Dangers Of Love’s debut, self-titled EP is one of them. Channeling The Replacements, The Clash, Sharks and even Oasis across the six tracks, the band – led by Great Cynics’ Giles Bidder in brilliant songwriting form – have delivered an absolute belter with this release.

Opener “Holsten Pills Blues” kicks things off in with a brilliant riff then two minutes of snotty, middle fingers up, melodic punk tracks. The dynamic shifts and harmonies throughout “Why Would You Run” keep the energy up before the release (and band’s) eponymous number deliver the big highlight. “Dangers Of Love” has everything that’s great about indie, punk and (yes) britpop in three minutes of magic, and is one of the best songs to come out of the UK scene in a long time.

The back half of the six tracker keeps up the fine work, with a Get Cape, Wear Cape-esque vocal delivery on “Hyperactive Imagination” telling the listener they can “tell them to fuck off” in a big singalong moment for a band on release one. Even with the gloom in the subject matter of “Aries”, Dangers Of Love keep it energetic, and by the time “She’s Coming Over” closes the EP down a two minute long blast of throwback (almost street punk) refrains, the release is screaming out for another play.

Dangers Of Love have done something really brilliant with this release. It’s snotty, angry, raw at the same time as being positive, uplifting and fun, and hopefully it gets the attention it deserves and leads them onto an album. An absolutely essential release.

4.5/5 Stars



Album Review: Doaks “Scaredy Ghost”

Cleveland’s DOAKS debut album Scaredy Ghost was released towards the end of 2018 with a unique sound that was self described as “a punk rock B-52’s”. This comparison is not without merit, as they have a driving rhythm section, soaring female vocals combined with a grounding male vocal presence and a subtle synth-pop influence. Where they differ is that DOAKS has a darker more serious feel and drops the quirky nature of the B-52’s in favor of a heavier pop punk vibe.

“Total Nightmare” is the album opener and greets us with an ominous syncopated guitar with quiet vocals combo. This quickly expands into a bass and drum heavy pop punk jam with Chelsea’s soaring vocals laid on top. It is one of the catchiest songs on the album and just like a real nightmare it will haunt you when your done listening.

“I Just Want to Drink” follows with a bouncy punk rock blast about the annoying bar culture that interferes with the ability to simply go out and have a drink. From here on out the album steers away from the punk side, not with a reckless abandon but there is a change in the influences and styles as we progress.

The first distinctly different song is “Not a Whore” which opens with a synthetic drum sound and droning lyric delivery. It has a slower, slightly more minimalistic Shiny Toy Guns feel where the music is on the sludgey side and the vocals bounce back and forth between rumbling and soaring. The original comparison to the B-52’s is at its highest with “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” a synth driven jam where Jeremy’s vocals are at the front and Chelsea’s floats ambiently above it. It is heavier and darker but kicks off with a bright keyboard lick.

DOAKS showcases their ability to write some indie rock gems with songs like “I Gotta Go”, “I Must Be a Fool” and “Because I Said So” all of which feature some catchy hooks and are super danceable. However the pinnacle of their indie stylings is the album closer “Waiting All My Lifetime” which has distorted guitars playing with a heavy bass line and the vocals fade in and out creating a sound that is reminiscent of early 90’s Garbage.

Scaredy Ghost is an intriguing listen as they pull influences from a wide variety of styles. This keeps the album from getting stale with repeat listens as there is always something that will catch your ear and either make you dance or grab a beer and chill. DOAKS have promised us new music in 2019 and I am definitely looking forward to more.

4.5/5 Stars



Album Review: Abolitionist – “Ugly Feeling”

It’s no secret that Portland’s Abolitionist has decided to call it quits, bringing to an end a lifetime that’s spanned eight years and (if their bandcamp is to be believed) eight releases. This was a band, that for me, seemed omnipresent in Portland’s punk rock scene. A dark sounding amalgam of hardcore and everything else, directed more by its political vision than any concrete sonic leaning. Sometimes this worked for me, sometimes it didn’t—but Abolitionist were always a band that’d pique my interest. Where others were writing party songs to sing along drunk to, Abolitionist were always pushing their ambition. This is the band that seemed to be churning out concept albums at a point—always writing, always working, always with something to say. Ugly Feeling is their swan song and on it they take their sound further than they ever have before, combining a love for Fugazi with their political perspective, going out with a bang.

