Sunday, March 25, 2012

SHARKS - No Gods

Imagine, if you will, that the Gaslight Anthem were British and toned down their Springsteen influences while increasing their Clash influences.What do you call the end result? SHARKS. I'm exaggerating a little bit, but that's the easiest way that I can describe the band to someone who has never heard of them before. And much like the Gaslight Anthem's debut album, Sink or Swim, the new SHARKS album, No Gods, is surprisingly seasoned sounding- coming off more as a third album than a debut. (Although I will admit that unlike the Gaslight Anthem, SHARKS have released several EPs and singles prior to recording their debut full length and that this probably plays a huge factor as to why the band sounds as tightly as they do).
Someone online said somewhere (probably Punknews)
that this cover reminded them of a cookbook cover. I can see it.

As for those Clash comparisons, I'll just come out and say it: SHARKS vocalist, James Mattock, sounds like Joe Strummer. Not an exact carbon copy, mind you (he's got a bit of a Paul Westerberg slur in there, too) but similar enough to warrant mentioning it.

Musically the band is, to make the comparison again, more in the same league as The Gaslight Anthem. SHARKS takes the sounds of the artists that influenced them (Clash, Social D, Bruce, etc), but instead of playing it exactly the same, they put a modern rock spin on it, giving the sounds a new feel rather than a direct revival of the rock and roll of the past. In contrast to their early songs, SHARKS takes a more laid-back approach on No Gods, experimenting with softer tempos and new instrumentation such as the horns on Patient Spider or the twangy Replacements-esque On a Clear Day You Can See Yourself. It's not quite a London Calling, but it's definitely at least a Give 'Em Enough Rope+.

No Gods is a solid release and pretty damn good for a debut full length. It has a few missteps- not that it has any real "bad songs" per se, but there are certain songs that are clearly better than others (for example, Turn to You isn't an awful track, it just has the misfortune of following Patient Spider), but overall SHARKS has really stepped up their game to create an enjoyable piece of work.

Things to note:
-Maybe it's just me hearing it, but track 4, On a Clear Day You Can See Yourself has this "whoa-oh-oh" thing after the chorus (so... the post-chorus, I suppose) that sounds a whole lot like the "whoa-oh-oh" from the 'Mats' classic Waitress in the Sky.
-From what I can tell, these kids are like three years younger than me. I'm jealous.
-I should point out that the Gaslight Anthem comparisons are not to say that SHARKS sound exactly like them- in fact I would say that the bands clearly have their own distinct sounds. I'm just using the comparisons because both bands are taking similar approaches to paying homage to their heroes while simultaneously creating music to be enjoyed by old and new generations alike.
-What's going on with Rise Records? They've been signing a whole lot of acts that would traditionally be more at home on Epitaph. It's almost like they're trading rosters. I'm impressed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds - I'd Rather Die Than Live Forever (DyingScene Review)

This review was originally published on DyingScene.

Six years. That’s how long it’s been since The Lawrence Arms released their last full length, Oh! Calcutta!. The band’s 2009 EP, Buttsweat and Tears, was a nice stopgap, but since then fans have had a whole lot of waiting to get their proper Lawrence Arms fix. Yes, there was the second Sundowner album, and the Wasted Potential split between Brendan Kelly and Smoke or Fire’s Joe McMahon, and even Neil Hennessy’s drumming on the latest Smoking Popes album, but none of them have been the suitable follow up that the world has been waiting for these past six years.

Enter: Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds, the newest project from the raspy voiced bassist / blog enthusiast. Does it fill the aforementioned void that is the lack of new Lawrence Arms material? Short answer: Yes and no. Long answer: I’d Rather Live Than Die Forever comes closer to sounding like the Lawrence Arms than any other side project this side of the Falcon, but at the same time it is still a side project and where’s the fun in having a side-project if there’s no experimentation involved?

The album starts with the electric version of Suffer the Children, Come Unto Me, the acoustic rendition of which appeared on the Wandering Birds’ teaser EP from last year and was arguably the strongest track in that small collection. As the case for most electric versions of songs, there is a new sense of energy found in the track, and the hook comes out swinging immediately. Showing off a slight country tinge on this track, Kelly sings with more of a not-so-Southern drawl than his usual raspy style, not unlike his vocal performance on Oh! Calcutta!’s hidden track, Warped Summer Extravaganza.

