A-SET - Songs From the Red Room (Tree Records)
I am not sophisticated enough to understand what A-Set are trying to do here, but its unimpressive. And boring. Go back to the Red Room, take some drugs and stop cranking out this lo-fi shit thats good, musically, but devoid of any heart or feeling. These guys need to learn to learn how to rock. I get a very were going out of our way to be lo-fi and weird and post-rock because thats what the kids are eating up these days vibe from A-Set; Id compare em somewhat to Turing Machine or Joan of Arc, theres really not much substance, not much to say, but hey, everyone wants attention, right? If A-Set wants mine, theyll have to do something a little more Real. Damn Im harsh. If I were an indie snob, I might have been able to stomach this.
AFI The Art Of Drowning (Nitro)
I hate to say it, but for some reason this album reminds me of Bon Jovi and I just cant shake it. Maybe its the singer, maybe its the vocal harmonies, maybe Im just the damaged product of a late 80s childhood. I dont know a ton about AFI but I do know that, if you can remember jumping up and down and playing air guitar to a copy of Slippery When Wet, youll probably dig this new AFI record. Melodic and passionate, but never wussy and always hard to the East Bay core. And, as far as I know, no feathered hair or New Jersey acid washed jeans.
APOCALYPSE HOBOKEN - Microstars (Kung-Fu)
This album is pretty funky in the sense that its totally random. Borders on stupid at times, but never quite descends that far. I really dont want to get into specifics, but I think you (YOU!) should buy this album.
THE ARRIVALS Goodbye New World (Thick Records)
For some reason this record will always remind of the way I fucked up the only relationship Ive ever really been in. The record arrived in the mail the same day as an envelope containing a picture taken of me in the woods a few years back from my old girlfriend. Just a picture, no explanation of why she sent it, nothing else. I put the album on and looked at my picture. The song Elise put me in a really down frame of mind: Elise, lonely is my heart/ love will come today/ love will slip away/ I could have said Im sorry/ but what would be the point? Love will slip away I couldnt stop listening to Elise for two straight days. The song would just keep coming back to me as I worked, driving a giant truck around San Diego county. It was that catchy. The rest of the album is very honest, power punk. I think these guys are outta Chicago, so it makes sense. Theyve got a very lively, Dillenger Four kind of a feel to them; theyre great. But damn them for reminding me of the past all good music should do such things
AT THE DRIVE-IN - Relationship of Command (Grand Royal)
At The Drive-In keeps getting better and better with every release I hear from them. If you dont know At The Drive-In, this album is a good an intro as any. Singing, screaming, loud guitars, quiet guitars, random noise, and none of it in any way youve ever heard rock n roll put together before. This may well be the best thing to happen to rock since Fugazi. If you already know and love them, I guarantee you will be singing and/or screaming along with this album within a few days of purchase. The new album is maybe a little more straight-out rock than their last two releases (also highly recommended, by the way), but its still pure ATDI. Only real difference is that someone in the band bought a chorus petal, so at times it sounds like The MC5 cross-bred with The Police. But whats wrong with that? Buy this, copy it for all your friends, then please take over a radio station by force and make them play this.
THE ATARIS - Blue Skies (Kung-Fu)
This album is much better than their first album, mainly in the sense that their lyrics arent so insanely stupid this time. Not that this will invoke Faulkner, but we take our improvements where we can find them. Overall, another fun, pop-punky album from the Ataris, which is about all anyone could ask for.
BAD RELIGION New America (Atlantic)
Thank the lord these punk trailblazers didnt hang it up after their last record, the appropriately-named No Substance. For the benefit of punk fans everywhere, they came back with a vengeance. Any true fan of punk who can look past the major label, the radio play and the asinine tourmates (Blink 182) will not be disappointed with this album. The songs are catchy as ever, but laced with social critique that is vintage Bad Religion. You may have heard the title track already, but if you havent, its reason enough to get this album.
BEEFCAKE - Rejected (Fearless)
As you might guess from the name, Beefcake are practitioners of funny punk as opposed to serious punk or activist punk. Back cover: fat guy with tattoos and glasses in red plaid shorts - FUNNY SHIT! These guys are really just another band that aspires to be Guttermouth and doesnt quite pull it off. Not horrible, but not one Id really spend money on either.
BIGWIG - Stay Asleep (Kung-Fu)
I guess the most fitting thing I can say about Bigwig is that they are truly a Kung-Fu band. Very pop-punky, catchy, nothing that makes much of an impression. But even though punk is really beginning to bore me, I can still go for that sound every once in a while. And the faux-Motorhead cover scores points as well. So if you like the Kung-Fu sound, than youd probably like this one.
