Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Album Review: Various Artists - The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore

In 1988, Lookout Records released a compilation called The Thing That Ate Floyd. It featured some of the best bands from the Gilman music scene of the late 80's. It was a massive collection- 36 songs by 36 different bands, some of which seemed to exist solely for contributing to the compilation. If Lookout had just waited a little bit longer, maybe they could've included Green Day somewhere on the tracklist.

But I digress. I bring up The Thing That Ate Floyd because now here we are, 24 years later, and Adeline Records has just released The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore, a spiritual successor, if you will, to the old Lookout compilation. (I assume that Lookout would have released this, but they closed earlier this year.) This new compilation collects 16 modern bands from all around North America that were handpicked by Lookout-founder Larry Livermore. It may not sound as impressive at first with only 16 bands, but the shorter tracklist works in its favor as it cuts down on the joke tracks by bands that may not have been real bands that were on Floyd, emphasizing the songwriting by the bands included. It should be noted that each song is brand new, written specifically for the compilation (kind of like some songs on Short Music for Short People). That makes it a pretty special collection already, and the fact that every band on here rocks only helps make it better.

Fans of pop punk bands like Dear Landlord, the Copyrights, the Dopamines, House Boat, Mean Jeans, and the Hextalls are sure to be pleased because ALL OF THOSE BANDS ARE ON THIS COMP. Other scene favorites like Mixtapes, the Max Levine Ensemble, Night Birds, and Vacation also make appearances. All of the new songs by them sound right at home in each of their respective discographies, showcasing exactly why Livermore picked them in the first place.

Even the bands that I had never heard of before this compilation are awesome: Lipstick Homicide (who remind me of the Unlovables if the Unlovables sounded more like Green Day), the 70's rock and roll sounding City Mouse, the snotty and vicious Weekend Dads, the Copyrights-esque Be My Doppelganger, and the Visitors, who apparently sing about traveling all over the place (which is pretty cool). Having only heard of these bands from this collection, I can't say how their new songs hold up to their previous output, but I assume that their songs are right at home with the rest of their respective catalogs.

The only band I was on the fence about before listening to this comp was Emily's Army. I'm familiar with them enough to know that most people refer to them as the band with Billie Joe's kid and I was really hoping that their inclusion wasn't just because of the relationship between Livermore and Armstrong. I know that's kind of a mean thing to say, but I really wasn't impressed with Don't Be a Dick, the band's debut album from last year. I am glad to say that I was wrong about it though, because the song that Emily's Army included might be their best song yet. It's still kind of got a Green Day Jr. vibe to it, but I can definitely see what Livermore saw in these guys when picking them. Perhaps I need to give their album another shot.

Maybe it's just because I wasn't alive at the time to witness The Thing That Aye Floyd during the peak of its relevance, or maybe it's not just me and it really does just run on for too long, but I find that The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore to be a fantastic "sequel" collection, and I think its superior to the original in many ways. It's probably just because it represents my generation. Either way, I think it rocks and you might too. Definitely one of my favorite releases of the year so far... I fully expect it to make its way on to my end of the year list.

You can check it out on Spotify here: Various Artists – The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore
Or if you want, you can read the other review that I wrote for DyingScene here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Album Review: Batfoot! - Brain Dead

A few summers ago, I went through this huge pop punk phase. Like, a hardcore three month streak of nothing but pure pop punk. The Ergs!, The Lillingtons, The Steinways, The Copyrights, The Dopamines, Teenage Bottlerocket, Dear Landlord, Screeching Weasel, The Queers, Broadway Calls, Teen Idols, The Huntingtons, The Leftovers, The Methadones, The Unlovables... you name them, and I probably at least checked them out, if not listened to them on repeat for days. Unless their recordings didn't exist back then. Like House Boat. Except then House Boat released The Delaware Octopus toward the end of summer/beginning of the school year and I fell in love with that shit too.

Batfoot! was one of the many bands that I discovered during that point in my life. I didn't think they were the best band, but they wrote short songs about silly subjects. And they had an exclamation point in their name. So yeah, I liked that a bunch.

At the time, they only had a single EP, Melodic Tardcore. I enjoyed it, and then they had two EPs when Utsukushii came out. Except I didn't like that one as much. And then my computer crashed and they were one of the many bands that I never got around to replacing on my hard drive. They were still on my iPod, but at that point the new school year had started and I was already off discovering new bands and whatnot.

Flashforward to now. Apparently Batfoot! is not only still together, but they've released their debut full length, Brain Dead (and they're big enough to now have their own Wikipedia page. What.). Featuring 16 songs in 23 minutes, Brain Dead follows the same formula as their EPs, as well as more or less the entire Ramones-core scene: three chords played at lightning fast speeds (sometimes a fourth chord is added during the bridge), the songs are all over either by or before the two minute mark, and the singer has a bit of a drawl that is similar to that of Joey Ramone. It's a lot of fun to listen to, and it's really easy to learn the choruses and sing along, but like other bands in the genre, I really have to be in the right mood for it. Maybe I just feel that way now because I decided to write this at almost 2:30am instead of going to bed like I should have done an hour ago.

In spite of the "needing to be in the right mood" comment I just made, Batfoot!'s debut full length album is actually pretty good. They've still got their sense of humor from the EPs, and they still play fast, short songs about liking girls and hating other dudes. And in the end, isn't that what's really important? [Sometimes].