Sonically, Kelly and his band of traveling fowls explore a variety of ground on I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever. Fans of Kelly’s raspy voiced punk rock will be pleased by the Lawrence Arms-esque tunes, Doin’ Crimes and What’s a Boy to Do?, while tracks like East St. Louis and Your Mother carry on the spirit of the Falcon. Those looking for something new might enjoy the slow grind of A Man with the Passion of Tennessee Williams (an alternate take of the EP’s titular track) or perhaps just the general slower tempos of Dance of the Doomed and Latenightsupersonicelasticbags. Even the country flavor of the opening track is continued, and even more pronounced, on Ramblin’ Revisited, while Kelly goes all out acoustic on The Thud and the Echo.

Lyrically, Kelly’s techniques on I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever are both exactly the same as his previous work in the Lawrence Arms (and some of the less politically-charged Broadways songs), and completely unlike what he’s done before. The songs are still loaded with tons of pop culture references and it would be impossible to catch all of them without having the lyrics, although even then some references still might go over your head. Yet, absurd allusions to our society aside, Kelly himself has gone on record that many of these songs are outside his usual comfort zone – a songwriting experiment that he picked up from Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong – and that many of the song’s lyrics explore the dark places that the human mind can go when under stress and pressure. This might not be readily apparent, although a close listen to the lyrics, particularly Doin’ Crimes, will reveal that the stories told in these songs aren’t quite as fun or lighthearted as some of their melodies might make them out to be.

Not too long after he announced his intentions for this new project, Kelly made sure to clarify that the album wouldn’t be “‘punk’ so much as punk influenced rock” and he wasn’t lying. There’s no doubt that the fans will be divided on this one, which is something that’s to be expected when it comes to a side project. I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever is an enjoyable combination of familiar sounds and new experiments from the Chicago punk veteran. It still isn’t that exact Lawrence Arms album that the world has been waiting on, but it’s definitely a good way to tide the fans over until then (or at least until their long-awaited DVD, An Evening of Extraordinary Circumstance, finally comes out).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pusrad - Smarttrams

Pusrad tear through seven songs in under three minutes on this debut EP. The longest song, Stupet, is just 35 seconds long, so there's probably not a lot of depth to the lyrics that I'm missing by not being able to understand Swedish (or whatever language all the lyrics to this record are in).

Sound-wise, Pusrad are similar to their KBD punk-obsessed contemporaries like the Secret Prostitutes and Lögnhalsmottagningen, but also slightly more hardcorey type bands like Regulations or Social Circkle. While those other bands will sometimes slow it down a notch, Pusrad just shoot straight through at full speed. These guys are probably great live.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bad Advice - Do Not Resuscitate

This record was recorded a few years ago, but wasn't released until a couple weeks ago for some reason.

Bad Advice has members of Government Warning, Direct Control, The Ladies, etc. and there are snippets of those bands' sounds in this. Very tight, thrashy guitars that fall somewhere between the pure guitar attack of Direct Control and something like... The Germs? Surf rock? Something like that. Ideal soundtrack for skating.

Tony Bitch's vocals are sort of recognizable from his work with The Ladies, but there's a reverb effect or something on them on this record that makes him sound like the guy from.... some 80s hardcore band. Maybe one from Boston?

Overall, this record sounds like it could have been released sometime around 1983. Nothing groundbreaking, but solid.

GSRS: Four songs in about 6.5 minutes. Not ideal, but there's enough changes in the songs that they don't feel long/boring.

Bad Religion's Generator is 20 today.

Bad Religion's sixth album (fifth if you're not counting Into the Unknown, as many do) Generator came out twenty years ago today. I was only three and a half, and the only thing I remember about 1992 was the theatrical release of Aladdin, so I can't really go on and on about how important this album was to me that year. I also didn't begin to listen to Bad Religion until I was halfway through college- something that is entirely my fault and I regret all the time. That said, I still have a lot of good memories regarding Generator, most of them relating to sitting underneath a tree and reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. And much like how The Road is a bleak story, Generator has a dark tone that the band had never captured before, and had yet to record anything else like it; it is unique in that it sounds like no other Bad Religion album but it is still widely accepted by fans.

