Broadway Calls-Comfort/Distraction

Since the beginning of the year many of my favourite bands have either announced release dates or have released a new record.  I have to admit Comfort/ Distraction was probably the album I have anticipated most.  It was worth every second I waited for it.  

Broadway Calls are not a group that is ashamed of their influences and it shines through on numbers like “Minus One”, the Green Day influence is unmistakable as well as undeniable.  At the same time they are not afraid to add their own voice to the punk rock conversation with the Jimmy Stadt referencing lyric from Zombie World “James was only half correct.  Year our friends are saints, but their all toxic train wrecks.” 

While their sound is firmly rooted in those that have come before them, they still manage to create music that doesn’t become too derivative.  The vocals and melodies heard on Comfort/Distraction make the music stand out from their peers and create a style that is their own. 

 People who have followed the band’s previous efforts have long considered them among the best but Comfort /Distraction will further establish Broadway Calls as pop punk heavyweights and create a place for them among the elite of the genre all the while embracing where they come from as they move forward.

Bad Relgion-True North

bad_religion_true_northI have some nerdy pastimes.  I collect records.  I collect comic books.  I play fantasy baseball.  It is because of this last hobby that I tuned into the fantasy sports station on Sirius Radio.  I have been getting smacked around in my league for the last five years since winning the inaugural league championship in 2007 so I was just trying to get some expert info to help me regain my place among the fantasy elite.  Either way, they gave me some valuable advice that I will use to help me write this review.  They were talking about players who everyone thinks are going to finally have their breakout season after being fairly pedestrian over the course of their career (I don’t think the band I am talking about is at all pedestrian).  Basically what was said was that is unwise to anticipate a player to be much different than they have over the last five (or more) years.

What I am getting at is the to expect True North from Bad Religion to be a whole lot different than they have been over the course of their career would border that common definition of insanity.  That isn’t a bad thing.  How many bands are out there can claim that they have been consistently good for over 30 years?  Not a whole lot.  Even fewer have been able to stick to the same formula for that long without sounding tired and old.  What I think amazes me even more is that a band can write a song (“True North”) about the angst of a person who has been alive for fewer years than they have been a band without sounding pretentious or contrived.

That is what makes the leaders of the 2nd generation of punk special, they are ageless.  There has been talk of retirement following this release, but if the record is any indication, there is still plenty left in the gas tank.  Among the 16 tracks lies a collection of Bad Religion songs that if it was placed in a time capsule and buried for 30 years would be able to stand beside any Bad Religion song.  The same could be said if it was placed in a time machine and sent back 30 years.  That is why I will keep on listening as long as they are still making music, the past isn’t dead and there is still a lot to hope for.

The Adjectives-Bam!

I always told myself that I didn’t want to write a review on anything when I couldn’t be completely positive.  I had a bit of a change of heart today.  I was reading Dying Scene’s Sacred Cow column today and today they were discussing Rancid’s…And Out Come the Wolves.  I read both sides, and I wanted to attack the guy who disputed the album’s greatness.  Then I came to my senses.  The one thing about punk music that other genres don’t have is fans who are passionate enough about the music to actually discuss what constitutes real greatness.  I will often read reviews of new albums, but I won’t always take what is said to heart.  That is another beautiful thing about punk rock, it promotes critical thinking and making your own decisions. 

That brings me to The Adjectives debut album, Bam! The Belgian group’s offering is comprised of 10 tracks and comes in at under 14 minutes in length.  It is like something out of Mall’d to Death’s playbook, almost.  The longest track runs about 2:30, and the shortest track about 10 seconds.  But while Mall’d to Death is quite skilled at making the most out of their songs and never really leaving the listener wanting more, The Adjectives need a little work on this. 

Bam!‘s opening track “Bulgarian Pancakes” is probably the band’s finest melody and could have made a great song, but it ends as just a short instrumental.  While others are longer and more complete, they still lack the impact that you would want or expect out of songs that are so short.  But there is an upside, the songs most powerful track, “Fuck You” is just ten seconds long and in all of its simplicity gets straight to the point and gets it across quite clear. 

The album’s title, Bam!, seems to imply that the listener will be hit hard and quick.  While it is quick, I wouldn’t say it hits hard.  This is a debut album, so these young men can do a lot more, and I think that if they follow the formula they have, they will.

