Tag «punk rock»

Album Review: NOFX – “First Ditch Effort”

Everyone has their own unique story of the first time they heard NOFX. For me, I heard “Dinosaurs will Die” on Purevolume.com at age 12. At first I didn’t quite get it, but it grew on me and a few months later I picked up War on Errorism at Fred Meyer of all places (this was sort of toward the middle-end of the ‘punk rock is commercially successful’ phase we witnessed in the mid-00’s [see: Vans Warped Tour]). WOE is probably in my top 10 or 15 favorite records of all time now, and over the years the band has continued to put out stand out material. So when I heard that Fat Mike (of all people) was going sober, I was curious how it would affect their music. I don’t do drugs, I don’t care about drugs, I drink way less than all of my friends – but it seemed like such a big part of their music and his personality that it couldn’t go unnoticed in the music, right?

Well, turns out that he wasn’t sober during the making of the album, but completed 85 days of sobriety around that time. Also, he’s doing the whole “moderation” thing nowadays. So with that said, a lot of the songs on the album deal with sobriety, but they also touch on other dark corners of Mike’s life. Of course musically NOFX is still NOFX. They still have their trademark mix of slop and pop and while some might worry that they’re “maturing”, don’t fear! The subject matter is more honest, but they’re still written like you would expect NOFX to write them. It’s still counter culture, still challenging, and still a punk rock album.

First Ditch Effort has some of the best songs NOFX have ever written, in my opinion. It’s notably catchy but also aggressive when it needs to be, keeping you on your toes most of the way through. “6 Years on Dope” is one of their most aggressive opening songs since “It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite.” Melvin’s yell on that song is better than ever (even better than on “The Separation of Church and Skate”, which is possibly my favorite NOFX song of all time) and is a clever ode to the drug abusing life Fat Mike (and his fellow band members) lived prior to this release. “Happy Father’s Day” begins with a sweet “Sadie”-esque riff, and quickly hits the 90’s skate punk territory that NOFX is so famous (or infamous) for. “Sid and Nancy” is a great piece in which Fat Mike theorizes about Nancy Spungen killing Sid Vicous instead of the other way around, similar to a Courtney Love-Kurt Cobain conspiracy theory. The first seven songs on the album are particularly catchy actually, whether it’s the NUFAN-ish “I Don’t Like Me Anymore” or “I’m a Transvest-lite”, which is a confessional tune about Fat Mike’s cross dressing that reminds me a lot of “Quart in Session.” I don’t have much to say about “I’m So Sorry Tony,” besides that they nailed the NUFAN-ish chord progression and the ending sound clip made me really sad.

Of course NOFX has always been known for their puns – is there a punnier band in punk rock? This usually works well for them, but they may have overdone it on “Oxy Moron”.

My three least favorite songs on the album were “Ditch Effort”, “Dead Beat Mom“, and “Generation Z”. “Ditch Effort” and “Dead Beat Mom” aren’t bad, they just didn’t really resonate with me. And as much as I really wanted  to like “Generation Z”, the spoken word ending just came off as a little overly cheesy for me.

All in all First Ditch Effort is definitely a stand out record, but what else would you expect from Mike, Smelly, Melvin, and Hefe. Well done guys, and hooray for punk rock in 2016!

4/5 Stars

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Union Stockyards announce double EP re-release through Hidden Home Records

Winnipeg punks Union Stockyards have announced the re-release of 2014’s TRACKS EP and last year’s self-titled EP on a limited edition cassette through Hidden Home Records.

The cassette is entitled Two Things at Once and the artwork was designed as a tribute to the Descendents release of the same name. You can watch the Promo Video below. (more…)

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Album Review: The Hotelier – “Goodness”

Over the past few years, the Hotelier (previously spelled “The Hotel Year”) has morphed from an impressive no-bullshit pop punk band into seemingly the biggest band of the “emo revival.” Home, Like No Place Is There was a record that connected with fans all over the world for its brutal honesty and relatability dealing with heavy subject matters. Records like it come around once or twice every ten years or so. This said, Goodness was one of the most anticipated punk-anything records of 2016, and while it might not break ground sonically or lyrically for fans the way their last record did, it doesn’t mean they weren’t pushing their boundaries or combatting people’s expectations.