One of the most noticeable things about Generator is that it is a very guitar-driven album. Wild solos and fills run throughout the songs- an uncommon practice in the punk and hardcore circles- and many times the guitar will take precedence over the vocals, cutting in after only a single verse as opposed to waiting until the bridge. I'm aware that this might be common stuff in other genres, but this kind of experimentation just didn't happen with punk bands. (Obviously it did, but unless they were on Dischord it was just kind of weird).

The song writing on Generator also shows a shift in the band's style. Some songs, like No Direction or Only Entertainment, follow the usual Bad Religion style if you overlook the fact that they were twice as long as most of Bad Religion's other songs at the time (their three previous albums had a song length average of roughly one minute and forty seconds). But the real gems on this album are the songs that experiment with the odd shifts in tempo or time signature. Generator, Two Babies in the Dark, and Atomic Garden are all examples of the band trying out some weird new stuff and those three songs are some of my favorite tracks on the album. Two Babies in the Dark also stands out lyrically, making an excellent melody out of run-on fragments and homophones long before Kanye was telling the world he was a master wordsmith. Meanwhile, songs like Heaven Is Falling, a scathing attack on the Bush Sr. Administration, showed that the band hadn't lost their political edge no matter how much the music might have changed. (Heaven Is Falling also got a somewhat timely update by the Ataris during the Bush Jr. Administration on the Rock Against Bush compilations).

Sometimes I think it's hard to talk about an album that wasn't a part of my life during my formative years. It's like finally getting to see a movie that everyone raved about years ago and whenever you want to talk about how great it was, most people just respond with "Yeah, I've already known that for ages." Trying to talk about Generator is kind of like that, especially now that it's twenty years old. If, for whatever reason, you've stumbled your way here and you don't already listen to Bad Religion and love this album, I urge you to give it a listen (or another one if you've already tried). Generator is a one of a kind release for the band- it lacks the overall appearance of a hardcore album like their earlier work, but it also lacks the more standard "rock" sound that they developed on albums such as Recipe for Hate or Stranger Than Fiction, all while avoiding being disowned by the band (or their fans) like Into the Unknown was. So in that aspect, Generator is at least Bad Religion's most interesting album.

For your enjoyment, I have included some songs to hopefully encourage you to check out the album in full.


No Direction:
Two Babies in the Dark:

Heaven Is Falling:

Atomic Garden:

It's true that "no Bad Religion song can make your life complete." Although I think that having a collection of them, like on Generator, certainly helps.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Masked Intruder - First Offense

Everyone's favorite group of pop punk inmates have finally unleashed their debut 7" EP! Filled with so many sugary hooks that you should go see your dentist after each listen, First Offense continues the themes of lighthearted songs about love, rejection, and restraining orders, that were found present on their 2011 demo.

Musically the band sounds like a continuation of the Ramones, particularly Teenage Bottlerocket. Lightning fast tempos, with chugged guitars, a repetitive chorus, and a drumming style that can really only be described as "Tommy R." (or Marky, for those who prefer the later stuff). They don't deviate from this style much, but Masked Intruder does offer some insight to what they would sound like as an a capella group on the final track, Wish You Were Mine. It comes as a very pleasant surprise, and it shows off the band's vocal capabilities, sounding more like the Temptations almost. This shift doesn't last long before the band launches back into their standard pop punk sound, although the backing vocals provided continue to be top notch and work well alongside lead vocalist Blue.

Lyrically the band continues to exploit their alleged criminal background. From armed robbery (Stick 'Em Up (I Got a Knife)), to wanting to get out of prison for allegedly being a changed man (Gimme Parole), to wanting to do anything to be with a woman (How Do I Get to You?), the band never breaks character, always sticking with the theme that they're a bunch of dangerous thugs. The lyrics are in direct contrast to how fun the music is, although they use it to their advantage and it helps them create a playful atmosphere to let listeners know that this project isn't meant to be taken too seriously.

Gimmick bands are a tricky thing, but Masked Intruder has found a comfortable place for themselves on the spectrum. Love songs and pop punk have always gone hand-in-hand, and Masked Intruder has found a new way to present the overdone pop song about love without going out of their way to alienate new listeners. First Offense is an enjoyable ten minutes and shows a lot of promise from these boys. Now if only they could just stay out of prison long enough to record a full length!