Ugly Feeling is like and unlike previous releases in equal measures. It features the same declarative vocal delivery, the same focus on heavy riffs, but they’ve corrected some of my biggest problems with their last release (A New Militance) by taking their new influences a step further. Here, the riffs and leads are given more time to breathe, which in turn emphasizes them more. Songs like “Crossroads” sound that much more sonically precise, the intensity feeling like a product of design rather than suffocation.

There’s still a range of sounds on the album though. Title track “Ugly Feeling” is a hardcore banger whose titular refrain could surely raise fists in a tightly-packed room. Whereas “The Selfish Gene” indulges in a dark and heavy riff, complimenting the album’s bitter commentary. And make no mistake, this is a dark album, and as it moves forward, it only gets darker—and the music reflects this as much as the lyrics.

Much of the album, at least to my understanding, seems to take aim at our culture and the privilege it awards to straight white males. This is an angry album. It’s disgusted with our worship of money, our own self-satisfied nature. There’s a grotesque scene in mid-album banger “Willie B. Bacon” that resonated even with a carnist like myself:

“When he was a boy, there was a pig his parents raised… but not as a pet. He used to go to the pen to visit his doomed friend. He remembers the pungent smell. He remembers the friendly noise. He remembers the coarse, fibrous hair. He remembers a feeling of loss.”

Ugly Feeling, like much of Abolitionists’ work is a concept album and as such follows a single character. Perhaps it’s fitting in “Walls,” the band’s final song (at least for awhile) that the protagonist accepts his own ignorance, admitting “he did not have a clue,” and finally, making the call to “change his ways.” It may be a little clunky, and it may be on the nose, but Abolitionist has always been about the message. Here it is, distilled down to its most basic form, a message of hope that doesn’t skimp on responsibility, an end to an ugly feeling.

This is undoubtedly Abolitionists’ best work to date, and while it’s always sad to see such stalwarts fall by the wayside, it’s nice to see them going out at their peak. Ugly Feeling is punk rock through and through, thick with commentary and heavy with riffs. Fans of the band will be pleased to see Abolitionist didn’t waste their goodbye.

 



Review: CJ Ramone – “The Holy Spell…”

I’m going to start off by saying CJ Ramone’s The Holy Spell… (Fat Wreck Chords) is not a bad album. In fact, The Holy Spell… is a collection of really good songs – songs that would make an excellent batch of 7”s or a few EPs, as opposed to a full album. It’s an album that I don’t mind having on my iPod – when it is on random – but don’t particularly desire to listen to in one go beyond the times I did to write this review. So what’s my point? I am very conflicted about this as a singular piece of music, even though I quite like the individual parts when taken one to two songs at a time.

The thing is, for an album to really work, the songs have to have some variations in melody, harmony, speed, and song style. This one does not. Every song sounds pretty much the same, and as I was listening to it, I found myself becoming more of a passive listener than an active one, checking to see if I was back to the beginning of the album again, as opposed to hearing a new song that appears later on in it. Again, none of the songs are bad. They just don’t particularly stand out from one another in any appreciable way, with the two exceptions, “One High One Low” and “Rock On”.

“One High One Low”, the opening song, is pretty driving – especially for CJ Ramone – and sets up an album with a lot of promise. The last song, “Rock On” slows things down for a bit and is actually a welcome change of pace when listening to The Holy Spell… straight through. I also really like “Postcard from Heaven” which I think would have been an amazing single on its own and is the best song on the album, hands down.

Part of what makes the album blend together, though, is CJ’s voice. I feel like most people like it or don’t, and I do like it just fine, but he tends to sing every song in the same way – never venturing out of his niche or comfort zone and expanding his vocal capabilities to show us something different. This just contributes to the sameness and familiarity of the songs, probably more than the tempo and music, even.  I also really crave more backing vocals and harmonies – some of the songs are all but screaming for them, and sound sparse as a result.

I realize this is a somewhat strange review, but as I said, I am conflicted about this album. I wish it was released in pieces, like I said earlier, perhaps as EPs or singles – all of which would get higher marks because they would be short bursts of music and not an album that seems to go on a bit too long, especially for the lack of diversity in the sound and style of the songs.