Christian Holden, the voice behind The Hotelier, loves to challenge the status quo and people’s’ notions of what are acceptable and unacceptable. The same attitude that went into putting a group of naked elderly people onto the album cover also went into certain musical choices on the album. A good example can be found at the very beginning of the record, where there’s an unexpected spoken word track (“N 43° 59’ 39.927” W 71° 23’ 45.27””).

Goodness is a quality record in the fact that each song seems to be thoughtfully written and catchy. “Goodness Pt. 2”, the song’s second track, opens the record by layering instrument after instrument one by one thus creating anticipation in the listener until everything crashes in toward the middle. “Piano Player”, one of the more uptempo songs on the record, holds its own for five and a half minutes, something unheard of for a more punk rock sounding song. “Soft Animal”, possibly the best song on the record, appears at a time when the record needs a kick in energy. On top of it all, it can’t be stated how much feeling Holden obviously put into the lyrics and subject matter on this album.

When listeners hear “I’m freezing” repeated through the chorus of “Fear of Good”, they will actually see the singer shivering, coatless in a snowy town. “Opening Mail for My Grandmother” which begins with “your grip on my forearm/insert the wrong name” paints a sad picture of one’s grandparent slipping away to the end of their life and observing them as their body and brain deteriorate over time. In “Soft Animal,” when the words “Make me feel alive/make me feel like I don’t have to die/make me believe that there’s a God sometimes,” there’s no doubt that Holden actually has felt that sense of longing for purpose. However, while Holden has stated in interviews that Goodness is more or less a positive record (“Taoist love record” they say), the way the lyrics were written in conjunction with the actual instrumentals make that hard to pick up on.

Here’s the thing: each song on this record is good. But the great thing about this band’s previous records were that they were journeys in themselves. The first songs left listeners feeling different than the last songs did. Goodness on the other hand has the problem of keeping listeners in one place or frame of mind. The last song feels like the first. Unfortunately, this makes for kind of an overly melancholy record. It’s not one of those things where they made the same album twice, because this album is definitely different and a departure from their previous work, but no song in this collection particularly sticks out from the rest, whereas with Home, or even with INGO, almost every song was uniquely individual in the emotions they evoked or the way they evoked them.

Goodness gets a 3.5/5. That said, The Hotelier are still one of the best bands in the game right now and I hope they’re around for years and years to come. This record was simply where they’re at now – I’m excited to see where they go in the future.

3.5/5 Stars

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SKiTTiSH iTZ stream new song “Keep Your Castle”

Boise punks SKiTTiSH iTZ are streaming a new song from their final album, BACK TO REALiTY, over at New Noise Magazine. Listen to it here.

The song is entitled “Keep Your Castle” and is an ode to a lovestruck Super Mario who at last gives up on chasing Peach. Fans of Lagwagon, the Vandals, or Goldfinger will probably like this a lot.

BACK TO REALiTY is SKiTTiSH iTZ’s fifth release and final album. It’s set to be released on July 22nd on Hidden Home Records.

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Album Review: Flatfoot 56 – “Black Thorn”

black-thorn-cover1**The Album Reviews published on Dying Scene are written and submitted by regular users of the site.  These users are not professional music critics nor are they paid for what they write.  If you disagree with an album’s rating, feel free to voice your opinion and give it your own rating in the comments.  If you’d like to submit your own review do it here.

Celtic folklore cites the Black Thorn as being the most sinister and evil of all trees. When its’ leaves fall off nothing remains but a dark, twisted skeleton. On top of that, it is also the main ingredient found in the construction of the traditional Irish weapon, the shillelagh. Although, it may not be the reason they went with the title it is certainly a fitting description for the latest release from Chicago’s finest Celtic band, Flatfoot 56.

I was first introduced to this ragged, rabble-rousing crew when I heard their last album, “Jungle of the Midwest Sea”. From the haunting drums and bellowing sea shanties of the intro, ‘The Galley Slave’ you were launched directly into a punk-rock assault they entitled, ‘Carry ‘Em Out’. They had my number, I was hooked. How could you possibly top that?

Fast-forward a few years and with ‘The Galley Slave’ sitting high-atop my favorite album intros, across my plate comes, “Black Thorn”, an album that is promptly being released on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) of this year. Here we go… let’s see what they have in store.