Stick 'Em Up (I Got a Knife) can be streamed here:

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Idiot Talk - EP

Idiot Talk is from France, but they sound more Canadian to me, mostly because they sound VERY MUCH like Career Suicide, Canada's #1 moderny-but-80s-sounding hardcore punk band that I'm not sure whether or not still exists.

This particular record has five songs which last less than seven minutes, so it's got a very good rating on the GSRS (Group Sex Ratio System*).

The songs on this record seem to loosely follow a theme of people drifting apart/disagreeing about life/falling out of punk sort of thing. Think Salad Days. Not sure if that was on purpose.

There's really not much else to write about this record. Do you like 80s hardcore? Do you like Career Suicide? If you answered 'yes' to one or more of these questions, you'll probably like this record.

Here's a song by Idiot Talk that isn't on this record:

*The Group Sex Ratio System is a record rating system which follows the wisdom of The Circle Jerks on their perfect first album, which was about 15 songs in about 15 minutes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ceremony - Zoo

People don't start hardcore bands because they're happy. People start hardcore bands because they're dissatisfied with their lives, society, whatever. When Ceremony started, they played fast, short songs about anger and violence. It's hard to maintain the anger which fuels music like that.

The Ceremony on their new album, Zoo, is still easily identifiable as the same band that recorded Ruined and Violence Violence, but it's clear that the initial rage in those early records has died down into a somber acceptance that our civilization is sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always inescapably extensive. The insert that comes with the LP folds out into a poster with a collage of aerial photos. Looking closely, you see that it is made of the same photos repeated over and over, but cut differently each time. All the same, yet disconnected... an endless zoo in which we are all caged.

Zoo feels similar to Ceremony's last album, Rohnert Park, both in sound and theme. Some of the songs drone in repetition, others flare up in abrupt moments of residual anger.

Like Black Flag's My War or Poison Idea's Feel the Darkness, some fans of the band's early work may not appreciate this record. Others will see it as a logical next step for a band that reaches the limits of hardcore and keeps going, possibly even better than what has come before it.

Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine - Mickey

Quick. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about a third wave ska-punk band with horns? Reel Big Fish? Less Than Jake? How much you hate people that say they love the "ska version" of Come On Eileen? If you do, that's understandable, but you'd be far off if you think that Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine falls into the same tropes as ska-punk bands from the late 1990s. Rather, they take the sounds of yesterday and put them through a modern punk rock filter to create something new. With a couple of demos and EPs underneath their belt the Long Island-based band released their debut full length, Mickey, last November.

Equipped with a maturity that most ska bands don't achieve until at least album three or four, Eli Whitney takes as much influence from the likes of Streetlight Manifesto as they do from dual vocal-based punk rock bands, including but not limited to, Hot Water Music, the Lawrence Arms, and the Menzingers. Armed with a wide range of sounds, Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine are a breath of fresh air in a dying genre, proving to listeners everywhere that they don't need to make ska puns or include a song titled "Beer" just to fit in.

Musically each member plays their part well, with their brass section being particularly strong. From the Streetlight Manifesto-esque playing on Ridgewood to the cool jazziness of 22 Hours, Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine truly appreciates what it means to be a ska band; giving their full line up the opportunity to shine rather than only use them for whenever is convenient like so many third wave bands have done in the past. 

"Hey! You got orgcore in my ska!"
In terms of lyrics, the young band shows a wisdom beyond their years. Shouted lyrics such as "playing it safe, you've got me falling asleep/it doesn't matter how loud, it matters what you mean" from the opening track My Response to a Stephen Jerzak Concert are not what most listeners would expect when they think of ska bands, but it also shows the band means business and should not be taken lightly. Throughout Mickey's ten tracks, co-vocalists Mike Vizzi and Craig Shay deliver powerful line after line, working together in the same spirit as Chris McCaughan and Brendan Kelly, Tom May and Greg Barnett, or even Matt Canino and Phil Douglas. They each get their time in the spotlight, but they each complement the other so well that they're at their best when singing along side-by-side.

Mickey shows a lot of promise from an up-and-coming band. Rather than conforming to the expectations of ska bands, Eli Whitney mixes their upstrokes and brass section with rough gang vocals, and self-reflective lyrics that are both hopeful and jaded at the same time. In many ways, Mickey plays as if Sink or Swim had a child with Everything Went Numb.

This ain't your older brother's ska. This is the new wave.