2.5/5 stars



Short/Fast/Loud: Thurman – A Day Called X

I was immediately struck by how well Portland’s Thurman managed to balance the tone of their songs. Here was a young band—operating in the self-serious arena of indie-punk—that wasn’t afraid to be playful. They were sad, plaintive, and intense—but they didn’t lead you away from the cracks in their facade. “Choices” is the most obvious example, with its low and high vocal performance sounding like a spit-take to make the bassist fuck up his groove. We always talk about how punk rock is a youthful genre, but sometimes, it’s nice to have the evidence on record too.

A Day Called X is five songs of indie-ish, emo-ish, alt-ish punk rock. It reminded me of the lazy-day angst that Title Fight’s Floral Green managed so effortlessly. Both bands pull from the 90s, but the other 90s, the one that lived in the shadow of the Epifat explosion. Jawbreaker, Sunny Day Real Estate, Sleater-Kinney, Dinosaur Jr.—as time marches on, the scales are being evened and the question of what makes punk rock punk has broadened in some ways and focused in others. Thurman carries this legacy forward with stabbing riffs and a chilled-out, catchy approach to melody.

The songs themselves feel dynamic and powerful, a meeting of strong songwriting and thoughtful arrangements. The guitars pop, never resting on their laurels—chugging, riffing, and arpeggiating through their entirety. “Day X” feels positively crushing for any power trio, but its fuzzed out chords are just one piece of the puzzle. Thurman is a mixture of heavy and soft, pop and punk—and it’s in this tight overlap that they craft their atmospheric brand of indie rock.

CHECK OUT: “Choices,” “Day X,” “Man on Mars”



Album Review: Masked Intruder – “III”

Masked Intruder are one of those bands that people either love or hate, with few on the fence about whether or not they like them. I happen to be one of the people who love them, even if gimmicks aren’t usually my thing when it comes to bands. Yellow, Blue, Red, and Green did it again, though, with their new album, III, which picks up where the band left off with M.I. in 2014. What a wait – even with the “Love and Other Crimes” EP in the middle of it – but they made it worth our time.

The album is full of songs about relationships and crime, as anyone would expect from the band. Nonetheless, it is pop-punk at its finest. The album gets started right away with, “No Case,” an anthem for anyone who can say they are in no way guilty of anything they are being accused of. Which may be a theme for this band, but hey, what works… works.

“All Of My Love” is a super-catchy song that is classic Masked Intruder, as is “Not Fair,” which tells the story of how unfair it is that a girl has a boyfriend who isn’t good enough for her and she’d be better off with the guy stalking her from a treehouse. Because that’s what this band is all about – and exactly why they work so well. (And who hasn’t done something like that once or twice?)

“I’m Free (At Last)” is probably the best song about getting out of jail? A relationship? Both? that’s ever been written. It’s absolutely celebratory and a great sing-along song for anyone who is celebrating any kind of freedom in their lives.  Likewise, “Gimme Parole” is a song just begging for that break for being over a girl. Is the song about literal parole? Figurative? Does it matter? Not in the slightest. The song is catchy and fun and a single minute of nothing other than pop punk perfection.

Each song segues perfectly into the next and there’s not a weak link among the twelve songs that make up III. For a band only on their third full-length release, this is quite an accomplishment. Most bands have at least one annoying or subpar song, but not Masked Intruder.

This is the punk rock I grew up on – only taken to the next level. Lots of love, lots of heartbreak, lots of innocence, lots of crime… a bit of stalking… and total fun. Even they know they sound like The Queers and all the Lookout! bands of the 1990s – mixed with more rock and even doo-wop influences. The band says they are influenced by everything from the Mr. T Experience and Misfits to Journey and Boston. This should not work, and yet it does. Carried by harmony and driving punk rock music, this is far and away an album that can be considered a triumph for the band.

This is one of my favorites of 2019, thus far, and probably still will be at the end of the year. There’s not a bad song on the whole album, so it is most certainly going to be on heavy rotation, where it belongs. Nonetheless, I’ll do my best not to use it as an instructional guide to life, lest Office Bradford comes looking for me.

You can stream the album below to hear what I am talking about and decide for yourself. Great? Or GREAT?

4/5 Stars



Album Review: The Murderburgers – “What A Mess”

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/5 stars



Album Review: Buck-O-Nine “FunDayMental”

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5/5 Stars



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5 stars



EP Review: Goodland – “Like All Else”

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

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

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

You can listen to the name your price EP below.

4/5 stars



Album Review: Not On Tour – “Growing Pains”

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

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

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

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

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

You can check out and download the album below.

5/5 stars



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

I made a mistake.

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

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

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

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

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