This intro starts with the same emotion and darkness as the last but this time the haunting drums are replaced with a chilling mandolin and a few simple questions being asked, “Tired of the everyday grind? Want to get away from it all? Dream of a life of romantic adventure? And the answer is a strong response… ’We offer you The Escape’. From there you are thrown straight into the knuckles-up title-track, “Black Thorn”.

I firmly believe that this band needs an album strictly composed of intros. These are so intense at times it makes your hair stand up on end.

After you start to come down from the opening, “Black Thorn” continues to solider on like any good album should. The title-track is a hard and honest song with the harsh line, “If you forget…I’ll forget you”.  Soon to be followed by the song prominently featured in the album’s teaser-trailer released online, “Hourglass”.  An infectious fist-pumping mandolin-heavy song that talks about the struggle between finding the time for everything important in your life and all the while trying to escape the world’s hourglass.  A feeling I am sure anyone who is trying to make ends meet can relate with.

The tone is brought down to a more heartfelt level with, “Courage”.   Much like the Street Dogs one-time show closer, “Fighter”… “Courage” is a passionate homage to a beloved individual who has greatly affected your life in a positive and unbelievable way.  When front man, Tobin Bawinkel states, “…because of your example, you inspired me!”… We can all relate to that courage that has been bestowed on us from a loved one at some point in our lives. Myself included.  This song confirmed to me why they decided to work with Street Dogs’ member, Johnny Rioux at his legendary, Compound.  A very wise decision that has, lucky for us listeners, resulted in an outstanding album.  Not only by sound-quality but by content as well.

After you’re done drying your eyes from listening to “Courage” you’re pulled back into the ‘Braveheart’ circle-pit that the Ollie Mob (Flatfoot 56’ followers) use to destroy the enemy.  The song, “Smoke Blower”.   It’s fast, quick and straight to the neck. “House of Cards, House of Sticks…you’ll never shake my House of Bricks!” is routinely chanted by this relentless chorus of fire.

The bagpipes, although an important factor in their sound, aren’t as widely used in this album.  They have instead opted to highlight the mandolin, which is a good choice.  Why not mix it up a little?  It’s refreshing to hear an album that isn’t entirely bagpipe intros, heavy guitars and a Pogues or Dubliners cover every second song.

By this point, we scally-cap sporting hooligans are in our glory but if you’re strictly into the street-punk sound, you’re probably feeling left out.  Have no worries my angst-ridden friend, a short mandolin intro and your turn has now come with, “We Grow Stronger”.  It has the speed, the ‘whoa-ohs” and the unity inspired lyrics you were waiting for. You’re welcome.

Following this assault, we are eased-into a soon to be pub classic, “Son of Shame”.   No other song on this album could sound more Irish.  The toil and troubles of the world all compiled into one mandolin & bagpipe laced little ditty.   No sooner to be followed by my favorite track from the album, “Way of the Sun”.  Catchy, upbeat, well-written and with one of the greatest musical creations the world has ever heard, rolling drums!

Every song on this album is different than the next in some way, shape or form and coming from a Celtic-punk band that is refreshing. It is no wonder that FLATFOOT 56 has risen above the rest and gained the notoriety they so rightfully deserve. “Shiny Eyes” a love song that features female vocals (name unknown… sorry, I don’t have the liner notes) shows that this band has much more in them than just speed and pipes.

Directly after saying that, my foot goes straight into my mouth with, “Stampede”.  Ever wonder what it would feel like to literally be standing in the middle of a stampede with nothing but a wave of noise and pressure standing between you & your fate?  This song places you there.

“Won Me Over” the second of the new love-infused songs boasts the powerful line, “through your steady hand, I breathe new hope”.  As a man of recent marriage and one who is madly in love with his wife, I completely understand. Soon thereafter, “Born for This” reminds us all why we got into this music in the first place.  Straight-up punk rock.

The album ends off with the fast & furious, “Hot Head”.  A proper conclusion to a solid album from start to finish.  I expected a great listen from these Chicago boys and they gave me exactly what I asked for and more.  What else could a guy want?  Maybe that cheesy 80s’ band was right… every rose does have its’ thorn, but if Flatfoot 56 has anything to do with it, this time they’ll be black!

-Taron Cochrane

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