You can stream and/or buy the whole thing at bandcamp! For your convenience, I've embedded the album stream. Check it out if it sounds like it's up your alley!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Album Review: Daytrader - Twelve Years

Last year when Daytrader released their first EP, Last Days of Rome, I found myself in a 'love upon first listen' situation. I had missed out on hearing their demo when it first debuted (of course, I got it from their bandcamp immediately after I had discovered the band), so the EP was my introduction to them. I'd be lying if I said that having ex-members of Latterman and Crime in Stereo wasn't the reason I was the main reason I checked them out, but goddamn was Last Days of Rome good. Rather than simply continuing the sound of the members previous bands like so many post-main projects do, Daytrader sounded really fresh despite that what they were doing mostly took influence from 90's emo and punk.

album art via AbsolutePunk.
But if you're here, then you already know what Last Days of Rome sounds like and you've got a pretty good idea about Daytrader's history, so I won't go on about that any longer. Twelve Years is the logical full length follow up to their fantastic EP. It follows a similar formula as before, but it slightly tinkered with to create a new listening experience. There are still plenty of choruses to scream along with (Deadfriends, Firebreather, Lost Between the Coasts, Struggle with Me, and Silver Graves... to name half the album), just as there are mellowed verses to croon to (Skin & Bones, and Heard It In a Song, in addition to the previously mentioned tracks) and while it all sounds vaguely familiar there is something about Daytrader's style that makes it sound refreshing.

Produced by Mike Sapone, the same guy who worked on Tell All Your Friends and Your Favorite Weapon (alongside many other popular records), Twelve Years sounds pretty much like it could have been pulled straight from 2003, but at the same time it doesn't- if that makes any sense. There are some pretty obvious influences: The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Sunny Day Real Estate, Saves the Day, but while there are hints of all of those bands on Twelve Years, there's never a moment when Daytrader actually sounds exactly like any of those bands. I think it has a lot to do with the lead vocals, provided by the man only known as Tym. His voice is clean and kind of nasally, but it's also incredibly fierce and powerful and even when he's singing at his hardest it never sounds like he's straining himself to get there.

While Daytrader might not exactly pick up the broken pieces left by the dissolution of the former bands that the members used to play in, they do swoop in and fill in the empty gap that's been present in the scene ever since screaming over heavy techno beats became a thing. Daytrader, you're more than welcome to stay for as long as you'd like.

Other things to note:
-Silver Graves reminds me of that Coheed and Cambria might write. Not a whole lot, but enough to warrant mentioning it.
-There's a very brief moment in the chorus of Heard It In a Song that actually does sound kind of like Unopened Letter to the World by the Ataris. It's not enough to say that the songs sound identical, but there's a two second moment or so that does make me think of the Ataris song.
-As cool as it is that the album has nothing but new songs, I think it would've been cool if they had included a more polished version of a song or two from their demo. Since Twelve Years is only ten tracks long (and runs for 36 minutes) they easily could have fit at least an updated version of Chromatic Living onto the track list somewhere. If I have any major complaints, that's what's wrong with this album.
-I wrote a better review of this album for DyingScene. Once it gets published, I'll provide a link to it.

As promised, the alternate review of the album that I wrote for DyingScene is now up and can be read here.

Album Review: All Things End - Here's to Those That Wish Us Well... All the Rest Can Go to Hell

This review was originally published on DyingScene

All things considered, I should really like Here’s to Those Who Wish Us Well… All the Rest Can Go to Hell, the newest EP by All Things End. The songs are all 3 minutes or under, the guitars are fast, the bass is thick, the drums are pounding, the lyrics are easy to sing with, the vocals are gruff, and it sounds good while sober or while drinking a bottle of whiskey.

Yet there’s something about Here’s to Those Who Wish Us Well… All the Rest Can Go to Hell that just doesn’t work for me. Even after multiple listens over the course of the last few weeks, there’s just something about these four songs that keeps me from enjoying it at full capacity. The only thing I can come up with is vocalist Chris Giordano’s growl; it has a very throaty feel to it, almost metal-throaty sounding, while also being shouted over punk rock songs, and I think that it’s a combination that definitely takes some warming up to before it can completely enjoyed.

Vocals aside, everything else about this EP screams classic Epitaph and Hellcat Records material without sounding dated or recycled. The EP is kind of like NOFX, Rancid, or Pennywise in a way: the chord progressions have an energetic and melodic feel, and the songs are catchy in the sense that it’s easy enough to tap your foot along with the music. I’d be willing to bet that the energy on this recording pales in comparison to the band’s live show. There’s a raw energy on this recording that makes me think that there’s no way that they’re not fun to watch live. The EP’s final track, Here’s to Those, is the token acoustic closer in which Giordano’s vocals are sung rather than shouted, and it gives off more of a Hot Water Music or Jawbreaker feel. 

Minor complaints aside, this EP is pretty good for a debut, and it makes for a good introduction to a new band. I may not be the biggest fan of the vocals, but I appreciate that All Things End take some risks by doing things differently from their peers and influences. Here’s to Those Who Wish Us Well… might not be one of my top contenders for favorite of the year, but it has put a new group on my radar to keep an eye on in the future.