BRAID Movie Music Vols. 1 and 2 (Polyvinyl)
In a genre where the average lifespan of a band is a couple of years at best, Urbana, Illinois Braid lasted six before calling it quits. Its sad, really, because they were on the verge of indie greatness. Although members parted ways more than a year ago (some are back together in Hey Mercedes), theyve released a very moving two-CD collection of out-of-print singles, compilation tracks and covers. Braids sound falls somewhere between the abrasiveness of punk coupled with the heartfelt insistency of Midwestern emo. And whats more, the quartet manages to pull off the intensity of their live show on CD, where many other indie/hardcore acts fail. With song titles like Im Glowing and Youre The Reason and To Kiss A Trumpet Player its pretty evident that the four 20-something guys comprising Braid have always been on the charm offensive. In Forever Got Shorter singer/guitarist Bob Nanna croons, Lets go undercover like young lovers should/ cause I can kiss you better than this letter could Other than the covers, which include two Smiths songs, every song on Movie Music tends to be semi-autobiographical with themes of lost love and innocence, and missed opportunities the usual blather. Quite personal, yes, but not as sappy as the exceedingly praised Promise Ring or Get Up Kids, two bands (who I like!) theyve been compared to. With Movie Music we get to see Braids progression, from their early awkward hardcore moments to the abstruse, melodically dissonant songs of their last full-length Frame and Canvas. Its a very honest look at a very honest band. In fact, even the mistakes sound good. With its punchy time changes, memorable melodies, and lyrics so embarrassingly personal, the band just oozes boyish charm. But Braid was smart enough to realize you cant be a boy forever. Movie Music is a great going away present.
CLOSE CALL - Too Close (Espo)
Hey, remember the 80s and the early 90s? Remember when everyone you knew had a Judge sticker on one corner of their cars back bumper, and a Youth Of Today sticker on the other side - just before they put that Earth Crisis sticker in the middle? Bingo: Close Call. Im kind of happy that the old pre-slowcore sound is making a comeback. I wouldnt call Close Call the most original contribution to the revival, but they beat seeing eight horrible Integrity clones at the local hardcore matinee.
TOM DAILY Happily Deceiving Culture
This is some good Chicago indie-pop stuff. I dont really know how to describe it. Its the guitarist from the Smoking Popes dabbling around with instruments and an eight-track. Its got a very stripped down, lo-fi kind of sound, but there are also some weird electronics thrown in. The lyrics are intelligent. I liked the song I Have A Vampire very much. And in the first song: Shes the kind of girl who waits until her birthdays through to tell you she is leaving you. Hey, I know that girl. Id like to see Tom live.
THE DANDY WARHOLS - Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (Capitol)
Oscar Wilde said it best: The first duty in life is to assume a pose. What the second is, no one has yet discovered. Portlands Dandy Warhols exemplify the self-absorbed artistes with stars in their eyes - replete with big egos and perverse lifestyles. But with their third full-length you can hear a smattering of substance behind the style. The Dandys look and act like rock stars, which they did before becoming popular, and now the music has caught up with the posturing.
A decidedly Brit/fuzz pop style of music is used to tell all thirteen of the tales on this release, which when threaded together read like a satire of hipster, slacker coolness. Take Bohemian Like You, which functions almost as a self-parody of all the lighthearted attacks on the Dandys indie cred. How can you not at least laugh WITH a band that so eloquently pokes fun at itself?
This girl - and three guys - may be assuming a pose, but with enough fantasy projection and reverie, theyve daydreamed their way to - or maybe even over - the top. The Dandys sound isnt quite as twee as Belle & Sebastian, nor as common as britpop like Pulp but the pose has become real enough for the band - and its fans. And that, ladies and gentlemen, translates over to an honest auditory portrayal of American urban avant-garde.
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - We have the facts and were
voting yes (Barsuk)
So youve been looking for something poppy, maybe with an Elliot Smith sensibility but not quite so folksy. Well, call me up and Ill bring over the newest Death Cab For Cutie. The band name might sound like the newest in rust belt spazz-core, but the album is fantastic - great for intimate conversations with a close friend, a bottle of wine, and a slight buzz. If no friend is available, its just as good for sitting around and feeling lonely. Just leave the wine alone or youll wind up passed out on the bathroom floor with a hangover and a Deftones album in the CD player. The Deftones are just fine but drinking alone is bad, take my word for it. So like I said, always drink with a buddy and check out Death Cab.
DROWNINGMAN - How They Light Cigarettes In Prison (Revelation)
And you thought Vermont was just full of granolas and Phish-heads... Drowningman is a step removed from anything in hardcore that I recognize. Just check out the title of this EP. The lyrics are definitely different... weird psychological imagery, paranoid stuff about criminals, knife-fights and shivs... In a different era Drowningman could be one of the most interesting metal outfits on the market. Maybe I just dont listen to enough stuff like Neurosis or Bloodlet or those other crazy kids. If youre into insane new school metal-hardcore or spazz-core stuff like Frodus or really old Piebald (like the first EP, before they got all sensitive) you might want to check this band out. Its fresh to my ears, at least.
DYNAMITE BOY - Finders Keepers (Fearless)
This band is sort of an Ataris rip-off, but that wouldnt be nice to say. Instead Ill say they play a pleasant melange of pop-punk hilarity. Pleasant, though like I wrote for the split, nothing mind-blowing.
ELLIOT - If They Do (Initial)
The 7" is two new tracks and the CD-EP is the new 7", the In Passing 7" and two extra tracks. Elliot is one of the most amazing, passionate bands out there, so if youre into amazing passionate music you should check out Elliot. The two new tracks are sure to please, the two tracks from In Passing have always been among Elliots best, the intrumental is pretty cool and the acoustic version of Halfway Pretty is definitely a worthwhile spin, very different from their usual stuff. Give it a try.
FACE TO FACE - Ignorance Is Bliss (Lady
At first, I was shocked when I heard this album, since it is basically an emo album. Face to Face is a superb band, but this is just not them! However, I didnt just throw it away after first listen. After hearing it a few more times, I really cannot criticize it since it is a very good record. Theres even a little more of an edge than I had previously discerned. I would definitely spend money on this album, but it is definitely my least favorite FTF album.
