Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Album Review: Broadway Calls / Mixtapes - Vision Quest

 This review was also published on DyingScene.

Recently Oregon’s Broadway Calls signed to No Sleep Records. Less recently, but still kind of recently in the grand scheme of things, Ohio’s Mixtapes were also signed to No Sleep Records. Two modern pop punk groups on a label that isn’t specifically known as a pop punk label… Why not put out a split EP between them? Enter: Vision Quest- Broadway Calls’ debut for the label, and Mixtapes’ third or fourth for the label depending on whether or not samplers count as definitive releases.

When compared to the previous Broadway Calls release, the Toxic Kids EP, Vision Quest marks more of a “return-to-format” sound. Toxic Kids was a solid collection, but there was a very rough quality to the EP as a whole, and it was uncharacteristic of the band’s firmly established pop punk sound. Both of the band’s contributions on Vision Quest recreate the refined sound of Broadway Calls and Good Views, Bad News – a move that is very welcome here, as it’s the sound that made everyone fall in love with the band in the first place. “You Got Me” is arguably the band’s best song written since “To the Sheets” (subjectively, of course). As far as their half goes, Broadway Calls really brings their A-game to Vision Quest, and easily plants the seeds of anticipation for their upcoming No Sleep Records debut.

Mixtapes, on the other hand, are coming fresh off the high of releasing their first proper studio full length, Even on the Worst Nights. Undoubtedly these songs were recorded during the same studio sessions, as the band made mention of recording several songs that didn’t make the final cut, and it shows. Chunky riffs, light guitar melodies, lyrics of self-doubt, dual vocals, and distorted voices at the end of songs discussing their inability to sing- all classic elements of a Mixtapes song (normally when a band is as young as Mixtapes it would be weird that there’s already a “classic songwriting formula”, but when a band puts out as much music as Mixtapes it’s only appropriate that they would have developed a “classic formula”).
Vision Quest probably isn’t going to turn over any new mega-fans for either band, but it’s definitely not going to turn away anyone who is already either a casual or mega fan. It’s a solid, albeit it kind of short, collection of songs that is most definitely a welcome addition to both the Broadway Calls and Mixtapes discographies.

RIYL: The Wonder Years, Direct Hit!, The Dopamines

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Album Review: Direct Hit! / The Haverchucks - In Split

This review was originally published on DyingScene.

Not too long ago Kind of Like Records and Bright & Barrow announced a split between Madison, WI’s Direct Hit! and Richmond, VA’s The Haverchucks. With two relatively young pop punk bands, one already established in the scene and the other just beginning to break out, releasing two brand new songs each, what’s not to love? Plus, check out that sweet cover art. Neither band would have been a likely candidate to have appeared on Beavis and Butthead, but the homage is still greatly appreciated by someone who can still remember watching the final episode of the show’s original run back in 1997.

The Direct Hit! half of the split takes a step backwards from the band’s last release (their split with Hold Tight!, which found them exploring near-metalcore territory). Across their two songs, Direct Hit! shows progression from the infectious pop punk sound that they’ve established over the last few years, while also still being able to retain it at the same time. “Operation” is a cover (originally performed by The Side Project, another pop punk band from Wisconsin) although cover or not, Direct Hit! takes a gritty approach to the song, akin to the songs from the band’s previous split with The Jetty Boys in which vocalist Nick Woods continue to use his new, rougher singing style. The lead guitar sounds almost like Teenage Bottlerocket, and the repeated chorus of “you’re just a tumor in my brain (I need an operation)” while being backed by handclaps is bound to get stuck in your head. While the song doesn’t differ much from the original, Direct Hit! manages to make it sound like it is a song of their own. Direct Hit!’s other song, “Fallout Shelter Television”, is a sing-along that ends just as abruptly as it begins, complete with a fart at the end of the track, nodding (intentionally or unintentionally) to the band’s predecessors in the Descendents and blink-182. This is Direct Hit! at their finest: gang vocals mixed with blazing speeds and a dash of humor.

The Haverchucks, on the other side of things, play pop punk as if it were 1992 again. Both of the band’s contributions would sound right at home in The Mr. T Experience discography, nasally vocals complimented with a bouncing bass and a melody that’s way catchier than something this distorted should be. “Winding Down” kicks off the Haverchucks side, and it comes complete with chants of “let’s go!”, and a rocking guitar solo that leaves before it wears out its welcome. In the other contribution, “(The Girl Gave Me) The Runaround” shows off the band’s ability to utilize Weasel-esque “woah-uh-woahs” with mastery, quite possibly being the best song that Dr. Frank never wrote.  While the band is more or less channeling the early 90’s Lookout Records roster, The Haverchucks stand out by having a bassist they actually utilize as opposed to following the root note of the guitar. This is one of the things Green Day also used to break out of the mold, so get into The Haverchucks now before they begin writing high concept socio-political rock operas.

If this collection of songs is any indication of what either band’s next respective full length is going to sound like, you should already consider them the best pop punk albums of 2013. Fuck you, and get pumped.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Album Review: Domestikated - 5 Minutes in Time Out!

Domestikated is a two piece punk band that puts a lyrical emphasis on mocking stereotypical suburban life. 5 Minutes in Time Out! is the band's debut release. With song titles such as "When I Was Your Age" and "Don't Make Me! (Turn This Car Around)", the band unleashes a 6 minute fury on straight-laced businessmen, soccer moms, and angst-ridden teens. In terms of tone and attitude, there hasn't been such a snotty punk band mocking suburbia with such a sharp tongue since the Descendents (in my opinion, that is).