The Enders-The Ruins of Ambition

I’ve been learning a lot about writing lately, and have gained a different perspective on it. Some view writing as a conversation had among people interested in the same topic with every piece building upon and influenced by the last.  I never thought of it like that before.  What does it have to do with The Enders latest album?  Well I never liked comparing bands to other bands, and saying this sounds like this or that because I always felt like it was taking away from the band and their efforts.  After taking on the new view of writing, I applied it to music.  What is music if not a culmination of different influences? 

On their Reverb Nation Page the band has NOFX, Sick of it All, Agnostic Front, Motorhead, and Minor Threat listed in their Sounds Like category.  That is a fairly diverse sound if all of those groups were put together.  But it’s true, the group weaves seamlessly between more hardcore offerings like “The Ruins of Ambition” and “The Path”, to more punk tunes like “Stand Your Ground” and  “Songs for the Working Class.”  “Pragmatic ” actually is my vision of what a song would sound like if Pennywise collaborated with Ben Kowalewicz of Billy Talent. Songs like “Manifesto” even remind me of another favourite of mine, Broadcast Zero.

If punk music really is a conversation, The Enders have paid close attention.  They have listened and gathered as much information before crafting their own reply, The Ruins of Ambition.  What results is a well crafted album that draws on those that came before and add their own voice to the conversation.

Dropkick Murphys-Signed and Sealed in Blood

8083I am taking a Master’s level writing course, I don’t know if it will make me a better writer or not, but it has made me question a few things.  The first module of the class involves questioning things that you read and to look at things from all angles before drawing any conclusions.  I think that has caused me to approach writing this review differently than I normally would.  A lot of times prior to listening to an album I will read something that has been written about it, and I don’t know if that actually affects my perception of what I am listening to, but it made me aware of that this time.

Before getting my first chance to listen to Signed and Sealed in Blood, the Dropkick Murphys’ latest offering, I read a claim talking about how the guitars are “ballsier” and the hooks are “catchier.”  I really wanted to believe that, but then I had to think, this is the Dropkick Murphys we are talking about here, can the hooks really get “catchier?”  These guys practically drew up the blueprint for catchy anthems and sing-a-long hooks.  So I listened, all the while questioning those statements.  What I came up with was this: when placed alongside their other albums, Signed and Sealed in Blood stays true to what fans of the group have come to expect, and serves to illustrate what the word “anthem” means to anyone who thought they knew what it means.

The Dropkick Murphys are not reinventing themselves with this record, but what they are doing is reestablishing themselves as the leaders of their brand of working-class punk.  Songs about family, honour, and respect are commonplace on any DKM album, and you will find more of the same on this release.  That isn’t to say that these songs feel old or recycled, which may happen to a band with 7 previous studio albums, because they don’t.  Each song attacks the subject matter as if it had never been done before.  That is what truly makes this album special and helps set it apart from the group’s previous efforts.  That and “The Season’s Upon Us”, a Christmas song that can be listened to and appreciated at any time of the year.  Signed and Sealed in Blood is what The Dropkick Murphys are all about, singing songs for the everyman, and this album truly is for everyone.

Best of 2012

I have to be honest, 2012 did not blow me away when it came to music. It almost disappointed me, I couldn’t even bring myself to listen to, let alone buy, the three records from one of my all-time favourite bands. The year started off well, and there were some releases that I really enjoyed, but there were some lulls at times. I may have missed a lot, but the ones that made my list would have probably made it either way.
1) Jesse Lebourdais-I Go By The Sound. I reviewed this one when it came out, the record is awesome. He’s a Canadian singer, and definitely doesn’t receive the fanfare he deserves.
2) The Menzingers-On The Impossible Past. I liked this album instantly. While this album isn’t in constant rotation, I put it on when the time is right.
3) The Gaslight Anthem-Handwritten-I will be driving along sometimes and just catch myself saying “*&%$, this guy is cool!”
4) Cobra Skulls-Eagle Eyes 7”-“Eagle Eyes” has to be my favourite song this year. I wasn’t even a fan until I read a blog post about them, then took a listen for myself and got hooked.
5) Teenage Bottlerocket-Freak Out! This was also an album that turned me on to this band. I always liked them, but I couldn’t say no to this one.
6) The Magnificent-Bad Lucky. I really enjoyed this album, and out of all the ones to make this list, it is one that deserves more air time than it gets.
7) Pennywise-All or Nothing. As a big Pennywise fan, I was skeptical of this one at first, but Zoli Teglas filled in wonderfully. With that said, I am more than excited for Jim Lindberg’s return to the band.
8) Anti-Flag-The General Strike. This is also a good album, that deserves to be taken off the shelf more than it is.
9) Operation Ivy-Hectic and Energy. I know these aren’t technically albums from 2012, but to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the group’s inception, Epitaph reissued both records, and these albums still hold up nicely in today’s musical landscape.
10) Riverboat Gamblers-The Wolf You Feed. I bought this when it first came out, out of loyalty and not really hearing much. Up until about 6 weeks ago, I would have considered this for a worst of 2012 list. But I put it on, and got into it a bit more. It isn’t what I expected from them, but it is a bold evolution for the group that doesn’t cheapen the final product.