FACE TO FACE Reactionary (Lady Luck Records/Beyond
An aptly-named disc, F2F quickly released Reactionary after fans railed against last years Ignorance is Bliss. Also, the band posted 15 tracks on the Web and let their fans pick the songs they liked best for the album. What resulted was a return to F2Fs old punk style, the way they played in the eight years before the emo experiment of Ignorance. A wise decision. Songs like Out of Focus move along at a hard but palatable pace, and carry an inspiring message of self-assurance.
FALLING SICKNESS/DYSENTERY split (Sub City)
Good music, but the attitude was painful to listen to. Relax, guys, youre just punk rockers. If you want to change the world, get off your lazy, guitar-hacking asses and do something besides singing. Plus, their charitable organization is an indirect funnel to the terrorist Zapatistas of Mexicos Chiapas province. Im not a fan.
THE FAREWELL BEND - In Passing (Slowdime)
Boys Life was the best band ever, with the possible exceptions of The Beatles, Jawbreaker and Fugazi. I say this with conviction. Which of course means that they broke up years ago. Lucky for us, their singer, Brandon Butler, has moved to DC and started The Farewell Bend. The Farewell Bend is really nothing like Boys Life wastheyre a lot brighter, more pop-oriented, and theyve only got one guitar. But in their own right (as all bands should be taken) they are a solid guitar indie-pop combo. In Passing is a good solid album, so if youre in a poppy mood you might want to give it a spin, despite the fact that The Farewell Bend has also now broken up. (Fuckin hell!) And you should definitely purchase everything Boys Life ever recorded, or you are a poor sucker.
FIFTEEN Lucky (Sub City)
Okay, Ive seen lots of crust punks with Fifteen patches, but this album is my first experience with said band. And it was an okay experience. The singer sometimes reminds me of Jello (initial reaction), and the band is damn political. The album is even a tribute to Judi Bari, an activist whose car was bombed while she campaigned to save old growth forests in Northern California in 1990. I dont normally like music as politically overt as this stuff is, but Fifteen seem to strike a very complementary relationship between the political and the personal. Good, catchy, punk stuff. I like it but would much prefer the goofy sense of humor of Propagahndi (R.I.P.) my favorite unequivocally political punk band.
GAMEFACE/ERRORTYPE:11 - Whats Up,
This is the absolute poppiest stuff Ive ever heard from Gameface, and if you know their old stuff you know thats pretty damn poppy. I think theyve finally crossed the line from a poppy punk band to a pure pop band. Well, it still kicks the shit out of Britney Spears at any rate. The Errortype:11 songs on this split are highly recommended, theyre another band that just keeps getting better and better. I think the phone call from the drunk that takes up around ten minutes of this album was probably a lot funnier to the people involved. But thats why they put the skip button on CD players. Check this out.
GARRISON - A Mile In Cold Water (Revelation)
Ive been going through fits trying to give this album a fair review. The problem with putting out a punk zine is you wind up writing so many quick, thoughtless music reviews that when you get a good album that doesnt immediately amaze you, or that you cant immediately pigeonhole, its tough to write a decent review of it. At first I was ready to throw this new album by Garrison on the trade for better CDs at Mystery Train pile, but after a few listens it slowly crept into my head. Garrison is somewhere between a band like Drive Like Jehu and a band like Mineral. Except theres no big mathematical off-time breaks, no melts-in-your-ears fancy guitar interplay, not much screaming and no whining. Basically, its a solid, catchy rock album that doesnt rely on power chords and rock clichés. Aint nothing wrong with that, I guess.
THE GET UP KIDS Something to Write Home About (Vagrant/Heroes
To quote a friend: What are those two faggy robots doing on the cover? Hey, those robots are cute. Sos the album. The Get Up Kids have gotten huge. I liked the raw insistence of the first album better than the polishedness of this one, but Ive got to admit, it sounds good. And the lyrics, while still quite sappy, have gotten better here. Make no mistake about it, these songs will get under your skin. Dont answer the door when the majors come calling, you silly emo kids.
THE GET UP KIDS/THE ANNIVERSARY split 7" (Heroes &
A 10-inch EP, a new full-length, and a 7-inch, all within about four months? When is enough Get Up Kids enough? The Get Up Kids side of this split is pretty tasty, similar to the style of the new Get Up Kids album. The Anniversary side of this record is also pretty similar to the style of the new Get Up Kids album. Theres maybe a little more emphasis on the keyboard parts, and I think theres a girl in the band who sings... Then again, I think I only got one chance to spin this before I left school for break. What the heck did you expect from a xeroxed punk zine, responsible journalism??!?!
THE GOOD LIFE - Novena On A Nocturn (Better Looking Records)
Oh... my... sweet... goodness. OK, all you weepy-eyed emo kids out there in NIMBY-land, when October 31st rolls around, spend an afternoon and hunt down this album by The Good Life. As if Cursive isnt amazing enough, Tim Kasher of Cursive decided to record a solo album, and somehow he managed to create an absolute masterpiece. This is not your standard guitars that jingle-jangle-jingle emo album. This is not your typical as-many-pretentions-as-possible indie rock solo project opus. This is... well, its absolutely remarkable. Tasteful drum loops, weepy piano and guitar melodies, and a singer who bleeds emotion through the speakers like nothing youve heard since Mineral broke up. This is the absolute perfect album to listen to when some boy or girl has been dragging your heart down the gravel road of your life and you need a good sulk. If you think Radiohead are pretty good, you will think The Good Life is brilliant. I guarantee it.