The EP's highlight might be the mid-album track "What's His Name (feat. Becca)", which is a 58 second documentation of an argument between an angry teenage girl (the aforementioned "Becca") and her parents (which, ironically, seems to consist of two men) [Note: I'm not saying there's anything wrong with having two fathers. It's only ironic because the band's whole schtick is mocking suburban stereotypes and if I've learned anything from movies and the internet, suburbia has a tendency to look down on same-sex couples. Perhaps that was done intentionally though]. During the back-and-forth is lots of shouting, including the ever-popular teenage catch phrases "I hate you" and "You're ruining my life!".

The only downside to 5 Minutes in Time Out! is that only runs for 6 minutes, although the fact that its title and its runtime don't match is almost a downside too. Generally, with EPs (and especially with punk bands), running for a couple of minutes is the norm, although considering that this band and EP popped out of seemingly nowhere I don't think it would've been too much to ask for a couple more songs. But I guess 5 Minutes in Time Out! is just the beginning. It's short, fast, and hilarious. With any luck, this will be only be their Fat EP. If that's the case, I can't wait until the next release drops.

You can stream the whole thing right here. Highly recommended.

(oh yeah, I didn't mention this sooner but the band members consists of Jordan Pundik (New Found Glory) and Ethan Luck (Relient K). I thought it'd be more fun to push the music rather than focus on the fact that the members come from bigger projects. Also, "Becca" is really Hayley Williams. Enjoy!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Album Review: Future Idiots - Neighborhoods & Morningwoods

This review was originally published on DyingScene.

One of the biggest and most common critiques that can be found in nearly every circle of music is “I miss the old stuff”. This can take on a myriad of forms… “The music is too serious now”, “They write too many ballads these days”, “I miss the songs about masturbating and smoking pot all day”, but essentially all these complaints really mean the same thing. Sure, there will always be an audience for a band somewhere, regardless of the changes made to the band’s music, but it’s extremely rare to ever see an entire fanbase collectively agree about how much they like the change in direction that a band has taken- especially in this day and age of anonymity and dissent on the Internet.

Last year Blink-182 released their first album since returning from their hiatus, Neighborhoods, to mixed reaction from more or less the entire world. Among the negative complaints (other than from the traditional punk rockers who have always hated blink-182) was that there was a huge influence of the band member’s other projects that was found squeezed into the disc, particularly Tom DeLonge’s very un-punk band Angels and Airwaves. This should have been expected, given that the band members spent four years apart working on their own individual projects, but I digress. Once the album dropped, it was common to find YouTube videos of people who either remixed the audio files, or just re-arranged the songs themselves to sound more like “classic” blink-182. But what if some band was to be ambitious enough to re-record the entirety of Neighborhoods in the style of “classic” blink-182? If you think no band would be idiotic enough to attempt such a thing, then you must be unfamiliar with Sweden’s Future Idiots, who have done just that very thing with their newest album Neighborhoods & Morningwoods.

Given that Neighborhoods & Morningwoods is essentially nothing more than a tribute album (on multiple levels too, that title is something that the blink-182 of 1999 would have never passed up), it would be un-fair to treat it the same way as if it were an album full of original material. It’s very clear that Future Idiots have taken a lot of influence from blink-182 (particularly 1997’s Dude Ranch and 1999’s Enema of the State), and the band really understands how to cop the style and re-arrange the songs to make them sound ten years older than they really are. This works well on the songs that were already a huge departure for blink-182: “Up All Night”, “Love Is Dangerous”, and “Fighting the Gravity” are all given the “sped-up-tempo-and-added-harmonies” treatment, creating new listening experiences for fans. Future Idiots opted to not cover the “Heart’s All Gone Interlude”, and for some reason included a second version of “Up All Night” tacked on to the end of Neighborhoods & Morningwoods in its place. The second version is more or less the blink-182 version, but played faster (“Natives” and “Snake Charmer” also suffer from this fate), whereas the first version takes more creative liberties, even going as far as to include a slow piano interlude that’s very similar to the one found in “Adam’s Song”.

On the original Neighborhoods there is a string of songs that alternate between sounding like what would happen if modern blink-182 tried to re-record Enema of the State (“Wishing Well”, “This Is Home” and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (“Kaleidoscope”, “MH 4.18.2011”)). On Neighborhoods & Morningwoods, these songs are played with the distortion cranked up and more palm-muting. Given that these songs already kind of sounded like blink-182’s earlier material, there wasn’t a whole lot to do with them, although the band does try to present them in a new fashion.

Then there are the re-arrangements that are kind of questionable. The blink-182 recording of “Heart’s All Gone” was already praised as one of the strongest songs on the original album, even garnering comparisons to Bad Religion. Rather than going for a straightforward cover, Future Idiots re-work the song to make use of elongated syllables and fast, choppy guitar work.  Kudos to the band for making changes to these songs to make them more of their own, but sometimes being creative doesn’t always work out.  The band’s cover of the Deluxe Edition song “Even If She Falls” suffers from sounding more or less like the original, but the band lucks out as “Even If She Falls” was one of the better songs on Neighborhoods anyway.

As a novelty project, Neighborhoods & Morningswoods is a pretty fun listen for blink-182 fans. Sure a majority of the songs don’t do a whole lot other than drop the long intros or weird synthesizer parts, but the goal was never to re-record the album as if Radiohead or Pink Floyd had written it- Future Idiots merely wanted to inject a different life into the album while also paying tribute to one of the most influential mainstream acts on the modern pop punk scene.
RIYL: blink-182, All Time Low, Forever the Sickest Kids