Check 'em out on bandcamp:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cheap Girls / The Sidekicks / Brothers of Brazil - Live at the Knitting Factory

 This review has been published on

*not the actual flyer for this show*
90’s nostalgia was at an all-time high on March 6th at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. The new champions of alt. punk and indie rock, the Sidekicks and Cheap Girls, were on the bill and nearly everyone in attendance had securely fashioned their loose-fitting flannels and Rivers Cuomo glasses. The Knitting Factory is neatly divided into two segments: in the front is the bar with seating, video game consoles and a no-charge ATM; while the back room is where the stage is located along with its own bar. It’s a cozy environment and exactly the type of place to see bands that might be too explosive for a basement, but not quite large enough to sell out a stadium.

The first act of the night was the local Brooklyn band, Velta. Combining memorable hooks, dirty garage-revival tones, and a lead vocalist who is closer to Joan Jett than Hayley Williams, the trio started the night off right, setting a high energy bar that the rest of the bands would need to match or exceed. Velta made note of their lack of proper merchandise, but also informed the crowd of their recordings on bandcamp and upcoming events.

Brothers of Brazil took the stage not long after Velta moved their equipment. Consisting of only two members the band was certainly the most diverse and theatrical band of the night; as their sound, in the same spirit as Chumbawamba and Gogol Bordello before them, seamlessly blended traditional influences with punk rock ideals. One moment the duo would be playing a samba beat before exploding into a 1950’s rock and roll solo, followed by a bossa nova guitar riff with a punk rock shout over it. Drummer and vocalist Supla, dressed in a manner that was very inspired by the look of Johnny Rotten, split his time being behind the drum kit and running around stage to amp up the energy in the room. Meanwhile his brother, guitarist and vocalist João, was dressed more like Elvis or Ritchie Valens, and moved in a very similar manner. Initially greeted with blank stares, each passing song gained one more audience member who stepped closer to the stage to get a good look at this truly unique band, culminating in a loud applause at the end.
The room filled with a sea of scraggly beards, thick rims, and complete with the distinct smell of PBR as the Sidekicks began to set up for their set. In spite of releasing a new album two weeks ago the band opted to open their set with Hop on a Sea Cow and Manatee Up from 2008’s Sam EP, which was a treat for the band’s older fans, but it was also a signal that the band’s set would focus on their career as a whole and not just promoting their newest work. Not that it would have made a huge difference, as the entire room sang along with each and every word, old and new songs alike. The band kept their banter to a minimum overall, notable exceptions include bassist Ryan Starinsky’s dream-induced comment regarding New York, dreams, and pigeons (something he decided not to repeat) and guitarist Matt Scheuermann’s attempt to talk to the crowd before tying his tongue into a knot.

While they might have had some trouble with their words, the Sidekicks were anything but too tired to play, putting forth tremendous amounts of energy into each song, particularly the incredible beating that drummer Matt Climer put his kit through, breathing a new life into their songs that can’t be found on the studio recordings. The band tore through songs like Almost the Same, Small, and Chips Bring a Party Down, but the highlights of the night were the stunning performances of The Whale and Jonah, and Daisy, both five and a half minute indie rock epics. Without missing a single note, the quartet took the audience on a journey to a time that most had only seen through video performances on MTV or YouTube. Perhaps it was the deep red lighting that was reflecting off his equally red shirt, or maybe it was his long hair sticking to his face, but lead vocalist/guitarist Steve Ciolek was channeling Kurt Cobain during these songs, dropping to the floor, and playing so hard that his guitar strap came undone and he had to finish the set on his knees. It was moving as it was powerful and the band left the stage with the audience cheering for more.

Much like the Sidekicks, Cheap Girls decided to avoid playing a set heavily emphasized on their new album, and instead chose to open with Something That I Need, from their 2009 full length, My Roaring 20’s. Fans only familiar with the apathetic, college rock feel of the band’s first two albums were in for a surprise to hear old favorites updated with the newfound vigor that the band has adopted, as the power trio played song-after-song from their all of their studio recordings, as well as their track from last year’s split with Lemuria.