HAYWOOD Men Called Him Mister (The
Hmm. This kind of reminded me of Archers of Loaf and Geoff Farina a little bit. Im not going to pretend I know anything about this guy. Geez, what can I say here? It actually reminds me a little more of Tom Daily, now that I think about it (see Daily review). Decent record, nothing really stuck with me though. Coulda been the mood I was in. Give it a chance, its all lo-fi and shit like Dailys record. Its like a city boy taking on a country town...
HEPCAT Push N Shove (Hellcat/Epitaph)
Ever wonder what roots ska, bebop, rocksteady and calypso sounds like? An original sound thats pure fun, the type of music Hepcat produces. Somehow, this band combines more styles and influences than can fit here, and up to nine members to create a great record. Theres the macho Comin On Strong, the grating Prison of Love, the bouncy instrumental The Ronnie, and a great cover Gimme Little Sign (Just Gimme Some Kinda Sign Girl by Brenton Wood). If youre sick of third-wave party ska, and want to hear something close to where it all began, but only better, buy this record.
HIMSA - Ground Breaking Ceremony (Revelation)
So... when did all these American hardcore bands start taking all these weird, non-English names? Himsa is sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always loud and discordant and always hard. Yknow, like Cave-In, sort of... Wait, what do I know about hardcore? My taste in hardcore is more selective than a toddlers taste in green vegetables. If you ever see me really sing the praises of a hardcore band in the pages of this zine, they must be pretty damn good, so take note. I didnt hate it, I didnt even really dislike much of it, so that probably means something good. Not as good as the Hal Al Shedad but better than Shai Hulud. Fallafel, anyone? Konishiwa!
HOT WATER MUSIC - No Division (Some)
Hot Water Music is the kind of band you probably either love, or you continuously wonder how they got so big. HWMs patented brand of intense emotion-drenched hardcore is slightly mellower on this release than their older releases, so if youre new to the band, this album may have you joining the head-scratchers. Current fans are encouraged to pick this up and hurt yourselves trying to sing along with these proud Gainesvillers raspy vocals at maximum volume. Plus, HWM still has a totally awesome bass player. Rock on.
IN MY EYES - Nothing To Hide (Revelation)
Remember that thing I said in the Himsa review, about if I really like a hardcore album, you should probably sit up and take notice? Well, I really, really like this In My Eyes disc. Its fast. Its furious. Its smart and its honest. Its even straightedge, for the love of God. Remember straightedge, you rotten drunk-ass hipster monkey pissant? And its from Boston. Its pretty old school, as the kids are prone to say these days... reminds me of good late 80s NYHC stuff (a big surprise there, coming from Revelation and all), and I might even be willing to compare it the the oft-imitated but as of yet unmatched Minor Threat (also a big surprise, considering the bands name... SMELL THE IRONY!). But its not just another cheap ripoff; its original and modern enough that it wont have you yelling, Give up, 1989 was 11 years ago!!! Good sXe hardcore never dies. If you like hardcore and you have money to spend, by all means buy this immediately.
IRON MAIDEN - Ed Hunter (Columbia)
RECORD OF THE YEAR! This album made me regret giving up on metal. This is not a new release by Maiden, but rather it is compilation of their twenty best songs as voted on by fans on their website. It is all to promote a tour by the newly reunited band with Bruce Dickinson at the helm. First, the choice of songs is almost perfect (no Rime of the Ancient Mariner is my only major issue) with a good mix of old, new, live, and studio. My only complaints are that it was a bit pricey and comes with the Ed Hunter video game, which is crap. But if you love metal, buy this.
JAWBREAKER Live 4/30/96 (Blackball
Have you ever put the song Jinx Removing on a mix tape for a girl before you really got to know her? Dumbass. If you said yes, then dont expect that shell ever really talk to you again. Ive done that. Woops. You have to learn, to learn from your mistakes... Anyway, its about time that they released this live recording of one of Jawbreakers last few shows. Blake talking to the crowd makes this record. Plus there are four songs that I never heard, except on MP3: Gemini, Parabola, For Esme and Shirt. Good shit. Oh, and Ashtray Monument is about your parents, in case you didnt know. There will never be another Jawbreaker.
THE JAZZ JUNE - Breakdance Suburbia (Initial)
Not to be confused with the 7-inch of the same name, this is a full-length CD of tracks from comps and EPs by the illustrious and melodious Jazz June. All together, the tracks assembled here arent too shabby. Since I dont really know the band that well, I cant compare it to any of their other stuff, but I guess now thats your problem. If you enjoy a certain popular three-letter subset of independent rock music (and I dont mean ska, rap, or pop... think REAL hard) you might like to give this a listen.
THE JEALOUS SOUND (self-titled) (Better Looking)
This is the first EP from Blair Sheehan of Knapsacks new band, and, not suprisingly, it sounds a hell of a lot like Knapsack. But why not, considering Blair was the last original member in Knapsack before the broke up, and since Knapsack was such a great band?The only real differences I can hear are that Blair has backed off on the high notes he trieds to reach, and some keyboards and drum loops have been tossed in for little to no reason. I blame popular producer Mark Trombino, even though he only mixed this EP. (I can do that because Im a music writer.) Enjoy this album, I did.