Triple Crossed-Raised on Ice

I remember the day this album came out (November 6th), I was sitting around lamenting the fact that my son will probably never experience or enjoy music stores the way I did as a child.  Even bigger stores like CD Plus, Music World, and Sam the Record Man appealed to me.  There was always something good kicking around the store.  I added many cds to my collection that I found in these types of stores on sale for 2 for 20 dollars or something like that.  I remember when Music World was shutting down, I actually found Pennywise’s About Time and The Fuse for a deal like that. At the time I was so excited, it had been over ten years since I had first heard About Time but I had never owned it.  One thing that also sticks out in my mind is that Tuesdays were new music day.  If something came out that I wanted I usually made sure I had it on release day. 

Now, I walk into an HMV (a very rare occurrence) and I usually leave and feel ashamed because I didn’t knock over the shelves or perform some other type of vandalism.  I can list a billion things that I feel are responsible for the downfall of music stores, but I will only name one, the internet and downloading music. 

Until the release date of this particular album, I never realized the  benefits of dowloading music.  That is the ability to circumvent new music Tuesday’s and release music anytime you want.  That I am thankful for.  Recently, Minneapolis’ resident hardcore punks Triple Crossed released a 5 track EP titled Raised on Ice, and it was done on a non-Tuesday, and it was done late at night. 

That isn’t even the best part, the music is.  With this album you get 5 hard hitting hardcore tracks that all come in at under 2 minutes in length.  I’m not much of fan of the hardcore genre, but I do like these guys.  I think it is because that everytime I listen to them I feel like there is a guy holding a camcorder and another bunch of kids riding around on skateboards nearby.  When I hear music like it, it makes me feel like there is still hope out there for music, and that although I have a billion reasons to blame for the fall of music stores, there a few good reasons to like the direction it is taking.

Polar Bear Club-Live At The Montage

I have had this album kicking around since its release date and I have listened to it a few times, but tonight I finally took the time to pop the cd in and actually listen to it.  After listening, I figured while I was catching up on last week’s episode of The Walking Dead I would take the time to review the album. 

Last year, Polar Bear Club released Clash Battle Guilt Pride and it made many best of lists for 2011, including the top spot in my own.  I think I called the album the group’s “coming out party” a sort of “taking it to the next level” if you will.  So when I bought the album I thought I was mostly getting live acoustic versions of those songs.  I was wrong.  Included on the cd version are two cover songs, and the remaining 7 are songs which cover  their entire catalog. I am not saying that is a bad thing, I did like Chasing Hamburg, but not nearly as much as the record that followed.  So while these songs did not introduce me to anything new, what it did is let me experience and hear the songs in a different way.  Songs such as “Light of Local Eyes” or “Burned Out in a Jar” would not have made my favourites list from Chasing Hamburg but hearing them acoustically live gives me a new appreciation of them.  The live versions really showcase Jimmy Stadt’s vocals and bring new life to the songs.

My one issue with the collection is that it is only nine songs long, unless of course you received a digital download after buying the vinyl, in which case you got an additional 4 tracks including “Drifting Thing” and “Screams in Caves” which are two of my personal favourites from the band.  If it wasn’t for hearing the 4 additional I would have enjoyed Live at the Montage a lot less, but still it is a good live record that paints a new light on some older songs.