Hearing the old songs filtered through this brand new energy was like getting to hear them for the first time again; classics such as Kind of on Purpose, No One to Blame, and Modern Faces were injected with a force that was not present four years ago, giving them a whole new feel. The guitar was blaring and distorted, the drums and bass were steady and consisted, and Ian Graham belted out the lyrics with ease, while drummer Ben Graham provided back-up vocals that accentuated his brother’s voice. The band made little time for between-song chat, only pausing to finish a beer or to quickly fine tune their instruments, but the audience didn’t care because that only meant more songs to be heard.

Generally when a headlining band finishes their set they will walk off stage and, if they are the type of band to perform encores, will wait for the crowd to cheer them back on. Cheap Girls barely had time to put their instruments down before they were bombarded with requests from the audience and decided to stay on the stage. After turning down the idea of playing Stop Now, including an unfinished anecdote from Ian regarding a conversation he had with Mikey Erg (who was in attendance) before the show about his dislike for that song, Cheap Girls played a two song encore of fan-favorites Ft. Lauderdale and 27 Days.

Whether people want to accept it or not, the 90’s are over and done. And while Facebook pages and various memes online will protest this fact, not many are willing to take what made the 90’s so great and move forward with that. The Sidekicks and Cheap Girls are not a part of that unwilling group. These two bands have an extraordinary ability to create something new out of the past, both in the studio and in a live setting, carving out their own place in history to be looked back upon fondly.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cülo / Tenement - Split 7"

This is kind of a weird combination of bands, but they kind of work together.

Tenement's side has two songs that easily fall within pop punk... I can't really make the best comparisons for pop punk, but I would say Your Life or Mine has a simple, catchy '90s kind of vibe to it, while Violent Outlet has sounds a little more modern with more guitar distortion and a couple brief solos that have a frantic Greg Ginn kind of thing going on... sort of like Cülo, actually.

I'm more familiar with Cülo, and their side of this record is not surprising if you are, too. Four real fast songs, angry shouting dude, messy guitar distortion/noise, but kept real tight with driving drum beats. They also know when to slow it down here and there. Big into the '80s hardcore thing... Negative Approach and Void come to mind. The first two songs are I Don't Wanna Listen and I Don't Wanna Go to Psych Ward B, which makes me think they've been listening to a lot of Ramones, the masters of songs about not wanting to do stuff. Important note: these songs are not on Cülo's Life is Vile... and so Are We compilation on Deranged Records.

Cowabunga Records made this and they seem to be out of them... one time press of 545. May be some still floating around different distros?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Aspiga / Hanalei Split 7"

After a few months delay Jump Start Records released a split between New Jersey's Aspiga and California's Hanalei on February 28, 2012. As far as splits go, these two bands have their own specialized approach to punk rock: the energetic Aspiga churns out fast-paced tunes that channel the sounds of the 90's punk scene, while Hanalei, the current project of Brian Moss of the Wunder Years (not to be confused with the modern day pop punk act, the Wonder Years), finds their groove rooted in the indie folk sounds comparable to many acts on the Jade Tree roster. While the physical copy of the split only has two tracks, the digital version doubles the contribution from each band and gives listener twice as many songs.

The split starts off with Aspiga's Laughing This Off, which kicks things off on a fast paced note. While the band has notably been compared to influential acts such as Jawbreaker, Osker, and the Weakerthans, they take what their forerunners did and filter it through the modern day Tri-State area punk sound. From their precise musical abilities, to their dense (and sometimes angry) lyrics, Aspiga has comfortably carved themselves into their own niche; one that allows them to write songs that wear their influences on their sleeves without completely sounding like the bands that inspired them.

Aspiga's second song, Thanks, But I Can Throw Myself Out, starts off sounding almost like The Gaslight Anthem's The '59 Sound before launching into another energetic pop punk tune. Musically, the band offers a solid performance, and continues their ability to create familiar yet new sounds, but the song really shines in the vocals and lyrics, provided by guitarist/vocalist Kevin Day. Arguably Thanks, But I Can Throw Myself Out is stronger of the two Aspiga tracks on this split.

Hanalei's first contribution, the mid-tempo Get Gone, is carried by the melodic vocal performance of Brian Moss. Combining his raspy vocals and clean guitar tones with the steady bass and drums (performed by The New Trust's Josh Staples and Dead to Me's Ian Anderson, respectively), Get Gone sounds almost as if it could very well be an unreleased Jets to Brazil song. No really, it doesn't sound like a really good Jets to Brazil cover, but an actual Jets to Brazil song.