JETS TO BRAZIL - Four Cornered Night (Jade Tree)
With this, their second album, JTB continues their proud tradition of disappointing Jawbreaker and Texas Is The Reason fans. The addition of ex-Van Pelt guitarist Brian Maryansky not only increases the bands status as emo all-stars, but also frees up our pal Blake to play around with more keyboard parts and guitar harmonies. The organ and piano riffs, combined with the jangly guitars on this album, remind me more of David Bowie or Bob Dylan than Gary Numan. Blakes lyrics are as good as ever, though. His melancholy hasnt waned too much from the Jawbreaker days, but every song on this album lets some small ray of sunshine pierce the gloom. Angsty punkers may find themselves playing with the skip button on their CD players, looking for the rockin numbers, but fans of good pop will discover one of the few rock albums of the last ten years that defies genre and nostalgia and dares to be original.
THE JUDAS FACTOR - Kiss Suicide (Revelation)
OK, so you got your evil metal riffs, you got your jangly parts for the sensitive kids, you got your screaming, your singing, and your spoken word bits, you got lots of negative lyrical imagery, and a smattering of politics thrown in for good measure. All in all, its not much more interesting than the typical mid-bill band at any local hardcore show. I guess thats not all bad...
KID DYNAMITE Shorter, Faster, Louder
Somehow, I managed to miss out on Lifetime when they were around. Criminal, I know. Well, I didnt miss out on Kid Dynamite even though I never saw em live. Their second album is just as awesome as the first and so goddamn sing-songy in that 80s hardcore way (love the Bad Brains picture tribute on the CD). Aaarrhhggh, where the shit have all the bands like KD gone? I love Gate 68: mix tapes do indeed sound best when youre alone. If youre no angel, then whered you get those wings? Dammit, come back Kid Dynamite. R.I.P.
KING FOR A DAY - Before I Go (Initial)
Although still down with the music, I am now officially sick of the word emo. Yeah, I suppose this would qualify as another emo album. Its on a hardcore label, and the singers actually singin so I guess it cant be hardcore, now can it? King For A Day is somewhere in between the jangly indie-pop and the screamy discordant hardcore that seems to be dominating the emo thing lately. Think Sense Field or Texas Is The Reason or Shift. Yup. Good band, not like any other two bands I can think of. Neat vocal harmonies and some good heavy riffage too, no whimps allowed. I like.
THE LAPSE - Heaven Aint Happenin
This is easily one of my favorite records of the past year. Chirs Leo and Toko Yasuda should just get together and admit theyre a modern-day post-avante-experimental John and Yoko. Leos lyrics are philosophical and discussing things primitive and filled with endlessly witty puns and like nothing Ive ever read. And Tokos voice is so very sweet and sexy on the few songs she sings. If you liked the spoken/shouted wordiness of Van Pelt or enjoy the weirdness of Blonde Redhead, you must check out The Lapses sophomore effort. Buy this record so Toko doesnt get deported... I dont think she did yet, did she?
LIFTER PULLER Fiestas and Fiascoes (Frenchkiss Records)
Rumor has it these guys broke up. Which is a damn shame in all of its post-punk connotations. (Actually, I dont know what that means, its just a shame they broke up.) This is one of the most original albums Ive heard in the past year. Lifter Puller has college radio written all over them. If its not evident, Ive never listened to this band before, so its kinda hard for me to do them justice. I really love the lyrics. Space Humping $19.99 is a favorite. The singer reminds me of the singer of Jawbox. Shit, Im stumped. But thats no reason you shouldnt take have a fiesta and turn it into a fiasco. Enjoy.
LONELY KINGS What If? (Fearless)
Everything that I like about punk music is encompassed by this band. The rawness, the emotion, the wacky sense of humour, the endless mistaking, the feeling old when youre actually young, etc. This is a great record. Theres something really honest about this band and besides theyre tight. Oh mon dieu! Check it out.
THE NERVE AGENTS - Days Of The White Owl
MISFITS. Need I say more? Do you like the Misfits, especially their Earth A.D. speed-metal stuff? Meet the Nerve Agents. Now that Ive got that out of the way, Days Of The White Owl isnt too bad an album. Besides the whole Misfits thing, theres also a very catchy hardcorelate 80s NYHC styleinfluence. I guess I wouldnt mind seeing another group of guys in black eye makeup thrash out some evil melodies while the Misfits are out of town. Its better than another fucking Ramones knock-off, at any rate.
PEDRO THE LION Winners Never Quit
David Bazan is a genius. The characters he creates in song are compelling in their wickedness while trying to be good. The guy may have Christianity, but hes also (probably) got a massive self-esteem problem, which is part of the reason the music here is so fucking endearing. Bazan makes some very astute observations in his lyrics, which in my opinion all come back to wrestling with morality. Take for instance Simple Economics: Power can be such a tease/ youre always wanting more/ its good to know that just like sex it can be paid for. Brilliant. I fucking hate power. These songs are so sad, but in a strange way, they are also inspiring. If you lower your expectations and plan for the worst, life begins to seem not half bad. I dont know if thats a good or bad way to live or think about things, but thats what Pedro The Lion does for me.