 

One MIle Left-Behind The Story

So a while back I asked Jerry if he had anything that he needed reviewed, he told me he would send me something over.  He sent me a link for a German pop punk band named One Mile Left. I didn’t have anything else I wanted to write about, plus Jerry buttered me up a bit by telling me they liked my Pennywise review.  So I took a listen without knowing anything about them, and not reading their bio. From the first few bars all I could think was Blink 182 circa Enema of the State. The guitar and vocal melodies were eerily reminiscent, and I could only picture the webcam scene from American Pie where Jim is trying to get it on with Nadia and the guys from Blink 182 are watching with a monkey.  Well the funny thing about that is that I later went back and read their bio that they sent and they mentioned being inspired by the pop-punk of The same time and actually mentioned American Pie as being an influence.

Don’t get me wrong, these guys aren’t carbon copies of Blink or anything like that, in fact they don’t  have the same use of humor in their music, but when you listen to the music there is no doubt about the bands and time that the music was influenced by.

With all that said, I like them, maybe it is just nostalgia and longing for my younger years considering I turned 32 today but this is something I could listen to.  I have loved pop-punk since the first time I heard “Longview” and this brings me back to those earlier years. Check them out, for fans of those late 90’s pop-punk years they are definitely worth a listen.

 

The Gaslight Anthem-Handwritten

It would be stupid for me to believe that I am going to tell you something you haven’t already read about this album, or figured on your own if you have listened to it (my first borrowed line from Nick Hornsby’s description of Handwritten).  The Gaslight Anthem’s latest work has been out for almost a month now, and I have spent a lot of time driving recently which usually equates to a lot of chance to enjoy some good music along the way.  While Handwritten wasn’t the only record to grace my cd player while driving, it was thoroughly played.  Some songs played more than others as my wife is my opposite number when it comes to listening to music.  I am an album listener and I listen from beginning to end, her on the other hand will play the same song over and over again.  She does that with a few songs from the album, most notably “45”, “Keepsake”, and “You Got Lucky.”  She also has her own dance for the latter song, and she has listened to it so many times that her copy of the cd skips on this song. 

Anyway, we were travelling through Manitoba and during one of our many listens to “Keepsake” she pointed out to me that the song reminded her of me.  We listened to it over and over again, and I could not figure it out (and she wouldn’t stop playing it until I guessed).  So finally I asked “is he singing about his  (a) dad?”  to which she replied “yeah, I figured that out like the first time I heard it.” 

So while she likes to hear her favourites over and over again, I like to break up the monotony of driving the Trans-Canada highway by playing music trivia, and more specifically, “Who was the original singer for this song?”  I have to point out the she got “Which deceased 90’s rock star was the original artist for this song?” (Kurt Cobain and Nirvana on “Sliver”) and “Who was the original singer to this” (Tom Petty on “You Got Lucky”)  both wrong.  But she now claims that when she does her dance to “You Got Lucky” that if I “didn’t want me to dance like this you shouldn’t have introduced me to the song.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I am glad I did, and I am glad that she enjoys the group (almost) as much as I do.  It is hard to describe, but when listening to a Gaslight Anthem song there is an energy that isn’t present in most music.  I remember being younger and listening to  Born in the U.S.A on my grandmother’s 8 track player, or the Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker on my step-dad’s cassette in the car and just knowing that the music was something special.  I remember telling my wife when American Slang came out that one day our boy (not long after he was born) will look back and tell people about how his parents used to listen to The Gaslight Anthem on long trips, she agreed. 

Not long after this, I remember Lady Gaga being on an awards show and dressing up in meat (notice how I don’t really remember what show) and somebody at work stating how she is such a fashion icon.  I tried to gently explain that Lady Gaga needs that type of gimmick because her music isn’t very good, but guys like Brian Fallon and the like just exude cool through their music and don’t need that type of stuff.  I don’t think she understood me.  As it turns out, Nick Hornsby would write something eerily similar on the album write up as I said almost two years prior when he wrote ” even clothes made out of meat won’t do you much good if your music is 1980’s dance-pop.”  So while I may not have anything to say about Handwritten that hasn’t already been said I will take some solace in knowing that the group themselves are not trying to recreate the wheel when they record an album, but are just carrying on the tradition of rock ‘n’roll, in their own voice and doing  with as much conviction and authenticity as they can muster (my third Nick Hornsby reference).