The ride comes to an end with a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain's Cut Dead, which sees Moss step away from sounding like Scwarzenbach and strips away the electric elements. Remaining rather faithful to the original, Cut Dead is a relaxing number that shows off Moss' melodic influences as well as the band's "down-to-earth" folky side. Early reports stated that Hanalei would be contributing a cover of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love to this split. The band had even released a homemade video for this track, although it is oddly missing from the final product. Although that cover would have been welcome, Hanalei's contributions offer a look into both their electric and acoustic sides, benefiting new and old fans alike.

A great split will contain at least two bands or artists that have a similar sound, but that can also remain distinct from one another. Being rooted in the same types of sounds and genres helps to keep listeners interested in both sides, but the diversity of sounds is so that the listener doesn't get bored halfway through. A great split should also get new listeners to want to hear more material by the bands involved, while simultaneously giving older fans excellent new material.  Listeners are in luck, as Aspiga, Hanalei, and Jump Start Records accomplished all of those things with this split album. If there is anything that is underwhelming about this split, it's that it's over all too soon, but that's such an easy problem to remedy that it's hardly underwhelming.

One Hundred

100th Post. This calls for a celebration!

Big coming to C'mon and Cheer Me Up! Most importantly, we're opening up to new writers. My buddy, Jimbo, will be contributing reviews and other things. Jimbo specializes in hardcore, and knows a ton more about it than I do, so finally all of you hardcore fans will see more of your favorite bands being covered (perhaps).

Next: We now have a Facebook page. If you like the blog, you can check us out over there:

Lastly, to celebrate this moment, I've created a Spotify playlist. It's a playlist called Ten Things that I've been working on for a little over a year at this point. The songs are meant to represent ten things that you would like to tell someone, a significant other, a parent, a best friend, a late family member, or even a stranger that affected your life- anyone really- but you never got the chance to tell them. Obviously, some of these songs are personal to me, but if any of this strikes a chord with you I urge you to make your own Ten Things playlist. The lyrics of the whole song don't need to reflect what you want to tell that person- it can even just be a line or two. It might be more helpful than you realize.

Ten Things (you will need Spotify to open this playlist)

I'm aware that there are 11 songs on that playlist. The first track is Paul Baribeau's song, Ten Things, which was the inspiration behind making it in the first place.

And with that, let the good times continue to roll (and cheer us up)!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Top 5 Break Up Songs.

About a week ago I was talking to my friend Adrie about music (as we frequently do) and we started to discuss break up songs. I want to say it was inspired by Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know and the various covers of it, but it could have been anything really.

Anywho, during our conversation I compiled a quick list of 5 songs about break ups that I really enjoy. To say that these are my "top 5" might be pushing it, but these were the 5 that came to mind when I was thinking about it. Some of them aren't exactly break up songs in the traditional sense, but they still all still share the same sentiments of romantic loss and despair.

(A quick note: Adrie runs Because... Vagina, a feminist blog alongside some lovely ladies I have yet to meet. They cover funny things as well as serious issues. Highly recommended.)

5. Jawbreaker - "Sluttering (May 4th)"
What kind of list would this be if I didn't include Jawbreaker? I specifically chose Sluttering (May 4th) for the chanted part at the end. The line "this is a story you won't tell the kids we'll never have." is one of the most powerful and angry lines to me out of any Jawbreaker song. I've been there before, and I really get it.

4. The Ergs! - "Pray for Rain"
Okay, so this song is really more about how much easier it is to write break up songs than it is to write sunny, happy songs. I think it speaks a lot about the human condition and how we gravitate toward sadness and negativity more easily than happier feelings. It's also just a really good song.

3. Green Day - "Whatsername"
Unlike the other songs on this list, I like Whatsername for having a semi-positive tone to it. When relationships go sour, it's not uncommon to wish you had never met the person (see: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and carry an overall negative attitude about that person for a good, long while. Yet, the closing track off of American Idiot tells it a little more differently. Yes, it's still about the protagonist (in this case, Jesus of Suburbia) going on his own path and leaving Whatshername behind, but he'll still think about her from time-to-time. And it's not in a negative way, as he admits to still remembering the time they spent together- he's just forgotten her personality and traits, presumably the ones that drove him away from her. It's an ideal way to look at an ex and not necessarily the way that we can all take.