PET SHOP BOYS Nightlife (Sire)
Fuck you, I love the Pet Shop Boys because my life is nothing at all like their songs. Sometimes I have this dream where Im a club kid in London in the 80s (a far fucking cry from my life) and I think thats where my love of this band comes from. Honestly, I cant for the life of me remember how I got into this. This album is just too good to ruin with words. Radiophonic, ummmm.....just splendiferous. Im sooo glad these guys made a comeback. No one else can write songs like the two of em. Listen: Is he better than me? Was it your place or his? Who was there? Did you think it was wrong? Do you find that its worse than it was? Has it gone on too long? Do you mind that it hurts me? Because youre breaking my heart.
PINBACK - s/t (Ace Fu Records)
I havent listened to this album enough to explain just what it is I love about it, but let me tell you, I love it. It is very much pop, but in a way that will make very little sense to anyone, it reminds me of Modest Mouse! This music is so different, it doesnt sound man-made, but indeed it is (Rob Crow of Heavy Vegetable and Zach of 3 Mile Pilot are the gentlemen of Pinback). (Sorry, its probably the programmed drums that makes it sound less the human.) Though I cant remember specific songs, I find myself humming melodies that I know are distinctly Pinback every once in a while. I wish Id listened to this album more to give you a better description, but check it for yourself, I dont think youll be disappointed.
THE PROMISE RING Electric Pink (Jade Tree)
What can you say? *Pop* is pop. Make Me A Mixtape. Something old. Something new. Something I said or that we did that reminds me of you. Make me a mixtape that makes me yours. Dont leave out Husker Du. Put something on that the Cars did in 1982 .Make me a mixtape that brings me closer to you. Put on Duran, Duran, Duran, Duran...too. Seriously. Make me a tape. Now.
SCOTT RITCHER - s/t (I Cant Believe
Its A Record Company)
Are you into Elliot Smith, Ben Lee, Jen Wood, or Onelinedrawing? Then you are a huge wuss-bucket stinky folk hippie! Ha ha! Just kidding. I suppose you could call Scott Ritcher indie-folk, maybe even emo-folk, god forbid (and please dont make that into yet another sub-genre of this ludicrously obscure music scene), or maybe you could call him an honest, emotional songwriter with and acoustic guitar and no backup band. If Josh from Shift went solo acoustic and sang down an octave, this is what it might sound like. Is that a good description? Whatever. I already insulted most of the people who would really dig this in the first two sentences. Im a dork! I have a zine!
RIVER CITY REBELS Racism, Religion, War (Victory
While listening to this album, I did 250 crunches. It was that good. Shit, these kids are Damn good! Think The Dropkick Murphys meets the Ramones with early Bosstones stylings. My god, their average age is eighteen and they sound like seasoned scenesters. The lyrics here are pretty basic but that doesnt matter, these guys are the real thing, their hearts are in it. Its good to see Victory branching out signing these guys, too. I love the fact that there are still bands like this in the year 2000. No, I really do. Fourteen great, fast, furious, snotty punkrock songs. My only complaint is that it went so fast. Time to hit repeat and do some more crunches.
SAMIAM Astray (Hopeless)
Samiam just proved that a band can stay together for more than 10 years, get dropped by a major label and still put out a great record. Astray, the Berkley bands sixth LP, is vintage Samiam: staccato guitars that suddenly burst, emotional lyrics and a tight indie-punk sound. By landing on Hopeless Records, the band could finally just focus on making great music. Thats unlike its previous release, you are freaking me out, which went nowhere for years after Atlantic dropped the group and held out for a label to come along and pay dearly for the record it produced. This album sounds like what the Goo Goo Dolls might sound like by now if they hadnt ditched their old punk sound. Highlights include Super Brava, Calloused and Dull, a flowing song long enough to have actual movements. A telling line: Ive had a lot of time to think, and Im so tired of thinking/ I know why he put that bullet in his skull/ because life can be so dull. While the bands name is borrowed from Dr. Seuss, the music is more sophisticated than childrens books, as well as most punk rock. Thank you, thank you, Samiam.
SCARED OF CHAKA - Tired of You (Sub City)
Whoa. These guys are a departure in that they are truly serious and activist punk. Sub City is a subsidiary of Hopeless Records that is aimed at promoting social awareness and raise money for non-profit organizations. I cant really argue with that, though Im only going to buy a record for the music. Oh yeah, its pretty damn good. Not too brooding, pretty aggressive - I got a very Bad Brains vibe from these guys. Worth a little dough.
764-HERO - Weekends of Sound (Up Records)
Picture this: Youve gone through depression. Youre on Prozac and no longer mope. But sometimes you crave the emotions you had before the drugs did their thing. You miss being sad! Well, experts now call this longing uplift anxiety. If 764-HEROs sound were a medical condition, it would be uplift anxiety.
Weekends of Sound is the third full-length from these Seattle natives, taking their name from the citys carpool violations hotline . Most of the albums nine songs drip of heartache and yet they dont leave the listener terribly depressed. Shorter numbers punctuate Weekends , showing the band has improved instrumentally.
The song Terrified of Flight mixes a dark bass riff with guitar that can only be described as cautionary. However, John Atkins voice is upbeat, unlike the words with imagery of a bird or maybe a relationship that never got off the ground. Listen: Night keeps going, we keep standing still/ Everything was right/ Fixed on something way beyond your eyes/ Wasnt broken, didnt even try. Another track, Left Hanging combines far-off, distorted (sometimes screamed) vocals with a very catchy drum and bass rhythm and fuzzy, punk guitar riffs. About halfway through the song, things get melodic with a stripped down guitar solo and a swirly Built To Spill flavor.
