Thursday, May 29, 2014

Plague Vendor - 'Free to Eat'

Despite considering myself one of those people who doesn't really like the direction that Epitaph has been going in the last decade or so, I actually like a lot of their current roster. The Menzingers, Off With Their Heads, Alkaline Trio, Bad Religion, The Lawrence Arms, Social Distortion, Motion City Soundtrack, and even Weezer to an extent. And now I can add Plague Vendor to that list. 

I don't even really know how I ended up at Epitaph's webstore, but somehow I found myself browsing their site and I saw the Plague Vendor LP/shirt bundle and it made me angry. Leaving vowels out of a band name as a trend already kind of annoys me, but it annoys me even more when a band regularly spells their name with vowels intact but leaves out the vowels on their merch. Plague Vendor's shirt did just that. Yet it still compelled me to check them out. 

I'm glad I did.

Remember in the early 2000's when all those garage rock bands like The Strokes, and The White Stripes were gaining prominence? Plague Vendor sounds kind of like that, if there was a more surf/garage feel to the music. I guess in a way, they're more like The Hives than the Strokes or White Stripes, if The Hives had more of an American proto-punk swagger. Free to Eat, the band's debut album, has ten tracks and only runs for about 18 minutes. There are surfy guitars, a thumping bass and pounding drums, but the real star of the album is probably the howling vocals of front-man Brandon Blaine. Even on a studio recording, he carries an intense energy that comes off like it's a live performance. Too bad the only time the band is coming near me soon is on the Warped Tour. I'm sure it'll be great exposure for the band, but I'll wait until they do their own tour to catch them. 

You can stream the whole album via YouTube below, or buy it through Amazon here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Antarctigo Vespucci - 'Soulmate Stuff'

My initial reaction to Antarctigo Vespucci was "Holy crap. This is exactly the collaboration between artists that I never knew I needed." Given that Antarctigo Vespucci is made up of dear friends / punk celebrities Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock, I'm sure plenty of people had that exact same thought.

Soulmate Stuff, the debut mini-LP (or is it just an EP? I can never tell), bridges the gap between the indie melodies of Fake Problems' Real Ghosts Caught on Tape and the summery fuzz of Bomb the Music Industry!'s Vacation. Not that the gap between those two albums was really that large, and if you think that there's a whole lot of difference between those records you really should listen to Soulmate Stuff and hear how wrong you are for yourself.

"100 Years" is a nice, slow opener. Given that it's just an acoustic guitar and Farren, it could easily be mistaken for a new Fake Problems song (or at least a demo). "Sometimes" has more of a kick to it, and it also has that "Fake Problems" feel to it- not a complaint at all, seeing as how it's been far too long since Fakey P has put out a new album, but upon first listen it was kind of confusing as to why this wasn't just marketed as a new Fake Problems album produced by Rosenstock. Maybe that's how it originally came to be. Or maybe I'm just dumb. It's still an amazing song though.

The sequence of "I'm Giving Up on U2", "Guest List Spots", and "Don't Die in Yr Hometown" make up the real meat of Soulmate Stuff. "I'm Giving Up on U2" is huge, turning the fun to 11, and demands to be shouted loudly from a car with the windows down. Or at least I imagine that would be the ideal way to listen to the song... I don't drive. "Guest List Spots" finds the perfect balance of a Fake Problems chord progression and a Bomb the Music Industry! vocal melody and even tosses Laura Stevenson on backing vocals for good measure. It's also notable for being the only song here that really features Jeff singing lead (for half a verse). Meanwhile, "Don't Die in Yr Hometown" could have easily fit on Vacation. In fact, if it wasn't for Farren's vocals, I'd say that it was pulled directly from that album.

The momentum built up during those three songs takes a brief break during "100 Years 2: 200 Years", a variation of the opening track as the title suggests, before coming back for one final banger. Soulmate Stuff ends on the high note that is "Bang!", featuring guest guitars from former Fake Problems guitarist Casey Lee, and a chorus so big that lives up to its title.

If there are any downsides to Soulmate Stuff, it would be that these seven songs barely fill up 20 minutes. It doesn't seem like Farren and Rosenstock's friendship is going to end any time soon, so I'm sure that there will be more material by Antarctigo Vespucci in the future, but for now it just feels like there's not enough. Even if it was just like three or four more songs. I'm greedy.

In summation: This album rules and it arrived just in time for the changing of the seasons. Stop wasting your time and just download it already.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top 5 Side One, Track Ones

Keeping it simple tonight, mostly due to my creativity being dead thanks to some massive writer's block. But also because it's been way too long since I've watched High Fidelity and this kind of thing has been on my mind lately.

Here are five of my favorite opening tracks.

05. The Dopamines - "You'd Make a Good Horsecop" - Expext the Worst
The only thing keeping me from ranking this song higher is because I love the entire album just as much as this one song.

04. Daytrader - "Kill My Compass" - Last Days of Rome EP
Whenever I hear this song, I want to start shouting along even though I can't sing very well (and I especially can't sing like Tym). Out of all the songs I've ever set as an alarm, this is the only one that I've used for longer than a month.

03. Against Me! - "T.S.R." - As the Eternal Cowboy
"T.S.R." lays down the groundwork for what Against Me! had become in the short period in between Reinventing Axl Rose and As the Eternal Cowboy, both lyrically and musically. It's also fun as hell at their shows to go crazy when the song explodes.