2. Catch 22 - "Kristina, She Don't Know I Exist"

This is another one that isn't really a break up song, but a song about an unrequited love. In my experience, I've learned that most, if not all, people deal with having a crush on someone (usually in high school) and being too nervous to approach them about it. Not everyone, however, has the luxury of realizing that said crush was merely just idealizing and isn't as perfect as the mind once thought. We all should be able to experience that. Either way, this song is really easy to relate to in terms of subject matter and I think it gives everyone hope that one day they too can see that their high school crush really isn't all that big of a deal.

1. Alkaline Trio - "Radio"
The chorus is just really fun to sing. Really, that's why this is number one. I know that's kind of lame, but that's how it is. 

What are some of your favorite break up songs?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Elite of Just Alright - 21st Century Breakdown

I might have mentioned this before, but I'm a Green Day fanboy. I'm not quite a fanatic, but I do own all of their albums and in high school I was that kid who filled up all of his notebooks with Green Day lyrics instead of actual notes. I had received International Superhits! as an unexpected gift one Christmas, and even though it gathered up their singles in one neat package, I still went out and bought copies of Dookie, Insomniac, nimrod., and Warning. It should go without saying that I also bought 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, Kerplunk and Shenanigans. And I sure as hell rushed straight to the store and got American Idiot the second I got out of school on the day it was released. I was even pumped to go out and buy Bullet in a Bible despite having already seen the concert footage on TV and being disappointed that the show was interrupted by the band's off-stage antics.

So naturally I was stoked upon hearing that the band was finally releasing a new album in 2009. I don't even know how many times I listened to the demo of the title track when it first leaked online, but I was just so excited to have new material by my favorite band that I could even look past the cringe-worthy John Lennon reference in the pre-chorus. I get that John Lennon has had a huge influence on almost every aspect on pop music today, but the band not only covered Working Class Hero, they also released their version as a single just two years before the release of 21st Century Breakdown. An allusion or something would've been fine, but I think borrowing the actual phrase "working class hero" was a little too much there.

Given how much I love Green Day, it kind of pains me to say that I don't feel as passionately about 21st Century Breakdown as I do the rest of their albums. I can forgive that it wasn't anything like older* Green Day because both nimrod. and Warning were excellent forays into new territory for them, but it just comes off as an overly ambitious rock opera with a muddy story and characters who never really get developed. I'm going to clarify right now that from here on, I'll be discussing this album in terms of it's concepts and themes. Overall the individual songs are really good and show off a whole array of sonic diversity, but as a whole package the album was just a letdown for me because it wasn't as nearly as cohesive as American Idiot was. Not to compare them as the same thing, but American Idiot was proof that the band was capable of making an excellent flowing narrative, while 21st Century Breakdown was just kind of a mess in terms of story telling, which is kind of important for a rock opera.

*let's face it, when people say "old Green Day" they really just mean "Dookie and its singles"

But what if 21st Century Breakdown isn't meant to be a rock opera, merely just a concept album instead? What if the characters, Gloria and Christian, aren't actual people like Jesus of Suburbia or Whatsername, but instead symbolic representations of the concepts that run throughout the songs? Well... it certainly makes for a better album, from a thematic standpoint. The narrative is still a little unclear, but thinking about the album as if the names are used in a metaphorical sense helps it move along. When I listen to it without thinking about Christian and Gloria as characters that go through one event from another, the songs transition a little better because I am no longer focused on trying to figure out the exact plot of each track- which was the cause for my disillusionment with the album in the first place. Once I look past the artwork (which clearly depicts two characters) and all the press releases calling it another "rock opera" I can enjoy it for what it really is: a concept album collecting songs that are about the general feelings of hope and despair (and hope again) about the future. 

The real problem with 21st Century Breakdown isn't that it's a bad album; it's that it was misrepresented as something that it wasn't before it was even released, affecting their listening experience with an pre-existing impression that it was going to essentially be a sequel to American Idiot. After I finally realized that was hardly the case, I found the album to be a lot more enjoyable. Minus that really forward John Lennon reference. 

(To be fair, I also really liked that they covered Another State of Mind and Like a Rolling Stone as bonus tracks and I listened to the album even more after finding out about them even though they definitely had no connection to any possible story that one might be able to salvage from the lyrics on 21st Century Breakdown).