As is often the case with downhearted post-flannel bands, as they get better and older lost is the beautiful, sloppy sense of frantic desperation that comes with just starting out. But Weekends of Sound shows that progression can be uplifting.
THE SHYNESS CLINIC - Sea of Redlights (Espo)
I meant to review this album last issue, but I accidentally labeled the review as a review of a Shyness Clinic 7". That review didnt really do this album justice anyway. This album makes up for every Sunny Day Promise To Brazil cheap copycat band you may have heard, seen, or accidentally purchased a recording by recently. No joke. Yes, its THAT good. Two guys singing, jangly guitars, not too distant a cousin of, say, Piebald or Jejunebut totally fresh and unique. The lyrics are pretty interesting, too, not the same old my girlfriend left me and I got sloshed or I strung some cool phrases together into a catchy vocal riff sorta thing. Even the most jaded of scenesters has to take notice of this band.
SICK OF IT ALL - Call To Arms (Fat Wreck Chords)
Yeah, Sick Of It All is really on Fat now. Avail, too. Thats so fucking weird. This newest SOIA album isnt too far-flung from their old stuffmaybe a little more straight-up and rough-edged than their last two efforts. To be honest, not too many of the songs made me really jump up and notice (except maybe one), but none of them really sucked either (except maybe one). It still kicks the shit out of 90% of all bad local high-school aged hardcore bands, at any rate. Sick Of It All hasnt gone emo, they havent gone pop-punk, and (thank Christ!) they havent gone rap-core or ska, so how disappointed could you possibly be?
SILENT MAJORITY - You Would Love To Know (Initial)
At first I thought Silent Majority sounded like a slightly more aggressive version of Jawbreaker, but on a second listen, they actually sound more like all those other bands that sound like Jawbreaker mixed with all those bands that sound like the Gorrilla Biscuits, Hum, or Quicksand. If you like those bands, or you like bands that sound like a mish-mash of everything else you listen to, you may very well like Silent Majority. Me, Id save my money for the real thing.
SLOW FORE - Oil (Espo)
Ahh, so nice to hear a new band that doesnt sound like a bunch of high schoolers apeing their favorite trendy punk/hardcore heroes. Slow Fore is kind of like a much darker Sunny Day Real Estate or a chilled out Fugazi or a way mellowed Quicksand. Cold but refreshing, like a crisp glass of tap water after a long run. If youre sick of everything youve bought or heard lately, trade in some CDs and check out this band.
SNAPCASE VS. BOY SETS FIRE split (Equal Vision)
Im from Buffalo, so Ive run out of purple prose to praise the punk rock powerhouse that is Snapcase. Yup, they still got it. You knew that. If you know about Boy Sets Fire, you also probably already have some sort of opinion, either positive or negative. The first tune on the Boy Sets Fire half of this effort (Unspoken Request) is probably the most laid-back thing I think Ive heard them do, musically at least. I really cant take many songs about rape performed by men seriously, though. (Except for Desperate Fool by Sick Of It All.) The flipside (Channel), on the other hand, is so fucking heavy it may cause injury. I recommend it highly for blowing shit up, like stereo systems, small animals, or annoying smaller siblings. Altogether a pretty good split.
STARING BACK - The Mean Streets Of Goleta (Lobster)
Very short songs that didnt do much for me.
SUNDAYS BEST - Poised To Break (Polyvinyl)
Poised To Break is an enjoyable album for fans of indie rock and emo alike and I would expound on its values as an album but Im completely out of space for reviews for this issue so thanks for all the free CDs, Dave.
SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE - The Rising Tide (Time Bomb)
The Ebbing Tide might be a better name for this album. In the ears and hearts of fans, this album will probably join the growing Not As Good As Diary pile. The Rising Tide starts with promise, kicking off with the blistering rocker Killed By An Angel, but it only keeps up the pace for so long before it starts sliding into soulless New Age-y Yanni-ish territory. Still, tracks like One will not make you regret that the band reformed. Skip track 3 and shuffle through some of the last tracks and youve got a halfway decent album.
THE TOSSERS Long Dim Road (Thick
Eh... Celtic punkrock? Its been done before, but The Tossers do it better. Its Irish, its political and its worldly. These guys have talent. This is a great album from a seven-piece from Chicagos mean streets. I was thinking of giving this CD to my mom cause shes very into the Celtic sound. Kick up your feet and dance!
TREMBLING BLUE STARS Broken By Whispers (Sub Pop)
Want to have a good cry? TBS is good foreground music. Its sad indiepop with nice lil electronic bits thrown in (see: The Field Mice). This guy, it seems, will NEVER get over the girl he sings about in just about every song here. I No Longer Know Anything and Sometimes I Still Feel The Bruise remind one of those nights you lie awake crying because you know that he/she is out there somewhere. With someone else. And you are not a priority. (Were you ever a priority?) And he/she is having fun with someone else, and it is not you; you, my friend, are worthless. Or at least thats how you feel. Dont take it so bad. Sometimes I Still Feel The Bruise makes me cry every time I hear it. I just lose control, not even over anyone in particular.