02. Off With Their Heads - "I Am You" - From the Bottom
"I Am You" kind of encapsulates everything I love about Off With Their Heads' ability to write songs about being miserable while also wanting a catchy chorus to sing. A wonderful introduction to what the band is all about.

01. Rise Against - "State of the Union" - Siren Song of the Counter Culture
I spent the first half of my senior year of high school listening to almost nothing but Siren Song of the Counter-Culture, and every morning as I started my half hour commute on the train this was the song that would wake me up and help me get through the day. Even now I can listen to this song and it'll put me right back into my 17 year old mindset.

XX. The Offspring - "Disclaimer"
This isn't really a song, but it is a hilarious way to begin an album.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Ataris - So Long, Astoria 10th Anniversary Tour at Irving Plaza, NYC (March 30, 2014)

Despite being billed as a '10 year anniversary' tour, The Ataris So Long, Astoria 10th Anniversary tour actually marks eleven years since the album's release. To make up for that, Kris Roe was able to recruit former members guitarist John Collura, bassist Mike Davenport, and drummer Chris Knapp (aka, the band's lineup when the album was recorded) to join him in celebrating So Long, Astoria on the road. On March 30 the band stopped at Irving Plaza in NYC for the final night of the tour with Authority Zero, Drag the River, Gasoline Heart, and Donald Spence providing opening support.

Donald Spence is probably best known as the vocalist of Versus the World (the current project of Mike Davenport) opened things up with a solo set. I wish I could tell you how lovely his soulful singing voice was, but I missed out on his performance (thanks, MTA). Luckily for me, Spence made several other appearances throughout the night. I happened to enter the venue not too long after Brooklyn's Gasoline Heart had started. The punk 'n' roll (that's the commonly accepted term, right?) act had a nice energy throughout the half hour that I caught, with a Replacement-influence swagger and presence not unlike similar minded bands like AM Taxi and Architects.

Alt-country act Drag the River came out next and set a very different tone. Composed of Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price (aka, the only two constant members of the band), the duo had a very different energy from that of Gasoline Heart. Authority Zero's rhythm section backed the twosome up during their set to give a more "full" feeling, while still keeping their laid-back vibes. A majority of the crowd didn't seem too impressed, with lots of chatter filling the room during the songs, but not enough to distract from the performance once you got close enough to the stage. To balance out Drag the River's mellow set, Authority Zero came out swinging hard. Without much of a warning, the band immediately launched into a very heavy set list, favoring short and fast songs with plenty of opportunities for the crowd to sing "woah".

By the time Authority Zero finished up, it was already 10:20, and the stage looked nowhere near ready for The Ataris to come out. Generally this wouldn't be a problem, but it's not a particularly ideal situation to be in on a Sunday night when you work a 9-5 Monday to Friday job, as was the case for most in attendance. But all that restlessness meant nothing once the houselights went down at 10:45 and the Ataris transported an entire room full of people back to 2003. It may have been years since this lineup of the band has played together, but they played as if they had never dissolved.

As with most full album shows, the setlist stuck to the order of the songs on So Long, Astoria, only slightly deviating by switching "All You Can Ever Learn Is What You Already Know" and "The Boys of Summer". Roe, Davenport, and even Donald Spence (who was playing third guitar on stage with the band) would occasionally make remarks or tell anecdotes in between songs to the audience- such as how "My Reply" was intended to be the album's second single until out of nowhere radio stations started playing "The Boys of Summer", kind of forcing the band to just go with it- but for the most part the night was dedicated to the songs of So Long, Astoria and nothing more.

By the time the band finished their set, it was 11:35, which didn't leave the band much time to let the audience build up much of a chant for the encore. Roe returned to the stage within a matter of minutes, said he'd play a couple of old songs, and launched into a solo, electric performance of fan-favorite "San Dimas High School Football Rules". Roe then introduced current Ataris bassist Bryan Nelson to the stage, followed by former drummer Rob Felicetti, and the trio launched into a faithful cover of the Misfits' "Skulls". Roe and Felicetti joked about being on TMZ together (in case you forgot, they had a bit of a public feud not too long ago) and it looked as if they've made amends since the last time they shared the stage together.

Once the So Long, Astoria line up regrouped on stage, John Collura had some parting words for the crowd: "We ARE The Ataris". Whether he meant that perhaps there was a future with this lineup or that he was just caught up in the moment of the tour wasn't clear (although the latter was more likely), it was a great sentiment to end the night on, and the band finished with "I Won't Spend Another Night Alone", a fitting closer considering a re-recorded version appeared as a hidden track on So Long, Astoria.

Aside from ending way too late for a Sunday night show, the final night of the So Long, Astoria 10th Anniversary tour was a very satisfying experience for everyone in attendance. The album may be over a decade old at this point, but seeing the band play these old songs still made them seem fresh. No one knows for sure when The Graveyard of the Atlantic will be released, but at least The Ataris will always have the legacy of So Long, Astoria.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I've gotten lazy.

I've been in a funk lately and I think a lot of it has to do with not writing about music as much as I once did. I've gotten so wrapped up in working and writing for DyingScene that I've just ignored this blog for almost a year.

I'm going to change that. I think writing album reviews on my own terms could be good for me.

Stay tuned for at least one update a week for now.