TRISTEZA - Dream Signals In Full Circles (Tiger Style)
Dim the lights before you drop the needle on this new release by Tristeza. Lie down on the bed and close your eyes. Soon you will drift off into an all-enveloping world of soft instrumental bliss. Sparkling clean guitars dart in and out between gaps in the steady drum and bass melody, while the airy keyboards slowly take you further from shore. Soak in the bathwater-warm melodies and forget all your troubles. Tristeza may seem like easy listening to those of you used to blistering power-violence, but this band is tight enough to avoid pointless jamming and never slip into new-age elevator music territory. This is definitely one trip worth taking on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and no drugs are necessary for this experience.
THE VANDALS - Look What I Almost Stepped
I think I speak for everyone when I say NIMBY loves the Vandals. Depending on who you ask, NIMBY is named after a Vandals song. However, NIMBY (or at least me) was not too happy with the last Vandals album (Hitler Bad, Vandals Good). It was slow, it was lame, it sucked. Luckily The Vandals have rediscovered their biting , vitriolic sense of humor for this album, if not the suicidal Brian-May-on-speed riffage of their classic early 90s albums. Like the bullfighter on the cover, The Vandals have discovered another steaming pile of bullshit to show off proudly to the world. Sorry, Mom and Dad may have some of you out there making guilty late-night long distance calls home, but the rest of this album should have you gleefully singing along and/or happily pissing your big baggy-ass pants laughing. Long Live The Vandals!
V/A- Take Action (Sub City)
See the Scared of Chaka review for info about Sub City. This comp isnt too bad, with tracks from Scared of Chaka, Funeral Oration, Kid Dynamite, and Against All Authority. Fifteen songs, most better than worse.
V/A - Holiday Matinee CD Compilation Vol. 2
(Better Looking Records)
San Diego indie promoters Holiday Matinee are back with another comp showing off the best of what they do. Heavy hitters like No Knife, Cursive, Sundays Best, Bright Eyes and Tristeza probably produce the strongest tracks on the album, but watch out for songs like The Mercury Programs jazzy contribution. This compilation is definitely a lot more varied than any cheap repetitive sampler you would pick up from some punk label. Songs vary from trip-hoppy to dream-poppy to eurotrash techno-y to indie-noisy to vaguely bossanova-ish. The mix of styles may throw you off a touch, but the best songs on this comp (did I mention the track from Cursive side project The Good Life?) should make this excursion worth the price of the gas.
VERMONT/IDA split 7" (Long Quiet Highway)
Vermont features Davey from The Promise Ring on vocals and guitar, which is reason enough for many of you to check this out. (P-Ring drummer Dan is also on the record, but who cares about drummers?) The Vermont song on this record is kind of like a slow Promise Ring song with weird electronics, including odd robot-like backup vocals. Like if Joan of Arc fucked with a P-Ring song. (And no, that doesnt mean it sounds like Capn Jazz.) Strange. Did they really have to call the band Vermont? What an awful name. (I was just joking about drummers... you rock, Dan Didier!) Theres also a Vermont full-length floating around out there, if youre interested. Ida... Ida is cool. I like Ida. Nuff said.
VOODOO GLOW SKULLS Symbolic (Epitaph)
As the Voodoo Glow Skulls proudly announce on the first track of their seventh album, Were back! The Skulls, a heavy ska-core band, sing adios to the fluffy, party music of skas now dissipated third wave. Frank Casillas croons of the bands separation from mainstream ska and, like most of the others on the album, the song is tinged with social criticism and irony. Weve talked the talk and walked the walk/ Set the pace for metalliska/ Mock us, mock us, if you can/ Because we dont play like other bands. That song may sound like more straight-up ska, but the rest of Symbolic is a true hybrid of styles, drawing heavily from metal, punk, hip-hop and Latino music. The Drop In has a funky bass line that Flea would enjoy, and tells the bands story while busting into vintage metal. The Devil Made Me Do It is a hip-hop influenced tale of a young druggie blaming his evil ways on, hmmm, could it be SATAN? Casillas, a father, sings of kids turning into monsters in Say Goodnight, a song inspired by the Columbine massacre. Silencer deals with a fatal police shooting of a black woman that led people to focus on her race instead of her death. While skas third wave may be dead, the Skulls will more than make up for the absence of puffery with catchy, edgy songs that actually mean something.
THE WARREN COMMISSION - Rendezvous With
Totally sappy boy-girl emo from the wilds of Western Massachusetts. Even if you hate cutesy emo bands, you may like this EP. Plus, you gotta check out the packaging. The CD comes in a little spiral-bound scrapbook including, among other things, a transparency page where you can actually rip the heart out some boys chest! Its so cute that its completely irresistable. The music matches the packaging perfectly... nursery rhyme riffs, lots of boy-girl harmonizing, and some fun electronics and piano bits. Well worth checking out.
WHIPPERSNAPPER - The Long Walk (Lobster)
Not one song on this album made an impression on me. Sorry.
THE WORLD IS MY FUSE - Good Intentions (Espo)
Heres an interesting alphabetizing issue: since the name of the band is a quote from a Rites Of Spring song (mad props!), should this be listed under The or World? Its like the problem I always have with A Minor Forest... But please dont let this digression distract you from this great record. First, Im just blown away by the production values. This album sounds really, really professional, not like it was recorded in someones garage. The musics pretty damn solid, too. Heavy, emotion-drenched, but never whiney. This is probably one of the best new band Ive heard in a while. Its the kind of thing that keeps you alive and prevents you from giving up and trying to start the next Limp Bizkit. As God is my witness, you know that means the world could use a lot more bands like The World is My Fuse.